SEATTLE –In a game where the Seahawks' defense delivered haymaker after haymaker, the Cowboys came away most rankled by what may have been tantamount to a hit below the belt by a Seattle offensive player.
Sean Lee was giving chase on a quarterback scramble by Russell Wilson in the fourth quarter when Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate reversed field, sized him up and planted the crown of his helmet in the linebacker's chest, sending him flying parallel to the ground. Tate crawled away in celebration of the kill shot, while Lee lay dazed on the turf for several minutes, receiving attention from the Cowboys medical staff.
While Lee was a threat to make the tackle, one could argue Tate's block was the epitome of unnecessary roughness. Former NFL officiating czar Mike Pereira weighed in on Twitter, deeming the hit illegal.
It's likely Tate will receive a fine from the league, but the game's officials, a replacement crew, did not flag Tate's shot on the play, but did call linebacker Bruce Carter for a soft shove of Russell on the Seattle sideline.
"Just to answer that as unemotionally as possible," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, "I thought that was a defenseless player who was hit. Initially, that's what we thought the call was going to be. Apparently something happened at the end of the down where they called it on us … It seems to be that's something the league is trying to guard against, and that might be a pretty good example of what that was.
"There were a lot of football plays in the game. And that really had nothing to do with the outcome of the ball game."
It might've, actually. At the time, with more than 13 minutes to go in the game, the Cowboys trailed 20-7. Had Seattle been flagged for the Tate hit, they would face a second-and-long deep in their own end of the field. Instead, a 30-yard swing on the play helped the Seahawks on what proved to be the game-sealing drive.
But the change in field position wasn't what bothered the Cowboys most. A couple players had words for Tate after the play, but the Cowboys restrained themselves for the most part despite some obvious emotion.
"It really pissed me off," linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "You've sort of got to take that mentality back to them. That's part of this game. It's a brutal game. But we didn't do that."
After taking a moment to gather himself and undergoing a concussion test on the sideline, Lee managed to return in time to finish the series and the game.
The third-year linebacker was credited with a game-high 14 tackles and offered assurance after the game that he felt fine. He wouldn't say whether he thought Tate's hit was a cheap shot.
"It's part of the deal," Lee said of the hit. "It's part of the game. It's not really for me to judge. I'll watch the film, but I know that can happen any time you're out there playing hard. It's not my decision to judge that."