Cowboys vs. Seahawks: 5 Things We Learned
The Dallas Cowboys were out of sync, out of sorts and out of answers before the first half of their 27-7 loss against the Seattle Seahawks was even over. Whatever demons reside at CenturyLink Field, the ones that caused Tony Romo to fumble a snap in the 2006 playoffs, didn’t even need to make an appearance.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t block. They couldn’t defend. They couldn’t avoid penalties. They looked exactly like the team that fans have become accustomed to over the last two decades.
It’s hard to extract any positives out of such a lackluster performance. And there’s no discrediting what the Seattle Seahawks were able to do. They haven’t played that well since they shocked the world by ejecting the New Orleans Saints out of the 2010 playoffs.
But no matter how thin, there is a silver lining. Call it blind allegiance, call it unjustified optimism, this was the kind of reality check the Cowboys needed. Better to be reminded now than in Week 11 that they are one injury, one false start, one special teams fumble away from missing the playoffs.
I feared that this game was a trap game. I feared that leaving New York after defeating the Giants, a victory that feels a year old, and having an extended week would suck the momentum out of this team the same way it did when they had a bye week in the 2007 playoffs.
It’s a wake-up call. No matter how sickening, no matter how discouraging, no matter how infuriating; it’s an early-season reality check that shouldn’t be misinterpreted as ineptitude. There is plenty of time to right the ship.
And as it goes with every defeat, it’s not about failing to do what you’ve learned, it’s about learning do what you’ve failed at. Let’s hope the Cowboys can get a grasp of the latter.
Tony Romo Is the Most Important Player on This Team
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That’s not new. That’s not bold. That’s not untrue. But it is understated. This team could lose two of its best receivers, two of its best defenders, including DeMarcus Ware, and still be in a position to win every game; just as long as Tony Romo is healthy.
He’s been playing with one of the worst offensive lines in the entire NFL, getting smeared by the media for years, shouldering the blame for nearly every loss since 2007 and has managed to not allow any of it affect his demeanor at any point during his 10-year career. The man is cold-blooded.
He’s also responsible for keeping games alive. He’s responsible for bailing out bad blocking and taking heat for bad catching. He’s a role model. He’s a good golfer. He’s the difference between a winning season and a losing season.
And yes, he’s made his fair share of mistakes. He missed a couple of throws Sunday that could have improved their chances to win.
But no matter the questions regarding the offensive line or the decisions made by the front office, the Cowboys can at least take faith in the fact that they are set at quarterback for another five or six years.
It Doesn’t Matter Who the Third Wide Receiver Is
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It really doesn’t. This entire premise dates back to a few years ago when everyone was concerned with who would step up after Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. Tony Romo has proved year after year that it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter who lines up left. It doesn’t matter who lines up right. It doesn’t matter who lines up in the slot. Romo can make due.
That said, Kevin Ogletree played a good game, even if his name wasn’t called. The Seahawks secondary played an even better game. They took away Romo’s options even before he could look for them. Hats off to those guys. They made the Cowboys offense play their game.
Dez Bryant Has a Long Way to Go
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“He’s got his benefit of the doubt collateral down to nothing”—Jerry Jones regarding Dez Bryant (h/t Brandon George, The Dallas Morning News).
No doubt. After two games it may be somewhat early to judge a player’s performance, but Bryant has done nothing to impress or even so much as warrant his diva courtship that has curfews and body guards following him around.
A big reason the Cowboys couldn’t move the ball Sunday is because the receivers couldn’t get open. As mentioned, the Seattle secondary was fantastic, but I expect this group to be good enough to move them around and find holes.
Bryant hasn’t been able to do that since, well, never. Never has he been the break-route and improvise kind of receiver he was drafted to be. Right now, everything that happened in the offseason this year, everything that happened last year, is eating away at the patience of Jerry Jones and the tolerance of a fanbase that has been promised one too many Michael Irvins.
If only it were as easy as saying ship up or ship out. That’s not an option at this point in the season. Instead, he needs to catch up and run routes that justify his pay grade.
The Defense Isn’t Healthy Enough, or Good Enough to Play a 3-4
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If there is one flaw on this defense worth highlighting, it’s the defensive line.
Even a much-improved secondary can’t live up to their reputation when there is no threat up front. Marshawn Lynch picked up right where Ahmad Bradshaw left off and abused the Cowboys’ line with 122 yards.
The linebackers are great. In fact, there is so much depth there, and so many injuries and question marks around the defensive line, that maybe it’s time to consider making a switch to a 4-3.
Maybe putting Victor Butler to use and lining up Ware, Sean Lee and Anthony Spencer as the will, mike and sam is how Rob Ryan should solve the current mess that is the front three.
I certainly don’t want to get into a schematic debate about what kind of defense is more efficient or more successful; I’d rather look at the available personnel and highlight the available strengths and play to those strengths.
Currently, Jay Ratliff is hurt, and there’s not a tackle on the roster qualified to replace him. Why not put in two tackles? Butler is plenty capable of playing defensive end and the combination of him, Kenyon Coleman, Jason Hatcher and Marcus Spears should provide plenty of pass rush and enough gap pressure to slow down any type of offense.
Even so much as showing four down linemen with someone as fast and as flexible as Butler with Ware right behind him creates the kind of hybrid, unpredictable element that coaches drool over.
I’m still baffled as to why someone as intelligent and as prolific as Rob Ryan hasn’t come to this same conclusion. I suppose it’s just a matter of time.
Felix Jones Is Done
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He has no place on this offense. He struggles on special teams. He will struggle to find a featured role anywhere from this point forward.
It’s official. Jones is a bust. As if we needed a reminder. I’d be okay if we went another 10 years without an Arkansas Razorback on this team. I do believe we’ve had our fill.
That being said, you can’t just cast aside a very important part of the game plan and expect to improve. Can Phillip Tanner step up and be better? I suppose we won’t know unless we try. At this point, it would be difficult to regress.