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Spagnola: No Secret What The Biggest Problem Is


SEATTLE – Brutha, if you thought that loss to Carolina was bad.

        This one?


        Seahawks 24, Cowboys not even a close 13.

        And it took the Cowboys only 3 hours, 3 minutes on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon here at CenturyLink Field to go from being tied for first in the NFC East to being tied for last in the NFC East at 1-2, their first 1-2 start since 2010 when Wade Phillips was the head coach, and we remember all too well what happened during that season.

        As in the first game and now in the third game, this offense suffered a brownout, scoring only one touchdown, and seems quite elementary just why.

        The Cowboys turned the ball over three times, two tipped balls off receivers' hands for interceptions by, of course, Earl Thomas, who had nothing to do with the tips, and then a lost fumble on their longest play of the day, a 26-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott for a brief stay inside the red zone.

        As they did in the 16-8 opening loss to the Panthers, they were quite pathetic trying to protect Dak Prescott in the passing game. Remember, the Panthers sacked Dak six times in that loss. Well, in this one, the Seahawks, with only three sacks in their opening two losses, sacked Dak five times.

        In that loss at Carolina, the Panthers were credited with 10 QB hits on Dak. In this one, the Seahawks defense with only five QB hits in the first two games, doubled that in this one, with a 10 spot. Ten now.

        This is no way to treat your quarterback.

        And you wonder why once again Dak still hasn't thrown for more than the 170 yards he did against Carolina, this time for just 168 yards, but when you subtract 31 yards lost in sacks, the Cowboys only net 137 yards passing.

        And don't care if you ran for 167 yards or averaged 8.7 yards a carry. No matter Zeke ran for 127 yards, only the third time in his 13th career 100-yard performance that the Cowboys have lost, but these represent the most yards he's gained in a loss.

        You have to throw the ball better than this.

        Dak once again would fall on his sword after the game. Hey, he's the quarterback. He has to.

        "I've got to be more accurate, I've got to be more consistent with my throws," he would say. "We've got to get open. You can go way across the board, but it starts with me."

        OK, fine.

        As for head coach Jason Garrett, he would not pinpoint.

        "Obviously, we did not play well on offense," Garrett said, "… we did not throw the ball as efficiently as we needed to. We were not able to make enough big plays in the passing game throughout the game. We did not do a good enough job staying ahead of the chains, controlling the line of scrimmage in the passing game like we would have wanted to."

        Now we're getting closer to the truth.

        And let's leave it to Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin to come totally clean.

        "It starts up front protecting No. 4 and executing," Martin said. "We got to do a better job of giving him time to let routes develop to get the ball downfield, and we just haven't done that this year.

        "It starts up front, it's no secret. We can run the ball all we want, but if we can't protect the quarterback and let him have time to make plays, then we're not going to be a very good offense."

        No kidding.

        So let's put it this way:

        In the two losses, when the Cowboys have scored only two touchdowns – one in each – and totaled just 21 points – just 10.5 a game – Dak has been sacked 11 times and hit another 20 times. And let's not be blaming this all on Joe Looney starting for Travis Frederick or the rookie Connor Williams starting at left guard. The protection breakdowns are across the board. Everyone, including the tight ends and running backs.

        Now then, in the victory over the Giants, 20-13, when the Cowboys actually scored two touchdowns in one game, Dak was not sacked a single time. And he was hit only (3) times. The offense, while not great but taking a step in the right direction, was far more efficient.

        At this rate, with Dak being sacked 11 times in three games, he's on pace to suffer an unfathomable 59 sacks, which would be the third most in club history and most since the 60 of 1986 when the Cowboys finished 7-9 – their first non-winning season since 1965.

        Efficiency is not a word synonymous with the Cowboys offense Sunday. Not when it's just 3-of-13 on third down, a woeful 23 percent, dropping their season total to just 8 of 34, right at their now season average of 23.5.

        And unfortunately for the Cowboys, this time their defense didn't keep them close. Didn't bail out the offense. Two busted coverages accounted for two of Seattle's three touchdowns. And an undisciplined 15-yard personal foul penalty on Randy Gregory for shoving Seahawks backup center Joey Hunt in the face after the Cowboys came up with a third-down stop, turned what would have been a half-ending 62-yard Sebastian Janikowski field-goal attempt, which he might have made anyway judging from his pregame warmups, into a more makeable 47-yarder that gave the Seahawks a 17-3 halftime lead.

        Like, Seattle just didn't run over the Cowboys defense. The Seahawks totaled a modest 295 yards. While they ran for 113 yards, it took them 39 time-eating carries to do so, but just 2.9 yards a run. And as for Russell Wilson, for the first time in three games he did not throw for more than 200 yards, just a season-low 192, but two touchdowns, one a 52-yarder on one of the two busted coverages.

        Problem was, the Cowboys defense did not create one turnover and registered only two sacks of Wilson, who had been sacked six times in each of the Seahawks first two games. That's 12 in their opening two losses.

        And the Cowboys really couldn't blame any of this on losing linebacker Sean Lee to that darn hamstring strain again, this time for part of the second quarter and then the last quarter-and-a-half of the game. Now his absence might be longer than that. Because rookie Leighton Vander Esch, taking his place, showed why the Cowboys selected him in the first round, matching the team-leading 11 tackles of Lee before he departed for good with 11 of his own, nine of those solo tackles, including one for a loss.

        Add it all up, and Seattle avoided going 0-3 for the first time since 2011, when the Cowboys were responsible for their third straight loss. And that meant five of eight previously winless NFL teams have been winners so far in Week 3, with the ninth, Pittsburgh (0-1-1), to play Monday night. Good gosh, and that included strangely enough Buffalo lambasting the Vikings in Minnesota, 27-6, and the Detroit Lions getting off the snide, beating of all teams, the Patriots, 26-10, which might a good thing for the Cowboys.

        Though, that means the Lions will come roaring into AT&T Stadium at noon this Sunday with their heads held high.

        And the Cowboys?

        They had better start treating No. 4 with tender loving care, otherwise …