There were certainly things not to like in the Dallas Cowboys' 23-13 victory against the hapless Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Maybe it's a sign of progress when legitimate complaints can be made about a workmanlike, double-digit victory that wasn't as easy and dominant as it could have been against an overmatched opponent.
The Cowboys, who overcame first-half red-zone struggles and 135 yards rushing by Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, finally distanced themselves from a 6-6 halftime time score with two second-half touchdown passes by quarterback Tony Romo.
Romo connected with tight end Jason Witten from 33 yards out in the third quarter and with receiver Laurent Robinson with a 6-yarder early in the fourth.
Add in 139 yards on the ground from rookie running back DeMarco Murray and three interceptions, and the Cowboys simply did what they needed to do in front of 81,510 fans at Cowboys Stadium. It came on a day when the franchise welcomed former greats Drew Pearson, Larry Allen and Charles Haley into the team's hallowed Ring of Honor.
"You always need to be improving and getting better," said Romo, who completed 19 of 31 passes for 279 yards and no turnovers. "It's a positive when you can improve and have things to work on and still win. That is important for us."
The most important thing for the Cowboys (4-4) was that they got back to .500 at the halfway point of the season and got the bad taste from last week's 34-7 embarrassment in Philadelphia out of their mouths.
Considering the upcoming schedule, the Cowboys hope this was the beginning of something they can build on to make a second-half run. They host the Buffalo Bills (5-3), who lost 27-11 to the New York Jets on Sunday, next week before facing the declining Washington Redskins (3-5), losers of three straight, the Miami Dolphins (1-7) and the Arizona Cardinals (2-6).
It all has owner Jerry Jones excited, along with the possible return of linebacker Sean Lee (dislocated wrist) and running back Felix Jones (sprained ankle), who both missed the game.
"I know before this ballgame I had several of [Seattle's] staff really compliment our personnel and just really talk about how they liked our players and if we could get some things going, we could really make some headway," Jones said. "I don't want to, and not going to, look at a schedule as much as I'm going to look at how we're playing. Hopefully, this gave us a hard game. I know we had a hard game, but it gave us something that we can go out here and build off of and maybe get a couple of guys back."
Said linebacker Bradie James, "We had to win this one. Now it's time to start putting them together and build on it."
The Cowboys need to work on their red-zone offense. Two of their first three drives of the game fizzled at the Seattle 2-yard line, resulting in 20-yard field goals by Dan Bailey.
Another missed opportunity went by the wayside when receiver Dez Bryant fumbled at the 1-yard line after a 23-yard catch.
Other teachable moments included decisions on a punt return by Bryant and a kickoff return by receiver Kevin Ogletree, as well as a run defense that allowed a 100-yard rusher for a second straight week.
"We gave up some big yardage and had some communication issues," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "Can we play better? Sure we can, but we know one thing: We are happy with the win."
The Cowboys got a blocked field goal by linebacker Anthony Spencer and interceptions by defensive end Jason Hatcher, cornerback Terence Newman and safety Gerald Sensabaugh.
An encouraging sign on offense was the play of Murray, who has two 100-yard-plus games in the past three weeks.
"He's really done a lot for us," coach Jason Garrett said. "I think he has shown us what kind of player he is. When Felix comes back, we are hopeful to get all the bullets back in the gun. We'd like to get both of those guys touches."