FRISCO, Texas – Heading into the weekend, here are my two big keys to this game against Seattle.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
The outcome of this game will come down to the Cowboys' ability, defensively, to control Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks have struggled to run the ball with any success. They've only averaged 3.6 yards per carry. They've been poor on third downs, only converting 28 percent of their tries and they get off to terrible starts in games with their inability to score. In fact, 21 of their 41 total points have come in the fourth quarter.
With all that being said, Wilson has managed to keep them in these games. To play Russell Wilson successfully defensively, you have to make him beat you from the pocket and be extremely disciplined in defending the read-option. There is no question that when the Seahawks coaches broke down the film of the Carolina game, they had to like their chances of generating potential offense with Wilson running the ball -- especially on early downs. Like Cam Newton, Wilson has rare ball handling skills. His ability to pull the ball, all while reading your scheme, is a nightmare to have to defend. One busted assignment could spell the difference between getting off the field without your defense suffering harm or offensive points.
The line is extremely fine when you play a quarterback as talented as Russell Wilson. The game plan will be good from Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard, but how well the players are able to execute it will be the real key here. Control Russell Wilson and you control the game. Victory depends on it.
Seattle Seahawks Win If:
The Seahawks' record since their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots is 29-20. They were 4-4 last season at CenturyLink Field, which in itself is surprising.
It clearly hasn't been the same club, both offensively and defensively, in large part due to John Schneider and Pete Carroll rebuilding the roster. Gone are those great players from the past that made the Seahawks one of the most dominant squads, year after year.
The Seahawks have also had changes in the coaching staff. New coordinators on both sides of the ball have had a hand in their 0-2 start. It's especially noticeable at quarterback, with Russell Wilson and his inability to adapt to the new scheme.
Wilson had a 95.4 rating last season but through the first two weeks of this season he's rolling at 89.3. But you can't place this all on his shoulders. The offensive line has been inconsistent when it comes to their protection and Wilson is paying the price for it. Wilson has been sacked 12 times through two games and hit numerous other times. A product of their poor protection has also led to issues on third down. Wilson has only completed seven passes so far this season on those downs. As a matter of fact, he's only 2-of-6 when facing a distance of 3-to-7 yards needed.
For the Seahawks to win this game, they're going to need to be better throwing the ball on third down. If they don't sustain drives, they will lose this game. It starts for the Seahawks on third down and how well they are able to protect Russell Wilson will determine that.