There were two major turning points in Sunday's contest. They happened in short succession and turned a close game into the beginning of a blowout. The second was a questionable defensive pass interference penalty called on Marcus Trufant after Miles Austin initiated contact. That cost Seattle 10-12% of win probability. The first made the second possible.
I have nailed Nate Burleson for not finishing routes and I have criticized several Seahawks receivers for not finishing blocks. Missed blocks and dropped routes are easy to ignore. If a receiver does not finish his route, the quarterback usually does not target him and the sin stays within the family, known only to players and coaches. If a receiver does not block, walks over and says "what's up" as I've seen T.J. Houshmandzadeh do, it does not usually lead to much. Maybe another body hits the pile. Often the play is over before it matters.
Seattle splits three wide in an unbalanced formation. Deion Branch is split wide left, Housh is in the left-slot, John Carlson is tight left and Justin Forsett is aside Hasselbeck's left hip. Burleson is alone on the right. Matt Hasselbeck is in shotgun.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a 3-3 nickel with the right outside linebacker walked up to line, showing pass rush. The left corners are walked off, but Terence Newman is opposite Burleson, straddling the first down marker.
It's third and three and Seattle is down by four.
Before he's blindsided and the ball pops from his grasp, let's rewind and look around. It's a shotgun snap and the handoff to Forsett is quick and definitive, so the wide receivers have to hustle to influence the play. They're not going to run off their guys, but they could put a body on them. Burleson inches up towards Newman and when it's clear he's beat, stops, stands and spectates. Houshmandzadeh starts quicker but slows and instead of engaging nickelback Orlando Scandrick, he jogs up and behind the referee. Newman forces the fumble and Scandrick recovers for 15 yards.