In the marathon thats an NFL season, players usually avoid describing a contest in September as a must-win.
But thats how the Seattle Seahawks felt about the teams home opener against Dallas after squandering a divisional game against at Arizona in Week 1.
Its something we had to have, Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said. I called it before the game it was a must-win for us in our first home game of the season. And it will give us momentum going into next week, and I think well be fine.
Added tight end Zach Miller: Before the game, I think everyones focus was just to be mad about last week, because you cant go down 0-2. Its not the way you can start a season if you want to be a playoff team.
The Seahawks played like the more desperate team, thumping the Cowboys 27-7 at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
The win pulled Seattle back to 1-1 on the season, and only a game behind NFC West division leaders Arizona and San Francisco, who both sit at 2-0.
Once again, Seattles defense set the tone for the afternoon. The Seahawks forced two turnovers an interception by Brandon Browner and a fumble created by Robinson on a textbook hit against Dallas kicker returner Felix Jones that Earl Thomas recovered on the opening kickoff.
Special teams got involved too, with linebacker Malcolm Smith blocking Dallas punter Chris Jones first punt of the game, which Seattle safety Jeron Johnson scooped up and ran in for a 3-yard touchdown, giving Seattle an early, 10-0 lead.
Seattle limited the Tony Romo-led Cowboys to 296 total yards, and held talented Dallas running back DeMarco Murray to 44 yards on 12 carries.
Murray ran for 139 yards against Seattle last year in Dallas.
Every time he touches the ball, you have to make him feel you, said Seattle safety Kam Chancellor, who finished with a team-high nine combined tackles. If you do that a lot its going to be in his head that these boys came to play today. Thats how I think he felt. I think we wore him out.
Added Thomas: Thats just a credit to us being physical. If we play physical like that its going to be hard to beat us.
Even with left tackle Russell Okung a late scratch because of a bone bruise on his left knee, Seattle still ran the ball effectively, totaling 182 yards on the ground.
Marshawn Lynch notched his first 100-yard rushing day of the 2012 season and seventh as a Seahawk finishing with 122 yards on 26 carries, including a 3-yard score.
With Lynch rolling, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson had less pressure to drive the offense. Wilson was efficient, completing 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony McCoy.
Wilson also ran for another 28 yards, was sacked twice and finished with a 112.7 passer rating.
Once he got going, he made some great plays and a couple of great throws, and he used his legs just like we hoped, at opportune times, Seattle head coach Carroll said. I thought he played a really cool football game for us.
After Jones fumble on the opening kickoff, the Seahawks marched to first and goal from the 8-yard line, but could not convert and had to settle for a Steven Hauschka 21-yard field goal.
The Seahawks extended their lead to 10-0 on Johnsons return of Smiths blocked punt for a score.
The Cowboys (1-1) got their only score of the game on a 15-play, 95-yard drive that took 7:31 off the clock. Dallas receiver Miles Austin scored on a 22-yard pass from Romo, shaking open from Seattle defensive back Brandon Browner on a stop-and-go route with just over 12 minutes left in the second half.
Wilson led his team on the longest drive of the first half, an 11-play, 52-yard drive that ended in a 25-yard Hauschka field goal, and Seattle led 13-7 at halftime.
In the second half, Wilson got Seattles offense on track, leading the Seahawks on scoring drives of 90 and 78 yards.
McCoy scored the first touchdown on a pretty, 22-yard pass from Wilson on a seam route, with the Cowboys appearing to expect a run because Seattle had three tight ends on the field.
Obviously defenses are going to be thinking here comes the run, especially when you got three tight ends there next to each other on one side of the ball, Miller said. But we ran a drop-back pass and kind of surprised them caught them in the right coverage and Anthonys running free.
Lynch punched the other score in from 3-yards out.
Seattle controlled the clock, finishing with a 34:39 to 25:21 advantage in time of possession.
The Seahawks face another tough test in Week 3, with a Monday night tilt at home against the Green Bay Packers.
Well get some rest and come on back, Carroll said. We get an extra day. Right now, its just get guys well.