In the last couple of days, I've been thinking about the Seattle-Denver preseason game, with a little bit of envy for the way the Seattle Seahawks went out and DEMOLISHED the Denver Broncos, perhaps the best team in the AFC -- to the tune of 33-7 at HALFTIME, with a 40-10 final score. http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/boxscore?gid=20130817026
How did they do it? Not by racking up huge passing or running yards. It was done by forcing mistakes and then capitalizing on them. 107 yard KO return TD. 106 yard fumble return TD. 1 pick and 3 forced fumbles - no turnovers committed by Seattle. 4 sacks to 1 for Denver. This was not a night where the focus was on Seattle's "stars" like Russell Wilson. Sure, Wilson was effective - 8-12, 127 yards, 2 TDs. But this was much more about Seattle as a swarming team that forces mistakes and turns them into TDs.
Last year, Seattle found their rhythm for 3 dominant performances in a row late in the season:
- Week 14 - Seattle 58, Arizona 0
- Week 15 - Seattle 50, Bills 17
- Week 16 - Seattle 42, SF 13
The story after all of these games was not Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, or any of the other Seattle stars. It was all about Seattle as a TEAM just destroying its opponent.
Does this TEAM idea apply to other successful NFL franchises? The Patriots have the best run of success in the NFL, with 10 years in a row of 10+ wins. And there you tend to think first about Tom Brady. But the Pats have won 10 games without Tom Brady, and they've won with lots of different receivers and running backs and offensive linemen. And they've won with great defenses and despite having porous defenses. So this tells me they also have great TEAM cohesion.
The Ravens are another squad that plays with great team cohesion. Yes, they have stars. But the stars on defense focused on pulling everyone together to dominate, and the stars on offense all look like blue collar types.
To our chagrin, we've also seen the Giants come together as a team at the end of two seasons since 2007 to win two Super Bowls. Yes, they had Eli, but Eli has never really put up great numbers. And his biggest throws in those Super Bowl victories were to guys like David Tyree and Mario Manningham.
The Saints are another example, I believe. They have Drew Brees. But they've also done it with a no-name wide receiving corps, and with a defense that included Cowboys cast offs. They have an identity -- aggressive offense that's constantly going for the jugular and a defense that at its best forced turnovers.
I think Jason Garrett is trying to get the Cowboys to play like a team that can dominate opponents. Monte Kiffin's addition certainly helps, because his defenses in Tampa definitely were about team cohesion and forcing mistakes.
But I'm not feeling or seeing it yet. We didn't dominate anyone at any time in any game last season. And two years ago the only teams we stomped were Buffalo and St. Louis, and to a lesser extent the Bucs.
So what is the Dallas Cowboys TEAM identity? What is it going to rally around if it wants to take control of the NFC East and advance in the playoffs? And is it going to get there? Are we going to have TEAM wins, or will it all just be about Tony Romo and Dez Bryant and DeMarcus Ware?