The Seahawks, Packers, and Cowboys are the top three teams in the NFC. Recently I wrote a piece about how the Cowboys stacked up against Green Bay. But the Packers are just one of the tough opponents standing in the Cowboys way. The Seattle Seahawks have established themselves as the top dog in the NFC as they have three straight playoff appearances, with the last two landing them in the Super Bowl. They have been virtually unbeatable at home, boasting a 22-2 record over the last three seasons. Of course one of those defeats came at the hands of the Cowboys last year. Dallas beat them once and they can do it again. Here is why the Cowboys will be a better team than Seattle Seahawks in 2015.
To get things started, let’s take a close look at last year’s week six matchup with the Seahawks.
Dallas beat Seattle 30-23 last year, but the Cowboys didn’t just beat them. As far as the amount of good football played on that day, Dallas dominated them. The Seahawks are lucky the score was as close as it was. For instance, a blocked punt gave the Seahawks a touchdown. A muffed punt gave the Seahawks the ball at the Cowboys 14-yard line and set up Seattle’s only offensive touchdown of the game. A premature snap off of Tony Romo's leg again gave the Seahawks the ball deep in Cowboys territory that led to a Seattle field goal.
That is 17 points off of turnovers. If Dallas had played a clean game and you took those points away, you are looking at a 30-6 route. How is it that a team as good as Seattle could be outplayed so badly? The first inclination might be to think the Seahawks just had an off game and played sloppy football. Their offensive line did have multiple false start penalties, which was unusual considering their 12th man usually has that effect on the road teams. But outside of that, the Seahawks weren’t making a lot of mistakes. The only turnover they had was the Rolando McClain game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter. The main reason for the dominance was that the Cowboys just played an incredible game.
The biggest surprise was the play of the Cowboys defense. Russell Wilson and company could not get anything going on offense. For example:
The Cowboys dominated the Seahawks in total yards, 401 to 206.
The Cowboys dominated the Seahawks in time of possession, 37:39 to 22:21.
The Seahawks playmaking WR, Percy Harvin, had 0 yards on 3 receptions and -1 yard on 3 carries. Anytime he touched the ball, an entourage of Dallas defenders swarmed him.
The pass coverage was outstanding. There were many instances where Wilson ran around in the pocket with plenty of time, but he struggled to find open receivers.
The biggest factor in limiting the Seahawks offense was the amount of great stops the Cowboys defense made on third down. Seattle only converted five times on 13 attempts. Here are some key third down defensive plays:
- Barry Church saved a touchdown with a great hit on Doug Baldwin.
- Anthony Spencer flushed Russell Wilson into the arms of George Selvie for a sack.
- Henry Melton deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage.
- Orlando Scandrick had a great tackle on Ricardo Lockette leaving him a few yards short of the first down.
- Scandrick had great coverage on Bryan Walters.
- Brandon Carr had a great pass deflection against Jermaine Kearse.
I can’t remember a defensive effort in the Jason Garrett era that was as impressive.
It wasn’t just a great defensive performance that was responsible for the win. Those 30 points didn’t score themselves. The Cowboys offense put together great drives. Of the six Cowboys scores, only one of them was attributed to their defense giving them a short field when the Seahawks turned the ball over on downs late in the fourth quarter. Four of their five scoring drives were from 70 yards or more, with each one consisting of at least nine plays. And the Cowboys did this against a defense that featured Bobby Wagner (All-Pro), Richard Sherman (All-Pro), Earl Thomas (All-Pro), and Kam Chancellor (Pro Bowler).
Unlike the Seahawks, the Cowboys offense was not so stymied on third down. Dallas converted 10 of 17 which included three plays from third and long:
- Lance Dunbar catch and run for 21 yards.
- Dunbar catch and run for 18 yards.
- Terrance Williams ridiculous catch for 23 yards.
I never get sick of looking at this.
It was just a remarkable display of football by the Cowboys on both sides of the ball.
But that was then, this is now. How well has each of these teams done in the off-season in revamping their team?
|Key Adds||Key Losses|
|TE, Jimmy Graham (trade)||C, Matt Unger (Jimmy Graham trade)|
|CB, Cary Williams (free agency, from the Eagles)||CB, Byron Maxwell (signed a ridiculously overpriced contract with some team who was desperate for secondary help).|
|DE, Frank Clark (draft, second round, Michigan)|
|WR, Tyler Lockett (draft, third round, Kansas St)|
Acquiring Jimmy Graham was a big move. He is a great fit for the style of offense Seattle has and he will mesh well with Wilson. As much as Graham feasts on defenses in this league, the Cowboys actually have handled him pretty well. Here are his game logs against Dallas throughout his career:
- Eight receptions, 86 yards, 1 TD
- Five receptions, 59 yards, 0 TD
- Seven receptions, 88 yards, 0 TD
- Three receptions, 23 yards, 0 TD
That’s not too damaging. In fact, his best game statistically came last year when 78 of his 86 yards came in the second half after the Cowboys were up 31-3. The defense did a great job game planning for him and even took advantage of how careless he holds on to the ball as Rolando McClain ripped the ball away from him for a turnover.
Tyler Lockett is another guy that could be a problem. He could give the Seahawks what they were hoping for with Percy Harvin. He does a great job separating from corners and has great speed to make explosive plays. And like Harvin, he can make those plays as a receiver and as a returner.
Losing Matt Unger doesn’t hurt them as much as some might think considering he’s a former Pro Bowler. The Seahawks are excited about their young center, Patrick Lewis. After Unger got hurt, Seattle still went 6-0 with Lewis under center.
Frank Clark is a great pass rusher to work into their rotation. Some of us Cowboys fans liked him as a possible sneaky third-round pick in this last draft.
They essentially switched free agent cornerbacks with the Eagles and from a talent perspective they came out on the wrong end of it. Maxwell was a good CB for Seattle whereas Williams wasn’t very effective in Philadelphia. Both Maxwell and Williams looked better and worse respectively than they really are as a result of the players around them on defense. Seattle is hoping third-year player Tharold Simon ends up winning the CB job so Williams can just serve as depth.
Seattle did a good job this offseason and they definitely have my attention as the team to be concerned about in the NFC. They have been playing good football consistently for the last three years and there really isn’t anything to indicate they’re slowing down. If Dallas is going to jump them, it will not be a result of a Seattle let down.
Dallas isn't looking for anyone to regress and fall backwards. Dallas just keeps working to get better so they can go out and take it. The Seahawks have established a strong foundation of physical football and there is no doubt they can fight. But someone else has learned to fight.
Are the Cowboys good enough to advance past the Seahawks in the 2015?