SEATTLE– Something about Seattle sends the Cowboys' special teams into a downward spiral.
Nearly six years after an infamous botched field goal attempt the last time Dallas went to Seattle, the Cowboys began Sunday's matchup against the Seahawks with the first of a few special teams snafus.
Felix Jones returned the opening kickoff 19 yards before getting stripped, giving the Seahawks possession at the Cowboys' 29-yard line.
Special teams captain Danny McCray, who also served as a safety after Barry Church was injured, said he sensed Jones was going to break a long run before watching the football trickle to his opponents.
"I thought Felix was out," McCray said. "I was excited for him. I guess somebody got their hand on the ball and it went the other way. But ball security's on the whole team. If somebody, whoever was supposed to be blocking that guy, would have blocked him, Felix would have never got hit."
Despite never reaching the Cowboys' 25-yard line on a kick return, McCray said he thinks Jones is still an explosive returner who only needs one or two blocks to break off runs. He also said Jones never got down after coughing up the ball.
"Felix is a professional," McCray said. "He's a veteran. He's been through these things before. He came to me and said, 'Good job blocking who you were blocking. I'm going to make this up. I'm going to get it back for ya'll. It wasn't really us picking him up."
Seattle managed only a field goal on that drive after a goal line stand, but the Seahawks' special teams unit wasn't done.
Jones held onto the next kickoff, taking it out to the 16-yard line. After Dallas went three-and-out, the Seahawks blocked Chris Jones' punt and returned it for a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead, despite just 18 yards of total offense at the time.
Chris Jones said he knew the Seahawks would send players after him, but he never saw the pressure.
"We've been scheming for rushes all week," he said. "But honestly, I have no idea what happened."
The punter said the block crossed his mind on his next few attempts, but it didn't seem to affect anything. He still averaged 45.8 yards per punt and prevented any catastrophic returns from the always dangerous Leon Washington, who only returned one punt for seven yards.
Chris Jones said he did all he could to eliminate Washington's touches using the right hangtime and placement.
"I know I've got to come back and perform on the next one," he said. "Once it happens, it happens and it's done, and you've got to move on."
While the Cowboys did well punting after the first quarter, they had trouble returning punts all game. Dez Bryant muffed one punt late in the first half, with the Cowboys trying to squeeze out three extra points.
The dropped punt occurred at a crucial stage. Despite all the first half errors, the Cowboys trailed by only six points and were getting the ball back with 20 seconds left before halftime. Dallas had held the Seahawks to a three-and-out at Seattle's 15-yard line, using their three timeouts to save time, and a successful punt return could've put them in field goal position to cut the lead to three points. But Bryant dropped the punt at the Cowboys' 35-yard line and regained possession at the 29, forcing Tony Romo to kneel to end the half.
Despite trailing by less than a touchdown entering the half, the Cowboys couldn't bounce back from their early special teams errors the rest of the day.
"In everything about playing football, they were better than we were today," said owner Jerry Jones. "Every aspect of it. We can call it whatever you want to call it. But they were better than we were today. They took their special teams opportunities, and fundamentally on both sides of the ball, they played a really fine football game."