Don't Forget About These Five: Game Changers Occurred Early

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SEATTLE – The highlights were few and far between in this 27-7 loss to the Seahawks, who set the tone early with a physical nature for which the Cowboys just didn't have an answer. But like always, there are some hidden plays that will get overlooked, yet played a big part in the final outcome.

            Here's a handful of plays or events that changed this game.

1. Opening coin toss – Typically I try to find five plays within the actual 60 minutes of the game, but this proved to be big. The Cowboys won the toss and always like to get the ball first. In this case, Felix Jones fumbled the kickoff and then an ensuing blocked punt for a score put the Cowboys in a 10-0 hole. Here they are thinking Tony Romo and the offense would run the first play, instead, they're down by three before a single snap is taken. Had they lost the toss and Seattle taken the ball, it's unlikely to think the Seahawks' conservative game play to open the game would've led to a long drive. The simple flip of the coin might have made this a completely different game altogether.

2. Carter's missed opportunity– While it's tough to harp on a defensive player who doesn't come up with a tough interception, Bruce Carter could've changed everything had he been able to snag Russell Wilson's pass over the middle on Seattle's first drive. The Seahawks settled for a field goal on the next play. Carter, who had a lot of running room to his right, would've likely saved three points there if he had caught the ball, and maybe seven, more assuming the Cowboys probably wouldn't have had a blocked punt.

3. Witten's first drop – While people might remember Jason Witten dropping the ball down the seam of the field in the second quarter, the Cowboys still scored on that drive. The most costly of his drops occurred on their first possession, when he dropped a third-down pass over the middle that should've moved the chains. On the next play, the Cowboys had the punt blocked for a touchdown and found themselves down 10-0. You can argue the Seahawks would've blocked the punt on the next drive, but teams play it differently the closer you get to the middle of the field. They may not have had the same block call on if the ball wasn't backed up as much.

4. Romo's interception – The Cowboys were down 10-0 but driving to get back in the game and possibly on the scoreboard. Tony Romo's pick to Brandon Browner erased that opportunity at the Seattle 24. The pass was going to Jason Witten over the middle. But if you look closer, there's a possibility Dez Bryant might have run the wrong route. Witten is coming across and has a step on his defender, but with Bryant turning inside to the middle, it brought Browner back into the play for the pick.

5. Lynch rumbles for 36 – With the Cowboys trailing 13-7, Seattle had a second-and-7 at their own 39. On what should've been a stop for no gain, Marshawn Lynch broke a tackle and then scooted for 36 yards to the Cowboys' 25. Two plays later, Seattle scored for a 20-7 lead.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Dez Bryant's muffed punt might have changed things before halftime. The Cowboys called three timeouts to try and set something up. He dropped the punt at the Dallas 35. He had plenty of room to run, so if he could've gotten to midfield with a few seconds left, maybe the Cowboys could've run a play or two to get in field goal range.
  • The NFL will likely come down hard on Seattle receiver Golden Tate for his blindside block on Sean Lee. If that's the case, it means the referees missed a big call there. Had a penalty been called on Tate, it would've been offset by the late hit called against Bruce Carter, giving the Seahawks another second-and-12, leading 20-7. Instead, the 14-yard scramble and questionable call on Carter gave Seattle a first down at the Dallas 49, and they eventually scored.
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