Spagnola: Better Hurry Cleaning Up This Mess

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FRISCO, Texas – Not this time.

Nope.

Not even after the Cowboys wiped out another 15-point deficit.

Not even after Dak Prescott became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 450 yards in consecutive games, this time 472.

Or becoming just the third Cowboys quarterback in the 61st season of franchise history to throw three touchdown passes of at least 40 yards in a single game.

Not even after a defense in desperate need of pressure on opposing quarterbacks sacked Russell Wilson four times, registered eight quarterback hits and forced him to run another six times due to intense pressure.

Not even after this Cowboys offense tallied more than 500 yards in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history, 522 in this one after 570 in the win over Atlanta.

And not even after a Greg Zuerlein's 42-yard field goal with 3:59 left to play had given the Cowboys a 31-30 lead.

Nope, no matter all that goodness, that's what happens when you soil the field with far too many transgressions against this game of football, the representative result becoming …

Seahawks 38, Cowboys 31.

Seattle 3-0 for the first time since 2013.

Cowboys 1-2 for the first time since 2010.

All leading head coach Mike McCarthy to say after this game played in an eerily quiet CenturyLink Stadium in downtown Seattle without a 12th man – or any man – present, "But by no means are we a clean football team right now. We need to execute better."

On offense.

On defense.

And for goodness sakes, on special teams, too.

Better order industrial-sized Mr. Clean in a hurry.

Now, I get it. The Cowboys played a third time without starting right tackle La'el Collins. They played a second straight game without left tackle Tyron Smith. They played a second straight game without swing tackle Cam Erving.

They played a second straight game without starting cornerback Anthony Brown. And played this time without starting corner Chidobe Awuzie.

They paid a heavy price for missing that many starters. But hey, Seattle had its share of injury-caused absences, too, including losing safety Jamal Adams early in the game, combined with several already missing on the defensive line and in the secondary.

But here, let me provide you with three unforgiveable mistakes leading to four points in this game that injuries had nothing to do with.

Start with Tony Pollard fumbling that first-quarter Seattle kickoff with the Cowboys already trailing 7-3 at the time, recovering the ball at the 1-yard line. First play afterward, with center Joe Looney and tackle Brandon Knight getting blown up on the line of scrimmage, Ezekiel Elliott, trying to make a cut in the end zone, slips and never gets out. Safety, two points Seattle.

Next possession, here comes that Cowboys offense, driving right down the field for a touchdown. But of all things, Zuerlein's extra point attempt suddenly took a beeline right, hitting the upright, minus one point. Now 9-9.

Next Cowboys possession, trailing 16-9 now, here come the Cowboys again, Dak connecting with Cedrick Wilson on a 40-yard touchdown pass, Wilson's first career score in this, his third season. But I'll be, this time Zuerlein's extra point attempt is blocked by Tre Flowers. Minus one more point, 16-15.

That's four points, two points Seattle shouldn't have had. Two points the Cowboys should have had. And wouldn't that have been nice if the Cowboys only had been trailing 36-33 on that final drive when Dak desperately spun out of a sack, righted himself and heaved the ball carelessly into the end zone on third and 14 with just 16 seconds left, resulting in a game-clinching Seattle interception. He would have been more conservative if knowing he had a field-goal attempt in his back pocket to tie the game.

Oh, but there was more. Much more. Blown coverages in the secondary, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, good gosh, who threw for five touchdowns, even though Aldon Smith sacked him three times and hit him another four times, picking on Cowboys rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs time and time again.

If not for Seattle receiver DK Metcalf pulling another Leon Lett on what would have been a 63-yard touchdown pass, coasting the final few yards and holding the ball out with one hand that Diggs recovered to cause him to fumble out the back of the end zone for a touchback, Wilson would have extended his now NFL record to 15 touchdown passes in the first three games of the season.

And the worst part of all those Wilson TD passes? Only one was somewhat of a contested catch. There is no mandatory six yards of social distance these days in football.

Oh, and let me go find you another 14 Seattle points. With :45 left in the first half, Dak gets intercepted for the first time this season – ending his franchise record streak of 292 attempts without one – setting up Seattle at the Cowboys' 34-yard line, where they proceeded in just 29 seconds to score a touchdown and take an unstable 23-15 halftime lead, the first EVER such halftime score in NFL history.

And to further foil the coin-toss decision to defer and kick, Seattle then kicking to the Cowboys to start the second half, on the first play from scrimmage with the Seahawks blitzing – yet again – Dak is hit by Jarron Reed, fumbles and former Cowboys defensive end Benson Mayowa recovers, setting up the Seahawks at the Dallas 5-yard line. They only needed two plays to put the Cowboys down by 15 for the second game in a row, this time 30-15 thanks to Wilson's fourth touchdown pass of the game.

There's another gifted 14 points. The upcoming Red Kettle Campaign can only pray for such charitable contributions. Come on, this defense is having enough problems without the offense making matters worse. Again.

And this time, the Cowboys did not get away playing without Collins and Tyron Smith. While Seattle only sacked Dak twice, they also registered 10 quarterback hits and six tackles behind the line of scrimmage while breaking up nine passes.

The pressure got so bad, that with 6:36 left in the third quarterback, still trailing 30-15 and starting a possession precariously at their own 6-yard line, the Cowboys finally made a move on the offensive line. Rookie right tackle Terence Steele to the bench. Right guard Zack Martin to right tackle, a position the seventh-year veteran had not played since his days at Notre Dame. Center Joe Looney to right guard. And in comes rookie center Tyler Biadasz.

It was about time. Coincidence or not, three plays later Dak has enough time to hit Wilson again, this time for a 42-yard touchdown, 30-22, Seahawks.

Just foolish for the Cowboys to think they continually were going to get away with an undrafted rookie starting at right tackle, no matter how many pass rushers the Seahawks were missing. The results were confirming. Once they made the move, the Cowboys went from trailing 30-15 to scoring on three consecutive possessions – two touchdowns and a Zuerlein 42-yard field goal – while racking up 253 yards total offense – to take a 31-30 lead with 3:59 to play.\

But this time, unlike recovering from the 15-point deficit last Sunday with less than five minutes to play to overcome the Falcons, 40-39 on Zuerlein's walk-off field goal, they left far too much time on the clock for Wilson, who in eight plays captured a 38-31 lead on his 29-yard touchdown pass to Metcalf and a two-point conversion the Cowboys initially had stopped on the first attempt if not for Trysten Hill called for roughing Wilson.

Though 1:47 and three timeouts were left, the Cowboys could only dink and dunk their way down field to a first-and-10 at the Seahawks' 22-yard line before Seattle sacked Dak for a second time. And you already know what happened on third down.

So the three-game critical totals:

  • Minus-4 on turnover differential.
  • 88 points scored.
  • 97 points against.
  • 1,472 yards gained, on pace after three games to rack up 7,850 yards for the season that would shatter last year's single-season franchise record of 6,904.
  • Dak 1,188 yards passing, putting him on a 6,336-yard pace that would ridiculously shatter the franchise single-season record of 4,903.
  • 9 opponent's touchdown passes in three game, a frightening 48-TD pace over 16 games after giving up just 21 last season.
  • Opposing QBs with a 114.1 rating.
  • Record 1-2, all three one-score games, a point differential of minus-9.

Just can't be asked to score 40 points a game to win.

Mike's right. Time for some serious cleansing.

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