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Special Teams Miscues Loom Large In Loss


FRISCO, Texas – Some of this stuff feels like it has to be scripted.

It was literally just a week ago that special teams saved the day for the Dallas Cowboys. In the most dire of situations, the famed "watermelon kick" that no one saw coming helped them wrest victory from the jaws of defeat.

Fast forward a mere seven days, and it's hard not to feel that the Cowboys' 38-31 loss to Seattle may have ended differently if not for some glaring special teams miscues.

"A three-play period makes it hard to say it was a good day," said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy.

Two of those plays happened in quick succession, and they completely flipped the script on the first quarter.

The first was one of the more inexplicable plays of the day. Just moments after a long touchdown strike from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett, Tony Pollard fielded the kickoff in a 7-3 ball game – and promptly dropped it, only recovering his bearings in time to dive on the ball at his own one-yard line.

"Really, we beat ourselves a lot of the times," Pollard said.

The mistake set up the ensuing Cowboys possession in their own end zone – where Ezekiel Elliott was promptly tackled for a safety. It was a continuation of a trend from last week, which is that ball security has been a lowkey issue for the Cowboys through these first few weeks.

"I think, like anything in the game of football, you need a return on investment on what you emphasize," McCarthy said. "We've spent a tremendous amount of time handling the football and we need to do a much better job in that area."

All things considered, the Cowboys actually weathered that first storm. Following the safety, they forced a Seattle punt and drove 65 yards for what should have been a go-ahead touchdown. Unfortunately, Greg Zuerlein followed Elliott's one-yard touchdown plunge with a missed extra point, clanging it off the right upright to preserve a 9-9 tie.

Things got worse in the second quarter. Once again, Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense rallied to a challenge by the Seahawks. Moments after Wilson found Lockett for another touchdown, Prescott responded by leading the Cowboys 75 yards in three plays, highlighted by a 40-yard touchdown toss to Cedrick Wilson.

This time, Zuerlein's extra point was blocked, allowing Seattle to hold on to a 16-15 lead. Ultimately, the Cowboys would attempt a two-point conversion after a Michael Gallup touchdown in the fourth quarter – and they'd fail to convert it, putting them at a 30-28 deficit.

Obviously, it's a bit too simple to add up the point totals from a handful of missed plays. But it's hard not to notice the impact that these plays had on the game. Pollard's gaffe directly contributed to two Seattle points, while Zuerlein's misses add up to another two – and arguably three, given the extra two-point conversion.

In a game the Seahawks won by the skin of their teeth, those points feel enormous, and should be all the more cause for an even larger focus on special teams.


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