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Seahawks must beat Cowboys for their own peace of mind

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the day, it won’t really be the record that matters. Of course records do matter. They always matter. But whether the Seattle Seahawks are 0-3 or 1-2 after facing the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, the thing we really want to know is, “Did they play like the Pete Carroll Seahawks that we used to know?”

Because if they spend another game playing from behind the whole time, then being 1-2 won’t really matter with 13 more games left to play and few reasons to believe that Seattle is capable of winning many of those. Not if they play as poorly at home as they have on the road.

The Seahawks won their first three home games in 2017, including a blowout over the Indianapolis Colts and that thrilling 41-38 victory over the Houston Texans, but since then are 1-4 at CenturyLink. Not since 2008 has Seattle had that bad of a stretch at home, meaning that even Jim Mora avoided losing four of five in friendly confines. With that in mind, Carroll fired his offensive and defensive coordinators, plus his offensive line/assistant head coach. He greenlit the release of Richard Sherman, the trade of Michael Bennett, the forgoing of an extension for Sheldon or Paul Richardson, the drafting of Rashaad Penny, the effort to reinforce your pass rush with a 21-year-old, the decision to let Earl Thomas dangle in the wind without a contract or a trade —

None of these decisions are inherently wrong on their own, or even as a collection of moves. Not if you improve. People can criticize some of these moves all day on Twitter (and they do, with Sheldon being the focal point recently for some reason), but Carroll had a clear plan to not just get younger, he and John Schneider also wanted to be more efficient in how they spent their available cap room. That meant freeing up Sherman’s salary so that they could retain players like Justin Coleman, Dion Jordan, and Bradley McDougald. It meant deciding that Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen combined was as good or better than having one Sheldon. It doesn’t mean they were always going to be right.

It just meant that after making the playoffs every year from 2012-2016, with at least a trip to the divisional round in each of those seasons, and two Super Bowl appearances, and one ring, that Carroll and Schneider deserved the benefit of the doubt. But even if you deem 2018 to be a “learning season” where 8-8 is acceptable because of reliance on a young defensive line, or installing a new offensive system, or the lack of quality at RCB, or injuries — what won’t be acceptable is continuing to play like an offense that was only ranked ahead of the Browns, Cardinals, and Bills by DVOA ... and that was before Thursday night’s Mayfield moments. Seattle can’t accept a bottom-five offense, especially when there is virtually no possibility of a dominant defense this season.

The Seahawks need a convincing win over the Cowboys on Sunday, or they need to reconsider what this season is going to be about.

Dallas comes to Seattle ranked 29th in scoring and 30th in yards, having scored just three touchdowns in two games, including two fourth quarter rushing touchdowns; the Cowboys have just one touchdown by Dak Prescott and only one touchdown in the first three quarters of the game. And yet their offense is ranked 11th by DVOA thanks to a number one ranking in rushing offense, no doubt in part because of those two Ezekiel Elliott scores late in their two games. It’s a great opportunity for the Seahawks defense to assert themselves against another offense that is struggling to score touchdowns, but the woes of Russell Wilson and the running backs may continue.

The Cowboys have only allowed 29 points and three touchdowns. They already have nine sacks and those have come via eight different players recording at least one. (Demarcus Lawrence, Seattle’s biggest concern at the moment perhaps, has two.) Passing defense coordinator Kris Richard knows arguably as much about the Seahawks defense as Ken Norton does, if not more. He knows Wilson’s habits. He knows Carroll’s tendencies. He may not know Brian Schottenheimer all that well ... but that really doesn’t matter.

This is going to be a tough game for Seattle. But they should still win it. And they should still do so in convincing fashion, at home. That is if they want to prove that they’re better than the last two weeks. That they can make necessary adjustments based on their multiple failures in Weeks 1 and 2. That they can be their own worst critics and face their issues. That they can abandon certain plans that have worked against Wilson and the running game. That 0-2 is not an omen, it’s an anomaly. If they don’t, then it won’t matter if they’re 1-2 or 0-3.

If they continue to play poorly, and get a win just because Dallas is playing, more ... pooringly, then you can throw the records out. You can be 3-0, 0-3, 1-2, or 1-1-1, but if you’re not good, you’re not good.

It’s time for the Seahawks to prove that they’re not not good.