True Test Awaits Sunday

Seattle has the league's top-ranked offense now with an average of 407 yards per game.

Coach Bill Parcells made defense a priority in the off-season because the Cowboys simply couldn't stop anybody last year. They couldn't get teams off the field on third down. They couldn't keep teams out of the end zone.

Parcells changed schemes from the 4-3 to the 3-4 and he improved the personnel through free agency and the draft. So far so good, as the Cowboys are a vastly improved unit over last season.

They are ranked eighth in the league overall. They are tied for first in sacks with 20 and have half as many turnovers (11) as they did through 16 games last season.

Add in the fact they are coming off two games in which they shut down the then top-ranked offenses in the league in Philadelphia and the New York Giants and the Cowboys are feeling pretty good about themselves.

"We thought we were a good defense before the season, we just hadn't shown it," cornerback Terence Newman said. "It's showing now. We are a good unit. We are having fun and making plays."

Everyone is feeling good; that is except Parcells, who said the true test comes Sunday against the Seahawks.

Seattle has the league's top-ranked offense now with an average of 407 yards per game. Parcells says they are a bigger challenge than the Giants and Eagles because they can run the ball. Seattle averages a league-high 166 yards per game on the ground with NFL leading rusher Shaun Alexander leading the way.

"Listen, talk to me Monday," Parcells said. "This will be a real test here. They are running for 166 yards per game. That is a little different from the other two. They have real good balance. They score a lot of points and they come at you in a hurry. So talk to me Monday."

What is certain is that the Cowboys are much improved over last year.

Credit the 3-4 scheme. Credit the improved depth that allows them to have free rotation on the defensive front. Credit the fact that the Cowboys have more playmakers than before.

There are six former No. 1 picks among the main contributors, including Greg Ellis, Aaron Glenn, Marcus Spears, DeMarcus Ware, Roy Williams and Newman. That list doesn't include Anthony Henry, who is the best cornerback the team has had since the days of Deion Sanders, and veteran playmakers La'Roi Glover and Jason Ferguson.

"We do a lot of different things," Ellis said. "Offenses don't know if we are in a three-man or four-man front. Are we going to be in a pass rushing front? Are we going to be in a five-man front? Is this guy standing up? Is he dropping? Is he rushing? It creates matchup problems and mismatches."

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. Dallas leads the series 6-3. Dallas's come-from-behind win at Seattle last season marked the first time in club history that a Dallas team scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes of regulation to win a game. Two of the nine series contests have been decided by a touchdown or less, while six of the games have been decided by two touchdowns or more. Dallas holds a 3-1 record when playing in Seattle, including 1-0 at Qwest Field. This will be the third meeting between the two clubs since the Seahawks returned to the NFC in 2002, after the two clubs met three times in 15 years between 1987-2001.

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