The game turned into a defensive struggle for the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks. And perhaps that was an omen of things, since the Seahawks have the significantly more vaunted defense. They held the Cowboys out of the end zone for the entire game while their offense was able to muster just enough good drives to wind up on the winning side of the 13-12 score.
Based on what we have been told, the Cowboys should have won this game, because they finally won the turnover battle. It took almost three quarters, but Greg Hardy finally ended the takeaway drought for the Cowboys when he went up to bat a Russell Wilson pass up in the air and then he tracked it down to give the ball to the offense on the fifteen yard line. As was mentioned repeatedly during the broadcast, it was the first time Dallas had taken the ball away in 290 snaps by their opponents. The offense was not able to get a touchdown, something that was a struggle for them all game long, and they had to settle for a field goal, but it gave the Cowboys their first lead of the day at 12-10.
Dallas followed that up with an excellent play on special teams. On their next possession the Seahawks got off to a good start but stalled at about the 30. They attempted a field goal, but David Irving got a hand up to block the attempt. It gave them a chance to drive down and seal the game, but they were unable to get a first down. Seattle, behind strong play by Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, drove down for the field goal that would win the game as they also burned off precious time, leaving insufficient time for Dallas to respond. The lack of a passing game doomed Dallas in the end, as they were only able to gain 91 yards through the air.
The Cowboys were supposed to be able to sack Russel Wilson with ease. He has been caught by pass rushes more than any other quarterback in the league, and Seattle's starting left tackle Russell Okung was inactive for the game due to an injury suffered during practice last week. But during the game, Dallas got close but could never seal the deal. This was the issue on the lone touchdown pass to Luke Wilson. The return of Dez Bryant was supposed to be a major lift for the Cowboys, but he did not catch a ball before halftime, and was only targeted twice. It may be more of an illusion than anything else, but it seems that some supposed strengths of the team mysteriously fail during important games.
What was working for Dallas was the running game and the blocking of the offensive line. On one play, La'el Collins had a double block that showed up all over the internet.
Darren McFadden also picked up right where he left off, getting the bulk of the carries as well as making some key receptions. During Dallas' first possession of the game, McFadden wound up with the ball on nine consecutive plays. Everyone was expecting, or at least hoping, that he would be able to duplicate his performance from last week. What was completely unexpected was that Cassel was a real threat running the ball. He made three third down conversions with his legs. Seattle was covering all the receivers, including Bryant, closely, but Cassel was able to get needed yards
What didn't work for the Cowboys was scoring touchdowns early. Two promising drives fizzled in the first half, and only the long range prowess of Dan Bailey kept the initial possession after halftime from coming up completely empty. The officials were also at times very unhelpful, especially on a bizarre play late in the second quarter. Dallas had a fourth down but had not sent Bailey onto the field. The Seahawks called a timeout to make sure Jason Garrett was not going to try and go for it on fourth (the Cowboys had successfully converted a fourth down try earlier). The field goal team came out during the time out, but inexplicably the Seahawks wound up with 12 men on the field (perhaps they are a bit too fond of their own 12th man). Pete Carroll called for another time out - which is illegal and supposed to result in a penalty according to the NFL rulebook. But the referees just told Seattle they couldn't have another time out and let the field goal attempt proceed rather than enforcing the penalty and giving Dallas a first down deep in the red zone.
Admittedly, the zebras did make one ruling that worked very well for the Cowboys on a McFadden near-fumble that was ruled an incompletion. Under the generally accepted definition of a catch up until last January, it was possibly a catch and fumble. But under the same interpretation of the rules that denied Bryant his catch in Green Bay, it had to be called incomplete. Had it not been, who knows what chaos and upheaval may have occurred?
It has not spelled a complete end to Dallas' season, but the hill just got a lot steeper. Despite getting a turnover and mostly limiting the Seahawks offense, they were unable to find a way to win the game. They made few mistakes, but just could not get it down. Now they are 2-5 and still trying to find a complete game without Tony Romo.