The Cowboys had their chances in this game, but left too many plays on the table and too much time for Russell Wilson. Here are some quick takes from Sunday's loss in Seattle.
Too much Dak.
The Cowboys' QB1 posted his second straight game with 450-plus yards but a game plan featuring 60-plus passing plays is a recipe for disaster. Sure, Prescott finished the night completing 37 of 57 passes for 472 yards with three scores but he also had a pair of interceptions and a costly fumble. The over reliance on No.4 put too much pressure on the Cowboys' patchwork offensive line and took the ball out of Ezekiel Elliott's hands. Given the Cowboys' proven formula for winning games (ball control offense with timely playmaking from the quarterback), the pass-heavy plan led to an unwanted shootout against an MVP-caliber quarterback.
Zeke didn't bring his A game
Elliott tallied 68 scrimmage yards on 20 touches (14 rushes; 6 receptions) but didn't deliver the kind of production or big plays needed to dominate the Seahawks' undermanned defense. The All-Pro runner couldn't find creases as a runner and he showed butter fingers as a pass catcher with three drops. Elliott's disappointing effort played a role in the Cowboys' inability to control the game with their offense.
The Cowboys' reshuffled O-Line gets exposed.
Injuries have forced the Cowboys to rely on a quintet that originally featured a couple of UDFAs at offensive tackle. Despite holding up in the first two games of the season, the unit crumbled against the Seahawks. Terence Steele was replaced back Zack Martin as part of a reshuffled lineup that featured Joe Looney at right guard and Tyler Biadasz at center. Connor Williams and Brandon Knight stayed at left guard and left tackle, respectively, but their struggles showed up in key moments.
Williams was bullied by Jarran Reed on Prescott's second half fumble. Knight watched Alton Robinson slip past him on a critical sack on the final drive. With a 3-man rush featuring a simple stunt perplexing Looney and Martin on Prescott's game-ending interception, the O-Line wilted under pressure with the game on the line.
The Cowboys' WR corps is unstoppable.
The Cowboys have the best WR corps in the business with three No.1s in the unit. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are capable of taking over the game at any point but the emergence o Cedrick Wilson as a consistent playmaker adds a dimension to the group. The unheralded pass catcher posted a 100-yard game (5 catches for 107 with two scores) to complement the 100-yard effort from Gallup (6 catches for 138 yards and a score). With Cooper and Lamb also making noise when their numbers were called, the Cowboys' WR corps was too much for the Seahawks.
The special teams aren't so special.
John Fassel is arguably the best special teams coach in football but his unit has underperformed this season. Their struggles continued with a handful of miscues that costly the Cowboys dearly in a one-score game. Tony Pollard's muffed kickoff led to a safety and Greg Zuerlein missed a pair of extra points. The mistakes not only changed the momentum and flow of the game but it put the Cowboys behind the eight-ball from the game's opening moments. Fassel has to fix the problems before the Cowboys give away more games this seasons.
Aldon Smith's hat trick sparks the pass rush.
The former All-Pro continues to impress as a pass rusher off the edge. As a heavy-handed paper rusher with a non-stop motor, Smith overpowers blockers of the corner. He displayed his entire repertoire of "bully" moves as he fork lifted and bull rushed Duane Brown early and often. Smith continued to harass Russell Wilson from the opposite side with Mike Nolan deploying him as the designated pass rusher from multiple spots. If he continues to dominate off the edge, opponents will need to slide protection to his side and run the risk of leaving DeMarcus Lawrence and Everson Griffen in one-on-one matchups.
Bombs away on the Cowboys' secondary.
The Cowboys struggles in coverage continue to show up against good teams. Wilson repeatedly found open receivers running free down the field with Seahawks' defenders lagging behind due to shoddy coverage or miscommunication. Whether it was Metcalf running free on crossers and vertical routes or Lockett scooting past defenders on an assortment intermediate and deep crossers, the Seahawks made big play after big play on a variety of deep balls that fly over the top of the defense.
Mike Nolan needs to simplify the defense.
Where there's smoke there fire. After hearing the murmurs that they defense is too complex with the various packages, coverages and disguises, the Cowboys' repeated blown coverages and missed assignments against the Seahawks validate the concerns. From Xavier Woods failing to stay deep in zone on Lockett's first touchdown to Trevon Diggs failing to run with his assigned receiver short yardage touchdown to Darian Thompson letting DK Metcalf cross his face on another touchdown on a deep crosser, the Cowboys look lost and confused in coverage. Although Nolan want to confuse opposing quarterbacks by showing a number of looks, he should consider scaling back to help his defense reduce their mental errors.
Trysten Hill and Antwaun Woods are coming on.
The Cowboys are beginning to get better play from their interior defenders. Hill and Woods are a big contributors on the inside as worker bees at the point of attack. Each defender flashed at multiple moments in the game with Woods registering a pair of QB hits and Hill providing energy as a run defender. Although Hill's overzealous actions led to costly penalty on the Seahawks' two-point play, the coaches should be encouraged by the performance of their interior players.
Mike McCarthy has to clean up the little things.
The Cowboys have a sub-.500 record due to the miscues and mistakes that routinely produce losses. Turnovers, kicking game gaffes and penalties are killing the Cowboys in key moments. McCarthy must address the problems in meetings and practice to prevent the issues from popping up again and again. He has a reputation for being a stickler for detail but his team hasn't heeded his messages based on the repeated mistakes each and every week.
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