Despite having 10 days to prepare for the Seattle Seahawks, the Cowboys’ impressive performance against the defending Super Bowl champions failed to carry over to Seattle. The Seahawks got out to a quick start thanks to a strong effort by special teams and defense and never looked back, leading to a dominant second-half performance and a 27-7 victory.
Seattle’s special teams unit immediately set the tone for the game after Brandon Browner forced a fumble on the opening kickoff. That turnover led to an easy 21-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka. Just 75 seconds later, the Cowboys’ first offensive possession ended with a blocked punt that safety Jeron Johnson picked up at the three-yard line and stepped into the end zone.
Only five minutes into the game, and the Seahawks had a 10-0 lead. Quarterback Russell Wilson was slightly disappointed having to settle for a field goal after the first turnover, but recognized the importance of the fast start.
“Obviously you want touchdowns in those situations,” said Wilson. “Just getting that lead is big at the very beginning of the game.”
On the following possession, the Cowboys put together a strong drive, but Browner picked off a Romo pass just inside the 20-yard line and brought it back to midfield. Dallas continued to fight back in the first half, getting their only points of the game on a 22-yard touchdown to Miles Austin.
Going in at halftime with a 13-7 lead, it was clear the Seahawks were playing very physical football. It was the aggressive style of play head coach Pete Carroll enjoys seeing, and it even carried over to the offense in the second half.
“We were just on the attack. This is a very aggressive group, and I think you can see it,” said Carroll. “I felt it in, really, in all phases.”
One player who felt it was Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee. In pursuit of the quarterback toward the sideline, wide receiver Golden Tate upended him with a block that hit him squarely in the chest.
Carroll sounded genuinely concerned about Lee during his post-game press conference.
“He knocked the heck out of the kid, and I hope the kid’s okay,” said Carroll.
It was a block so vicious that most had assumed the flag on the play was intended for Tate rather than the late push out of bounds by another Cowboys defender on Wilson. Juxtaposed against the push, Tate’s hit looked much more worthy of a flag, but Lee said Tate had hit him in the chest and returned to the game after passing concussion tests.
“I thought it was a great block,” said Carroll. “I think everybody questioned that block because you thought that’s what the penalty was.”
Tate wasn’t just impressive in his blocking. Although it didn’t show up in the stat sheet in terms of touchdowns of significant yardage, Tate stood out when he got his hands on the ball today.
“You can see he needs to get the ball more. He’s on fire. He’s just so electric will the ball now,” said Carroll. “Every time he gets the ball in his hands, something good looks like it’s going to happen.”
While Tate may be remembered for the most physical play of the game, Marshawn Lynch was a dominant force on offense, helping to generate long drives that took a lot of time off the clock. Lynch finished the day with 122 yards on 26 carries, and scored the team’s final touchdown to go up 27-7.
“We came in strong in the second half,” said Wilson. “We just kept sustaining those drives.”
Carroll said between the run game, passing efficiency and special teams’ play, the team showed the formula that he really wanted to see.
“We found our stride a little bit with what we were doing at the line of scrimmage. We came off the ball beautifully in the second half,” said Carroll. “I think our guys really took over the game. The offensive line played great.”
Conversely, the Cowboys couldn’t get their run game going at all. After holding the Arizona Cardinals to only 43 rushing yards last week, they shut down DeMarco Murray and held him to only 44 yards. Effectively shutting down the run game allowed the Seahawks to increase the pressure on Romo and allowed only three first downs during the Cowboys’ four possessions in the second half.
It was the type of dominant performance the Seahawks will have to continue when they face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers next week for Monday Night Football. Wilson hopes the 12th Man continues the energy the crowd brought to the game this week.
“Well I knew it was going to be electric, but it was more than I could ever imagine,” said Wilson. “The crowd was a huge, huge advantage for our football team.”
Seattle wasn’t the only team in the NFC West to put on an impressive performance. The entire NFC West put the rest of the NFL on notice this week that it’s clearly not the same division that produced a division champion with a 7-9 record just two years ago.
Arizona traveled to New England to pick up its second victory, holding off a fourth-quarter rally by the Patriots. The Cardinals nearly gave the game away, fumbling the ball on their own 30-yard line with a minute left to play. Arizona held on 20-18, after an offensive holding call nullified a 30-yard touchdown pass and the Patriots’ field goal missed wide left. Perhaps Seahawks fans can feel a little bit better about their loss on the road last week.
The St. Louis Rams pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback and beat the Washington Redskins 31-28, at home. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III continues to look impressive, and just last week led the team to a 40-32 shootout win over the Saints. San Francisco continued to beat up on the NFC North by following up their road win over the Packers with a 27-19 win at home against the Detroit Lions.
While maybe it’s not great news for the Seahawks that every team in the NFC West picked up a win this week, if the division continues to play like it did this weekend it won’t be long before the rest of the NFL starts to take notice.