Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys: Thoughts Before the Game

Sorry TarTar, I hardly talk about you in this article. But you ARE important! Hugs!

Do you like to play poker?  Do you like to play poker for long stretches of time because you love it so much?  Do you like to play poker for long stretches of time because you love it so much and you didn't get any sleep last night?  Me too!

So normally, this is where I try to get all "fancy" and do my wishes for the game.  This format won't happen every week.  It's definitely the most challenging format that I've saddled myself with, but the main idea is that I want to present my Keys to the Game or Game Previews in an entertaining manner.

Sometimes it's entertaining, sometimes it's less so.  I do what I can.  

But then there are days like today where my brain simply isn't functioning up to that level, even that level of brain function isn't that high to begin with.  Instead, I am going a traditional route today.  I don't even know what's about to happen, and I am even more scared than you are about that notion!

So, here's what I'm thinking about the game right now:

Wins and Losses are Becoming Secondary to Improvement and Health

As Seahawks fans, we're used to this point in the season.  It's pretty much the point where a loss doesn't sting as much as it used to, and a win doesn't feel as important as it would have last week.  Slowly, we are weening our way down to secretly hoping for a loss that nets us a draft pick that's a couple of spots higher.  We aren't at that point yet, at least I am not, but it's going to come eventually for me.

I can never, ever, root for the Seahawks to lose.  That's not in my nature, and it will never be in my nature.  I can root for the Mariners to lose, and I have done it for the last several years, because they play so many damn games.  But the Hawks do not.  Seattle only gets 16 shots a year, and nothing good ever comes of losing a game by three scores and I'll never cheer when we lose a heartbreaker.

This team means a lot to me, and them doing well means a lot to me, so I want what they want.  What they want to do is win, so I want them to feel happy after every game.  It sounds silly, rooting for grown men, millionaires at that, to have smiles on their faces, but that's what I want.  Like I've said before, when Pete smiles, I smile.

On top of that, a win in Dallas would be huge for this team.  

We don't play the Cowboys often, and the last two times we met they blew us out.  None of us will ever forget the playoff game, but that was almost five years ago.  It's irrelevant to this team, of which hardly any of those players are still around.  What we need to see in this team, in this collection of 53, is the confidence to know that they can go to Dallas and get a win, just like they did against the Giants.

That really is something that can carry-over to next season moreso than a higher draft pick.  Let's not worry too much about something that's not only out of the teams control, but that's a bridge we'll cross when we get there.

There are so many variables involved in scouting and the draft process, that it would really be pointless to root for a loss at this point anyway.  Remember the Reggie Bush sweepstakes?  That there were even accusations that Houston lost its last game that season on purpose so that they could draft Bush?  The Bush sweepstakes were as real as the "You've already won $1,000,000 Publishers Clearing House" sweepstakes, of which many a 10-year-old (including myself) actually believed there lives had changed when they got the mail that day.

That's not to say that Andrew Luck isn't going to be the number one pick if he declares, he certainly will be, but we won't be picking first anyway.  As to whether or not Matt Barkley will be available, or whether he'll even be the number two quarterback prospect after the season and combine are complete, is still unknown.

So at this point what I'm rooting for is to watch the Seahawks be competitive, healthy, and successful even if it doesn't show up in the final score.  If we go down to Dallas and score 6 points, we're going to have a steeper climb towards a return to divisional dominance.  If we go down to Dallas and lose by a score of 27-21 or something, then we know we've made strides.  

I'll take making strides over a higher draft pick any day of the week.  Especially on Sunday, because that is usually the day that professional football games are played.

There's a Chance the Seahawks Will Win 18-16

Just an odd anomaly on the Cowboys scores this season:

 

They lost in week one to the Jets by a score of 24-27 and then beat the 49ers the following week by the inverse score: 27-24.

They beat the Rams in week 7 by a score of 34-7, and then lost the following week to the Eagles by the inverse score: 7-34.

So if my powers of deduction are correct, if you look at the Cowboys week three win over the Redskins by a score of 18-16 following their inverse win over the 49ers, then they'll lose this week by the inverse score.

Science.

Whats with Seahawks Opponents and Injured Running Backs?

I love the Hawks rush defense with all my heart, but it's odd how many times we've faced a team that was short on an important piece of their running game.  

The Cowboys will most likely be without Felix Jones, giving DeMarco Murray (who probably has won the full-time job already anyway) another start.

Seattle has avoided Beanie Wells, Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis, and Cedric Benson (not by way of injury) already this season, making this the fifth time in eight games that they're going against a short-handed backfield.  

That being said, Murray has shown ability that might make him the best running back that Seattle has faced all season, on a list that includes Frank Gore and Rashard Mendenhall.  Whether or not he is, is completely unknown at this point because Murray is still an unknown.  In his two starts he put up a Dallas record 253 yards on the Rams, and then he had 74 yards on only eight carries against the Eagles.  Who knows what he would have done if the Cowboys weren't getting dominated in that game way before halftime.

This isn't the first time that Murray has broken records at a traditional American powerhouse.

Following in the footsteps of Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma, Murray rushed for 201 yards and 5 touchdowns in his first game and then tied Petersons freshman touchdown record of 15.  Murray spent most of his career in the shadow of Heisman winner Sam Bradford, not being the center of attention like Peterson was.

Before he was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft, he finished his Sooners career at the all-time leader in points, touchdowns, all-purpose yards, and receiving yards for a running back.  

The Hawks caught a break when the faced Alfonso Smith.  They aren't catching a break by facing Murray, most likely, the Cowboys caught a break when they were forced to insert him in the starting lineup this early in the season.  We'll see, it's going to be a good test for both teams to find out just how good they are.

Jason Witten Worries Me

Now that I've heaped all that praise on Murray, I'll say he doesn't worry me nearly as much as Witten does.  I trust our run defense to not let that be the part of the Cowboys offense that breaks us.  Not unless we find ourselves in an early two or three touchdown hole, but I think that hole could be created by Witten.

We let players like Donald Lee, Jake Ballard, Tony Gonzalez, and Vernon Davis burn us for important catches, and the other teams we played didn't even really have a tight end to speak of, with the exception of Pittsburgh.  Witten is better than all of them, other than maybe Davis.

I expect Seattle to do well against Dez Bryant.  My expectations for containing Witten and Miles Austin, and even the red-hot Laurent Robinson, aren't so high.  

It seems we give up a lot of third down conversions, and those conversions go something like, "third-and-eight, and the Hawks give up eight and a half!"

I'm tired of seeing that, but I'm worried I'll see it a lot on Sunday, with Witten being the main culprit.

Prediction

Any Given Sunday.

It's more than just an Oliver Stone swing-and-a-miss (though I need to give it a re-watch perhaps), it's the motto of pretty much any team that knows they are getting prepared for a game they should lose.

The Cowboys record, like the records of San Diego, Philadelphia, and maybe Atlanta, seems off of where their talent level is.  From an outsiders perspective at least.  People that know the team are going to be more keyed on why they are 3-4.  

I don't look at the Seahawks and see a 2-5 team, I see something better than that, but from an outsiders perspective, that's what we are.  Well, because that IS what we are.  Technically.

The Cowboys offense makes me jealous.  From Romo's talent-level compared to Tarvaris and company, to the fact that they churn out Pro Bowl running backs like we've churned out disappointing offensive lineman, Dallas should for all intents and purposes be one of the highest scoring teams in the league.

They're not.  They're 18th.  Hell, if Steven Hauschka makes a miracle field goal against Atlanta, then Seattle and Dallas would have the same amount of games with 30+ points: two.

Defensively, Dallas was potentially up there with Seattle, San Francisco, and Baltimore, as the best rushing defense in the league, up until they faced LeSean McCoy.  Statistically, Dallas was first in the NFL in rush defense, giving up just under 70 yards per game on the ground.

Then the Eagles, granted the best running team in the league, put up 239 yards on them.  Now Dallas fell to fourth in rushing defense, and some of that can be attributed to losing defensive captain Sean Lee.

It's a break that the Hawks probably had to have if they were going to establish any kind of run on the Cowboys, and even then I have my doubts.  But it's a chance.  It's a crack in the door.  Is the door open wide enough?

No surprise here, but I'm going to say no.  

Winning at New York is probably going to give some fans hope that we can win on the road anywhere now!  Which is true, but then you'd have to be reminded about the difference between can and will and "may I have another cupcake?"  

We can win in Dallas, but we probably won't unless we ask properly and nicely, like a nice southern gentleman would.  We can win if we stop Murray and if Romo makes a Tony Romo-sized gaffe.  It's happened at least four times in his last 13 games that I can think of off the top of my head.

The argument is of course that Romo wasn't to blame for all of those losses, and it's true.  More had to happen than just him throwing crucial interceptions.  But it still wouldn't have been possible, or at least extremely unlikely, if he hadn't thrown those interceptions.  He has shown a tendency to do stuff like that.  Right now, Romo seems like a "win it or lose it" type of quarterback, but of course the game is bigger than just that.

Even if we held Dallas to say, 20 points, we'd have to find a way to score 20 points, which is the much taller order.  We've topped 20 just twice all season, and totalled 15 over the last two combined.  We need to plug the leaks.

Stop the special teams errors.

Take advantage of turnovers.

Take advantage of opportunity for turnovers.

Leon Washington breaks one.

Sean Lee really is that important to the defense.

Don't turn it over.

We can't beat Dallas on talent, so we have to beat them on fundamentals.  That's the only way we can hope to win, but I do expect Dallas to take this one by a touchdown.  You never know though.  

Any Given Sunday.

Fun Fact: I heard on the radio yesterday that this is only the third time since 1999 (or so, it might have been even earlier) that a 3-4 team has been favored by double digits.  History-making Hawks of ineptitude!

Follow me on twitter @casetines

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