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Seattle burned again by fourth-quarter collapse

Seattle's young defense hasn't been the same since collapsing in the fourth quarter of an October loss to St. Louis.

KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) _ Seattle's young defense hasn't been the same since collapsing in the fourth quarter of an October loss to St. Louis.

For good measure, the Seahawks did it again against the Dallas Cowboys.

``I thought we wouldn't have to go through the Rams game all over again,'' frustrated coach Mike Holmgren said after Dallas scored two touchdowns in the final 1:45 to beat Seattle 43-39 on Monday night.

This wasn't quite as bad, but it hurts just as much,'' Holmgren said.The team did a good job of getting back in the game and going ahead. Then we couldn't make a play at the end, and it was too bad.''

Too bad, indeed, because now the Seahawks (6-6) could miss the playoffs after opening the season 3-0 amid talk they had the talent and desire to reach the Super Bowl.

Seattle, still tied with St. Louis atop the NFC West, probably won't be favored in three of its final four games. They go this weekend to Minnesota, then are at the New York Jets before finishing at home against Arizona and Atlanta.

The Seahawks might need to win them all to reach the postseason.

We've got to bounce back,'' safety Terreal Bierria said.It's not the end of the world. We still have some games left.''

It seemed slumping Seattle had turned a corner, finally backing up the early-season optimism. The Seahawks led 39-29 with 2:46 to play after Matt Hasselbeck directed three fourth-quarter TD drives, erasing a 29-14 deficit.

All they needed was to stop the Cowboys, get the ball back and run out the clock. But it hasn't been so simple this year, not since the Seahawks blew a 27-10 lead over St. Louis on Oct. 10 and lost 33-27 in overtime.

Rookie Julius Jones had 198 yards rushing and three TDs, capping the win on a 17-yard scoring run with 32 seconds to play.

I felt pretty good when we were up by 10 with a couple minutes to go,'' Holmgren said.Let's just say it: You should win those. We've lost two of those this year, and it might prevent us from getting into the playoffs.''

Vinny Testaverde started the Dallas rally with a 34-yard TD pass to Keyshawn Johnson, who leaped for a dazzling catch. That got the Cowboys to 39-36 with 1:45 remaining.

Just as in the Rams game, the Cowboys fueled a perfect storm where everything broke the way they needed. Jason Witten recovered the ensuing onside kick, giving Dallas possession at its 43.

You have to tip your hat to Witten,'' Jerheme Urban said.He came clean and just kind of cut me off.''

On third-and-1 near midfield, Testaverde found Quincy Morgan for a 13-yard gain. Then on third-and-8 at Seattle's 33, Jones broke a 16-yard run, and after an incompletion he cut through the line and zipped into the end zone.

``I don't even know how he got through the middle,'' Bierria said.

Hasselbeck threw for 414 yards and three TDs without an interception, while Shaun Alexander ran for 83 yards and two scores. Darrell Jackson was solid: nine catches for 113 yards and a TD, with no drops.

Ageless superstar Jerry Rice added eight catches for 145 yards, setting his 35th NFL record on a 27-yard TD catch from Hasselbeck in the first quarter. Rice became the NFL's career leader in combined net yards (23,469).

Still, the offense lost three fumbles in the second and third quarters, helping Dallas score 26 straight points.

Add it all up, and it wasn't enough.

Seattle's defense has been susceptible to big plays all season and soft against the run after injuries to starting linebackers Chad Brown and Anthony Simmons. Their replacements came from special teams, weakening that unit.

Game after game, the Seahawks keep making what Holmgren has called ``catastrophic mistakes.'' Can they pull out of their tailspin after losing six of the last nine games?

It's anyone's guess.

This was a huge football game for us,'' Holmgren said.The season is not over by any stretch of the imagination, but this was a huge game to win tonight. It's just hard.''

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