ARLINGTON, Texas – I’m heading back to Valley Ranch to digest the tape of this fifth-straight loss. In the meantime, there’s no shortage of takeaways from the Cowboys’ 13-12 defeat to the Seahawks.
Here are my first impressions from the press box at AT&T Stadium:
1) It was not going to be easy for Dez Bryant in his first game back, having to face the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman. There is a reason why Sherman is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and when he draws the assignment of carrying the opponent's star, he is usually up to the task. Bryant did his best to get away from Sherman, and there was a time or two when I thought he was open, but Matt Cassel went in another direction or checked the ball down. There were also snaps when I felt like Cassel tried to force the ball to Bryant and the receiver really wasn't in a good enough position to make the play. Bryant did have the one pass where it was a jump-ball situation and it went through his hands. I am sure he’d like to have that back because it was one of those highpoint balls that he catches all day.
2) Great adjustment by the Seahawks in the second half to move the pocket away from Greg Hardy and make him have to chase on the rush. When you have an athletic quarterback like Wilson who can throw on the move, that's really a no-brainier. He was able to make some big plays this way.
3) Had a bad feeling about Doug Free in this game due to the Seahawks rush and the ability of their defensive ends to go from speed to power. When Free has to deal with rushers that play this way, it is a huge struggle for him. It was clear throughout the game that Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril had a plan to not so much attack him on the edge, but rush him down the middle and keep him from setting his hands and feet.
4) I am interested to see on tape how the Seahawks played Jason Witten. My feeling initially was that safety Kam Chancellor was going to carry him in the game and that could have very well been the case. But they might have also put safety Earl Thomas in position as well and left cornerback Cary Williams on the outside to deal with Terrance Williams one-on-one. In previous games, Thomas had been helping Williams, and the Seahawks gave up some plays inside to the tight end. They had a different scheme this afternoon.
5) I have been a big fan of tight end James Hanna and what he means to this offense when the Cowboys are running the ball. Where Hanna is at his best is maintaining position while he is on the move -- whether that's on the front side at the point or on his cut-off blocks. But there were two snaps when he was on the backside, and as the ball went away, he was beaten badly inside. The plays had a negative result, which was on him.
6) Nobody misses Tony Romo more than Cole Beasley. His only target was a designed screen in the red zone that he dropped on the move. It is likely that if he had caught the ball, he would have only gained a yard or two. Besides that one opportunity, Beasley was a non-factor, which has been something we have seen all too often this season.
7) I believe the tape is going to show that DeMarcus Lawrence had one of his better games of the season. He was really good at the point of attack, staying square, and when he saw where the ball carrier was, he was able to put himself in a position to make the play. This is a difficult scheme to have to defend on the outside with all of the zone plays and reads, but I thought he handled all of that very well.
8) Need to find out what happened on the Seattle touchdown pass. Was it a zone coverage with a late reaction from Jeff Heath? Or was Barry Church supposed to carry Luke Wilson up the field? It appeared that Church passed him off thinking he had help behind him. Heath was very deep on the play, so Church might have been wrong here, but I promise to come up with that answer.
9) I am sorry, but I am not buying that these coaches are telling the quarterbacks to check the ball down. This Seattle defense is good, and for the most part, the protection allowed Cassel the opportunity to at least attempt to work the ball down the field, which he didn't do. I will be the first to admit that if the film shows everyone covered on the majority of the pass plays, I will offer an apology to Cassel. But, I don't believe that will be the case.
10) That was a difficult 64 yards for Darren McFadden. He has honestly surprised me with his toughness and willingness to try and finish runs. I thought the only real good chance the Cowboys had to run the ball was to take it right at this Seahawks defense, and I feel like that he was able to do just that. There were not many holes there, but the ones that were there he was able to find.
11) "No sacks. That's big. I think that's a first for us. … That's very exciting. We're happy about that." – Alvin Bailey, Seattle offensive tackle. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can't be happy about that at all.
12) I have said this a bunch these past few weeks: Continue to cheer for chaos in this division. It's not easy to think this way, but trust me, it's your best shot.