There were no questions coming into the matchup against the Seahawks what Rob Ryan and the Cowboys defense were going to have to accomplish if they were going to win this game. Stop Marshawn Lynch from running the ball and force quarterback Russell Wilson to make plays from the pocket.
For the first half and one drive in the third quarter, the defense did just that. The problem that Ryan and his unit faced was the inability of their own teammates on the offensive side to hold onto the ball and sustain any types of drives.
When the second half opened, with the home team holding onto a six point lead, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell remained patient in his play-calling and it paid off. The Seahawks plan was pretty simple: Do not put Wilson in any situations where he could make a critical mistake and lose the game.
Bevell went with a steady diet of Lynch and a short passing attack to wear down the Cowboys. What was real evident in the second half was, although the defense was able to tackle well enough earlier in the day, it became a problem as the game wore on. The Seahawks showed the ability to successfully run the ball, and when that happens, technique and scheme break down.
A prime example of this came on Marshawn Lynch's 36-yard run, which at the snap was a pretty straight forward running play off-tackle. With it being second and 7, Ryan goes with his base package and shows a single-high safety in Danny McCray, with Gerald Sensabaugh lined up in the slot on the right. At the snap, McCray rotates from the middle of the field to replace Sensabaugh in coverage, who is coming off the corner on a blitz.
It was an aggressive call by Ryan, but the ball goes away from the blitz and toward the defense's left side. Sean Lissemore is lined up at left end, which is really not the best spot for him on that side. He gets pushed by the guard, John Moffit, to the tackle, Breno Giacomini, who is able to handle him one-on-one. Moffitt then adjusts to take on Sean Lee, who is trying to fill, but this also traps Josh Brent and Bruce Carter inside.
On the outside, Victor Butler works to his left away from the hole. Lynch does an outstanding job of reading Giacomini's block and moves back inside with Lee, Brent and Carter all cut off from the play. Carter tries to dive back to make the tackle, but is too far away. McCray, from his safety position, overruns the play going to his left and tries to adjust back. Morris Claiborne tries to rally from his corner spot, but is blocked out of the play by Sidney Rice. McCray does rally back to make the stop, as does Sensabaugh, but the damage has already been done.
Later in that same drive, the Seahawks go back to a formation that caused Ryan's defense some confusion early in the game when Wilson missed a pass to Evan Moore. The Seahawks go "13" personnel (3 TE, 1 WR, 1 RB). Ryan once again keeps his base group on the field. The Seahawks bunch the tight ends in a group on the defensive left side: Zach Miller inside, Anthony McCoy in the middle and Evan Moore on the outside.
Miller breaks inside as Anthony Spencer lunges and misses McCoy, who starts up the field. Meanwhile, Moore heads to the outside working on Brandon Carr. Linebacker Dan Connor works to the flat with Lee behind him, but his angle to McCoy doesn't allow him to cut off the tight end. Spencer is four yards behind, while Connor is three. Both are in terrible shape to defend the route. Safety Mana Silva tries to come from the middle of the field, but Wilson makes an easy throw to the wide open McCoy for his only touchdown pass of the game.
Cornerback Mike Jenkins didn't get as many opportunities as I thought he would. I knew that Jenkins would most likely play when Ryan went to his six defensive back package. When he did get in the game, it was playing inside between the safeties like in a rover position in zone coverage. Jenkins also got some work on the outside during punt returns, blocking the gunners. It surprised me that he didn't get more work in other snaps, but Ryan chose to go with Carr and Claiborne the entire game.