Dallas stuns Seattle, 43-39

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

SEATTLE (AP) - Bill Parcells told his team over the past two weeks that playoff scenarios can change quickly.

That's for sure. Just look at the Dallas Cowboys, instantly in the thick of the postseason chase.

And check out the slumping Seattle Seahawks, in danger of missing the playoffs after a 3-0 start.

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Rookie Julius Jones capped a remarkable comeback for the Cowboys with a 17-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds left, and Dallas stunned the struggling Seahawks 43-39 on Monday night to pull into the crowded NFC playoff picture.

''I have not been around too many like that,'' Parcells said. ''That was unbelievable. I feel fortunate to win.''

Jones ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns, and the Cowboys (5-7) overcame a 10-point deficit with less than two minutes remaining.

''I looked around and guys were talking, saying, 'Let's go,''' quarterback Vinny Testaverde said, recalling the huddle at the 2-minute warning. ''That tells me they were ready to give everything they had on every play. I admired the courage of our guys.''

Testaverde threw for 225 yards and three TDs, including a 34-yard pass to Keyshawn Johnson to get Dallas to 39-35 with 1:45 left. Jason Witten recovered an onside kick, and Dallas was in business at its 43.

Eight plays later, Testaverde handed off to Jones and immediately raised his arms as he watched the rookie burst through Seattle's defensive line and sprint into the end zone on an 8-yard run.

''There was a huge hole,'' Jones said. ''I can't say enough about the offensive line. They were making holes like that for me all night.''

With four games remaining, there's no reason to think the Cowboys can't break into the playoffs just as easily. Dallas is one of six NFC teams at 5-7, and it's a wide-open race.

''Coach Parcells always tells us not to count ourselves out,'' Witten said.

It's another story for Seattle (6-6), which has won only three games after a 3-0 start and dropped into a tie atop the NFC West with St. Louis. Worse for the Seahawks, the Rams hold the tiebreaker with two head-to-head wins.

The talk in training camp was that Seattle was ready to contend in the NFC. With road trips to Minnesota and the New York Jets ahead, plus home games against Arizona and Atlanta, nothing is certain.

''We need to get back to work. We have to put it behind us and do the right thing,'' said Seattle receiver Jerry Rice, who became the NFL's career leader in combined net yards with 23,469.

This loss will sting because the Seahawks were sharp in building an early 14-3 lead. Then came three fumbles that helped Dallas score 26 unanswered points in the second and third quarters.

''We are our own worst enemy,'' coach Mike Holmgren said. ''We were tonight. I know I've said that before. We do some very good things and then we do some things that demonstrate a lack of maturity. It has cost us dearly this season.''

Seattle wasn't out of it, erasing a 15-point hole with three scoring drives in the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks led 32-29 with 5:29 to go after Matt Hasselbeck's 19-yard TD pass to Jerheme Urban and a successful 2-point conversion pass to Darrell Jackson. It was time for the knockout punch.

Ken Hamlin came up with a huge interception to give the Seahawks possession at the Dallas 41, and Shaun Alexander broke a 32-yard scoring run on fourth-and-1 to put Seattle up 39-29 with 2:46 to play.

Then, Jones and the Cowboys took control.

''It's tough. You feel like you've put them away, but we've learned this year that you have to play the whole game,'' said Hasselbeck, who completed 28-of-40 for 414 yards passing with three TDs.

Notes: Dallas LB Kalen Thornton didn't return from a concussion. … Jackson was criticized for dropping too many passes in recent weeks, but had nine receptions for 113 yards and a TD - with no drops. … With five catches, Witten has 63 this season - the first 60-catch performance by a Cowboys TE since Jay Novacek in 1995.