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Outmuscled Cowboys Fall Back To Earth At Hands Of Seahawks
SEATTLE – It didn’t even look like the same team.
The Cowboys who went into the Meadowlands and won on opening night were physically dominant on both sides of the ball. They made their share of mistakes, but overcame them each time. They won the second half.
The team that took the field against the Seahawks on Sunday didn’t have the same focus from the start, allowing the Seahawks to jump out to a 10-0 lead, and though they battled their way back into the game by halftime, they were physically whipped in the third and fourth quarters, as Seattle bullied its way to a 27-7 win.
The Cowboys drop to 1-1, the same as Seattle, and a game behind the NFC East-leading Eagles. Suddenly, the statement win in New York seems far less meaningful.
“We take each game independent of what happened before or what may happen next,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “We came up here and we didn’t get the job done, and that’s just the bottom line.”
Seattle grasped full control of the momentum from the very beginning, recovering a Felix Jones fumble on the opening kickoff, then taking a 3-0 lead. They blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown on the next Cowboys series, going up two scores before the Cowboys had run even a fourth offensive play.
Not that more snaps would’ve necessarily benefitted the road team, which gained only 296 yards all day, unable to establish the run with DeMarco Murray or consistently get the ball to its weapons in the passing game. Coming off what had been called by some the best game of his career, Tony Romo was just 23-of-40 for 251 yards with a touchdown and an interception, certainly not enough to vanquish any remaining demons from the 2007 playoff loss in Seattle.
Seattle’s CenturyLink Field is regarded as one of the loudest in the NFL, and the home opener crowd combined with the Seahawks’ attacking style to keep the Cowboys offense off balance all game. The unit produced one long drive, a 95-yarder to pull within one score in the second quarter, but couldn’t string together enough positive plays the rest of the game.
“It’s a tough environment,” Romo said. “It’s always been that way. But that’s no excuse. There’s loud stadiums in the NFL. We just need to execute better in situational football, and we just need to do the little things we normally do very well. We didn’t do those as well this week.”
As the game wore on, the inability to do “little things” correctly made for big problems.
Defensively, for instance, the Cowboys held Seattle focal point Marshawn Lynch to just 22 yards on 10 carries, but down the stretch his one, two and three-yard gains became, five, six and eight-yarders. The physical runner also busted open a 36-yarder in the third quarter, almost equaling Murray’s output for the entire day, putting the offense in scoring position. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson then converted his biggest throw of the day, a 22-yard touchdown up the seam to tight end Anthony McCoy.
Down 20-7 and desperately needing to answer, the Cowboys had to punt the ball back to Seattle, which drained the life out of the visitors with an 88-yard drive that included a crushing, possibly illegal blindside block on Sean Lee by receiver Golden Tate. Not only was the foul not called, by Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter was assessed a 15-yard personal foul penalty for shoving Wilson out of bounds at the end of his scramble. Eight plays later, Lynch jammed the ball into the end zone from three yards out. He would finish the day with 122 yards on 26 carries.
In all, Seattle’s game-sealing drive took 12 plays and ran seven minutes and 35 seconds off the clock.
“They were able to stay on the field and convert third downs,” said Lee, who returned later in the drive. “They were able to get more big plays, a couple runs and a couple big passes. They did a good job executing and we didn’t.”
So early in the NFL season, it’s easy to be surprised by both wins and losses. The Cowboys came into Sunday as the favorites, having beaten the Seahawks by double digits at home last year, and convincingly upset the Giants last week, while Seattle had lost to seemingly-lowly Arizona in Week 1. But the Cardinals topped the AFC champion Patriots in an early game Sunday, and Seattle went on to prove itself tougher than expected.
Following 11 days to get ready for the Seahawks, the Cowboys will fall into their regular pattern, with six days to prepare for Tampa Bay, which will come to Arlington a week from now after having themselves pushed the Giants to the limit at MetLife Stadium.
“You have to move on,” Garrett said. “Just like we put victories behind us, you have to put this one behind us, but before you do that, we have to go evaluate it. We have to go through the right process. We’ll do that tomorrow. We have to look ourselves in the mirror, and take accountability for it and move forward.”