Dallas Cowboys' Julius Jones tosses aside the football after scoring against the Seattle Seahawks Monday, Dec. 6, 2004, in Seattle. With Jones back in the lineup, the Cowboys have won consecutive games for the first time since September and are still in playoff contention. He has 429 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 93 carries in three starts since returning from a broken shoulder blade suffered in his NFL debut in Week 2.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
IRVING, Texas The Dallas Cowboys can only imagine how different their season might be had Julius Jones been healthy the whole time.
''It's his fault that we lost seven games. It is,'' receiver Keyshawn Johnson said, smiling. ''Ask him, I tell him that after every time that he scores a touchdown.''
If the rookie who missed eight games keeps running like this, the Cowboys (5-7) just might sneak into the playoffs.
Jones ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns Monday night at Seattle, scoring the last on a 17-yard draw play with 32 seconds left in a 43-39 win. That was just more than a minute after Johnson's acrobatic 34-yard catch in the back of the end zone and a recovered onside kick.
With Jones back in the lineup, the Cowboys have won consecutive games for the first time since September and are still in playoff contention. He has 429 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 93 carries in three starts since returning from a broken shoulder blade suffered in his NFL debut in Week 2.
''The running back was pretty good, in case you didn't notice,'' coach Bill Parcells said. ''I told the team this, that we're better off right now as a team that at any point this year. ... We've just got more balance in our attack, and we're a bit better now.''
Thanks to the rookie whose durability and toughness was being questioned by Parcells earlier this season.
Dallas, which had lost six of seven before the last two wins, still has a chance for its second straight playoff appearance under Parcells. The Cowboys are among six 5-7 teams a game behind in the standings for the NFC's second wild-card spot.
The Cowboys would have the tiebreaker against Seattle (6-6), which is tied with St. Louis for the NFC West lead. They also have wins against Chicago and Detroit, two of the other 5-7 teams, and their regular-season finale is against the New York Giants.
''Hopefully, we can get up enough energy to play the last month good,'' Parcells said. ''I've always told my teams what you do after Thanksgiving, that's what counts.''
Jones missed the season opener because of sore ribs, and then had just five carries in his debut against Cleveland before breaking his shoulder. He didn't play again until Nov. 21 at Baltimore, when he started to answer the questions Parcells had about him.
In his first start, Jones had 30 carries for 81 yards, and four days later carried 33 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns in a Thanksgiving Day win over Chicago. Only Emmitt Smith (237 yards) and Tony Dorsett (206) have rushed for more yards in a Cowboys game than Jones did against the Seahawks.
''Once again, I proved that I can handle the load,'' Jones said. ''I go out every game with a chip on my shoulder to prove something.''
Jones had 30 of the 31 carries Monday night, the other going to Vinny Testaverde when the 41-year-old quarterback scrambled away from pressure.
Eddie George didn't even get in, ending his streak of 139 straight games played.
Jones isn't only surprising other people with his performance.
''I had high expectations of myself. I go out and expect myself to perform at the best level, top level,'' he said. ''But I am somewhat surprising myself.''
And showing why Parcells was willing to trade out of the first round in the draft when he had his choice of any running back, and waited until the second round to get Jones from Notre Dame.
One of the team's primary concerns last April was to get a running back, and none had been picked when Dallas traded its No. 1 to Buffalo and moved down 21 spots. Steven Jackson, Chris Perry, Kevin Jones and Tatum Bell were all gone when the Cowboys got another turn, but Parcells had Jones targeted when he opted out of the first round.
''This is not a slap to other running backs,'' Johnson said, ''but there are some players in pro sports that have it. Whatever it is, he is one of those guys who has just got it.''
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