The Dallas Cowboys drop the ball against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday
By Matthew Postins
As good as things went against the New York Giants in the season opener, they went that badly for the Dallas Cowboys in their game against the Seattle Seahawks.
On paper, Seattle did not look talented enough on paper to beat the Cowboys, who were coming off their win over the Giants. But the Seahawks ended up winning this game, 27-7.
And it didn’t look that close.
The die was cast in the first quarter. Felix Jones coughed up the football on the opening drive and the Seahawks turned it into three points. The Cowboys had to punt on the next drive and Chris Jones’ punt was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Then, on the next drive, down 10-0, quarterback Tony Romo drove the Cowboys down the field, only to throw an interception on an ill-advised pass under duress.
The Cowboys looked confused and unable to rebound after that sequence. From there the Seahawks just dominated.
Here’s how it all broke down.
Run Offense: What run offense? The Cowboys carried the ball 16 times, with DeMarco Murray getting 12 of those. The odd part is in the first half Murray ran the ball eight times and gained 36 yards. That’s a respectable average of 4.5 yards per carry. At that point in the game the Cowboys were down only 13-7. Murray had gains of 8 and 9 yards on the drive where Romo threw the interception. On the scoring drive Murray had gains of 2, 4, 2 and 7 yards. It appears that head coach Jason Garrett saw Murray’ first carry of the second half – a gain of zero yards – and took it as an indication that the Cowboys had to win this game with Romo. Felix Jones appears to be an afterthought in this offense, with just one carry. In fact, Kevin Ogletree’s one carry – a 5-yard reverse – went for more yards than Jones’ one carry.
Pass Offense: This stat is interesting. The Cowboys are 0-11 when Romo throws more than 40 times in a game. He threw exactly 40 passes on Sunday. It’s an indication that the offense wasn’t balanced. Garrett must have felt he could pass on Seattle’s secondary. Remember – Seattle’s secondary is probably the best part of the Seattle defense and had three Pro Bowl selections last year. The lack of a running game – or, more to the point, the lack of an ability to commit to the run – put the game in Romo’s hands. His performance was shaky. The offensive line didn’t protect him as well as it did a week ago, but like last week he did most of his best work on the run. His one interception never should have been thrown. What really stood out, however, were the dropped passes. Tight end Jason Witten has some rust, as evidenced by the four dropped passes, a couple of which were unfathomably easy to catch. Dez Bryant dropped a pass on the drive that led to Romo’s interception. Plus, Ogletree caught one pass. It was a nice catch in double coverage for 26 yards. But it was the only time Ogletree was targeted in the game. Austin and Witten combined for 20 targets. That played a bit into Seattle’s hands, honestly. The Cowboys shouldn’t have ignored Ogletree. It was a disappointing performance all around.
Run Defense: On Cowboys Corner last week a certain Cowboys analyst for this Web site said that, while Russell Wilson is getting all the attention as a rookie quarterback, running back Marshawn Lynch is the engine that makes the offense go. Well, Lynch carried the ball 26 times for 122 yards and a touchdown, with an average of 4.6 yards. Seattle committed to the run and it got a better push at the line of scrimmage, thanks to two changes in its starting offensive line. Russell Omiyale stepped into left tackle for Patrick Okung and Jordan Moffitt stepped in at right guard for the rookie, J.R. Sweezy. The improvement was obvious across the board. By late in the third quarter the Cowboys defense was gassed. Inside linebackers Sean Lee (14 tackles) and Bruce Carter (10 tackles) had above-average games. Sean Lissemore, the backup nose tackle, had an outstanding game, notching 10 tackles. That means the Cowboys were able to get some push inside. It just wasn’t nearly enough.
Pass Defense: First, Anthony Spencer was able to get some of the best pressure of the season so far, notching two sacks of Wilson. The problem was that he was the only Cowboy to get some serious pressure on the quarterback on Sunday. The successful running game has something to do with that. But so did Wilson. He only threw 20 times, but he completed 75 percent of his passes. Wilson had better protection overall because the Cowboys had to commit seven to the run, thereby ensuring that their receivers would be in single coverage. The Cowboys don’t mind single coverage. But they didn’t play the ball well against Seattle, defending just four passes. Brandon Carr had none of those. Wilson did enough to keep Dallas honest, and the defense didn’t do enough to fluster the rookie.
Intangibles: The blocked punt by Seattle in the first quarter was the fifth blocked punt of the season in the NFL. … It might be time for the Cowboys to start shopping for a new kickoff returner. Jones is becoming a liability across the board for this team and doesn’t seem to be playing with the type of motivation one would expect from a player in his contract year. It’s becoming clear that Jones won’t be a part of this team in 2013. … Lissemore’s three-year contract extension, signed a few days ago, fell under the radar of Cowboys news. But his performance on Sunday validated the commitment.
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