IRVING, Texas -- Emmitt Smith cut left, saw a hole and plunged ahead. When an arm smacked his legs and sent him stumbling, Smith put down his right hand to keep his balance and rumbled for an 11-yard gain.
Emmitt Smith stretches out for the record-breaking yardage during Sunday's game.
And the NFL career rushing record.
With that fourth-quarter run Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys running back reached 16,728 yards, passing the late Walter Payton to become No. 1 on the all-time list and accomplishing a goal he set for himself before his rookie season.
Although Smith ended the drive with a game-tying 1-yard touchdown run, he stood grim-faced minutes later when Seattle's Rian Lindell kicked a 20-yard field goal with 25 seconds left to give the Seahawks a 17-14 victory.
While the loss put a damper on the day, it couldn't overshadow what Smith had done -- on Sunday and during his prolific career.
Smith finished with 109 yards on 24 carries, both season highs. He had six runs of at least 10 yards -- with a long of 14 -- and extended his NFL record for rushing touchdowns to 150.
Midway through his 13th season, Smith has 16,743 career yards. Payton finished his 13-year career in 1987 with 16,726. Smith broke Payton's record for career carries earlier this season and topped his yardage totals in his 193rd game; Payton played 190. Payton averaged 4.4 yards; Smith 4.3.
Payton, who played his entire career for the Chicago Bears, died in November 1999 from a rare liver disease. He was 45.
Payton, who ran so beautifully he was known as "Sweetness,'' once said he wanted "to set the record so high that the next person who tries for it, it's going to bust their heart.'' But Smith has played with so much heart on and off the field that Payton's widow, Connie, said he would've been proud to see No. 22 take the title.
Emmitt by the numbers
1: yard on first career carry.
2: MVP awards: for 1993 regular season and January 1994 Super Bowl.
3: Super Bowl championships.
4: rushing titles.
4.3: career per-carry average.
5: siblings, including Emory, who made Cowboys' practice squad in 1997.
6: NFL career rushing leaders since stats started being kept in 1932; all are Hall of Famers.
7: games missed (four with injuries, two for holdout, one inactive). Dallas is 1-6 without him.
8: seasons with 10 rushing TDs, two more than anyone else.
9: Pro Bowl selections.
11: seasons with 1,000 yards, an NFL record. All are in a row.
11: yards on run that broke the NFL career rushing record.
17: number overall draft pick in 1990.
20: 100-yard games after age 30, second to Walter Payton's 23.
20: carries; Dallas is 97-25, including playoffs, when he gets that many.
22: teams he's run for 100 yards against.
22: jersey number.
25: rushing TDs in 1995, an NFL record.
42: team-record touches (32 runs, 10 catches) in 1993
season-finale vs. Giants, 17 after separating right shoulder.
44: 1-yard TD runs.
45: 100-yard games in high school, a national record.
58: records set at Florida.
74: 100-yard games in the NFL, three shy of Payton's mark.
75: longest career TD run.
86.6: average yards over 192 career games, fifth-best all-time.
93: games needed to reach 100 career touchdowns, tying Jim Brown's record.
150: career rushing TDs; previous mark was 123.
237: yards in best game, Oct. 31, 1993, against Philadelphia.
540: yards needed to break career rushing record when season began.
1,586: postseason yards, a record.
1,773: yards in best season, 1995.
3,929: career carries, an NFL record.
8,804: yards at Escambia (Fla.) High, third in national history
at the time. His 106 TDs were also No. 3.
16,743: career yards, an NFL record.
-- The Associated Press
"Walter certainly knew talent when he saw it,'' Connie Payton said in a statement. "He is a really nice guy and very special to the Payton family.''
Payton and Smith became friends in the late 1990s, and this summer the Payton Foundation honored Smith with the second Spirit of Sweetness Award. Smith and Jarrett Payton, the late star's son, have developed a tight relationship that Payton urged in his dying days.
Payton's mother and brother watched Sunday from a box at Texas Stadium. Smith had about 30 members of his family on the sideline and he sought out his mother and wife for hugs and kisses during a five-minute stoppage following the record run. A longer ceremony took place after the game.
This was Smith's best chance to break the record at home, since Dallas' next two games are on the road. With Seattle having the league's worst run defense, he knew the time was now.
Not only was Smith a central figure on three of the Cowboys' Super Bowl championship teams, as well as a four-time rushing champion, he has a long history of producing when he's close to a milestone. Coach Dave Campo, who's been in Dallas as long as Smith, saw that famous focus this week.
Smith ran 15 yards on the Cowboys' first three plays, then later in that drive broke three tackles on a 14-yard gain. He had 55 yards by the end of the opening quarter.
But Smith was stuck there at halftime after a forgettable second period. He opened with his first lost fumble in 276 touches, dating to Nov. 18, and he lost yards on two other runs.
Smith got back into a groove midway through the third quarter, running five times for 25 yards on a drive that ended with Dallas' first touchdown. Seattle answered to go up 14-7.
The Cowboys got the ball back at their 27, and with Smith just 13 yards away, everyone knew what was coming. Flashbulbs popped throughout the stadium as he took the first handoff three yards.
Then, on second-and-7, Smith made history by running through holes opened by Jeremy McKinney, who was out of work until 10 days ago, and Flozell Adams -- not exactly the Pro Bowl-caliber line that cleared the way for most of Smith's yards.
During his quickie celebration, Smith shared long hugs with former teammates Daryl Johnston and Michael Irvin, and injured lineman Larry Allen. He and Johnston held an extended embrace.
Smith changed jerseys and shoes every quarter; under them all he wore a white T-shirt commemorating the 16,727th yard that said "All-Time'' across the top of the chest. He has promised to give either a jersey or a helmet from this game to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The 33-year-old Smith has constantly overcome those who said he was too small and too slow to make it. He's not as flashy as Barry Sanders or Gale Sayers, as bruising as Earl Campbell or Jim Brown. But the league might have never seen a better big-game player.
His vision between the tackles helped him pick the right holes, especially around the end zone. Among his NFL-record 150 touchdowns are 98 scores of 4 yards or less.
His combination of personal accomplishments and team success (three Super Bowl titles) is unparalleled. He was the MVP of the 1993 season and of the Super Bowl in January 1994.
Smith has remained at a high level -- 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons, another record -- mostly because of how well he takes care of his body. His regimen includes frequent massages and chiropractic adjustments.
His career began at Texas Stadium in 1990 with two 1-yard runs. He has one season left on a $48 million, eight-year contract signed in 1996, when he was coming off his best season.
Smith is the seventh player to hold the record since NFL began keeping individual statistics in 1932. Payton took over in 1984, passing Jim Brown, whose 21-year possession of the mark is the longest.