The Dallas Cowboys gave the Seattle Seahawks their first win of the season after a disappointing performance on Sunday. The Seahawks won 24-13 and didn’t look like a team that had dropped their first two games. Dallas, on the other hand, struggled offensively as it looked like the Carolina game all over again. Only this time, the Cowboys defense came back to reality after being dominant over the first two games. In the end, this combination wasn’t enough to get it done and the Cowboys have some sorting out to do. There were a lot of things to talk about, but here are my 10 thoughts on the game.
1. They got to fix that roughing the passer rule
The NFL has this terrible thing they’re doing now where they are penalizing teams for sacking the quarterback. On Sunday, the Cowboys were on the wrong side of this silly rule. It’s understandable what the league is trying to do in protecting the quarterback, but they’re going about it all wrong. These roughing the passer penalties they are throwing the flag for are just terrible. Tyrone Crawford was victimized this time when his textbook tackle was deemed as “roughing the passer” and the Seahawks got new life on their opening drive. Is this really flag worthy?
2. Earl Thomas wastes no time
The Seahawks All-Pro safety was missing from practice earlier in the week, but he was on the field ready to go for the game. Thomas made his presence felt immediately as he came up with the games first turnover. After Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup was unable to hang on to the pass (defender got his hand on it) the ball had appeared to hit the ground and the refs called it incomplete. But after review, you could see that Thomas was able to use his leg to keep it from hitting the ground. It was a great play by a great player.
3. Cowboys third down woes continued
The Cowboys entered the game the second worst team on third down. They might be dead last after Sunday’s performance. Time and time again, this Cowboys offense could not keep the chains moving. They would start the game 0-4. They would end the half 1-7. And they would finish the game a measly 3-13. The Cowboys simply cannot convert on the money down.
And we can’t blame it getting behind the chains this time. The Cowboys first third down of the game was a 3rd and 1 and Ezekiel Elliott would be tackled behind the line of scrimmage. The next third down play was 3rd and 2, but they came up empty on an incomplete pass to Geoff Swaim.
4. Carroll strikes first
We all expected it would be a game of chess between Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll and his former defensive coordinator, now defensive backs/passing game coordinator Kris Richard. Both are very familiar with the other and the things they like to do. There was a lot made about how much Richard knows about the Seahawks offense, but we might have forgotten that Carroll might know how to get the better of his former coach.
And that’s what happened. The Seahawks offense caught the Cowboys out of position a handful of times in the first half. Was this being about to outguess Richard? Did the Seahawks see something that alerted them as to what was coming? It’s tough to say just how much the familiarity had to do with it, but one thing is for sure – the Seahawks offense got the better of the Cowboys defense and that resulted in some big plays.
5. A foot makes all the difference
The Cowboys had a great shot to answer the Seahawks first touchdown drive with one of their own, but it came up just short when Ezekiel Elliott’s foot would step out of bounds. Initially, Dak Prescott would scramble and hit Elliott who then scampered down the sideline for what looked like a touchdown. Unfortunately, it was called back. Since Elliott’s foot went out of bounds, he’s not allowed to be the first player to touch the ball. It was ruled a loss of down and the Cowboys were forced to settle for a field goal.
6. A gift from Randy
The Cowboy defense held up at the end of the first half, keeping the Seahawks out of field goal range, but then suddenly thanks to a bonehead play from Randy Gregory, the Seahawks would get chance. After the play was over, Gregory gave a nice shove to the face to a Seahawks player. He would get flagged for a personal foul penalty, giving Seattle 15 yards. This allowed Sebastian Janikowski to hit a 47-yard field goal as the first half expired. It was a bad way to cap off a bad half of football.
7. Another costly mistake from Zeke
When it looked like the Cowboys were going to make one last effort to get back into the game, the final nail was driven in the coffin when Elliott fumbled the ball. Zeke had broken loose for a 26-yard gain, but in an attempt to cut back and make a run for the end zone, he swung his arm up high allowing room for safety Bradley MacDougald to punch the ball out.
It’s hard to fault Zeke for trying to come up with a big play in a game where the offense struggled to get points, but if he protects that ball better, the Cowboys still had a chance. Not a great chance, but a chance.
8. Losing the sack battle
Entering this game, the Seahawks offense were the worst in the league at protecting the quarterback, giving up a league high 12 sacks. And the Cowboys defense was second in the league with nine sacks. It had all the making of a disaster for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offensive line against the Cowboys pass rush.
But alas, it was not to be.
Instead, it was Dak Prescott who would spend all afternoon on his back. The Seahawks would sack Prescott five times, including two of them from defensive tackle Jarran Reed. Frank Clark was quick around the edge and gave Tyron Smith fits all day.
Although the Cowboys would be officially credited with two sacks (Jaylon Smith ran Wilson down behind the line of scrimmage), they really only got to him in the backfield once. It came on a blitz where the Cowboys brought the house. Sean Lee got there first and DeMarcus Lawrence helped finish the job.
In the end, the Seahawks won the sack battle 5 to 2, which wasn’t what Cowboys fans were hoping for on Sunday.
9. Too little, too late
After a whole lot of nothing early, the Cowboys offense started getting things going in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, every time the Cowboys would threaten to score, they would cough up the ball and give away any chance they had to get back in the game.
It was frustrating because the Cowboys were finally having success after possessions filled with ineptness. Was this a result of the Seahawks in a prevent, giving way yards to protect against the big play? Or can the Cowboys actually move the ball when they come out in a shotgun and are more aggressive in the passing game? This was the same type of assertiveness we saw in Carolina in Week 1 and it makes you wonder if Dallas should try a different approach offensively.
10. Take a bow, Earl
So much has been made about Earl Thomas and his interest in joining the Cowboys, but on Sunday, he would not be so kind to them. Thomas delivered the first blow early with an interception off the side of his leg. He would return later to add another trick-shot pick after he was able to come down with a deflected pass from Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin.
After his second interception, Thomas would take a bow towards the Cowboys sideline. I’m not sure exactly his intent there, but the refs flagged him for taunting. Maybe it was his way of reminding the Cowboys what they missed out on by not paying the asking price to bring him to Dallas in a trade.
With some coverage break downs in the secondary, the Cowboys could have used Thomas’ services on Sunday. Now that these teams have played each other, will the Seahawks finally be willing to deal him?
Earl Thomas said a couple of Cowboys coaches said to him before the game, “You ready for the trade tomorrow?”
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 24, 2018