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Cowboys @ Seahawks: Five Questions With Field Gulls

As is customary on Friday, we check in with the enemy.

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Stephen Brashear

Maybe you have heard that the Dallas Cowboys will be involved in a pretty high-profile games this weekend. The 'Boys will take their 4-1 record up to the Great Northwest to play the Seattle Seahawks in one of the best home-field advantage stadiums in the country. It just so happens the Seahawks are the defending Super Bowl champs, so this is one of those "test" games for the up-and-coming Cowboys. In anticipation of the game, I checked in with Danny Kelly, one of the best on the SB Nation network and editor of the Seahawks blog, Field Gulls.

Blogging The Boys: How would you compare this edition of the Seahawks to last year's Super Bowl team? Are there any big differences in play?

Field Gulls: There are a few differences in style and scheme, but by and large Seattle's identity and culture remain the same. The Seahawks want to run the ball on offense and produce explosive plays through the air, then stop the run on defense and create turnovers.

This year, Seattle's been less apt to throw the ball deep than they were last year, but a big part of that has to do with the integration of Percy Harvin into the offense. Seattle features him on screens, end arounds, and short passes, and hope that this will produce explosive plays and act as a constraint to defenders that key in to Marshawn Lynch and the middle of the field too much. This in turn opens things up for Lynch, and the Seahawks are one of the top running teams again.

On defense, Seattle's scheme remains the same for the most part but with a few changes in personnel - Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, and Clinton McDonald left, and were replaced by Kevin Williams, Cassius Marsh, and Jordan Hill, among others - so they're still working out the kinks and trying to figure out how best to utilize their weapons. While pressure from the defensive line remains strong, sacks are down, and the normally turnover-creating defense as a whole has only produced one interception thus far. Chances have been there for them, but so far the Hawks have had issues holding on to potential interceptions and fumbles. They'll need to start converting these chances into turnovers.

BTB: If you were designing an offensive scheme to attack Seattle's defense, how would you go about it?

FG: I said this to the Washington guys last week, and I think my game plan would remain the same if I were the Cowboys. If I was planning a to try to attack Seattle, I would probably implement a heavy dose of trips and bunch formations, crossing routes, pick plays, and dumpoffs to my receivers and hope they can make some plays in space. Seattle's main goal as a defense is to not get beat deep, so they more or less invite you to pass into short zones, with the strategy to close quickly and tackle violently once the ball is completed. This has worked for them relatively well, thus far, but where the Seahawks can get into trouble is miscommunication and pass-offs of assignments, so running routes that cross each other or play off of each other (pick plays, essentially), you can beat a normally very disciplined team.

Obviously, as the Cowboys, I'd work my ground game as much as possible too, because having some balance is key. DeMarco Murray is wrecking fools this year so I'd definitely keep riding that in the hopes of being able to punish Seattle up front and not allow them to rush on Tony Romo too hard. This would keep things open for Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams on the outside, where they'll likely see a lot of one-on-one matchups. I think it will be important for the Cowboys to stick to their run game even if it's not bearing fruit early on, and that's something they've proven they're willing to do thus far this season.

BTB: Russell Wilson is doing a fantastic job as an NFL QB. What are the characteristics that make him special?

FG: First and foremost he's done a really good job of not turning the ball over. He's a smart player that studies very hard so his preparation allows him to make good decisions with the football. Secondly, he's dynamic. As you may have seen last week at Washington, his ability to extend plays and escape pressure makes it tough for defenses, who must focus on keeping him contained in the pocket. Additionally, Wilson's ability to throw on the run is a big part of Seattle's offense, and they heavily utilize bootlegs and playaction in their passing game. All this works in concert with their rushing attack to keep defenses guessing.

Other than that, Wilson's proven to be very accurate, has a strong arm, has touch, and is an even-keeled, low-key type of guy. You don't see him get rattled when things start getting crazy for the offense, and that type of leadership is what teams tend to like at quarterback.

BTB: The Seahawks and the Cowboys both like to run the ball, but if either team goes to the air who has the advantage?

FG: That's a tough one because obviously the Cowboys have some dangerous weapons on offense and Tony Romo is a fantastic passer. I would probably give a slight advantage to the Seahawks, first in that they're playing at home and their pass rush will be geared up to use the crowd noise to their advantage. Dallas has an excellent offensive line and may be able to slow down Seattle's pass rush, but then of course Romo has to through Seattle's secondary of Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Byron Maxwell. At the nickel spot, Marcus Burley has been playing well also. It's just a very strong pass defense, particularly at home. The Seahawks have been beaten on scissor-routes and a few interesting concepts over the past two games where miscommunication is the issue, but that's definitely been the exception, not the rule, when it comes to this pass D.

Overall, it's a great matchup on several levels - the Seahawks' run defense vs. the Cowboys excellent rush offense, and Dallas' potent pass game vs. Seattle's elite secondary. At this point, it's a close race. Ultimately, Pete Carroll's goal is to first stop the run in order to make the opponent one-dimensional, then have his guys pin their ears back and rush the passer while looking to create turnovers. If the Cowboys have to abandon their run game, they'll be playing into Carroll's design. Of course, his defense has to execute, and that's why they play the games, right?

BTB: How do you see the game going and what will be the final score?

FG: I think the game will be close. I can see both teams being able to score in this one and I know this is cliche, but I think who will come out on top will come down to which team can create turnovers. If Seattle can generate a few turnovers, I think they'll be in a good position to grab a win against a hot team. I'm guessing that the final score will be 24-20, Seahawks.

Editor's Note: FanDuel is hosting a private fantasy football League for SBNation readers this week. It's $10 to join, the top 200 teams win money, and first place wins $1,000. League starts Sunday 1 PM ET and ends on Monday. Here's the link.

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