As is usually the case on Friday, the pendulum swings mightily towards the next game - which, in this case, will be a genuine litmus test against the defending champs. But first, we dally for a bit in the past and present before moving to the future, starting with some leftovers from last Sunday's meal:
Xs and Os Week 5 - Cowboys offensive line vs. J.J. Watt - Bob Sturm, Live from Lewisville
The Sturminator eschews his usual Thursday fare in favor of a detailed examination of thirteen of Dallas' offensive plays, as a way to explore a theme: "How Did the Cowboys do in their challenge of dealing with JJ Watt?" The answer: pretty darned well. Here's Sturm's conclusion:
...some good and some not so good as the coach might say. But, anytime you avoid catastrophe both on the scoreboard and in the training room you take your Win and tell JJ Watt goodbye for 4 years. Let someone else figure out Watt and Clowney together.
Murray wins FedEx ground award for 3rd time in 2014 - David Helman, The Mothership
The kid is having a heckuva start to the season. For the third time in five games, the NFL's leading rusher
Next up: the usual smattering of practice reports...
Dallas Cowboys practice report Thursday: Three linebackers out again; defensive back Tyler Patmon also missing - Brandon George, DMN
Starting linebackers Rolando McClain (strained left groin) and Bruce Carter (strained right quadriceps) and reserve linebacker Cameron Lawrence (strained left quadriceps) weren’t on the practice field Thursday. The Cowboys were also without a couple of reserves: CB Tyler Patmon (sick) and OT Jermey Parnell (ribs).
Cowboys add WR to practice squad - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Freshly acquired wide receiver LaRon Byrd - yes, the long, athletic guy who many wanted to make the 53 out of camp - broke his arm in Wednesday’s practice, forcing the Dallas Cowboys to sign Kerry Taylor, recently released by Jacksonville, as his practice squad replacement. Who is Taylor? Luckily, NFL.com has a nice video of his lone NFL catch. Which ain't half bad.
Fish's Thursday practice report - Mike Fisher, Cowboys HQ
A transcription of his Thursday call-in reveals the following gem:
"One thing that Dez Bryant has done all season is during stretching, he carries a ball around with him. It's another reinforcement of ball protection. A couple weeks ago, DeMarco Murray started doing the same thing. So, he's sitting on the ground stretching cradling a football. Now, today, a whole bunch of offensive players are doing the same thing. It makes a great deal of sense. You're not doing anything with your hands anyway. You might as well just reinforce, whether it's physical or subliminal, might as well reinforce it one more way.''
Tony Romo: Jason Witten might be the best Dallas Cowboys player of all time - Jon Machota, DMN
During a Wednesday conference call with media members in Seattle, Romo was asked what it meant to have tight end Jason Witten as a teammate since they came into the league together in 2003. His reply had, shall we say, a touch of hyperbole:
"Witten’s just the best," Romo said of his good friend. "He might be the best Dallas Cowboy of all time. Literally, his career has been exceptional. He’s hit every mark he ever had. He’s going to go on as the first or second greatest tight end of all time. I just think I’ve been lucky enough to be able to play with him."
Does DeMarco Murray's workload impact his worth? - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas
Timmy Mac takes a look at eight running backs since 1990 who have had at least 385 carries in a season. In each case, their production drastically declined the next season. It's a sobering gallery of quickly fading glories - and a cautionary tale about re-signing Murray, given this history.
Cowboys looking to give Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle touches - Calvin Watkins, ESPN Dallas
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wants to take some carries away from running back DeMarco Murray to curtail on the wear and tear of the season. The problem is that the Cowboys keep playing games that are close enough (including the New Orleans contest) that they are loathe to pull the guy who makes the entire engine hum. As a result, Joseph Randle has 11 carries on the season (eight the last three weeks) and Lance Dunbar hasn't carried the ball the last three weeks and has just 11 carries overall.
Something's gotta give. Speaking of which, we have this...
Stats-eye view of Cowboys-Seahawks - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
The unstoppable force meets the immovable object: Murray is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The Seahawks defense is allowing just 2.6 yards per rush and is the only team to allow fewer than three yards per rush this season.
Travis Frederick, Russell Wilson have tight bond - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Well, yeah, they spent a year with one guy's hands all up in the other one's business...
This week's looming questions in Cowboysville: can Dallas
compete with beat the defending champs?
Fast start essential to beating Seattle - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas
JJT reminds us that the Seahawks are 17-1 at home in the regular season, with nine of those wins by 20 points or more. Their average margin of victory has been 16.4 points. How can Dallas avoid joining this inauspicious company? Taylor offeres two keys:
- Survive the first-quarter adrenaline rush Seattle gets from its raucous home crowd: In the last 18 games, when the Seahawks have been tied 0-0 at the end of the first quarter, the final score has been within a touchdown 80% of the time--including their lone home loss in this period.
- Avoid turnovers: Seattle has racked up 48 turnovers in its last 18 home games, with only Tampa Bay and Green Bay having escaped without a turnover.
Cowboys readying for the noise - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Here's the gist of the story: Seattle's CenturyLink Field is one of the loudest venues in the NFL and it seems even louder because of just how good the Seahawks are. As Archer notes, the Cowboys worked very efficiently with a silent count last Sunday at "home." They'll have to do it again this Sunday on the road.
Film room: how to beat the Seattle Seahawks - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
In a video piece, Bryan Broaddus takes a look at the blueprint to beat the Seahawks offered by the San Diego Chargers, who beat the champs 30-21 in week two. Some keys: isolate SS Cam Chancellor in coverage; make CB Richard Sherman move laterally; win on third down against the 'Hawks offense.
Cowboys D plan vs. Seattle? Discipline - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Picking up a meme that began yesterday, Archer notes that in a seven-minute interview on Tuesday, Jeremy Mincey used the word disciplined 12 times when describing the best way to defend the Seahawks. Here's a quote containing two of them:
"It goes back to discipline, man," Mincey said. "If you watch films on guys, guys are getting out of their gaps and over pursuing. You can’t blame them. They’re just trying to make a play. With this team you’ve got to be focused and disciplined and swarm the ball and have a bunch of hats on Marshawn (Lynch) and just be aware of Russell’s feet."
Dez Bryant: There's a "totally different mindset" in the Dallas Cowboys locker room this season - Jon Machota, DMN
For the Cowboys star wideout, there is no comparison between the 2014 Cowboys and the team that was wiped out 27-7 on their last trip to Seattle, in 2012:
"I think the preparation wasn’t there, and I can tell you that it’s a totally different mindset here in this locker room," Bryant said. "It’s just different here....Just how we’ve been working, just our approach. And our attitude. Things that we say and the way that we move. Everything is different."
A shocker: the media is gleefully anticipating the Dez Bryant-Richard Sherman matchup. To wit:
Dez focused on "playing big" when facing CB Sherman - Nick Eatman, The Mothership
In a made-for-TV matchup, Dez Bryant and Richard Sherman will face each other at least a few times on Sunday. Number 88 told reporters:
"Sherman is arguably the best corner in the league. He’s an outstanding player," Bryant said. "If you’re going up against a guy like that, you have to be well-prepared. You can’t go in lollygagging. It’s a great challenge...He’s big, he can run, he’s got length. You have to play big. You just can’t go in there and think you can do this … you have to be well-prepared."
Scout's eye: Dallas can't be afraid to test Sherman - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
In his weekly preview of key matchups in the upcoming game, The Broad One selects the Cowboys receivers against Seattle CB Richard Sherman and Rolando McClain against Marshawn Lynch. Here's how he sets up the latter of these tete-a-tetes:
I believe that the Seahawks are going to test this Cowboys defense very early in this game to see where they are in regards of defending the run. How the Cowboys answer that challenge will tell us a great deal about the potential direction of the contest.
I agree with Broaddus a billion percent.
Jason Garrett says Dallas Cowboys won't shy away from Richard Sherman - Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Dallas
As per JJT, there is a precedent for the above:
Remember, the Cowboys often ran at Houston defensive end J.J. Watt last week, which prevented him from chasing down plays. And when Garrett was a member of the Cowboys, he watched Troy Aikman throw passes to Michael Irvin many times when he was covered by Deion Sanders.
And a couple of reports from the enemy camp:
Thursday in Hawkville: Stephen Schilling prepared to step in at center if needed - Clare Farnsworth, Seahawks.com
With Seattle's Pro Bowl center missing his second consecutive practice, backup Schilling continued to work in his place and is prepared to play against the Cowboys if necessary.
Seahawks Pete Carroll impressed by Dallas' offensive line - Terry Blount, ESPN.com
"They’re going to get so much better as they grow together, but they’ve made an obvious commitment," Carroll said. "Their running game is very consistent and they’re very strong upfront. We’re fortunate we’re getting them this early, because a year from now or by the end of this season, these guys are really going to be something."
Thursday roundup: Brandon Mebane - The "immovable object" - Tony Drovetto, Seahawks.com
According to Sherman, Mebane is the engine that makes the Seattle defense go:
Brandon Mebanedoes not move," Sherman said of the Seahawks' eighth-year defensive tackle. "He’s an immovable object out there and he does a fantastic job with his hands. He’s an incredibly technical player in his movements and everything he does. He’s rarely out of position, he’s rarely out of the play, and he does a great job running to the ball."
Today's closer: a gallery of must-read stories from our brethren at Field Gulls, the SBN Seahawks site.
Dez Bryant is the best receiver in the NFL - Stephen White, Field Gulls
A thorough look at Dez's fine work last Sunday in Houston, with the following conclusion:
Yeah, some receivers are taller and bigger. Some are definitely faster too. But if it's up to me, I would choose Dez Bryant over the rest of them every single time because I know he can make the same plays he made Sunday every single game, no matter who you put on him.
DeMarco Murray makes the Cowboys worth watching - Danny Kelly, Field Gulls
The head honcho over at Field Gulls (who joined us for a great discussion in our most recent podcast) authors a superb post that looks at the Cowboys success in the running game, using gifs of Murray's big runs against New Orleans for evidence. This look at the Cowboys running game sets up the following companion piece, also by Kelly...
7 ways the Seahawks can stop the Cowboys' run game - Danny Kelly, Field Gulls
Part II of Kelly's analysis of the battles that are sure to ensue when the Cowboys seek to run the ball against Seattle 1) offers a definitive review of the 4-3 scheme both teams run and 2) shares a slew of gifs of Seattle defenders stacking and shedding, setting the edge and filling holes in the running game.
Both are required reading, folks.
Let's say nice things about Tony Romo because we may not get another chance - Louis Bien, Field Gulls
In a lengthy missive, Bien breaks down Tony Romo's career in almost every conceivable fashion - and cites our own O.C.C. in the process. And Romo supporters will surely like his concluding sentiment: "Finally, after 10 seasons, the Cowboys may be good enough to set his record straight."
Can I get an "amen"?