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SEATTLE – Forgive Tony Romo for choosing to not overhype the importance of Dallas facing the defending champions.
With the schedule that lies ahead, including the next three games at home, whether the Cowboys can come in to Seattle and be the first non-NFC West team to win here since the 2011 season won't ultimately determine the success of their season.
But the validity of starting 4-1 and legitimacy of whether the Cowboys are true contenders in the NFC would be strengthened by a win over the Seahawks.
"They're as good as a test and we're going to face them," Romo said. "It'll be a great atmosphere and it'll be great to get there and play against them."
The four consecutive wins by Dallas rank near the top among early-season surprises across the league. They've done it behind the running of DeMarco Murray, just the third running back in league history — and first since 1975 — to start the season with five straight 100-yard games.
It's a strong start not many expected from Dallas.
Seattle (3-1) will play its only home game in a six-week span, coming off a short week following a Monday night win in Washington thanks to the wizardry of Russell Wilson. It's now accepted that Wilson is going to pull off a trick or two and against Washington it was no different. He became the fifth player since 1970 with more than 200 yards passing and a touchdown and more than 100 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Wilson's big night could have been part of a blowout win if not for Seattle's penalty issues.
"I trust my instincts. I trust the guys working for me in the offensive line," Wilson said. "If something is not there, then try to get something positive out of the play whether it's throwing it away, whether it's running for it or looking downfield and hitting someone downfield."
Here's what to watch as Seattle plays its second straight NFC East opponent:
DANGEROUS DeMARCO: Murray is on a record-setting pace that's about to be tested by the best run defense in the NFL. Murray has 670 yards rushing through five games and has 210 more yards than the next closest running back. If there is a concern it could be overuse. He already has 130 carries.
"We like giving him the ball and he's responded well to it," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.
SHERMAN VS. BRYANT: Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman didn't hold Washington's Pierre Garcon in the highest regard after last Monday's game, saying, "he doesn't matter."
Sherman's opinion of Dez Bryant is far different, with only compliments for the Dallas wide receiver.
"He's up there. Dez is an incredible talent," Sherman said. "Obviously his resume speaks for itself, but he does a great job getting open, playing the ball in the air."
Most of the attention on Sherman this season has come from teams avoiding throwing in his direction. That's why a matchup against Bryant could end up being a highlight. But Sherman wasn't about to share any tips on trying to slow down Bryant.
"I'll show you better than I can tell you," he said.
McCLAIN AND COMPANY: If Rolando McClain can't play because of a nagging groin injury, the Dallas defense could be in trouble. The former top 10 pick is proving to be a difference maker after coming out of retirement to fill a need when Sean Lee went down with a season-ending knee injury.
The league's worst defense from a year ago has exceeded expectations with a big assist from McClain, but the Cowboys gave up 10 points in the final three minutes against Houston when McClain's groin issue flared up and sent him to the sideline.
The Cowboys also will be without Bruce Carter for a second straight game with a strained quadriceps, putting more of the load on Justin Durant and rookie Anthony Hitchens. If McClain's status is iffy, Korey Toomer could be active for the first time.
ROMO REMEMBERS: It's nearly eight years in the past, but every return to Seattle for Romo rekindles the memories of one of the more notorious plays of his career: the botched hold on a 19-yard field goal attempt in the final moments of the NFC wild-card game in January 2007.
"I don't remember negative things very much anymore. I kind of let those things slide by," Romo said.
ALL ABOUT THE BALL: One reason Seattle had the best defense last season was the ability to create turnovers. The Seahawks led the NFL last season with 39 takeaways. So far this season, opponents aren't being so gracious: Seattle has only three takeaways.
"We kind of got this feeling that they come in bunches so if we can get this thing going, it can really make a big difference cause we're really playing without the turnover factor in our favor," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
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