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Cowboys put a bad performance on the field, lose to Seahawks 24-13

Nothing much went well.

Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

It is hard to know where to start in trying to sort out the Dallas Cowboys’ 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. One kind of randomly chosen factiod: A suspect Seattle O line limited the supposedly fierce Cowboys pass rush to two sacks, while their counterparts for Dallas gave up five sacks and 10 QB hits. But that is just one of many stats and events that led to the defeat for the Cowboys. Almost everyone played a part.

If there is one play that pretty much encapsulates the game for the Cowboys, it came at 10:57 in the fourth quarter, when they had a drive going with at least a faint hope left of climbing back into the game. Ezekiel Elliott got the handoff and broke free for 26 yards, the longest Dallas play of the game to that point - and had the ball knocked free by Bradley McDougald, then recovered by Justin Coleman. It was hardly the only time when they would have a good start to a drive only to have it sputter. And they would make a couple of solid plays on defense, only to have a bust, or a completion despite nearly perfect coverage.

There has been a torrent of criticism for Scott Linehan for his game planning and play calling so far this season, but the Cowboys players dug the 17-3 halftime hole themselves. And that includes both sides of the ball. Michael Gallup had an outright drop that fell onto Earl Thomas’ foot before he secured it for an interception. Elliott had a touchdown on a nice scramble and improvisation by Dak Prescott, but it was called back because Zeke had stepped out of bounds before catching the ball, and was ineligible. And he had a pretty clear drop earlier as well. Dak was under constant pressure as the offensive line had a bad day. Prescott was sacked twice, hit five times, and there were an additional four tackles for a loss suffered by Dallas - all in the first half. Meanwhile, after a pretty solid start, the wheels started to come off for the Cowboys defense. Blown coverages led to a couple of easy drives in the second quarter for the Seahawks, and Randy Gregory had a boneheaded penalty at the very end of that period to help set up a 47 yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal to push the lead to 14. Meanwhile, the pass rush that had been so effective in the first two games was unable to get to Russell Wilson, who was hitting quick passes to neutralize the rush and the blitzes being thrown at him.

There was a contrast between those fast, decisive throws by Wilson and the sight of Prescott sitting back and failing to find an open receiver. That is one thing that may still be questionable about the playcalling, but it also may just be that Prescott is not seeing the field. It would take some study of the game video to see if there were open receivers that were just being missed, or if they were not there in the first place. Either way, the Seattle defense was putting constant pressure on Prescott, and the Cowboys were not able to take any advantage of the depleted offensive line that got shredded just six days prior and yielded six sacks to the Chicago Bears.

This game certainly looked like a regression on both sides of the ball for the Cowboys. They struggled to convert third downs, while Seattle was getting a new set of downs fifty percent of the time. The long pass once again disappeared from the Dallas arsenal, and they could not muster anything over 20 yards until Elliott finally got loose for a 21 yard run in the third quarter. After his long reception sparked the team a week ago, Tavon Austin was ineffective as a receiver, especially on one third down catch where he tried to make something happen and just surrendered yardage. He did have an impact, however, with an 18 yard jet sweep and a nice little shovel pass late for the Cowboys’ only touchdown of the game.

It didn’t help that the ball certainly seemed to be bouncing the Seahawks’ way all game. The two interceptions of Prescott both came off receivers’ hands and landed right in the hands of Thomas. Russell Wilson was credited with a fumble, but Rashaad Penny landed on it. Of course, that would not happen for Dallas.

The only unit of the Cowboys that had a generally good game was the linebackers, and that was marred by a possible injury to Sean Lee. But before that, he had eleven sacks total, and Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith had strong games as well. But the defense could only manage a couple of sacks, and the secondary just did not look like the same group that shout down Odell Beckham, Jr.

Wasted with all the problems was the first 100 yard rushing performance by Elliott, who had 127 yards on only 16 carries. That was a rare bright spot for the team.

Now the Cowboys have slipped to 1-2, tied with the New York Giants and trailing both the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington. All three of their NFC East rivals won, putting Dallas in a small hole. It is only a one game deficit in the standings, but it is hard to have a lot of confidence in Dallas bouncing back after this performance. We’ve been questioning the coaching, but maybe it’s time to start wondering just how good the talent is. Dak certainly had his issues, but so did players like Tyron Smith and Zeke. If this season is not to result in another absence from the playoffs and some heads rolling at the top of the coaching staff, then something will have to change, fast. It is just not at all certain that it will, or even can.

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