ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - At last, the Dallas Cowboys are showing the consistency they sought.
Miles Austin caught a touchdown pass for the third straight game and Patrick Crayton returned a punt for a score for the second consecutive week, sending Dallas past the Seattle Seahawks 38-17 and into a share of first place in the NFC East on Sunday.
Tony Romo went a third game in a row without an interception. Since a herky-jerky first month, the Cowboys (5-2) have found quite a groove, winning three straight, setting up a showdown next Sunday night against the co-leading Eagles in Philadelphia.
Romo threw for 256 yards, with touchdowns to Austin, Sam Hurd and Roy Williams. Marion Barber added a TD run and Crayton broke open the game with an 82-yard punt return, one week after a game-breaking 73-yarder. DeMarcus Ware had a sack for the third straight game, this one coming a few days after cashing a $20 million signing bonus as part of a $78 million, six-year contract extension.
Seattle (2-5) was coming off its bye and had cornerback Marcus Trufant for the first time all year. The Seahawks led 3-0 and were within 14-10 late in the second quarter, but did little right after that. Trufant was flagged three times for pass interference and the injury-riddled offensive line allowed three more sacks of Matt Hasselbeck.
Hasselbeck was 22 of 39 for 249 yards, with touchdown passes to Deion Branch and Justin Griffith. Julius Jones ran 15 times for 56 yards.
Romo was 21 of 36, hitting 10 different receivers while doing his best to avoid any careless mistakes. He still made one, losing a fumble inside his 10 midway through the fourth quarter, leading to Seattle's final touchdown. But the fact he didn't throw any passes to the other team for yet another game is a milestone for him. Romo had only three interception-free games last year and has now done so that many games in a row, and five times on the season.
Austin continued his emergence with five catches for 61 yards, including a 3-yarder for a touchdown. He might've had more yards if Trufant hadn't interfered with him twice. But Austin wasn't perfect; he fumbled at the end of an end-around run (although he recovered it) and failed to get over the crossbar on a celebratory dunk after his touchdown. Teammates ribbed him for it when he reached the sideline.
When the Cowboys were alternating wins and losses over the first four games, coach Wade Phillips talked about needing to become consistently good. Since pulling out a win in overtime at Kansas City, they have.
Hurd turned a short pass into a 36-yard touchdown, his first from scrimmage since the 2007 opener. Williams got the next touchdown, his first since this year's opener. In between, linebacker Bobby Carpenter racked up his first sack since December 2006.
Seattle put left tackle Walter Jones and linebacker Lofa Tatupu, two of its mainstays, on injured reserve last week. In a play typical of their season, Seahawks backup quarterback Seneca Wallace took a snap, handed off to a running back, who then handed off to Hasselbeck for a pass to Wallace. Everything worked out perfectly, including Wallace being wide open - except that he fell while the ball was in the air.
In the third quarter, Hasselbeck was sacked on consecutive plays and appeared to aggravate a rib injury on the second one, which forced Seattle to punt. He hardly had any time to recover, though, because Crayton returned the kick for a touchdown. Hasselbeck made it back, but cornerback Ken Lucas didn't return following a third-quarter collision with Dallas' Felix Jones.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.