It only took one bad game for the critics to question the immeasurable, directly unobservable traits of this team. The list is all too familiar and just as fictitious now as it was in previous seasons.
This team lacks mental toughness
The Cowboys have a poor football culture
Dallas quits when things do not go well
And so on, and so forth... Really?
The reason the Seahawks beat the Cowboys is quite obvious. Seattle played better.
This game was mostly about execution, and a lack thereof. Seattle had a simple, conservative game plan. It involved running the ball a lot, keeping the inexperienced quarterback safe with easy reads and passes, playing very tough defense, and winning the special teams battle.
Seattle executed their game plan very well. In doing so, the Seahawks exposed several weaknesses that should surprise no serious football aficionado.
1. Dallas cannot generate consistent pressure outside of DeMarcus Ware.
2. While the Cowboys defensive line played well against a weak offensive line in New York, the defensive front could not make plays against a better offensive line.
3. The offensive line lacks consistency, and quite probably lacks the talent necessary to protect the quarterback, generate a push in the running game, and open holes for DeMarco Murray.
Dallas had several symptoms pointing towards poor execution:
Missed blocking assignments on special teams and offense
Running improper routes and missing route adjustments
An inability for defensive linemen to get off blocks
The most notable culprits exhibiting poor execution and a poor performance in Seattle include:
Everyone on the defensive line not named Lissemore
The interior of the offensive line
While many players held up their ends (Tyron Smith, Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Sean Lee, and Bruce Carter) not one player registered a truly great performance. Considering the number of players that played poorly, some players needed to step up, and none were able to do so.
Funny how a team that was mentally weak only committed five penalties for 47 yards in a much louder stadium than last Wednesday. Amazingly, this mentally weak team was only down by six points 35 minutes into the game despite turning the ball over essentially three times in the first quarter leading to a 10-0 deficit.
The second half was decided by which team won the line of scrimmage. It was obvious that Dallas' weaknesses along the offensive and defensive lines were victimized with roughly 25 minutes left in the game. The Dallas playmakers could not make plays to offset the weakness at the line of scrimmage.
This will be the story line of the 2012 season. If the Cowboys' quarterback, receivers, and running backs can play well enough to overcome a weak offensive line, Dallas will win.
When the defensive backs can cover well, and the linebackers can provide pressure and make plays, the Dallas defense will be a force. Against a physical team that can run the ball, the strength of the defense will be severely tested.
Rob Ryan's strategy to drop into coverage would have probably worked if Dallas would have been able to generate a pass rush. Unfortunately, the strategy led to Wilson having more time than usual to make the appropriate decision.
Upon reflection, it is easy to say that Ryan should have pressured Russell Wilson to a greater extent, but Wade Phillips employed this pressure strategy during one of his final games in Dallas against Tennessee. Vince Young (I believe now out of the league) just kept throwing it up against the man coverage, permitting his receivers to make plays, and leading the Titans to a win in Arlington.
This game was more about football players playing poorly than it was about strategy or coaching. It is difficult to grade a game plan when the players play abysmally. To paraphrase Wade Phillips, the coaches don't coach turnovers, dropped passes, poor route adjustments, and missed tackles. Sometimes, the players need to take the onus of the responsibility for their failures.
Garrett noted in his post-game press conference that the team made too many mistakes and lost all three facets of the game. Romo added that the team committed too many mental mistakes and physical mistakes.
Seattle kept it simple, executed well, and capitalized on the Cowboys' mistakes. The process needs to continue for the Cowboys, and the team needs to execute better.
This was a big loss. The tie-breakers that Dallas lost today will make it tough for the Cowboys to make it to the playoffs as a wild card team.
If Dallas learns from this game and improves the execution from week to week, this team will not need a wild card berth. Unquestionably, this is a young team that will get better. That in itself separates this team from the previous versions donning the star.
Will the Cowboys improve enough?
That's why I watch.