You could almost sense the regular season getting nearer.
The Seahawks certainly seemed to Thursday night in their third preseason game, playing with greater efficiency and intensity against Dallas than they had in the first two games.
Seattle held a lead in the third quarter when their starters headed to the sidelines.
Some, in particular, showed up big in what would be the last extended play for the starters until the regular season starts with a Sept. 11 visit from the Miami Dolphins.
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Running back Christine Michael, for instance.
Michael has had a terrific preseason, and surely wanted to have a big game against Dallas, a team that cut him last fall after the Seahawks traded him their way.
Michael had become expendable to the Seahawks when he failed to mature into his role, and rookie Thomas Rawls had such a good 2015 preseason.
But since the Seahawks brought Michael back late last season, he’s been a workhorse.
Thursday, he reeled off consecutive gains of 20 and 17 yards in the third period. On the first one, he cut so quickly it left Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox grasping at air.
As impressively, perhaps, he once stepped up and blocked a Dallas blitzer to give quarterback Russell Wilson time to find Jermaine Kearse for a 15-yard gain.
With all this, Michael is looking like the complete package the Seahawks were expecting when they took him with the second-round pick in 2013. That maturity gives the Hawks the luxury of patience with the return of Thomas Rawls (ankle surgery last fall).
While Michael Bennett made the Pro Bowl last season, his fellow defensive end Cliff Avril had only one fewer sack and menaced opposing quarterbacks to a very similar degree. Thursday, Avril notched two sacks, including one that sent Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to the sidelines early in the game.
In those early pass situations, the Hawks unleashed Bennett, Avril, Frank Clark and Jordan Hill on the front line, which looks like it could be a threatening combination.
Praising the play of cornerback Richard Sherman seems like a redundant endeavor, but Thursday, it wasn’t just for his smothering coverage. An underappreciated aspect of his game in recent seasons has been his tackling.
He made several solid tackles Thursday night, including one that was perfectly timed and targeted the ribs of scrambling Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
And newly re-signed veteran free-agent defensive tackle Tony McDaniel looked as much of a force in the middle as he was in his earlier stay with the Seahawks. As a street free agent, he showed up in shape and clearly still remembers his defensive responsibilities.
Rookie third-round draft pick C.J. Prosise saw his first action of the preseason and had a nice 11-yard run in the first half against the Dallas starters.
Veteran defenders Kam Chancellor and K.J Wright were not as sharp Thursday. Chancellor was seeing his first action of the preseason and wasn’t as effective against the rush as is customary. And Wright had good coverage against tight end Jason Witten, but Witten somehow came up with a catch for the touchdown.
In the second half, rookie quarterback Trevone Boykin again did a plausible Russell Wilson imitation, scrambling, buying time to throw the ball, and rushing when nothing was there.
The Hawks seem to be growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of having Boykin go into the regular season as Wilson’s backup.
Ah, yes, Russell Wilson. After limited action in the first two games, he came up big against the Cowboys. Completing 16 of 21 attempts for 197 yards and two touchdowns, Wilson looked especially effective on a throwback touchdown pass to Paul Richardson.
The ball was lofted into a place only Richardson could catch it against tight coverage.
Like the two preceding games, the final score was irrelevant. But so many of the individual performances looked as if a number of players were ready for the real football to start.