FRISCO, Texas – Reviewing this one isn't going to be fun for anybody.
Another road game and another tough loss for this young Dallas Cowboys team. No two games are alike, but there were a lot of familiar problems from the Week 1 loss to Carolina – and even last week's home win against the Giants.
The in-depth review begins Monday morning, but I had plenty of thoughts from my first watch through of this game – from game planning, to play calling, to execution – from both the offense and defense.
Here are the notes:
· I thought it would have taken Russell Wilson's legs to beat the Cowboys, but it was the Seahawks' commitment to running the ball with Chris Carson instead. Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer did a nice job of protecting not only his quarterback, but his banged up offensive line that had several new starters inside. It wasn't always pretty, but once Schottenheimer got the feeling that the Cowboys offense wasn't going to move the ball on his defense, he never had a reason to go away from that plan.
· How do you not block Bobby Wagner on a third down running play? Of all the Seattle defensive players not to lay a hand on, he would be the last one I'd allow that to happen to. What is disturbing is that this has turned into an all-too-common occurrence through three games this season. Linebackers that can tackle need to be accounted for, especially if you want to successfully run the ball.
· I honestly don't know what Tyrone Crawford or any pass rusher can do differently to prevent officials from making those roughing calls on quarterbacks. Crawford didn't lead with his head nor did he strike Russell Wilson in the head or neck area. If you were making a coaching reel for the perfect form tackle, that would be a tremendous example of how to execute one. The league has gone too far taking that element out of the game.
· Michael Gallup has to help his quarterback on that first interception by Earl Thomas. This offense is in dire need of playmakers and Gallup has to finish that play -- especially when the route was well-executed. The protection held up and the throw was in a perfect spot, so there's no excuse why the result should have been a turnover.
· I was surprised at how cautiously Chidobe Awuzie appeared to play early in this game. I don't fault him for the Brandon Marshall catch down the sideline, because Russell Wilson threw the ball in the perfect spot. What I don't understand was how Awuzie allowed several of those Seahawks receptions to the inside of him without so much as a fight. It wasn't until late in the game when Awuzie was competitive, not allowing Tyler Lockett inside on a big third down stop. He had been playing well through the first two weeks, but this wasn't his best effort in my opinion.
· For the first two weeks of the season, I thought the Cowboys' safeties were outstanding -- but I didn't think this was a particularly well-played game coming out of Seattle. Earl Thomas, Bradley McDougald and Justin Coleman clearly outplayed Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier. It appeared that Brian Schottenheimer and the Seahawks' staff had a plan to attack the middle of this Cowboys defense and force these safeties to make some plays in coverage, which they were unable to accomplish.
· The Cowboys caught a break with that Seahawks running into the kicker penalty. Instead of taking advantage of that situation, these were the following three plays: first, a pass to Michael Gallup that was too high. After that, Ezekiel Elliott on an inside handoff for one yard. Finally, a pass to Cole Beasley underneath with Bobby Wagner covering -- which wound up incomplete. This Cowboys offense currently lacks the ability to take advantage of an opponent's mistake. It happened last week in the Giants game on the sack/fumble. Great field position but all they managed was a field goal. Something has to change here.
· I don't want to blame DeMarcus Lawrence for the missed assignment on 3rd-and-long where Chris Carson worked into the flat for a 19-yard reception and a first down. In the past we have seen this defense run a blitz and drop the defensive end in coverage to protect for the blitzing linebacker or defensive back. I really don't know if you want to make a living dropping your best pass rusher in coverage, but maybe this was their way of fooling the Seahawks into accounting for Lawrence and getting another man home? Regardless, the play went for a first down and on the very next play Russell Wilson threw a touchdown to Jaron Brown.
· The Cowboys only converted three of their third down attempts during the game. The best one of those came on a deep crossing route where Dak Prescott found Cole Beasley on the play. The Seahawks blitzed on the play, but it was picked up well, allowing Prescott enough time to locate Beasley. It was a beautiful throw out in front of Beasley, which allowed him to run away from the defensive back for a sizeable gain and a first down.
· These are just the kind of things that happen to the Cowboys offense: the coaches put Rico Gathers on the field to open a drive, but he draws a false start penalty. Now, starting five yards back, they run the ball for no gain with Elliott. Prescott then hits Deonte Thompson for a nice 10-yard gain, setting up a 3rd-and-5 situation. Instead of earning a first down, Prescott is forced to drop back to pass again -- but this time, Frank Clark does an outstanding jump of timing the snap count and is around Tyron Smith's shoulder before he has a chance to react. Clark gets the sack and it forces the Cowboys to punt.
· We'll have to wait until Monday to get a better read on the injured hamstring of Sean Lee. It's never a good situation with Lee out of the lineup, but I have a good feeling that this defense is better prepared to handle an absence with Leighton Vander Esch filling in for him. Vander Esch appears to be the real deal. His 18 stops in two games while playing for Lee is exactly what this defense needs if Lee is going to miss any time in the coming weeks. I like his toughness, smarts, nose for the ball and his ability to finish. I can only see him getting better with more opportunities.
· I made this statement in our Cowboys Post Game Show, but I wonder if Jason Garrett is going to become more involved in the offensive play calling after what we have seen these first three games? Garrett has said that he has full confidence in Scott Linehan. But at the quarter pole of the season, part of me believes that Jerry Jones is going to ask some tough questions in that Monday morning staff meeting, and he's going to expect some different answers than the ones he might have heard before. Keep an eye on that situation as we work toward the Detroit Lions game next Sunday afternoon.