The Dallas Cowboys dominated the Atlanta Falcons through their offensive air power, their physical defense, and their explosive special teams play. This Sunday, a bird of a different feather flocks to Arlington.
Part two in a three-game series against NFC bird teams has the Seattle Seahawks coming to town. Having just defeated a high-flying Falcons team and trying not to look ahead to the division rival Eagles, the Cowboys must keep their six-shooters from being holstered.
Luckily, they've found some more ammunition on the defensive side of the ball to match those flashy bullets on offense.The Seattle offensive line had better watch out. The Dallas pass rush is back with a vengeance.
The Cowboys this season had no sacks in the first 10 quarters, a period in which the opponents used 96 pass plays. In the last 14 quarters, the Cowboys have 14 sacks in 137 pass plays.
That puts the defense one sack behind last year's total through six games, when the Cowboys led the NFL in the category with 59.
More VRR after the jump.
It hasn't been just fancy blitz packages that have been responsible for the resurgent pass rush. The guys up front have chipped in as well.
Atlanta's Matt Ryan had gone 142 passes without a sack before the Cowboys dropped him on consecutive plays in the first quarter of Sunday's 37-21 win. End Marcus Spears and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware recorded those sacks, meaning Dallas overwhelmed the Falcons up front and had no need for risky blitzes. Ware, who received a six-year, $78 million extension Monday, finished with two sacks and forced a fumble that resulted in a TD-producing drive. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff also got to Ryan.
"We challenged them," Phillips said of his defensive front. "Somebody sent around a deal that said (Ryan) was unstoppable and couldn't be sacked."
In addition to fumbling, Ryan threw two interceptions en route to a 66.1 passer rating.
When the Seattle Seahawks enter Arlington, they will be doing so with a noticeable limp. Coming off their bye, though, is helpful.
The Seahawks could get cornerback Marcus Trufant and linebacker Leroy Hill back this week. They hope for some good luck this week, too.
On offense, Seattle is hurting along the offensive line. The Seahawks could be down to their fifth option at left tackle. Damion McIntosh, who was signed Oct. 12, could start against the Cowboys. Walter Jones, a nine-time Pro Bowler, hasn’t played since last Thanksgiving when he played against the Cowboys with an injured knee and gave up two sacks to DeMarcus Ware. Jones underwent microfracture surgery in December and has yet to return. Coach Jim Mora termed Jones "still iffy" on Monday.
If Sean Locklear is healthy, he would start at left tackle. But Locklear has an ankle injury that has kept him out since Week 2.
Matt Mosley lists two Cowboys atop his "rising" NFC East Stock Watch options.
1. Miles Austin, Cowboys WR: Might as well just leave him here every week. His 421 yards and four touchdowns over the past two games is a remarkable achievement. Roy Williams is the No. 1 wide receiver in name only. Austin has emerged as Tony Romo's favorite target at wide receiver. He's really good at using his strength and balance to break tackles before taking off on long touchdowns. He brings a big-play dimension that Romo really needs. If Austin and Felix Jones get going at the same time, watch out.
2. DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys WR: Let's give the man his due. He's now one of the highest-paid defenders in the game, but he won't lose his hunger. It appears that Ware is back to his unstoppable self. He picked up two more sacks in Sunday's win over the Falcons. I thought he played his best game of the season against Atlanta.
With Allen Rossum out this week, Patrick Crayton will take over as punt returner. But, who will take over the kick return duties?
Felix Jones volunteered to return kickoffs after Rossum was hurt but didn't get a chance. Both of the Falcons kicks after the first quarter were touchbacks. Miles Austin has also returned kickoffs this season, but the Cowboys would prefer that not continue with his increased role in the Cowboys offense at receiver.
So, what was up with Tashard Choice only getting one carry against Atlanta?
"Yeah, we didn't get it [to him] as much," coach Wade Phillips said regarding Choice. "It was more of the passing game, and he did make a big play in the passing game. Marion Barber came in and did a lot of our pass protection stuff, which he is the strongest in that area."
"[Atlanta] committed the safety down a whole lot ... but they were bringing him down into the box to try to keep us from running the football, and we took advantage of that."
Always a good read: Bob Sturm decodes Jason Garrett's Week 7.
Much of the Cowboys' offensive success this season has begun on first down plays.
The Cowboys rank No. 1 in first-down efficiency, averaging 7.12 yards per play. Now, some of that is because the 59-yard touchdown this week and the 60-yard score in overtime against Kansas City have come on first down. The Cowboys have had plenty of other big plays as well. But still, it means they’re being aggressive enough on first down to result in big plays.
Jim Mora Jr.'s defense isn't all that bad. But maybe, it's just had some favorable matchups.
Seattle ranks a surprising 12th in overall defense and 7th in points allowed. But those rankings may be skewed by two brutally lopsided wins against the Jaguars and Rams. It takes more than an average defense to stop the Dallas offense, the way Miles Austin and company have been balling of late. Star linebacker Lofa Tatupu is done for the year. Uh oh…
Taking over for Lofa Tatupu at MLB will be David Hawthorne, who played at TCU and whose father may again spend Sunday wearing two hats.
"My dad is a diehard Cowboy fan," the younger David Hawthorne said Monday after practice. "Last year, he had to wear one hat that had the Seahawks going forward and the Cowboys going backwards."
Last year, the younger Hawthorne was limited to special teams duty in the Seahawks’ 34-9 loss. Sunday, he’ll be in the middle of everything, as the Seahawks defense tries to cope with the six-legged running attack that is Marion Barber (344 rushing yards), Felix Jones (8.6-yard average) and Tashard Choice (5.1-yard average) and the multi-faceted passing game that is Tony Romo distributing the ball to tight end Jason Witten (33 receptions) and wide receivers Miles Austin (23.9-yard average, five touchdown catches), Patrick Crayton (17 receptions) and Roy Williams (19.2-yard average).
Cowboys fans remember Julius Jones; while, Seahawks fans should remember Ken Hamlin and Jon Kitna.
FS Ken Hamlin was the Seahawks’ second-round draft choice in 2003 and started 52 games in four seasons before signing with the Cowboys in 2007. Backup QB Jon Kitna also played for the Seahawks (1997-2000), as well as at Central Washington University and Tacoma’s Lincoln High School.
If you haven't seen yet, Patrick Crayton won the NFC's Special Teams Player of the Week Award.
Lots of stuff to vote for this week!
Tony Romo is up for the FedEx Air Player of the Week Award. Vote here.
You can also vote for Romo's sweet "escape artist" touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton as Sprint's Can't Miss Play of Week 7. Remember, voting on this one gives you a chance to win Super Bowl XLIV tickets!
And, Pro Bowl voting has begun. Go here to vote for that.