The Seahawks, at least, were kind enough this week to not wait until time had run out to win the game.
This time, Seattle was able to celebrate yet another heart-attack-inducing victory with six seconds left, when one last Dak Prescott pass into the end zone was intercepted, allowing the Seahawks to escape with a 38-31 win over the Cowboys.
It was the same north end zone of CenturyLink Field where last Sunday the Seahawks stopped New England’s Cam Newton on the final play to seal a victory over the Patriots.
And once again, it was a few off-the-radar players who made the key plays at the end with Ryan Neal — called off the practice squad Saturday and seeing the first defensive action of his career in a relief role — picking off Prescott’s pass in the end zone a play after rookie Alton Robinson got his first career sack.
While there were lots of nervous moments during the game that will lead to lots of anxiety about the state of the Seahawks in the week to come, coach Pete Carroll predictably focused on Seattle becoming 3-0 for just the seventh time in team history and second in his tenure, no matter the pothole-laden road the Seahawks had to take to get there Sunday.
“I know it’s terrible for the fans,’’ Carroll said. “They are tearing their hair out and all that. But that’s the way we do it. And it is going to sound sick, but I kind of like it like that.’’
What Carroll didn’t like: four injuries to key players, including safety Jamal Adams (groin) and running back Chris Carson (knee).
He didn’t like that Prescott torched an injury-laden secondary for 461 yards and Seattle’s defense for 522 yards overall, allowing Dallas to rally from a 15-point second-half deficit — the second consecutive week Seattle was in danger of blowing a double-digit lead.
He also didn’t like that DK Metcalf lost a sure touchdown in the first quarter when he slowed down crossing into the end zone, allowing Dallas’ Trevon Diggs to knock the ball out, resulting in a touchback. It was a play that typified a game that was wild from start to finish, featured 934 yards of offense and more than a few oddities, such as a botched kickoff return by Dallas that ultimately led to a Seattle safety and two missed point after kicks by Dallas (one blocked).
“A terrible play for us to have to endure,” Carroll said of Metcalf’s gaffe, adding that Metcalf was “pissed, just like everyone else.”
But he liked that, in typical Seahawks fashion, Metcalf came back to score the winning touchdown on a 29-yard pass from Russell Wilson with 1:47 left.
“He’s not going to let something like that hold him down,” Carroll said.
The play capped a 75-yard drive after Dallas had taken the lead on a Greg Zuerlein field goal that made it 31-30 with 3:59 left.
The Seahawks had punted on their previous three drives.
But there was zero doubt on the Seattle sideline that this game was going to turn out like so many others — with Wilson leading a drive to win it. Sunday marked the 33rd time he has led a winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, most in the NFL since 2012.
“I think the biggest thing that everybody could figure out about this team and about Russ is that we’re always going to find a way,’’ said receiver Tyler Lockett, who caught three of Wilson’s five touchdown passes on a day Wilson set an NFL record by throwing 14 touchdown passes in the first three games of the season.
Wilson kick-started the final drive by first hitting Greg Olsen for 21 yards, then for 11 more on the key play of the game — a fourth-and-3 at the Dallas 47 with 2:37 left.
From that point, it almost seemed like a given that Seattle would score.
“We almost scored too fast,’’ said Carroll, noting that at one point he reminded Wilson that all they needed to take the lead was a field goal but then said, “Let’s go get a touchdown.’’
Good thing they did, with the way the defense was playing.
The defense forced a safety and two turnovers in the first three quarters to help Seattle build its lead and make you think, just for a moment, that maybe this would be an easy one.
But while playing catch-up, the Cowboys basically threw every down, and the Seahawks had trouble stopping Prescott, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 291 yards in the second half alone.
Injuries are surely playing a role as Seattle was without Adams at the end of the game and entered it without corners Quinton Dunbar and Marquise Blair.
But Seattle also simply got beat for some long touchdowns with both Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers allowing long scoring passes in the second half.
“There’s just stuff that’s too loose,’’ Carroll said.
The touchdown to Metcalf came on a third-and-3 play, another play call symbolic of Seattle’s increased offensive aggressiveness this season and willingness to put the ball in Wilson’s hands at every turn.
Wilson said he talked to Metcalf after his fumble, which came late in the first quarter with the score tied, and said Metcalf knows “there’s no excuse for it.”
But Wilson said he also told Metcalf that something good was still going to happen.
“Sure enough,’’ Wilson said. “He makes the game-winning touchdown.’’
Metcalf’s touchdown wasn’t game-winning until Seattle made one final stop.
The Seahawks played soft, content to allow some short time-churning completions.
“We kept them underneath us and waited it out, knowing that they had to score a touchdown because of our previous drive,’’ Carroll said. “Eventually they have to throw the ball in the end zone.’’
Still, when Dallas was at the 22 with 26 seconds left, it would have been easy for confidence to waver.
But Shaquem Griffin — in his first action of the season — broke up a first-down pass.
Then came Robinson’s sack and Neal’s interception and another crazy celebration in the north end.
“In my mind, we were going to win the game,’’ said Neal, who has been on and off NFL rosters the past three years but hadn’t played a defensive snap in his career before he was thrown into the game when Adams left early in the fourth quarter.
“That’s what I was ready to do, and thank God that they gave me one, that they threw one my way and I went out there and made the play. I’m grateful right now. I can’t even talk.’’