IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are ready for December.
On the verge of collapse just a few weeks ago, Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and the Cowboys guaranteed they will be a team to watch in the final month by crushing the Seattle Seahawks 34-9 Thursday for their third straight victory.
Romo got it rolling with touchdowns on the first three drives and points on the first four, then the defense took care of the rest. They racked up seven sacks -- three by Ware, giving him an NFL-best 15 -- and each was punctuated by a gobbling turkey version of the Chicken Dance, the kind of giddiness expected from a team playing the way Dallas (8-4) has been lately.
The Cowboys have wiped away the bitterness of a 2-4 rut and surged near the top of the NFC wild-card race. The turnaround began with Romo returning from a broken pinkie finger, albeit with a splint on his passing hand, and now he's expected to be back to full strength for the next game. Dallas also will get cornerback-punt returner Adam "Pacman" Jones back from a suspension.
Yet the Cowboys aren't getting too carried away with their good fortune. They realize they've padded their confidence with consecutive blowouts over bad teams and now they're going to play three straight tough foes: Pittsburgh, the New York Giants and Baltimore. Another stumbling block is their woeful recent history in Decembers -- no winning records in the month since 2001.
"We had a rough patch and we're still not out of it," Romo said. "We've still got to go forward and keep putting together wins to get in the playoffs. Our confidence level is that on any given Sunday we can compete with the best of anybody. It'll be interesting to see how we do going forward."
About the only tense moments Thursday came in the third quarter, and they had nothing to do with the score. It was Marion Barber going out with a dislocated right pinkie toe, then Ware limping off with an aching left knee. Ware felt good enough that no exams were immediately done, but will still have an X-ray and an MRI to make sure everything is OK.
"At this moment, I feel good about both of those players," team owner Jerry Jones said.
The Seahawks lost their fifth straight game and fell to 2-10. It matches the most losses outgoing coach Mike Holmgren has had in his 17 years in the NFL, and there are four games left.
Seattle was within a touchdown of winning its past three games, but this one was never close after former Dallas running back Julius Jones fumbled on the Seahawks' first possession. The Cowboys wound up driving for a touchdown that made it 14-0; it was 24-3 midway through the second quarter.
"Coach told us we had to be close to perfect to beat these guys," Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "We haven't played been close to playing like that all season. If they keep playing the way they are, they have a chance to win it all. There was a time when we were that talented bunch with no injuries. It hasn't been like that for us this season."
Hasselbeck was 22-of-38 for a season-high 287 yards. He threw one interception and endured the most sacks (seven) the Cowboys defense has collected since getting nine on Nov. 9, 1997.
Jones was held to 37 yards on 11 carries in his return to Texas Stadium. Dallas fans booed every time he got the ball.
"It's a term of endearment to me," Jones said. "It just means they respect you."
Romo started 12-of-14 for 198 yards and two touchdowns, with Barber scoring once in between. It was the first time all season the Cowboys scored touchdowns on three straight drives. And it was the first time they'd started a game that way since Oct. 9, 1994, according to Stats Inc.
Another indication of how easy it was: Dallas gained first downs on 17 of their first 23 plays.
"T.O. will tell you I'm playing at a ridiculously high level," Romo said, smirking.
Romo finished 22-of-33 for 331 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Jason Witten was a big part of the offense for the first time since breaking a rib, catching nine passes for 115 yards (both season highs) and a touchdown.
Terrell Owens had five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. He blew his chance for a second straight 100-yard game by dropping a wide-open slant in the fourth quarter.
"Obviously, this helps out a lot but I think somebody in the locker room said last week, if the season ended today, we're still left out (of the playoffs)," Witten said. "You've got to have that mentality and understand the challenges that are ahead. It's still going to be even tougher as December rolls around."
Notes: This was the Cowboys' last Thanksgiving at Texas Stadium. They went 22-14 playing under the hole in the roof. ... Romo is 3-0 on the holiday, with great numbers: 65-of-91 (71.4 percent) for 832 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. ... The Seahawks aren't big on Thanksgiving in Dallas. They're 0-2, losing by a cumulative score of 85-16. ... Dallas rookie TE Martellus Bennett caught a touchdown pass for the third straight game.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press