EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Too much of the discussion in the days leading up to this game had to do with Peyton Manning’s legacy.
Now that another NFL season has come to a close, let’s shift the focus to where it rightfully belongs.
A young, brash Seahawks team did more than beat Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle’s 43-8 victory delivered a message to the rest of the league.
Beware. This isn’t a team catching fire late to win the title as Baltimore did last February. This isn’t the New York Giants or Green Bay Packers slipping into the playoffs on the final day and then beating the odds.
No, this is something different. It has the feel of Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 when the young, brash Dallas Cowboys burst on the scene with a 52-17 win over Buffalo.
That was the first of three Lombardi Trophies in four years for the Cowboys. It’s premature to suggest the Seahawks will enjoy that sort of success. But their dominance was sobering.
“It’s all about making history,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “This was a dominant performance from top to bottom.”
Seattle has been building for this moment ever since head coach Pete Carroll arrived four years ago. The Seahawks are young, fast, and deep on defense. They have a quarterback of poise and leadership beyond his years in Russell Wilson, a hammer for a running back in Marshawn Lynch, and a refusal to accept the limitations of inexperience.
Not one player on the Seattle roster appeared in a Super Bowl before Sunday’s game. The last team to make that claim was Buffalo in ’90.
Unlike that franchise, the Seahawks came away champions.
“This is an amazing team,” Carroll said. “It started a long time ago, I’m talking four years ago. They never took a step sideways or backward to get to where they are now.
“These guys would not take anything other than winning this game. They didn’t think anything else would happen.”
It quickly became evident that nothing other than a Seattle win would be the outcome. The Seahawks defense came up with a safety 12 seconds into the game. Two plays later, on a crossing pattern to Demaryius Thomas, safety Kam Chancellor leveled the Denver receiver with a hit that registered on the Richter scale.
“All of my teammates came up to me and said that set the tone,” said Chancellor, the man who puts the boom in the defense’s Legion of Boom moniker.
Seattle controlled the ball for 14:41 of the first 18 minutes on its way to a 15-0 lead. The Seahawks later added a 69-yard interception return for touchdown by linebacker Malcolm Smith, the game’s Most Valuable Player, and opened the third quarter with an 87-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Percy Harvin.
About that time, the audience for Downton Abbey on PBS experienced a significant spike.
Injuries sidelined Harvin for all but 19 snaps during the regular season. The receiver rewarded the organization’s patience with that kickoff return and by leading the team in rushing with 45 yards on his two end-around runs.
“I was finally able to give my team something for four quarters,” Harvin said. “That meant a lot to me.”
This game was supposed to represent an intriguing clash of styles. It never did because Seattle’s No. 1 defense smothered Manning and the No. 1 offense of the Broncos.
The Seahawks forced four turnovers and held the Broncos’ high-octane offense to one meaningless touchdown once the lead ballooned to 36 points.
Yes, what happened Sunday was unexpected on several fronts. That doesn’t mean the Seahawks lacked faith. When the season got underway Wilson told his teammates, “Hey, why not us?”
“We’re not sleeping tonight,” Carroll said of the impending celebration. “We’re staying up all night.”
There will be lot of sleepless nights around the NFL in the months and years to come figuring out how to compete with this young, brash Seattle team.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Seahawks parlay 49ers mistakes into Super Bowl trip
SEATTLE — All season long, the Seattle Seahawks’ defense carried them at times the offense sputtered. Its biggest challenge yet will come in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Seahawks forced turnovers on the San Francisco 49ers’ final three drives, the last an interception by Malcolm Smith on a deflection by Richard Sherman in the end zone with 22 seconds to go that sealed a 23-17 victory in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
Next up: a title date with Peyton Manning and the high-powered Denver Broncos on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Colin Kaepernick fumbled and threw an interception on the 49ers’ previous two drives. But the Seahawks scored only one field goal off those turnovers, keeping the game alive.
Given the ball once more with 3 minutes, 15 seconds to go, Kaepernick completed four consecutive passes, including a fourth-and-2 strike to crossing Frank Gore as the 49ers drove to the Seattle 18.
But Sherman got a piece of Kaepernick’s jump-ball throw to the corner of the end zone and Smith corralled the ball in bounds, allowing Seattle to run out the clock and set off a celebration during which Sherman leaped into the stands at CenturyLink Field.
It’s the second George Halas Trophy and Super Bowl trip in the 38-year history of the Seahawks, who also won the NFC title after the 2005 season before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL.
No players remain from that team, and no one on Seattle’s roster has appeared in a Super Bowl. Neither has coach Pete Carroll, who did take the University of Southern California to two BCS championship games before becoming the Seahawks’ coach in 2010.
Sunday’s win was the Seahawks’ third straight against the 49ers in Seattle, where they rolled 42-13 on Dec. 23, 2012, and 29-3 on Sept. 15 before San Francisco won this regular season’s rematch 19-17 on Dec. 8 at Candlestick Park. This one was far tighter.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Peyton Manning passes Broncos past Patriots into Super Bowl
DENVER — Two years ago, the NFL world was wondering if Peyton Manning might ever throw another pass. Even he wasn’t sure.
Yet there were a gaggle of Mannings in a jubilant Denver Broncos locker room on Sunday, celebrating the Broncos’ 26-16 win in the AFC Championship Game and Manning’s third trip to the Super Bowl. Manning has a chance to win a second Super Bowl ring — his first with the Broncos and his first since having four surgeries on his neck.
“One of my favorite things to tell him is, ‘Enjoy the journey.’ I tell him that all the time. And it’s been a good journey,” Manning’s father and former NFL quarterback Archie Manning said.
Archie was joined by his other two sons, New York Giants quarterback Eli, who made the trip to Denver to surprise his brother, and Cooper, whose two sons scampered around the locker room in their orange No.18 jerseys, taking pictures of the AFC championship memorabilia and posing in their uncle’s locker.
“Oh, we’re proud. Obviously we’re proud of Peyton, but we’re just like all the other parents of Broncos that are going to the Super Bowl,” Archie said.
Peyton Manning was brilliant in leading the Broncos to their first Super Bowl since his boss, John Elway, retired after the 1998 season. Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns, both at the end of drives lasting more than seven minutes. He was clearly the best player on the field in his 15th meeting with longtime nemesis Tom Brady.
Manning will be joined in East Rutherford, N.J., at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 by a suddenly stout defense that held the New England Patriots to 320 yards. The Broncos shut down the Patriots running game (64 yards) and held Brady to 277 passing yards. Brady was sacked twice, including a 10-yard loss on fourth-and-3 from the Broncos 29-yard line in the third quarter with Denver leading 20-3. That sack, by defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, killed the Patriots’ 13-play drive and drew some of the loudest cheers of the day from a sold-out crowd at Sports Authority Field.
“We knew it would take a dominant performance on defense. We knew our offense was going to go out there with a rhythm. I knew Peyton would throw for all that, and we just wanted to do our part,” Knighton said. “We didn’t want to be the missing link.”
Fans relished the Broncos’ first AFC title game since the 2005 season (when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers), and the resurgence of a team that was 4-12 three years ago. But the brief and disastrous tenure of coach Josh McDaniels, now New England’s offensive coordinator, led to the hiring of Elway as executive vice president of football operations. Elway has rebuilt the team and was a key element to the signing of Manning in March 2012.
Denver has gone 13-3 in the two seasons since, while Manning and the offense shattered records this season with 55 passing touchdowns and 606 points scored. But none of that would have really mattered without a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Broncos, the preseason favorites to win the AFC, did not get here easily. They played the first six games of the season without their star pass rusher as Von Miller served a suspension, lost all-pro left tackle Ryan Clady in Week 2, lost defensive starters Miller, defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, defensive end Derek Wolfe, safety Rahim Moore and cornerback Chris Harris to season-ending injuries and played four weeks without coach John Fox, who had heart surgery in early November.
“Every Super Bowl team that has held up that trophy has been through some type of adversity,” Knighton said. “We just wanted to respond.”
The Dallas Cowboys missed the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop watching NFL games.
There are four games on tap this weekend:
Will home-field advantage be established this weekend?
A thrilling Wild Card Weekend saw three road teams prevail in hostile environments — setting up another enticing batch of games. Noting the surprising success enjoyed by visitors this past weekend, which road team is most likely to prevail in the divisional round?
The divisional round pits eight of the best quarterbacks in the NFL against one another.
Drew Brees versus Russell Wilson. Andrew Luck against Tom Brady. Colin Kaepernick battles Cam Newton. To top it all off, Philip Rivers will once again take on Peyton Manning in the final game of the weekend.
Whether it’s two young quarterbacks battling to prove who is the better dual-threat signal-caller, a showdown of sophomores versus veterans or two of the most experienced minds in the game facing off, this weekend packs a lot of offensive punch.
Which teams will survive this hurdle in the race toward Super Bowl XLVIII 48?
After 17 grueling weeks, the playoffs are finally here. The seeds are set and the field is stacked.
A quick look at the 12 teams that survived to play another game. Here’s a case for and against each squad in the race to Super Bowl XLVII:
1) Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
How do they make a deep run? The Falcons continue to be an excellent home team. The running game provides just enough balance to complement a potent passing attack, and the defense routinely baffles elite quarterbacks, producing several turnovers.
How do they get eliminated? The Falcons struggle to rush the passer, and they become too one-dimensional on offense. In their three losses this season, they produced just two sacks and were out-rushed, 487-146. A team like the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers could pose a huge problem.
2) San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
How do they make a deep run? The defense dominates the line of scrimmage and Colin Kaepernick produces three or four big plays per game. Receiver Michael Crabtree continues to emerge as a top-shelf talent, and the running game benefits from the fresh legs of rookie LaMichael James.
How do they get eliminated? The49ers’ defense can be attacked; the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks provided a blueprint for doing so in Weeks 15 and 16. The 49ers’ offense, meanwhile, is capable of stalling for long stretches of time. The poor play of kicker David Akers could also end up costing San Francisco a game.
3) Green Bay Packers (11-5)
How do they make a deep run? Led by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ passing attack gets hot and puts up huge numbers, outscoring every opponent. A different receiver steps up every week and a healthy Clay Matthews closes out games with pressures and sacks.
How do they get eliminated? The offensive line can’t protect Rodgers and the running game fails to provide the necessary balance. The Minnesota Vikings match up very well against the Packers; they’re fully capable of quickly ending Green Bay’s postseason.
4) Washington Redskins (10-6)
How do they make a deep run? The Redskins’ unique offense controls the clock, shortens games and piles up just enough points. The defense covers up some soft spots by sending lots of pressure and creating key turnovers. Relishing their postseason opportunity, steady veterans DeAngelo Hall and London Fletcher produce game-changing plays.
How do they get eliminated? Robert Griffin III’s knee injury makes the offense more predictable, and a talented defensive opponent manages to take away Alfred Morris. The Redskins’ defense struggles to create a pass rush, and the safety play is exposed by a top-notch quarterback.
5) Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
How do they make a deep run? They carry their momentum right through the postseason. Russell Wilson continues to play clutch, mistake-free football, while Marshawn Lynch grinds out tough yards. The defense continues to create high numbers of turnovers and finds the end zone a few times, as well.
How do they get eliminated? An opponent stacks the box to take away Lynch, and the athletic Wilson is contained. The lack of a true No. 1 receiver ends up being an issue, and the offensive production takes a nosedive.
6) Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
How do they make a deep run? Adrian Peterson continues to carry the entire offense, and Christian Ponder protects the football. Jared Allen gets hot; his pressures create sacks and turnovers. Kicker Blair Walsh hits a long, game-winning field goal along the way.
How do they get eliminated? An opponent sells out to slow down Peterson, and Ponder is unable to make them pay for it. Peterson puts the ball on the ground, and Ponder struggles to play from behind. The defense allows a mobile quarterback to create plays with his legs.
1) Denver Broncos (13-3)
How do they make a deep run? Peyton Manning will have two weeks to prepare for his first opponent. The Broncos are the NFL’s most complete team, ranking in the top five in virtually every important statistic. This balance will make Denver very difficult to eliminate. The pass rush can take over a game, giving Manning’s offense a short field and allowing the Broncos to pile up points quickly.
How do they get eliminated? If the weather is horrible in Denver and the Broncos’ rushing attack is unable to get on track, they could struggle offensively. A matchup against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the snow would pose a very formidable challenge.
2) New England Patriots (12-4)
How do they make a deep run? Recently returned tight end Rob Gronkowski sparks an offensive explosion. Brady benefits from a solid ground attack, utilizing his tight ends to produce chunk plays down the field. The young secondary allows some big gains, but comes up with a few key turnovers.
How do they get eliminated? A physical Baltimore Ravens team pushes around New England’s offensive line, or the Pats simply run into a red-hot Denver team on the road and lose a shootout. I don’t see any of the other AFC teams giving New England much of a problem.
3) Houston Texans (12-4)
How do they make a deep run? They forget recent struggles and recapture their early-season form. Arian Foster shoulders the load on offense, and the defensive line creates numerous sacks and turnovers. The secondary avoids giving up the big play.
How do they get eliminated? Matt Schaub fails to make enough plays to outscore either the Patriots or the Broncos. Facing constant double-teams, J.J. Watt is unable to dominate the game.
4) Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
How do they make a deep run? A well-rested Ray Rice carries the ball more than he has during the regular season, and the Ravens physically pound their opponents. Tight end Dennis Pitta and receiver Torrey Smith produce big plays in the passing game. The defense is sparked by the return of Ray Lewis. Paul Kruger plays the role of unsung hero, making several impact plays.
How do they get eliminated? The offense features too much Joe Flacco and not enough Rice. Baltimore allows too many sacks; opponents manage to strip the ball from Flacco in the pocket, creating turnovers. The defense struggles to contain the run.
5) Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
How do they make a deep run? Andrew Luck continues to excel on third down, and the veteran pass-rushing duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis steps up to make several impact plays. Cornerback Vontae Davis keeps playing at an elite level, picking off a few balls.
How do they get eliminated? The offensive line is overwhelmed and Luck doesn’t get any time to throw the football. The defensive front is pushed around, giving up too many rushing yards to a back like the Ravens’ Rice or the Patriots’ Stevan Ridley.
6) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
How do they make a deep run? Receiver A.J. Green gets hot, producing several big plays through the air, and the pass rush dominates on the other side of the ball. Geno Atkins finally gets credit for his outstanding play after collecting several sacks and tackles for a loss.
How do they get eliminated? The running game is unable to provide balance, and Andy Dalton turns the ball over too much. The defense is on the field too often, and the unit runs out of gas late.
They have to get there first. But while Jason Garrett and his players aren’t looking past the Washington Redskins next Sunday in a winner-take-all NFC East showdown, the Cowboys’ advance scouts are looking ahead.
They can focus their attention on the 49ers (10-4-1) and the Seahawks (10-5). The Cowboys would be 9-7 with a win over the Redskins and the fourth seed. They would play the fifth seed. The 49ers or the Seahawks will be the fifth seed. The 49ers will win the NFC West with a victory over the Cardinals or a Seahawks loss to the Rams. The Seahawks would win the West with a victory and a 49ers loss. So either the 49ers or the Seahawks will be the NFC West champion and the other one will be the fifth seed.
Dallas, as NFC East champions, would host the wild-card game at Cowboys Stadium on the weekend of Jan. 5-6. The educated guess is the Cowboys game would be Sunday, Jan. 6 in the 3 p.m. time slot, considering lots of things, including the fact that the Cotton Bowl is Jan. 4. There also is the fact that NBC got this week’s game between the Cowboys and Redskins, so Fox likely will get the NFC East champion’s playoff game. NBC televises the two playoff games on Jan. 5. Fox has an NFC game on Jan. 6, and CBS has an AFC game on Jan. 6. It’s just an educated guess on when the game would be played, but a pretty good assumption, assuming the Cowboys beat the Redskins.
Either way, the Cowboys’ advance scouts will be getting ready in hopes there is a game next weekend.
"The advance guys do a great job of that stuff, and they’ll have that whole thing covered for us," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "They have all the different scenarios and who’s traveling to what game. One of the things that I’ve found out being in these kinds of situations is be careful about making too many educated guesses. Make sure you have all your bases covered. Oh, this team will definitely beat them, so we’re definitely going to play them. A lot of times that doesn’t happen. Our guys do a great job of that, and they’ll have all that background work done for us, so hopefully we win this ball game and go get prepared to play the first round of the playoffs. They’ll have all that stuff covered for us to start our preparation."
IRVING, Texas – If one team beat another team 19 out of 21 teams, you wouldn’t call it a coincidence.
If a guy made 19 of 21 free throws, he’d be a good free-throw shooter.
So if Tony Romo has won 19 of his 21 games in the month of November, there’s got to be something there, right? Maybe?
Well, the Cowboys at least hope so, especially with this team sitting at 3-4 and needing some kind of spark to make a run at the playoffs.
In the past, that spark has occurred in November, especially with Romo as the quarterback. Since he took over as the starter back in 2006, Romo is a remarkable 19-2 record in the month of November with losses occurring against Washington in 2006 and then in Green Bay in 2009.
Last year, the Cowboys went 4-0 in November, beating Seattle, Buffalo, Miami and Washington. So the schedule can often play a factor, considering all four of those teams missed the playoffs in 2011.
And it’s not just Romo as the Cowboys have been somewhat successful without him in November. In 2010, with Romo out with broken collarbone, Jon Kitna led the team to a 2-2 record during a 6-10 season.
The Cowboys’ PR staff keeps all kinds of stats regarding Romo’s record as a starter when different things occur. For instance, they’ve got his record at home, on the road, indoors, outdoors, when plays on turf or grass, when he throws no picks, one pick, when he’s sacked once or more, or not at all, when the offense has more than 300 yards …. and so on.
None of the stats have a higher winning percentage than Romo playing his ‘A’ games in November (90 percent). The next would be when Romo has a QB rating of over 100.0 … the Cowboys are 33-9 (78.5).
Whether it’s the fact the Cowboys usually get more home games in November with the Thanksgiving game, coupled with being at home the week before, or it’s the time of year the Cowboys just start clicking … or a simple coincidence that keeps trending every year – the Cowboys need it to continue more than ever this year.
Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray had been expected to join the ranks of elite running backs this season. But after opening the season with 131 yards on 20 carries. Since then, he has 106 yards on 41 carries, a 2.6 yards per carry average.
The Cowboys now rank 30th in rushing with a 67.8 yards per game average.
Murray has had little room to run. Far too often, he e is being met in the backfield by defenders.
Murray is tied for first for the most times being “stuffed” with 13. Murray had only 14 runs that resulted in negative yardage last season when he carried the ball 164 times.
"I think he’s done a good job just being persistent throughout the ball game and trying to continue to be true to the runs and trying to find the hole that’s there," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday. "Teams have done a good job moving around up front and sometimes the run isn’t always as clean as you want it to be. But he’s been a running back for a long, long time, and he understands that. His patience, his persistence, his toughness have all been good. He just needs to understand that we’re going to keep trying to give him some opportunities. He needs to keep doing what he’s supposed to do, trust the other guys can do what they’re supposed to do and we’ll get this running game going."
The Cowboys’ last three opponents, the Seahawks (2nd vs. the run), the Bucs (4th vs. the run) and the Bears (3rd vs. the run), all rank among the best teams in the league against the run. The Ravens, the Cowboys’ next opponent, rank 13th.
A pair of third-year pros — Danny McCray and Sean Lissemore — are expected to get their first NFL starts in place of Gerald Sensabaugh and Kenyon Coleman, respectively.
Ryan Cook will get his second start in place of Phil Costa, who was injured in the opener. Josh Brent will replace Jay Ratliff, who has yet to play this season.
McCray, a member of Houston Westfield High’s 2004 Class 5A state title team, hasn’t started a game since his senior year at LSU.
“I’m excited,” he told reporters in Irving. “I’m trying to save it for Sunday.”
Lissemore played well against Seattle.
“I know he should have been starting forever — the kid made 10 tackles last week,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said.
Ryan discusses scheme in Seattle: Many observers were puzzled why the Cowboys didn’t blitz Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson more Sunday.
On Friday, Ryan offered an explanation that centered on the Seahawks often using multiple tight end formations.
“I know everybody was wanting to kill their quarterback,” Ryan said. “Believe me, I was wanting to hit the kid, too. They had a plan that wouldn’t allow us to do it: max protect.”
Wilson was 15 of 20 for 151 yards and a touchdown, but he took a backseat to a running game that generated 182 yards, including 122 from Marshawn Lynch.
“Any time people are running the ball downhill on you, it’s hard to do anything else until you get that run stopped,” Ryan said.
Ryan said it would be a mistake to believe he’s become conservative.
“We will pressure the quarterback,” he said. “We do play more three-man front football to go along with it, so the quarterback doesn’t know we’re just a blitz-a-thon like every junior varsity high school football team. We’re not doing that. We’re going to play the efficient way. We prefer efficiency over stupidity.”
EDITOR COMMENT: As mentioned earlier today, the Dallas Cowboys have elevated Orie Lemon from the practice squad to help in the special teams effort. Link below. What do you think of the new faces in familiar places?
RELATED POSTS ON THE BOYS ARE BACK BLOG:
Regular readers already know that The Boys Are Back blog features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. Last week, the humidity in Seattle fogged up his crystal ball. We’re gonna let that one slide. Everyone (including the Dallas Cowboys) has a bad week! Right? Surely, the sunny skies in Dallas will help beam in some clear images!
The GREAT Robbini is psyched about the 2012-2013 Dallas Cowboys vibe… and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week. Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions. I’m sure you’ll agree … a lot of these will come true. OK, here we go …
The GREAT Robbini – Week #3 predictions:
Cowboys continue the winning streak against Bucs with a win at home.
The Dallas Cowboys defense coordinator Rob Ryan flexes his 24-7 defense. DeMarcus Ware and the ‘boys mix it up against Tampa Bay, break the Bucs rhythm.
- 5 team sacks, including:
- 1 sack for Sean Lissemore
- 2 sacks for DeMarcus Ware
- Sean Lee gets a turnover
- Bruce Carter leads in tackles
- 1+ takeaways per half
- 1 Morris Claiborne interception
- Cowboys defend opening kick
The Dallas offense puts on a show in Big D, light it up on offense:
- 3 Tony Romo TD’s, 400 yards passing
- Dez Bryant TD
- Jason Witten TD
- DeMarco Murray TD, rushes for 100 yards
- Dallas uses seven different receivers
- Cowboys win by 7
The GREAT Robbini
Starting left tackle Russell Okung sat out with an injury, yet Ware didn’t register a sack against the Seahawks in a 27-7 loss last weekend. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan indicated Friday that Ware might not be 100 percent.
“We all know DeMarcus isn’t full speed,” Ryan said. “When he is, look out.”
Ware missed the rest of the preseason after tweaking his hamstring in the week leading into the second exhibition game against the Chargers. He finished with two sacks in the regular-season opener against the Giants, but was a limited participant in practice prior to the Seahawks game.
Ryan said the Cowboys will find out this week just how hampered Ware is by his hamstring.
“I know he’s improving,” Ryan said. “He’s working on it. When he’s full strength, I agree with you, he’s the best in the league, and he’s the best there ever was. But he’s still never gotten a sack when they run the football.”
In addition to his health, Ryan attributed Ware’s lack of sacks to the Seahawks’ propensity to use running back Marshawn Lynch. Seattle rushed 41 times and only threw 20 passes.
Whether or not he was limited, Ware still played and was credited with two solo tackles and six assists against the Seahawks. The Cowboys gave him eight solo tackles and five assists based on coaches’ film, his 13 total tying a career high.
Ryan said the Cowboys got away from their anticipated game plan after falling behind early. He said he plans to pressure the quarterback more, but wants to be more efficient than a junior varsity high school defense that sends a “blitzathon” at the opposing quarterback.
“I think we’re the fifth leading team at sacking the quarterback per pass attempt,” Ryan said. “We’re always up there because we do have great pressures, we do know when to pressure, we know how to pressure, we know how to attack protections.”
SOURCE: Rob Ryan press conference – Efficiency Over Stupidity
Rob Ryan talks about last weekends game against the Seahawks and what they need to do to improve this week.
To watch video, click on picture or HERE. Enjoy!
IRVING, Texas – OK, look, let’s cut through all the baloney that has been floating around out there all week.
You know what I mean, all the sweeping assumptions being thrown down ever since the Cowboys’ 27-7 clunker last Sunday in Seattle that a whole lot want to insist has minimized their 24-17 season-opening victory over the New York Giants. Seriously? Minimized? Why, if they had not beaten the Giants the Cowboys would be going into their home-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers noon Sunday at Cowboys Stadium at 0-2 instead of 1-1.
Let’s see, there has been this entire Felix Jones brouhaha taking place. Just cut the guy because he fumbled the opening kickoff in the Seattle game, and is struggling to get any kickoffs back to the 20-yard line. Too slow. Doesn’t care. Come on, this is why the Cowboys are 1-1, why they lost to Seattle?
Well, check this out. The Cowboys average starting point after 10 opponent kickoffs is the 19.7-yard line. That means they are one of 21 teams whose average starting point ranges between the 21.9 and the 15. Guess who was at 15? The undefeated Houston Texans. Guess who is right below the Cowboys at 19.6? It’s the undefeated San Francisco 49ers.
Also, the Cowboys just aren’t physical enough, and this just one week after the Cowboys put up 143 yards rushing against those defensive Giants of New York when many were remarking how physical the Cowboys were. Now it’s, “they just let Marshawn Lynch push them all around.”
Hmmm. Did you realize last year in a 23-13 victory over the Seahawks, Lynch rushed for 135 yards and the Seahawks for 162? Heck, if the Cowboys had simply executed the defense properly or had Rob Ryan not called a safety blitz coming in from the Cowboys right when the Seahawks handed off on the run going left, Lynch would not have set sail on the back-breaking 36-yard run. Take that run away, and he goes for 86 yards on 25 carries. That’s not getting pushed around in my book, and far from getting punked.
Then there is this missing identity thing taking just two games to resurface. As in, who are these Cowboys? What are these Cowboys?
Again, seriously, after just two games? Other than being defending Super Bowl champions, who were the New York Giants after two games before ripping Carolina Thursday night? The team that was whupped by the Cowboys in their own stadium? The team that opened the game against Tampa Bay with three interceptions to trail 27-14 at home late in the third quarter? Or the team that ended up passing for 510 yards and recovering for a 41-34 victory over the Bucs?
Let’s see, there also has been talk like Jason Witten is over the hill, same ol’ Dez Bryant, no pass rush and, love this one, Cowboys just can’t stand prosperity, as if winning just one game is prosperity.
Has anyone considered the Seahawks just might be pretty good? And who knows for sure, and maybe we find out a little more Monday night when they play Green Bay at CenturyLink. Look, I know the Cowboys beat the Seahawks 23-13 last year, but did you realize they finished 2011 with a 7-9 record, just one game behind the 8-8 Cowboys? And did you realize they were throwing for the end zone in the final seconds at Arizona in a 20-16 loss to the Cardinals, the same team that went to New England a week later and won?
Ya know. Goodness, hope so many don’t make such knee-jerk assumptions in real life on more important matters. Let this season breathe just a little. Let’s see, cuz I’m not saying any or all of these two-game assumptions are wrong, but just don’t know yet that they are accurate, especially after playing the opening two games on the road, going from the Right Coast to the Left Coast. Not easy. And Tampa gets a taste of that this Sunday, getting ready to play back-to-back road games.
So really, let’s not be afraid of the truth, of worrying about what needs some worrying over.
Bottom line from the Puget Sound: The Cowboys scored seven darn points, and not too many times will you win a game in the National Football League with seven darn points. Hey, they score seven Sunday and I’m guessing you’d bet the house (your house, not mine) they emerge at 3 p.m. with a 1-2 record. Don’t be clouding the issue with rhetoric.
Here is the issue, first and foremost heading into the Tampa Bay game: Hold on to the darn football. You can’t drop five passes, as they did against Seattle, and then on top of that fail to hang onto at least two or three other throws that would have qualified as big-time NFL catches, and expect to win.
You can’t fumble the opening kickoff, and then on the one time you have a chance to return a punt, you double-dribble the ball and have to end up falling on it, forfeiting an opportunity to gain like the 15 to 20 yards that were out there ahead of Dez Bryant, and expect to win. Ball security is important.
So is securing your quarterback. While Tony Romo has been sacked just twice in two games, too many times he’s being forced to improvise in the pocket because of pressure. Those spin-o-rama moves he continues to make are cute, but also out of necessity because of poor protection. To me, that was a huge cause for the loss to Seattle, in spite of spotting the Seahawks those opening 10 points.
Hey, they had recovered somewhat from the disastrous start, trailing 10-7 at one point, and then 13-7 at halftime. Still, score one touchdown, and you wipe away all the bad and lead 14-13. How’d that make Seattle feel if they think they had dominated the first half, look up early in the third and were trailing?
But no, the Cowboys, after the defense forced a half-opening punt, can only gain 13 yards that first possession and have to punt. Then, even after Seattle scores, thanks to that 36-yard Lynch run and busted coverage on the 22-yard touchdown pass to Anthony McCoy, they only gain 16 yards on the ensuing possession and have to punt again.
Had the offense at least scored those 24 points they did against the Giants, life would have been more difficult on the Seahawks. They would have forced them to play offense. But the Cowboys offense couldn’t move, and too many times the pressure was coming up in the middle in Romo’s face. Too many times blitzes were causing him to alter or force throws.
Remember, the offensive line was a concern heading into the season, and after two games there still should be concern. That five-some is a work in progress, but its work needs to progress at a faster rate, otherwise …
So let’s just see before you start jumping overboard. Isn’t there some sort of saying about better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
What if you jump into the freezing cold water below, and then the ship doesn’t go down?
Patience, just a little, OK.
This might be the last thing Cowboys fans want to hear, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are very similar to the Seattle Seahawks. Both squads play a physical brand of football, limiting turnovers and relying on their running game to set up the pass. Despite a disappointing 2011 season, the Bucs’ win over the Carolina Panthers and close loss to the New York Giants show that this team is a different one from a year ago.
24.8: The yards-per-drive posted by the Bucs through two weeks.
Even with their offensive explosion against the Giants on Sunday, the Bucs are still 28th in the NFL in this category. In comparison, the Cowboys have totaled 36.6 yards-per-drive, good for sixth in the league.
33: The Bucs’ average starting field position.
In today’s pass-happy NFL, the Bucs are playing a truly old-school style of football under new head coach Greg Schiano. They run often and protect the football, playing methodically to keep themselves in ballgames. This can limit offensive efficiency, but it also means the Bucs rarely give opponents a short field. Ranked fourth in the NFL in field position, the average Tampa Bay drive has begun 12 yards ahead of the typical Cowboys drive.
88: The percentage of running back carries given to rookie Doug Martin.
Martin is the Bucs’ workhorse running back, so he’ll rarely come out of the game on Sunday. Martin does a little bit of everything – outside running, rushing between the tackles, catching passes, pass protection – and he’ll be the focal point of Tampa Bay’s offense. He’s fourth in the NFL in carries through two weeks.
50/50: The Bucs’ split between runs to the left and right sides of the field.
Left or right, inside or outside, tosses or dives, the Bucs are going to use their running game to hit the Cowboys from all angles on Sunday. They’re particularly efficient behind guard Carl Nicks and center Jeremy Zuttah, so whoever is playing nose tackle for the Cowboys will need to come up big to halt Tampa Bay’s short-yardage efforts.
7.3: Yards-per-attempt for Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, a career-high thus far.
If there’s a single stat that can tell the story of an offense, it’s usually passing YPA. The Bucs are a run-first team, but they utilize their running game to set up big plays through the air. Freeman has been able to find wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams off of play-action passes and other looks that are set up by their running game.
11.5: The percentage of Josh Freeman’s passes that have traveled at least 20 yards.
That mark is good for 13th in the NFL. The majority of those deep shots have come off of play-action, so the Cowboys safeties will need to hold their ground when the Bucs show run action. Freeman has completed half of his deep pass attempts for 111 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks.
44.8: The percentage of Freeman’s dropbacks during which he has faced pressure.
That’s the highest mark in the NFL. In comparison, Romo has been pressured on 37 percent of his passes.
130.7: The passer rating Josh Freeman has generated when throwing to Mike Williams.
Vincent Jackson is the obvious big-play threat for Tampa Bay, but Williams is a talented receiver as well. Opposing defensive coordinators have spent so much time focusing on Jackson that Williams has garnered a whole lot of single coverage. He’s parlayed that into two touchdowns in the season’s first two weeks.
95.2: The difference in Freeman’s passer rating when he faces pressure versus when he has a clean pocket.
The difference is far, far more substantial than the average quarterback. In comparison, Romo’s passer rating when pressured has historically been just around 20 points lower than when he’s given a clean pocket. Freeman might not be Drew Brees, but he generally won’t make mistakes unless you can get in his face. His passer rating through two weeks is 122.9 when given a clean pocket.
9.3: The percentage of Doug Martin’s yards that have come on runs of 15-plus yards.
In comparison, 61.6 percent of C.J. Spiller’s yards have come on big plays. Despite posting one of the lowest big-play marks in the league, Martin still possesses breakaway capability. He’s a load to bring down, so the Cowboys will need to gang tackle Martin in an effort to make sure that, unlike Marshawn Lynch last week, he doesn’t turn any would-be short gains into long runs.
19: The difference in points scored for Tampa Bay (50) and Dallas (31).
A lot of this has to do with the fact that the Cowboys have run only 18 drives all season, the lowest mark in the NFL. The average team has run 22 drives though the season’s first two weeks, and the Bucs have started 23 drives. Nonetheless, the ’Boys are only 23rd in the league in points-per-drive (1.72).
6: The numbers of teams, including the Bucs, who have called more runs than passes.
The Bucs’ passing game can be efficient because defenses get accustomed to seeing the run. Tampa Bay has run the ball on 52.7 percent of their snaps, making them one of the few truly balanced offenses remaining in the NFL. The Cowboys could be susceptible to big plays with a banged up secondary, but their ability to stifle Tampa Bay’s passing game is directly related to their ability to stop Martin on the ground. If the ’Boys can bottle up Martin without putting eight men in the box, thus allowing for safety help over top of Jackson, it will dramatically increase their chances of winning on Sunday.
Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate has been fined $21,000 by the NFL for a "blindside block" on Sean Lee.
The amount is the designated minimum for a blindside block, which is what the league is calling it.
The NFL won’t announce the amount until later in the week, but a first offense in this category carries a $21,000 fine under the collective bargaining agreement.
Tate was not flagged for a penalty on the play even though it was a hit on a defenseless player. In fact, the Cowboys were assessed a 15-yard penalty at the end of Russell Wilson’s scramble when Bruce Carter was called for pushing the quarterback out of bounds.
After the hit, Tate stood on the field and flexed his muscles.
The Seahawks were up 20-7 early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Russell Wilson got flushed from the pocket. As Lee ran toward Wilson, Tate blindsided him with a vicious block that repeatedly was shown on the replay board in the stadium. The Cowboys were sure the flag on the field was against Tate, though it instead was against Bruce Carter for a push out of bounds on Wilson. Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former director of officiating who now works for Fox, agreed on Twitter at the time that Tate should have been penalized.
"It’s up to the NFL," Lee said today. "I don’t really care. The part I don’t like is the celebrating after the hit. … To me, a crack-back block isn’t tough. Anyone can do that. Toughness is about being able to take a hit and getting back up and doing it again."
RELATED: Golden Tate – ‘I’d be upset if I was on that highlight, being crushed’
Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate said Monday that he was praying he didn’t get fined by the NFL for the blindside hit he delivered Sunday on Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.
Tate posted the following statement on his official Twitter page Sunday evening:
“I hope Sean Lee is ok. I never have intentions on injuring another player. It’s football which means Its physical, dirty hit would be if I went for his head or neck area.”
Well, the NFL saw things differently, fining Tate $21,000 on Wednesday.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong, but only time will tell,” Tate said Monday on Sports Radio KJR in Seattle. “We’ll see what the NFL office says and we’ll go from there.”
Tate also said during the Monday interview that he aimed lower to avoid a helmet-to-helmet collision because he “had no interest in hurting” Lee.
But Tate wasn’t too remorseful when he heard that Lee said the Seattle receiver wouldn’t be celebrating the way he did if the two players met up one-on-one.
“He has his own opinion of what he thinks,” Tate said Monday. “I’d be upset if I was on that highlight, being crushed. But I’m a lover not a fighter so if it came to one-on-one we’ll deal with that whenever that time comes.
“Like I said, I never have any intentions on hurting another player. The way I see it, this is a big fraternity. I was just playing hard and got caught up in the moment. At that point I thought the game could go either way. It was a momentum changer. It sprung us, and that was my only intentions, was putting this offense in better position to score and win the game. And that was an opportunity that I feel like, at the end of the day, any defensive player would be licking their chops to get a hit on a quarterback. So I felt like maybe this is a legal block I was going to get on a defensive player versus them always trying to knock us out.
“So, I wasn’t trying to be vicious at all. But it is what it is.”
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan isn’t talking to the media after games this season, so we’ll have to wait until Friday afternoon to ask this question:
What the heck was up with that soft game plan against the Seahawks?
This was a disgrace to the blitz-happy Ryan family name. Give credit to Seattle’s Russell Wilson for playing a poised, mistake-free game, but the Cowboys barely tried to rattle the vertically challenge rookie quarterback with blitzes.
Ryan called only six blitzes on Wilson’s 25 drop backs. And this came after Wilson went 6-of-18 for 47 yards and was sacked three times against five-plus-man pressure in a Week 1 loss to the Cardinals, according to numbers crunched by ESPN Stats & Information.
It’s not like Wilson burned the Cowboys when they blitzed. He was 3-of-5 for only 21 yards and was sacked once.
Wilson, who had plenty of time in the pocket against the Cowboys’ three- and four-man rushes, completed 12 of 15 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown when Dallas didn’t blitz. He also scrambled three times for 26 yards and was sacked once, in garbage time.
The Seahawks averaged 7.6 yards per play when Wilson dropped back against regular pressure. Seattle averaged 2.8 yards per play when Wilson dropped back against the blitz. But the Cowboys blitzed less than a quarter of his drop backs?!
The Cowboys’ personnel makes the lack of aggressiveness by Ryan even more puzzling.
The Cowboys’ sorry cornerbacks forced Ryan to play soft too often last season. That’s no longer the case after Jerry Jones invested $50 million in Brandon Carr and a first-round pick in Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys should have felt more than comfortable leaving their corners alone against mediocre receivers like Sidney Rice, Braylon Edwards and Golden Tate.
And the Seahawks played most of the game with a backup left tackle and right guard. Maybe Ryan figured that Pro Bowl pass rusher DeMarcus Ware would wreak havoc against Frank Omiyale, a tackle so bad the Bears got rid of him. Ware’s lack of impact was one of the biggest mysteries of the afternoon.
But why not see if Seattle’s patchwork offensive line could handle Ryan’s creative blitz schemes? Why not force a munchkin rookie quarterback to make decisions under duress?
We’ll try to get answers … Friday.
Until then, watch it again on NFL Game Rewind:
PHOTO: Where’s the flag? If he’s looking for a flag on the Sean Lee hit … he won’t find one!
SEATTLE — Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spent a lot of time during training camp trying to make his team more physical.
The club seemed to be making strides in that area until it ran into a buzz saw in Seattle on Sunday.
From a bullying offensive line to a vicious crack-back block delivered by receiver Golden Tate against linebacker Sean Lee to a couple of big hits on tight end Jason Witten, the Seahawks punished the Cowboys in winning 27-7.
“It starts with our coach,” Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor said of Pete Carroll. “Pete has a lot of energy, and he spreads the energy through us.”
Tate’s hit came with the Seahawks up 20-7 early in the fourth and was credited with helping to take the fight out of the Cowboys.
The blindside hit came on a 14-yard run by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson around the left end. Tate launched himself into Lee’s chest and came up through his chin, a blow that sent the third-year player flying.
“I was trying to hit him a little bit and get him on the ground, but I didn’t realize how hard I hit him,” said Tate, who flexed his muscles to the crowd afterward.
Lee left the field under his own power. After getting checked for a concussion, he returned a few players later.
Asked if it was a dirty play, Lee said, “It’s part of the game, not for me to judge. I’ll watch the film, but I know that can happen any time.”
Asked if he was OK, he added, “Yeah. Well, other than the loss. … I cleared everything from a concussion standpoint. My head didn’t hurt at all. It was more about losing breath.”
The play didn’t result in a penalty even though crack-back blocks against defenseless players are a rules violation. There was a flag on the play, though, but it was against Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter for unnecessary roughness.
Garrett suggested Tate’s blow should have drawn a flag.
“(Hits against defenseless players) is something the league is trying to guard against, and this was a pretty good example,” he said.
Owner Jerry Jones said he believes the NFL will look at the hit.
RELATED POST on THE BOYS ARE BACK blog:
RELATED POST on THE DALLAS COWBOYS website:
RELATED: Joe Flacco Calls Out Refs After Baltimore Ravens’ Loss
Joe Flacco had a chance to make some late-game magic against the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike Michael Vick, Flacco couldn’t get it done.
After Sunday’s 24-23 loss, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback largely blamed the replacement officials, saying they are "affecting the integrity of the game."
Flacco’s biggest gripe is that replacement refs don’t know what holding is. He also mocked the offensive pass-interference call against Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones that wiped away a fourth-quarter touchdown. It’s worth noting a number of shaky calls were made in the game, which took 3½ hours because of delays in making decisions.
"He didn’t even throw a flag, he threw a blue beanie," Flacco said, via Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post.
SEATTLE — The Dallas Cowboys want to be taken seriously in the NFL. They don’t want to be known as a team with all the hype that doesn’t have substance.
The Cowboys didn’t respond well Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. After a 27-7 defeat at Century Link Field, one thing is clear: The Cowboys are not ready for the big stage.
There were five drops, two turnovers and two costly penalties that hurt the Cowboys. It wasn’t a terrible performance, but the Cowboys came up small after such a statement victory 11 days ago over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
What it means: The Cowboys failed to take any momentum with them following the season-opening victory against the Giants. It was an opportunity for the Cowboys to maintain a one-game lead over the Giants and remain tied with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. Now just two weeks into the season, the Cowboys raised questions about their ability to become an elite team.
Defense doesn’t respond: Yes, it was hard to stop the Seattle running game, but this was bad. The Cowboys failed to pressure rookie quarterback Russell Wilson on a consistent basis and didn’t stop the run overall. Marshawn Lynch rushed 26 times for 122 yards and one touchdown. Wilson completed 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate laid a hit on Sean Lee, knocking him briefly from the game, and DeMarcus Ware was also hit hard on a run play. There was no response from the defense, but it’s not totally to blame for this one. It did allow just six first-half points, but it’s a 60 minute game. Despite losing several players to injuries, the D didn’t play well in the second half.
Offense struggles: It’s not Tony Romo’s fault that tight end Jason Witten dropped three passes or Dez Bryant did two, but overall the run game didn’t get going. DeMarco Murray rushed for just 44 yards. The protection was there at times for Romo, but he just couldn’t get to his prime receiving threats in Miles Austin, Bryant and Witten. Romo did overthrow a wide-open Bryant and had miscommunication with other receivers. He had a loud discussion with receiver Kevin Ogletree after one series in which receivers coach Jimmy Robinson stepped in.
Time to move on from Felix: We’re not saying cut the backup running back, but Felix Jones’ fumble on the opening kickoff and his questionable decisions on kick returns, leaving 5 and 8 yards deep, didn’t look good. The Cowboys have to find a playmaker on this unit. Jones returned five kicks for a 21.8 average and didn’t make an impact.
Injuries: Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), Alex Albright (stinger), Kenyon Coleman (unknown), Barry Church (quad), Lee (checked for concussion) and Marcus Spears (leg) suffered injuries. Lee and Spears returned.
What’s next?: The Cowboys will have their home opener next Sunday at Cowboys Stadium against Tampa Bay. The health of several key players will have to be evaluated.
Regular readers already know that The Boys Are Back blog features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. He’s psyched about the 2012 Dallas Cowboys vibe … and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week.
Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions. I’m sure you’ll agree … a lot of these will come true. OK, here we go …
The GREAT Robbini – Week #2 predictions:
Cowboys take Seahawks seriously – dominate game!
The Dallas Cowboys defense continues growth, leaves rookie QB shaken.
- 5 team sacks, including:
- 1 sack for Sean Lee
- 2 sacks for DeMarcus Ware
- Sean Lee leads tackles
- 1+ takeaways per half
- 1 Brandon Carr interception
- 1 Seattle Seahawk injured
- Cowboys allow 13+ points
- Seattle limited to 90 yards rushing
The Dallas offense continues where it left off against the New York Giants. :
- Cowboys receive opening kick
- Cowboys score on first drive
- 3 Tony Romo TD’s, 300 yards passing
- 2 Dez Bryant TD’s
- 1 Witten TD
- 1 DeMarco Murray TD
- Team rushes for 145+ yards
- Cowboys lead at half-time
- 70 yards penalties
- Cowboys win by 7 or more
The GREAT Robbini
IRVING, Texas — Danny O’Neil covers the Seahawks for the Seattle Times and he brings you this week’s version of The Other Side.
Archer: How did Russell Wilson win the job in camp? People expected some rookie starters at QB this year, but I don’t know if too many had him as one of the guys.
O’Neil: When the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in the third round, many assumed he would spend the year developing on the back-burner as the No. 3 quarterback. The Seahawks had signed Matt Flynn and still had Tarvaris Jackson, and they figured to be the two dueling for playing time. Well, it figured that way to everyone but coach Pete Carroll.
No sooner had the rookie minicamp finished than Carroll announced Wilson would be part of the competition, and from that moment forward, Wilson simply put together the best body of work. He had a bad day in practice during training camp, but that was one day. Singular. He was picked off three times, and showed an ability to correct it. He has a bigger arm than Flynn, more mobility and he was clearly more explosive in the exhibition games.
Wilson wasn’t given this job, he won it.
TA: Is there any buyer’s remorse on Matt Flynn if he’s not the starter?
DO: What, doesn’t every team want to pay its backup $8 million while starting a rookie? But seriously, there’s not necessarily remorse. Seattle wanted to come out of this with a starting quarterback capable of taking the team to the playoffs. If it’s Flynn, great. That was money well spent. If it’s Wilson, that’s fine, too.
Consider the Cardinals: They paid more in a contract for Kevin Kolb (five years, $63 million) than Seattle paid to Matt Flynn (three years, $26 million). Not only that, but the Cardinals gave up a second-round pick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to get the privilege of playing that money while Seattle chose Wilson with a third-round choice. Seattle certainly appears to have acquired more talent at quarterback for a lesser investment.
TA: The Seahawks finished the year 5-3 after losing to the Cowboys last year and all of the losses were by less than a touchdown. Obviously, they started with a close loss to Arizona in Week 1. How does Pete Carroll get this team over the hump in close games?
DO: Let Wilson mature. This team is built to play to the strengths of a big, physically imposing defense and a punishing ground game. Wilson is the guy they’re depending on to be able to pull a game out in the fourth quarter. He came closer in Week 1 than Tarvaris Jackson ever did last year so that time may be coming.
TA: People really like the Seattle secondary, but where does the pass rush come from? How is Bruce Irvin’s progress going?
DO: Bruce Irvin has not been the immediate-impact pass rusher the Seahawks predicted when they chose him. Chris Clemons remains this team’s best pass rusher. Irvin will get a chance to see if Seattle’s home crowd can help give him an advantage in rushing off the edge.
TA: I can’t go without asking a Terrell Owens question even if he’s not on the roster. How did he look and why didn’t the Seahawks keep him?
DO: He was in great shape, still had the speed to get deep, but had two significant drops. He was acquired to provide a veteran alternative in case Sidney Rice wasn’t ready when the season began. Rice was ready, and Owens wasn’t so impressive the team was willing to carry him as a fourth or fifth wide receiver given the fact he doesn’t play special teams.
If Rice were to get hurt again, the Seahawks wouldn’t hesitate to bring Owens back.
Riding the high of a monumental win over the defending Super Bowl champs in their own home, the Dallas Cowboys must now prepare for a road tilt with the Seattle Seahawks. By all accounts, this is a “trap” game for Dallas. The ’Boys will be on the road for the second straight week, visiting a Seahawks team that went down against a lackluster Arizona Cardinals squad.
On paper, the Cowboys will be the favorites. In reality, they’re entering a hostile environment – CenturyLink Field is known for being one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL – to face a motivated ball club. The game won’t be a piece of cake for Dallas, and Jason Garrett will make sure his players understand that.
One of the things the Cowboys have on their side is time. After playing in a rare Wednesday night contest, Dallas will have 10 days off to prepare for the Seahawks. In addition to allowing some bodies to heal, the extra rest provides the coaches with a whole lot of time to break down Seattle – their offensive tendencies, their blitzes, and their young, mobile rookie quarterback. 96 extra hours, to be exact.
I’m a big believer in the value of game preparation. Ever watch a college bowl game and notice how prepared the teams look to face one another? Gadget plays, exotic blitzes, perfectly-timed calls. Some of these teams have a month to get themselves ready for their bowl game – a month in which they can uncover just about every possible opponent weakness – and it shows.
And the stats prove that extra time off is of great value in the NFL, too. Although teams were only 16-16 coming out of their bye weeks last year, 2011 was really just an aberration. Since 1990, teams coming off of their bye have compiled a .542 winning percentage. Since the overall winning percentage is obviously an even .500, that’s a pretty substantial jump in 704 total games.
And the Cowboys have been one of the league’s most successful teams following a bye. While the ’Boys have won 55.8 percent of their regular season games since 1990, they’ve notched a victory 69.6 percent of the time following their bye.
Of course, the Cowboys don’t have a full two-week hiatus this time around, but it probably won’t matter. See, Dallas is also quite successful after Thanksgiving Day games, a period when they generally have nine days of rest prior to their next outing.
In the entire history of the organization, the Cowboys have posted a .574 winning percentage. In the week following Thanksgiving, however, they’ve managed a .628 winning percentage, suggesting they’ve benefited from the added rest.
In his short career as the Cowboys’ head coach, Garrett is just 1-2 when given nine or more days off between contests. Three games is hardly a substantial sample size, though, and the Cowboys actually played extremely well in their post-bye 20-16 loss to the New England Patriots last year.
Stats aside, the Cowboys know what’s on the line against the Seahawks: A chance to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2008. With that as their focus, you know the ’Boys will be prepared to play this Sunday in Seattle.
IRVING, Texas – LeQuan Lewis was not brought into the organization with defensive reps in mind. Lewis is expected to prove his worth as a special teams contributor, head coach Jason Garrett confirmed Wednesday morning.
“He was actually released by the Jets, but he was a guy that we targeted as a special teams guy,” Garrett said. “So we brought him in here, see how he fits on our 53-man roster and then our 46-man roster.”
Lewis, who has never play in a regular season NFL game, after being cut by the Titans in 2011 and by the Raiders and Jets this summer, talked about how excited he is to be given an opportunity with the Cowboys. He said he plans to take full advantage of every moment of practice and any snaps he might get against Seattle.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Lewis said. “I really appreciate what this organization is doing with me. Everyone’s being welcoming and it feels great.”
The Cowboys are coming into Sunday’s game with an increased emphasis on special teams due to Seattle’s success in that area under coach, Pete Carroll. Specifically the Cowboys have to worry about the danger of kick returner Leon Washington, who holds three separate franchise records for kick returns.
Garrett talked about the danger that Leon Washington can pose.
“He’s a great returner,” Garrett said. “Has been a great returner since day one in this league. He’s a difference-making player for them.”
If Lewis’ name is indeed called on come Sunday, he will be expected to help contain Washington’s return game. Lewis talked about the potential of coming in and making an immediate impact in a game.
“I definitely want to set a footprint in and just go out there and make plays right away,” Lewis said. “I’m going out there to prove them right for bringing me here.”
As someone who has always played the position of cornerback, Lewis discussed the mindset of making special teams his focus.
“Go out there and make plays,” Lewis said. “They brought me over to play special teams right away, and so I have to learn that system and make plays. Corner will come when it comes … special teams will be the emphasis.”
With one mistake by the coverage team, Washington can change a game, so it may pay off for the Cowboys to bring in a special teams player with the right attitude.
“I have no fears whatsoever,” Lewis said. “I have nothing to lose. I’m going to go down there and play my heart out.”
RELATED POSTS ON THE BOYS ARE BACK BLOG:
The Seattle Seahawks, like every team that faces the Cowboys, are going to have to block DeMarcus Ware.
But for the Seahawks, the job could be tougher this week.
Their left tackle, Russell Okung, suffered a bone bruise in his left knee last week at the end of the game. An MRI this week showed the injury isn’t as bad as it could have been, and it looks as though he’s going to be able to play Sunday.
But if he is slowed even a little, it could be a problem against Ware, who picked up two sacks last week and is coming off a 19 1/2-sack season.
And Okung is coming off a shaky game. He was called for three false-start penalties against Arizona, and the Seahawks allowed three sacks.
It didn’t make rookie quarterback Russell Wilson’s debut any smoother.
"He was under siege," coach Pete Carroll said. "He really was rushed well. They didn’t get him as much as they rushed him, but they were around him a lot. It was a very difficult game for the quarterback because of that."
The Seahawks had to start a rookie guard, J.R. Sweezy, last week, but that could be just a one-week move.
John Moffitt, the team’s third-round pick a year ago, could be ready for the Cowboys. He was inactive last week because the Seahawks were afraid he wasn’t fully recovered from elbow surgery.
Wide receiver Charly Martin has a bruised lung, suffered in a dive for the ball in the end zone. He will miss two weeks.
Wide receiver Golden Tate is expected back after missing last week with a sprained knee.
Running back Marshawn Lynch came out of Sunday’s game with no recurrence of back spasms.
Think the Cowboys had a lot of penalties last week? The Seahawks had 13. Last year, they were second in the league in penalties.
Leon Washington had an 83-yard kickoff return and a 52-yard punt return for the Seahawks last week.
The Seahawks got one sack last week, from Chris Clemons.
IRVING, Texas – Owner Jerry Jones recently sat in a suite in Seattle almost directly on top of where quarterback Tony Romo fumbled the field goal snap that sent the Dallas Cowboys packing in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.
Jones said he still remembers that bird’s eye view well, but the resurgent Romo who took over as the Cowboys starter that season is a much different player than the one returning to Seattle this weekend for the first time since the Wild Card defeat.
“You have seen, in his case, a person and a player that is continually striving for ways to get better,” Jones said. “It’s one of his best qualities. He never sits still or thinks in the now. He’s always trying to think ahead, getting better in different circumstances, how he can be a better player for the Dallas Cowboys.
“Just the time that has passed and the nature of Romo says probably all you need to say. As far as learning lessons from experiences, again, he’s excellent at that and incorporating the negatives in his game as well.”
Jones said he felt like Romo was coming into his own as a quarterback when the playoffs began that year. Romo made his first Pro Bowl despite starting just 10 regular season games, after taking over for Drew Bledsoe at halftime in Week 7 against the Giants.
Romo became the first starting quarterback in Dallas to throw for more than 220 yards in his first eight career starts that year. He finished second in the NFL with a 65.28 completion percentage.
“That was an early preview of what you have in Romo, relative not necessarily to the dropped ball, but just what Romo can bring to the table,” Jones said.
But the season will forever be marred by the fumbled field goal snap, which resulted in a shoestring tackle stopping him two yards short of the end zone and one yard short of a first down late in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Bill Parcells, who came to Dallas in 2003, retired after the 2006 season. Jones said the loss to the Seahawks wasn’t the cause.
“I had always had a good understanding and good feel for where Bill was relative to his motivation and relative to his clock,” Jones said. “His decision to not coach anymore wasn’t just a shock to me. I wanted him to continue if he wanted to continue, but I knew kind of a timeframe he was looking to when he took the job.”
The Seahawks lost in overtime a week later to the Bears, 27-24. Jones said he thought if the Cowboys could have found a way to beat Seattle, they’d have a good chance to make a playoff run.
“It was very disappointing,” Jones said. “But not nearly as disappointing as last year.”
IRVING – In the first 26 years of their existence, the Seattle Seahawks qualified for the playoffs only five times. They were a listless team that played in a drab domed stadium before temporarily relocating to a college facility.
Eventually, they settled into brand new digs, setting up shop at airy CenturyLink Field in 2002. Since then, the Seahawks’ fortunes have changed. They have made the playoffs six times in the previous 10 seasons.
That Seattle’s recent run began around the same time its 67,000-seat home opened may be coincidental. Then again, it may not be. Since 2002, only six NFL teams – the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers — have posted a better winning percentage at home than the Seahawks have.
For those who have been to CenturyLink Field, it’s easy to see why Seattle’s opponents have struggled to win there.
“This is a very difficult place to play,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s loud. It’s almost a college-type atmosphere.”
This week Garrett plans to pump up the volume at practice with simulated noise so that his team will be prepared to block out the din of the crowd. Dallas had seven pre-snap penalties in a 24-17 victory over the New York Giants and the Cowboys are looking to avoid similar mistakes in an environment that is hostile for the opposition.
“There are a lot of stadiums in the NFL that are loud,” Cowboys center Ryan Cook said. “Seattle happens to be one of them.”
But no place perhaps helps the team it houses quite like CenturyLink Field. It gives the Seahawks a true home-field advantage.
After last season, when the Seahawks had Tarvaris Jackson starting at quarterback, they needed a leader who could make a last-chance push to the end zone.
So, during the offseason, the Seahawks picked up quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency and Russell Wilson in the NFL Draft.
One of them, the team brass hoped, could lead a big comeback of the kind seen so often in the NFL.
Well, the Seahawks on Sunday needed such a comeback in Arizona, and they had their chance — a few chances. Wilson, the rookie selected over Flynn to start the season under center, led Seattle downfield in the final two minutes of Seattle’s season opener, getting the Seahawks to the 31-yard line with four downs to use and under two minutes to play. Down 20-16 in enemy territory, the Seahawks needed a touchdown — a three-point field goal wouldn’t cut it.
TBAB EDITORS NOTE: Want to size up the Cowboys next opponent? Watch the Seattle vs. Cardinals game on NFL Game Rewind.