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Seahawks unable to defeat Cowboys - or much of anybody - second time around this season

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Wild Card Round - Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Saturday night at AT&T Stadium the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys faced off for the second time during the 2018 season, however, this time around the stakes were much higher. When these two teams went head to head in Week 3 they entered the game a combined 1-3, after having combined to go 0-8 in the preseason. This time around The Hawks entered having won six of seven, while Dallas came in having won seven of their last eight.

We all watched the game, so I won’t beat around the bush in making the point that this time around the Seattle offense simply could not do enough to defeat the Cowboys, and thus the offseason has arrived for Pete Carroll’s squad. There were defensive failures, special teams issues and, as always, multiple places to point the finger regarding why the team lost, however, it was the struggles of the offense that garnered the most attention. The offense managed just 299 yards of offense in the game, with 75 of those yards coming on a drive that started with the team down two scores with just over two minutes remaining.

So, what happened to the Seattle offense? What led to the complete collapse of the running game in the most important game of the season? To start with, both of the guards played through injury. Right guard D.J. Fluker played in spite of a hamstring that caused him to miss three of the team’s final four games, and left guard J.R. Sweezy played through a broken bone in his foot.

However, it’s likely that wasn’t all that led to the putrid offensive performance Saturday evening. As noted, this was the second time these two teams played this season, so the Cowboys coaching staff was familiar with the Seahawks offense and its pre-snap reads. As I’ve worked to show through the season, including in Week 11 against the Green Bay Packers and Week 12 when they went up against the Carolina Panthers, the Seahawks offense is far from complicated. Specifically, there appear to be specific reads that the team uses on offense in order to execute its strategy of a ball-control, physical offense. Unfortunately for Seattle fans, the reads don’t seem to be too difficult to discern.

Over the final four games of the regular season the Seattle offense struggled, even as the team managed to work its way to a 3-1 record in those games. It’s the Week 15 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that shows what could be a troubling trend that continued in Dallas Saturday. In short, the Seahawks have had trouble beating teams when they played for a second time this year.

With the Wild Card game now in the books, the Seahawks finished the year having played four teams twice. Those four teams were the Cowboys and three divisional rivals from the NFC West, the 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams. Now, it could certainly simply be a coincidence or it could be a sign of something bigger, but here’s how things shook out during each of the two matchups when Seattle faced off with these teams.

Opponents Seahawks played twice in 2018

Opponent Game 1 Game 2
Opponent Game 1 Game 2
Los Angeles Rams Loss 31-33 Loss 31-36
San Francisco 49ers Win 43-16 Loss 23-26
Arizona Cardinals Win 20-17 Win 27-24
Dallas Cowboys Win 24-13 Loss 22-24

Now, obviously a sample size of four is not enough to base an opinion on, but let me put it another way. Here is the list of teams the Seahawks defeated when they played a second time during 2018:

  • Arizona Cardinals

That’s it. That’s the end of the list. The only team that the Hawks could beat the second time around was the team so bad that they finished the season 3-13, fired their head coach and hold the first pick in the draft this year. And even in defeating the worst team in the NFL while playing at home in the regular season finale, it took a game ending field goal from Sebastian Janikowski to secure that victory.

So, hopefully it’s just an anomaly and not an indication of things to come, but at this point it’s impossible to rule out the idea that the reason the Hawks have trouble beating an opponent a second time around is because the offense is shockingly uncomplicated and highly predictable.