The following covers from when I left off to when Sam Hurd put Dallas up by six.
Seattle started the drive with Cory Redding at left defensive tackle. Redding was blown back by a double team, but single-blocked Brandon Mebane sliced behind the blockers bulldozing Redding to wrap Marion Barber after three. Before Mebane's saving tackle, this play was eerily reminiscent of Seattle's struggles in San Francisco.
Seattle sent a safety blitz on the next play. Jordan Babineaux was game until he squared against Marion Barber. Babineaux pulled up and attempted to evade Barber and Barber did little more than stand to complete the block. Barber was nearly butt to thigh with Romo and Babs should have powered into Barber and jolted him back. If you can't be sure you can go around a blocker, power through him and hope. It could have worked. It should have worked with a running start.
Seattle blitzed again on third and two. It blitzed, but checked to five when Deon Grant dropped his rush and picked up man cover. Seattle was locked in man across the field and that made for any easy matchup for Miles Austin. He beat off Ken Lucas' press and put a shoulder into him to get inside. Romo hit him in stride and Seattle allowed another third down conversion.
Why Seattle blitzed on third and two is beyond me. It seemed like Marshall moment when it happened and it seems like a Marshall moment now.
Having failed by blitzing, Seattle attempted the opposite on the next play. It dropped eight into coverage. It dropped eight out of a 4-2, meaning the eighth man was none other than Brandon Mebane. As luck would have it, Mebane matched against Jason Witten. Witten worked a double move, maybe built in, maybe a savvy improvisation. Mebane didn't bite though. When Witten faked curl, Mebane didn't close, but broke back and positioned himself to tackle. That saved an otherwise sure defensive holding penalty. Witten shuffle-stepped and sprinted past the line but never did fully shake Mebane. Romo targeted him in quadruple coverage and Witten leapt high but dropped it. Perhaps the prospect of being sandwiched between a linebacker, two defensive backs and Brandon Mebane just wasn't worth the first.
Austin converted that. Seattle badly misread the end around and only persistent and alert play from Lucas saved them from worse damage. It was a classic case of broken contain. David Hawthorne owns the most responsibility. When Dallas motioned run right, Hawthorne was all over it, and when the action sped left, Hawthorne had no hope of recovery. A final detail worth noting: Seattle was in a 4-2 nickel. Reading the end around but knowing he had little chance to intercept, Josh Wilson didn't stop or ineffectually drift towards the play. No, Wilson saw Austin and bolted towards the end zone. He positioned himself to be a last line of defense should Austin break free. It's a wonder he wasn't needed.
Hawthorne broke contain again on the next play. He drifted left and got behind a lead blocker allowing Barber to cut right and towards the open field. Then Jordan Babineaux had his first safety moment. He sprinted across the first down marker and fought hard to stop Barber before he converted the first.
I could round out this review with another knock on Hawthorne, but Hawthorne breaking cover against Hurd was assumed after Hurd flattened a slow developing crossing pattern. I still don't know what Seattle is doing with its zones or its line, and both are beginning to frustrate me.
This plays fails for obvious reasons. Seattle is down one rushing the quarterback. Patrick Kerney is struggling to get there. Mebane is doing his part. Darryl Tapp is working his butt off on the blindside. Colin Cole is stuck in the blocks. He never moves more than a yard past the line of scrimmage. Center Andre Gurode is able to stifle him so easily that left guard Kyle Kosier can stand and watch Hurd receive.
Hawthorne is covering the middle zone and picks up Hurd as he crosses the field. Aaron Curry is covering Jason Witten on the left. If we're talking zones, Hurd becomes Curry's assignment after Hurd passes Hawthorne to the left, but should Curry drop cover on Witten? He is an unwinnable position. Curry follows Witten through his break but reacts to Romo's eyes and attempts to intercept Hurd before he receives.
Romo probably could have pump-faked and found Witten. Instead he targets the beaten man and hooks up with Hurd for the score. The zones break down, and maybe zones are losing their place in the modern NFL. But the zones break down because the pass rush breaks down. A crossing pattern is a deep route. It develops slowly and is often found by quarterbacks flushed from the pocket. Romo isn't flushed, he steps right up and throws it over Cole's outstretched arms.
The pass rush was swarming all around, but dead in the middle. Tapp, Kerney and Mebane smashed the pocket, but their pressure came from outside. Cole alone was trusted to collapse the middle, and if he could have, Romo would have had no pocket to step into. Instead Cole just stood there. Cole just stood there, watching the play the develop.