Head Coach head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys throws a pass as his team warms up before the start of their game against the Philadelphia
The Dallas Cowboys will celebrate their past Sunday, devoting halftime of their game against Seattle to the induction of 1970s star Drew Pearson, and 1990s greats Charles Haley and Larry Allen into their Ring of Honor.
Even their foe conjures memories of Cowboys lore, as the Seahawks will be visiting for the first time since the day in 2002 when Emmitt Smith became the NFL's career rushing leader. Really digging deep, it was a draft-day trade with Seattle in 1977 that brought Dallas the rights to another Hall of Fame running back, Tony Dorsett.
Why the emphasis on the past? For Cowboys fans, it's easier and more enjoyable than scrutinizing the present.
Dallas comes into this game still trying to get a handle on the 2011 club, which sits at 3-4 and part of a three-way tie for second place in the NFC East.
At home two weeks ago, against a winless team, the Cowboys looked darn good. On the road last Sunday against a struggling but talented team, the Cowboys looked horrible. Their five games before that were all decided in the final minutes -- every win a play away from being a loss, every loss a play away from being a win.
Now it's November, the part of the NFL season where the standings start to bear watching.
With nine games left, Dallas still has plenty of time to make a run at the division title or a wild-card spot. But a roll better start soon, especially with the way the Cowboys' schedule sets up.
Four of the next five opponents have a losing record, with Seattle (2-5) actually among the better teams in that group. The best-case scenario for Dallas is using that stretch to build some momentum for a final month that includes a pair of games against division-leading New York. This is probably what owner Jerry Jones was referring to earlier this week when he said a lopsided loss to Philadelphia was no reason to panic.
"We got to start getting some wins together and we can do that by getting a win this week against Seattle," quarterback Tony Romo said. "There is a sense of urgency. It's time for us to get started."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called Dallas' 34-7 loss to Philadelphia the outlier among the Cowboys' performances this season. He also pointed out there wasn't much his team could borrow from the Eagles' game plan. Much of the Eagles' success stemmed from the running of their quarterback, and Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson is no Michael Vick.
"I'd like to think that we could learn something from it, but we might have to get a mo-ped or something for our quarterback to ride around in to be like Michael," Carroll said. "Well, maybe, that's probably not right. Call it a Harley or something, all right?"
Jackson threw for a career-best 323 yards, but that was in relief of Charlie Whitehurst. He didn't start because of a pectoral injury that also kept him out of the previous game, a loss to Cleveland.
Star running back Marshawn Lynch -- who made the Richter scale move with a sensational touchdown run in last year's playoffs -- missed the game against the Browns with a back injury. Carroll said he expects Lynch to play but warns that the back locked up the day of the Cleveland game, so he's always wary.
It's worth noting that Seattle was 2-3 and coming off a victory over the Giants in New York when a bye hit, followed by the absences of Jackson and Lynch. If both are back and close to full strength this week, it might be the best chance the Seahawks to regain whatever they've been missing.
"We're growing and I'm feeling more and more comfortable each week and the guys are feeling more and more comfortable with me and the coaches have more trust in me, so that's good," Jackson said.
A potential stumbling block is that Jackson will be facing a Dallas defense that wants to bounce back strong after getting humiliated by Vick and LeSean McCoy.
The Cowboys had been the NFL's top run defense until allowing the Eagles to stomp them for 239 yards. Rob Ryan's unit remains tops in the NFC, though, at 328.3 yards per game of total defense. One wrinkle this week is that Sean Lee, the linebacker who leads the club in tackles and interceptions, probably won't play because of a wrist injury. That should open more time for veterans Bradie James and Keith Brooking, and perhaps rookie Bruce Carter, a second-round pick who debuted last week only on special teams.
Defense is Seattle's strength, too. The Seahawks have allowed three teams to scored 13 points or less; problem is their offense has scored 13 points or less four times.
Carroll said a young offensive line is part of the problem. However, their defense is young, too, and is among the league's best in a few categories. Their specialties mainly involve stopping the run. They are tops in yards per attempt (3.16), second in limiting yards on first downs and 11th overall against the run.
"We have to keep hanging until we play well and get right and get some consistency and feel good about our play," Carroll said.
Seattle's leading tackler is David Hawthorne, who is in his fourth year out of nearby TCU. Two other Texans start on the defense, Earl Thomas and Red Bryant. Coming home is a treat for them because Seahawks games are rarely shown in these parts, making this a rare chance to "let your friends know that you play ball and play ball well."
Hawthorne grew up a little more than an hour away from the stadium in Corsicana, the son of a die-hard Cowboys fan. His loyalty to his son and his team will be shaken this weekend.
"He'll probably still be like 50-50 because he'll drive up there with a Dallas Cowboys star on the back of his truck," Hawthorne said. "He'll be wearing a Seahawks jersey and that's a big step for him."