KICKOFF: Monday, 9:00 ET
TV: ABC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 9th meeting. Cowboys lead the series 5-3. Dallas holds a 2-1 advantage in Seattle, but this is their first trip to Qwest Field. Seattle won the last meeting, 17-14 at Texas Stadium in 2002.
2004 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 15th (25th rush, 13th pass); defense 16th (14th rush, 20th pass). Seahawks: offense 10th (7th rush, 18th pass); defense 20th (12th rush, 24th pass).
KEYS TO THE GAME: While the Cowboys have had three extra days to rest and prepare following their Thanksgiving Day victory, the Seahawks have endured a rocky week since their 38-9 embarrassing home loss against Buffalo. QB Matt Hasselbeck has moved better on his bruised right leg in practice this week, but the Seahawks will look first to RB Shaun Alexander against a Cowboys defense allowing 4.4 yards per carry. QB Vinny Testaverde gets the start for Dallas as it attempts to climb back into the NFC playoff picture. The Seahawks are vulnerable to big pass plays, but they also lead the league with 17 interceptions. So the Cowboys will try to set up the pass by going to rookie RB Julius Jones early. If the Cowboys jump out to a lead, the Seahawks have struggled to come from behind and the crowd could play a role after turning on them quickly last Sunday.
FAST FACTS: Cowboys: LB Dexter Coakley, with 1,015 career tackles, is just one of five players in franchise history to top 1,000. .. Opposing quarterbacks have a 97.8 passer rating. Seahawks: WR Jerry Rice has 246 receptions for 3,884 yards and 33 touchdowns on Monday nights. ... Hasselbeck has thrown 39 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the red zone since 2001.
PERSONNEL NEWS: Cowboys:
-- G Andre Gurode (knee) remains questionable for the Seahawks game, although he did practice for the first time on Thursday.
If Gurode can't go, look for Tyson Walter to start at right guard. Coach Bill Parcells said Walter had a "fair" performance in filling in for Gurode against the Bears last Thursday.
-- RT Jacob Rogers should get some playing time over the last five games, possibly as soon as Monday. Parcells said he wants to get Rogers some game experience and is considering rotating him in some at right tackle in place of Torrin Tucker. While Tucker has progressed this season, he has yet to solidify himself as the long-term answer at the position.
-- CB Lance Frazier has started the last four games on the right side to bring stability to the position.
Yet, his presence in the starting lineup speaks more of the team's desperate state -- the Cowboys have had four starters at the position through 11 games -- than Frazier proving he can handle the job on a permanent basis. Parcells said they really don't know what they have in Frazier, a rookie free agent who the Cowboys signed off of the Ravens' practice squad. But Parcells does like his competitiveness and potential as a punt returner.
-- DT La'Roi Glover is tied for eighth among NFC defensive tackles in sacks with three.
-- DE Eric Ogbogu's 3.5 sacks against the Bears last Thursday were the most in a game by a Cowboys player since Charles Haley had four against the Steelers in 1994.
Seahawks: -- DE Chike Okeafor missed practice again Thursday and is questionable for Monday night. An ankle injury is the problem. DE Brandon Mitchell is working with the starters in place of Okeafor.
-- RB Kerry Carter missed practice again Thursday and is questionable for Monday night. Sore ribs are the problem.
-- LT Walter Jones missed practice again Thursday to protect a lacerated left thumb. He is probable and plans to start Monday night. Jones said he hopes to practice Friday. OL Floyd Womack worked in Jones' spot during practice Wednesday and Thursday.
-- LB Tracy White is out this week. His pulled hamstring needs more time to recover. The team hopes he can return next week. White did some running Thursday and appeared to be making good progress.
-- CB Bobby Taylor missed practice again Thursday. A nagging knee injury is the problem. Taylor is questionable on the injury report. He did not play last week.
-- OL Floyd Womack worked at LT again Thursday in the absence of starting LT Walter Jones. Womack had been starting at RT the last two games, but he is no longer needed because RT Chris Terry is back in the lineup this week. Jones plans to play Monday night against the Cowboys. He could resume practicing Friday after missing practice this week to rest a lacerated left thumb.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Cowboys: There's no question how big an impact the play of rookie running back Julius Jones has had on the Cowboys' psyche.
Because of Jones and the resurgent running game, the Cowboys (4-7) are suddenly optimistic about righting their season and making a playoff run.
Jones, however, says the last two games -- when he has gained 231 yards, including 150 and two touchdowns last Thursday -- have been just as important to him.
He has missed eight games this season because of injuries and his toughness has been questioned.
"I think I proved I am a tough running back," Jones said. "I gained confidence. I feel I can do it. I feel I can go out there and be successful."
Jones has the Cowboys and coach Bill Parcells believing he can be successful long term rather than being a one-hit wonder.
All that will be determined over time.
Immediately, Parcells said Jones' presence has helped him in game management and allows him to be more patient with the running game.
His focus now is trying to determine what Jones does best and accentuating it in the Cowboys offense.
"You want to determine what they do well," Parcells said. "What do they feel comfortable with? What do they like to run? What environment do you create? It's a question of trying to collect information, really. But I will say this. Besides being able to run the ball, all of the backs I've seen that were any good at all had good vision. I think he's got pretty good vision."
Conventional wisdom says teams will start loading up against the run to stop Jones.
Parcells said the Cowboys are preparing for that strategy -- though inclement weather, which is expected in Seattle on Monday, could be bothersome.
"I think there's a couple of things that we have to do, attempting to do now, in anticipation of some of those things," Parcells said. "We'll see how it goes. I don't think they should be able to gang up on us too much without paying a price. Why? We have the ability to throw the ball. Have some threats there that we can, should be able to take advantage of. Don't know what the elements will be on Monday. They're a great equalizer. Prohibitive throwing weather, you have to deal with a ganged up defense."
The Seahawks have dropped off badly this season in third-down offense and red-zone efficiency. Both areas are huge focal points entering the final five games.
Seattle led the NFL in third-down conversion percentage last season, but the Seahawks rank near the middle of the pack in 2004. The statistic has become increasingly important this season because the Seahawks are focusing more on the running game.
"You don't rip off a bunch of 10-yard runs as a rule, so you're going to get more third-down situations if you're going to hand the ball to the runner that much," coach Mike Holmgren said, "which makes it even more important to convert third downs and we have not been doing that."
As for the red zone, that's where the team's problems in the passing game have been magnified.
"I'm really very unhappy with how we've been playing offense," Holmgren said. "I'm not paying a great deal of attention to the numbers right now. I think we have a bigger issue, and that issue is how we're executing in our decision-making."
QB Matt Hasselbeck isn't the only one making poor decisions in the red zone. And he isn't the Lone Ranger, as Holmgren often puts it, when it comes to third-down mistakes.
"It might be a route adjustment or a protection breakdown or any number of things," Holmgren said. "Those two areas (third down and red zone) have been the main reasons we haven't been functioning quite as well as I would like.
"The other reason is we haven't been able to get on the field. You have a poor conversion rate yourself on third down and then the opponent has a good conversion rate on third down, that's a bad combination. That leads to disparity in time of possession that usually loses games for you."
Game Snap Shot
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