The Dallas Cowboys will ride their opening night victory into Seattle looking to improve to 2-0 as they play their next two games at home. The Seahawks are coming off a disappointing loss to the Arizona Cardinals in a game that saw the debut of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
For the Cowboys, they are looking to avoid the proverbial "trap," but they need to treat this game with as much urgency, if not more, as they did with the New York Giants. The opportunity to win their first two games, play, and hopefully win, the next two at home and head into the bye week to heal, is something that is staring the Cowboys in the face.
The euphoria of a huge win in a hostile environment sometimes can lead to a letdown, and that will ultimately be Dallas' biggest challenge. But the Seahawks, and their 12th man, do present some clear and present dangers if the Cowboys aren't ready to play. In watching their season debut against the Cardinals, the Seahawks do have some weapons in all three phases that present potential dangers.
Despite primarily being a kick return specialist, Leon Washington is just as dangerous as he's ever been. Against Arizona, he returned a kickoff 83 yards in the third quarter to set up Seattle's first touchdown of the game, and ran back a punt 52 yards to position his team for field-goal range in the final quarter.
Seattle's offense managed 254 yards, while Washington had 189 yards worth of returns. Clearly, field position will play a big factor in Seattle's potential success and Washington is no stranger to delivering the results. Washington presents two problems—the ability to change the momentum and the ability to kick-start Seattle's offense, as well as the crowd.
On offense, rookie Russell Wilson is the starter for right now, and he brings a unique skill set and intangible quality to his game. He was a highly successful collegiate quarterback with N.C. State and Wisconsin, but slipped in the draft due to height concerns.
When you watch Wilson operate, he has a strong arm, nice pocket presence and he's not afraid to use his feet and athletic ability to make a play. The Cowboys have to make Wilson beat them by throwing the ball. Up front, the Cowboys can't be overly anxious in their pursuit, which will allow him to step up in the pocket, run for big yardage and make plays.
The Cowboys will have to focus on confusing him with defensive looks that he's not accustomed to seeing and force him to make tight throws into small spaces. Wilson isn't fully polished just yet, but rest assured, he'll be looking to make a name for himself.
Seattle also features a combination of tall and speedy receivers with Braylon Edwards, Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice comprising the main targets. It's not a scary group of receivers but the Cowboys will have to be physical at the point of attack and force some re-routes. Allowing Rice to get free in the secondary or allowing jump ball situations could be costly, and give Seattle confidence to throw against the secondary.
Marshawn Lynch is a powerful runner that reminds you of a more athletic Marion Barber. He's capable of ripping of chunks of yardage and is a load to bring down. For the Cowboys, their linebackers will be tested and Seattle will definitely want to establish the run to make Wilson's life a little easier. He does a great job of reading blocks and running downhill.
Where the Seahawks might want to attack the Cowboys is with their tight ends. The unit consists of Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy and recent addition Evan Moore. Pete Carroll may want to afford Wilson some safe, high-percentage passing options while testing the coverage ability of Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh. Sensabaugh is dealing with concussion-like symptoms so that's something that could be exploited.
Defensively, some of Seattle's key contributors are defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, linebacker K.J. Wright, cornerback Brandon Browner and safety Earl Thomas. Seattle has done a nice job of collecting some young talent and it's shown in their improved defense.
Clemons likes to mix it up along the defensive front and Seattle tries to use him inside and out. He does a nice job of dipping his shoulder, turning the corner and getting after the quarterback. He excels against the run and the Cowboys won't be able to run away from him. Mebane will try and be disruptive against the Cowboys' guards.
Bryant is a big defensive end with good size that excels against the run. The Cowboys will want to establish DeMarco Murray and Seattle will present some struggles for Dallas in the process. If Seattle is going to draw anything from Dallas' opening night success, they're going to try and squeeze the pocket for Tony Romo and really make him work for his yardage.
The secondary, as a unit, does boast some nice size. Browner is a 6'4" physical corner that will try and mix it up with Austin and Bryant, and Richard Sherman is 6'2' and 195 pounds. They like to get their hands on the receivers and get physical. Both corners do a nice job of staying in position and they like to battle all game. They will present a significant challenge for Dallas, so Kevin Ogletree will have to win the battle with Marcus Trufant.
Earl Thomas is a rising star that likes to play near the line. He's also solid in coverage and Seattle will use him as a blitzer. Kam Chancellor is the other safety and very effective in Seattle's scheme. It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys use their tight ends against this pair but Jason Witten will have to be able to assert himself a little more in this game.
The Seahawks are a young and improved team that's well coached. After losing their opener in down-to-the-wire fashion, they will be extra motivated to win their home opener against a team like the Cowboys. It's that simple.
For the Cowboys, this game is all about business and heading home with a 2-0 record. A win in Seattle would dispel any talk of a letdown or still basking in the glow from opening night. The opportunity is right in front of them, but they must be aware of the danger that's in the way.