Jones reminds Vinny, Keyshawn of Martin
Julius Jones has it, and with him piling up yards from the backfield, so now do the Dallas Cowboys.
Thirty-seven seconds remained in the most improbable comeback of the season. The rookie back from Notre Dame had made three runs for 27 yards in a frantic drive that put the Cowboys at the Seahawks 17, trailing by three points. Testaverde handed off to Jones as he did so often in New York with Martin.
"I was watching him through that hole, and I'm thinking Curtis Martin at the time," Testaverde said. "I had my arms up right away. I saw the safeties split. I knew if he could break the arm tackle, he would get in the end zone."
Jones scored the game-winning 17-yard touchdown run that enabled the Cowboys to overcome a 10-point deficit in the final 105 seconds to stun the Seahawks, 43-39. Basically, the Cowboys "Martinized" the Seahawks. Jones rushed for 198 yards on 30 carries and scored three touchdowns. Another touchdown was called back because of a penalty.
"This is big, not only to me but for our team," Jones said. "To come out and have a road win like this, be down in the fourth quarter like that and come back is huge. We are on a playoff run right now, and these are the type of games that you need."
Only in the NFC can a team that was 3-7 before Thanksgiving think playoffs. Only in the NFC can a Bill Parcells team blow a 15-point lead with a 198-yard running back and find itself down by 10 in the fourth quarter. Only in the NFC can a Seahawks team that was supposedly a Super Bowl contender melt down three times in a crucial home game.
But the story Monday night was Jones. On Thanksgiving Day, he made turkeys out of a talented young Bears defense. To do even better before the Monday Night cameras only bodes well for the Cowboys' future.
"And remember, we get Julius Jones and Buffalo's first-round pick next season," offensive coordinator Sean Payton said as he walked across the locker room.
Jones was remarkable. He opened the series with a 53-yard run on the Cowboys' second possession. In his third game back since breaking a bone in his shoulder, Jones is just getting into a running grove. He missed seven consecutive games, and the Cowboys' running attack was invisible while the injury mended.
"It's his fault we lost seven games," wide receiver Johnson said. "Every time he scores a touchdown or has a long run, I tell him, 'It's your fault. If you get hurt again, I'm going to shoot you, and you will just die.' "
The Seahawks might wish they could shoot him because they sure couldn't tackle him.
"Certain players in professional sports has it, whatever it is," Johnson continued. "He's one of those guys who has it."
Martin had it. That's why Bill Parcells brought him from New England to the New York Jets. What followed has been a potential Hall of Fame career that is still unfolding. But the shoulder break robbed the Cowboys of it this season.
|Julius Jones||348||11/25-12/6 '04|
|Tony Dorsett||298||12/4-12/12, '77|
|Tony Dorsett||270||11/27-12/4, '77|
|Calvin Hill||259||11/9-11/16, '69|
|Julius Jones||231||11/15-11/21, '04|
|Calvin Hill||229||9/28-10/5, '69|
Before Thanksgiving, the team was at a crossroads. Owner Jerry Jones wanted Parcells to work toward next year and use Drew Henson at quarterback. Parcells still clung to the hope of winning something this year even though the team had seven losses. In a supposedly controversial decision after Thanksgiving, he opted to stay with 41-year-old Testaverde. But what he really wanted to see was Jones, the back he preferred over Steven Jackson, whom the Cowboys bypassed by trading down in the first round in order to get the Bills' first-round pick next season.
"I would just say [Jones] is doing well," Parcells said after the victory. "I quite honestly feel, like I told the team, we're better off now as a team than at any point this year. Not just because we won this game. We just have more balance in our attack. We're a bit better now."
That balance became really evident during the final frantic 75 seconds. The Seahawks' defense was clueless at to what the Cowboys would call. Shaun Alexander scored a 32-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 that should have sealed the victory with 2:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Testaverde hit four completions and found Johnson in the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown with 1:45 remaining. For the second consecutive week, the Seahawks' special teams were asleep and non-aggressive on an onside kick. A week ago, Bills kicker Rian Lindell caught his own onside kick. On Monday night, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten caught it uncontested.
The Cowboys started their game-winning drive at their 43. Jones gained 9 yards on the second play. Two plays later, he gained 2. On a third-and-8 at the Seahawks 33, Jones put the Cowboys in scoring position at the Seahawks 17 with a 16-yard run.
Here's how he screwed up the Seahawks defense. A draw would seem to be the natural call from the Seahawks 33. Thirty-seven seconds remained, and the Cowboys were in field-goal range. Testaverde had thrown two second-half interceptions with the lead, and Parcells certainly didn't want to risk losing a chance at overtime.
Coaches teach safeties to watch the movement of the center in those situations in case of a draw. If it looks like run, safeties are supposed to converge. The Seahawks safeties split. That left only one tackler to stop Jones after he broke through the line. It was a mismatch and a touchdown.
It also was the first time a team came back from a 10-point deficit like that in the final two minutes of a Monday Night game. Jones became part of Monday Night legend.
"I have never been part of a game like this," Jones said. "Like I said, this game will go down in the books and this is definitely one of the best games I've ever played in."
Maybe the Cowboys would be 7-5 or better instead of 5-7 if Jones had stayed healthy. They will never know, but this is a different team for the final four weeks because of the emergence of Jones.
"We feel the same way that we have been feeling all year long," Johnson said. "It's just keep winning one game at a time and don't worry about the numbers. Don't believe any of those things. Believe in ourselves. Don't get caught up in what the media is talking about because they will bury you."
Jones is just getting started. He had 150 yards on 33 carries against the Bears. He leads the team with 445 yards on 98 carries and six touchdowns in his abbreviated season. During the extra time after Thanksgiving, Parcells had Jones working on screen passes and flat receptions, but he dropped and juggled those.
"I was tired out there, and that's something I was disappointed about is the way I caught the ball tonight," Jones said. "There is no excuse for that, and I'll have to work on that. I have to go back and work on catching the ball. I never missed this many balls in a game."
Johnson has every bit of confidence that the catches will come with the runs. Jones has it, remember.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.