I caught a nasty little bug mid-day Friday that has kept me in bed since then. Here's a thumbnail preview, in case I'm not able to crank out the long version:
Torrin Tucker, I predict, won't be a huge negative factor, based on last week's tape. He was sound after he replaced Flozell Adams. The one red-zone blowup I blamed him for was actually Larry Allen's.
The Dallas defense is starting to play matchups. Two weeks ago, Terence Newman got T.O. on almost every play. Last week, Anthony Henry got Plaxico Burress all over the field. Both guys won their duels. Seattle's starting WRs are both hurt. Look for the corners to press and let Roy Williams crowd the box. Shaun Alexander is Seattle's big gun, and Dallas will make stopping him priorities one, two and three.
Matt Hasselbeck does silly things when he faces pressure. The lowly Texans were able to get some heat on him with blitzes up the middle and stunts against the right side of the Seahawks line, where Seattle has its least experienced linemen. I expect Dallas to copy some of the Texans' plan.
Dallas is getting better generating 3-4 and 4-3 rushes with each week. Last week the Cowboys were not only able to get to Eli Manning in critical situations, but they did so without blitzing. Demarcus Ware is getting better, as everyone knows, but Jason Ferguson's quiet resurgence has helped free up LaRoi Glover the past two weeks. And Glover's inside pressure is making Greg Ellis a better man.
It's Mike Holmgren at the controls, so you older fans can probably call out his game plans like a catechism -- lots of three-step drops; lots of passes to receivers on shallow crosses and rollouts on third-and-threes; more screens than anybody this side of Andy Reid, usually on first downs and especially if he's just lost the lead and expects you to blitz; at least half a dozen bootleg passes to keep your backside pursuit honest; deep ins or outs to his tight end, at fifteen to eighteen yards, once he's past his 40. Lots of draws once he's got you thinking pass.
Watching the Seahawks last week was like watching a Packers team circa 1996. The plays were the same. Only the names have changed. The one major difference is that Holmgren never had a Shaun Alexander in Green Bay. He gets most of his yards running left, behind LT Walter Jones and LG Steve Hutchinson. Demarcus Ware better be ready. Holding his perimeter will be key to containing Alexander and winning the game.
Practicing against the Dallas offense every week will help the defense tomorrow, since the Cowboys and Seahawks share many pass packages and plays.
Seattle's D played with eight and nine men in the box last week since the Texans' lone big-play threat, WR Andre Johnson, was out. The Seahawks' DC Ray Rhodes likes to play pressure D. I'm sure the Cowboys are hoping Seattle brings more heat. The offense has been very good at handling blitzes this year. FS Ken Hamlin's injuries may back Seattle off some, but I doubt his absence will completely change Rhodes' tendencies.
Sean Payton's plan against New York was to keep attacking, as he did against Philadelphia. But: a fumble by Keyshawn ended a 26 yard pass; bad blocking by Marco Rivera prevented Drew Bledsoe from stepping into a bomb for Terry Glenn, who was four yards behind his man. The pass was intercepted; Al Johnson's botched snap killed the opening drive one play after a 20 yard pass to Keyshawn; Johnson's needless hold on a blitz took a TD pass to Jason Witten off the board. Lousy edge blocking by Flozell Adams led to another fumble, on a play where Bledsoe was looking deep downfield.
You get the picture. The score didn't indicate it, but Payton's game plan and play calls were every bit as aggressive as they were against the Eagles. But when your guys play like The Three Stooges you look stupid too. I think the offense will keep playing high-pressure, down-the-field football, even with Flozell Adams out.
The offense has been on-again, off-again all year. This is the on week.
Dallas 27, Seattle 20