Cowboys vs. Seahawks: Sketching out a Game Plan for Dallas
Dallas Cowboys fans probably haven't felt this good about their team in a long time. Unfortunately, bad memories will be brought to the surface Sunday as the 'Boys return for the first time to the site of where it all went wrong with one botched hold in the 2006 playoffs.
If Tony Romo is really the head case many of you claim he is, he'll surely be flustered merely by the haunting memories from that game. Realistically, though, he's as level-headed as the next Pro Bowl quarterback, and he has a clear opening to keep the ball rolling against the Seahawks.
But in case there's any doubt about how to approach such a game, I have some suggestions.
Spread it around offensively
It's a testament to how strong Seattle's defense is that it took me much longer than usual to identify a spot that Dallas is well-equipped to exploit. DeMarco Murray ran wild against the 'Hawks last season, but this run defense has gotten better since then and they'll be better prepared for Murray this time.
I would like to say that there's a cornerback Tony Romo can pick on, but Brandon Browner is the ideal guy to cover someone like Dez Bryant and Richard Sherman is quite simply one of the best cover corners in football.
Plus, the Seattle pass rush is coming off a huge week against Arizona. They might not bring heat like the Giants can, but they've got more support from a dynamic secondary.
As a result, I fully expect the Cowboys' offense to come back to earth a little in a difficult road contest.
Which Cowboys' pass-catcher will have the most trouble in Seattle?
The key might be avoiding any sort of comfortable habits. Against the depleted Giants, Romo defaulted to Kevin Ogletree often. That won't work here, nor will the standard Murray handoff to start every series. The Cowboys have to mix it up more than they did in New Jersey, because this defense is smarter and faster right now than New York's was.
Of course, a healthier Jason Witten will help that cause quite a bit. Witten had a good day against the Seahawks last year, and has to be a more active part of the mix Sunday.
If Romo can work him in and find a steady balance between Ogletree, Bryant and Miles Austin and Jason Garrett can stay committed to the run (something the Cardinals didn't have the patience for), then the Cowboys should still have a decent amount of success against a very good D.
Overload against Russell Okung and put heat on Russell Wilson
That is if Okung even plays. He's down with a knee injury after a terrible performance against the Cardinals. Considering that Marshawn Lynch is dealing with a bad back and the offensive line struggled to open up lanes in the opener, there's little risk in attacking the rookie Wilson aggressively.
The Cowboys are also fortunate to have a stellar run defense, with or without Jay Ratliff, so it's a worthwhile gamble. I don't believe this Seattle running game is in a position to beat Dallas on its own, and DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer will present a much larger challenge for Wilson than the Cardinals' pass rush did.
After struggling against overloads in Arizona, I'm guessing the Seahawks will prepare more screens and quick dump-offs for the Cowboys, but Dallas has enough speed in the linebacking corps to defend dink-and-dunk plays well, so watch for Sean Lee and Bruce Carter to again have plenty of opportunities to make plays.
The Cowboys' defense has a major advantage over Seattle's offensive attack, and the key to this game will be exploiting the Seahawks' issues with pass protection while relying on range from the linebackers and good enough coverage in the secondary.
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