Keys to Victory

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Keys To Victory: Fast Start Critical vs. Seattle

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The Cowboys (1-1) are looking to build off last Sunday's comeback win over Atlanta. Up next this Sunday: a road game (without the usual crowd noise) against Russell Wilson and the undefeated Seattle Seahawks (2-0). Here are my thoughts on how this game could play out this week.

The Seahawks will win if…

The Seahawks will walk away with a win if they continue to stick with the "Let Russ Cook" movement. The veteran quarterback is playing at an MVP level in a pass-centric offense designed to allow him to throw the ball all over the yard to an explosive cast of playmakers. D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have favorable matchups on the outside with Greg Olsen making a few grabs over the middle. Wilson makes it work by dropping timely dimes from the pocket or extending plays with his nifty running skills until his top targets shake coverage.

Chris Carson is the 'Hawks' secret weapon as a hybrid playmaker in the backfield. He's capable of churning out a 100-yard game as a runner but has shown big-play potential as a pass-catcher in recent weeks. He gives Wilson an effective weapon to target if the Cowboys' soft coverage takes away the Seahawks' vertical threats.

Defensively, the Seahawks must force the Cowboys into a one-dimensional attack with Dak Prescott forced to throw against loaded coverage. If Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams can contain Elliott on early downs, the duo could attack with timely blitzes to disrupt the rhythm of the Cowboys' passing game. Although the uptick in pressure could expose a secondary that's struggled against top receivers (six pass catchers with 70-plus receiving yards against the Seahawks in 2020), the harassment could lead to a few miscues if the Cowboys' offensive line wilts under the pressure.

The Cowboys will win if…

The Cowboys will win if they are able to control the game with their offense. Dak and Co. must start fast and enable the defense to play with a lead. To make that happen, Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore should consider playing with more tempo to help the offense get into a rhythm while also wearing down the Seahawks' defense with the quickened pace. This tactic appeared to neutralize the Falcons' defense in Week 2 and it should be in play based on how Prescott and others thrived with the approach.

From a matchup standpoint, the Cowboys should unleash their three-headed monster at wide receiver to take advantage of the Seahawks' suspect secondary. Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup could each tally 100-yard days if the Cowboys throw the ball all over the yard on an assortment of quick-rhythm throws at short- and intermediate-range. Although the Cowboys should throw to grab the lead, they must remember to feed Elliott to seize control of the game and milk the clock.

Defensively, Mike Nolan must determine the best way to attack the Seahawks while protecting his secondary. He needs to simplify his play calls to enable his young defenders to play fast without mental clutter slowing them down. Trevon Diggs and Jourdan Lewis have tough matchups on the outside, which could make a zone-heavy game plan a possibility. If the Cowboys opt for that route, the pass rush must show up and dominate. If DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith and Everson Griffen can harass Wilson on four-man rushes, the Cowboys can limit the big plays and win with a "bend but don't break" approach that forces the Seahawks to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.

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