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Scout's Eye: Play Calling Near The Goal Line, Grading The Secondary; More

FRISCO, Texas – Hopefully you're enjoying a fantastic holiday season, so I understand if you're not dying to read about a devastating Cowboys loss.

Be that as it may, I still sat down with the tape of this 21-12 loss to Seattle. As always, there was a lot to look at. This Dallas defense played a better game than will get remembered, and there will other aspects of this performance that will get forgotten.

It's also worth taking a look at what went wrong – why the offense struggled and what the Cowboys might have done better. Before we get ready for the last week of the season, here's a look at Week 16:

  • It appeared that Tyron Smith reinjured himself trying to adjust back to the outside to pick up the blitzing Justin Coleman off the slot. Smith was trying to hold off Branden Jackson with one hand, then work back to Coleman. At the end of the block, Smith twisted in attempt push Jackson and ended up on the ground. Smith gave it a go but after that move, his night was over.
  • The biggest play of the afternoon for the Seahawks was a 20-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin that should have been called back for holding. Taco Charlton beat tackle Germain Ifedi around the edge. With his right hand, Ifedi pulled Charlton out of the way to keep Wilson clean. Referee John Hussey was looking right at the block and even moved forward like he was going to make the call -- but he allowed the play to stand.
  • In the postgame press conference, Dak Prescott said his read to Cole Beasley wasn't clean on the run/pass option on the goal line. Frank Clark crashed hard to the inside, so Prescott's option would have been to run the ball himself. His problem was that K.J. Wright wasn't fooled on the play and he was waiting right there to force the issue for Prescott. Prescott had the opportunity to fire the ball inside to the open Beasley, but Earl Thomas was standing in his line of sight. Prescott must have thought Thomas could have made a play on the ball and that's why he tucked the ball and ran for a short gain.
  • Coming into this matchup, I was concerned about Russell Wilson running the ball, especially on third down. On a crucial 3rd-and-9 in the third quarter, the Cowboys couldn't have covered any better when Wilson scrambled for 10 yards and a first down. Every Seahawks receiver was locked down and Wilson made an incredible move to avoid Benson Mayowa in order to extend the play. What was unfortunate for the Cowboys was that Sean Lee was in position to keep Wilson from the sticks, but he was so locked up with Mike Davis in the flat, he never saw Wilson running at him until it was too late and he was already to the marker.
  • I really liked what I saw from Keith Smith when he had an opportunity to get in the game as a lead blocker for Ezekiel Elliott. Smith did a nice job of running the trap, getting through the hole and putting a hat on a Seahawks defender. There were several snaps where he was able to eliminate his man to give Elliott the opportunity to gain a few extra yards behind his block.
  • After the Jimmy Graham touchdown against Jourdan Lewis, the next time the Seahawks were inside the 10-yard line, Rod Marinelli had Byron Jones and Jeff Heath double the talented tight end right off the line. Unfortunately ,Wilson didn't look his way and chose to hit Doug Baldwin out of the slot, after he beat Chidobe Awuzie with an ankle breaking stutter move to the corner. Wilson put the ball in a perfect spot for the touchdown.


  • There's no question that there has been some miscommunication between Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant this season. It appeared early in the game on third down, that Prescott tried to set Bryant up for a back shoulder throw but Bryant continued his route up the field. Prescott was under pressure by Justin Coleman on the slot blitz, but he still managed to get the ball in a spot where, if Bryant had not continued up the field, they could have converted on the play.
  • I had a feeling that the Seahawks were going to take some shots down the field in this game, especially off play action. We haven't seen Byron Jones have to play much deep safety, but he was able to carry Doug Baldwin up the field after being passed off by Jourdan Lewis. Baldwin tried to go out and up but Jones adjusted nicely by keeping leverage, looking back for the ball and running underneath Baldwin to cut him off. There was no window for Wilson to deliver the ball as it sailed five yards beyond the receiver. 
  • I really thought that, with the threat of Ezekiel Elliott back in the lineup, that the boot/waggle game would come back -- but that wasn't the case. As aggressive as the Seahawks are on defense, they did a really nice job of playing their assignments in coverage and not giving Dak Prescott any options. Every throw that he had to make in these situations, there was a blue jersey in coverage making things difficult. That part of the Cowboys passing attack just hasn't been as successful as it was last season, where Prescott was completing throw after throw to open receivers. Opponents are doing a better job overall defensing the scheme.
  • I am not an expert when it comes to field goal kickers, so I don't have a great answer to what happened on the Dan Bailey misses? The snap and placement appeared to have no issues. The laces were out as Bailey struck the ball both times. I did do some digging and learned that Bailey did have some misses in practice this week while in preparation for the game. It might just be a little slump, but that's hard to say when he was able to knock a couple of field goals home from 50-plus yards today.
  • It was quite an adjustment by Byron Jones on the Chris Jones flip-flop punt to pin the Seahawks on their own 1-yard line. Initially, I thought Jones had no shot at the ball when he looked up the first time. To his credit, he was able to track it and then looking up a second time put himself in a position to adjust to it. The ball hit on the 8-yard line with some spin and went forward. With the ball now around the goal line, Jones laid out from the 4 and was able to extend himself. Using his momentum, he was able to grab the ball and make the only play he had -- throw it underneath himself. Kavon Frazier did a nice job, as well, hustling across the field in order to down the ball at that spot.  
  • If you have the chance one day, ask David Helman how many times I said the Seahawks' defense can't stop anyone from the goal line. Every time the Jaguars or Rams got down in that position, they scored. I have no explanation for why the Cowboys didn't run Elliott down inside the 5-yard line to try and get those points. It's ironic that the Seahawks lost a Super Bowl doing the exact same thing. I guess it's only fitting that they now get to live to fight another day while the Cowboys can only wonder what could have been.
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