From being the laughing stock of the NFL after the first week, the Dallas Cowboys have suddenly positioned themselves as a team that can go all the way. It’s impossible to ignore their credentials after a fourth straight win, this time in Seattle over the Seahawks, beating the defending Super Bowl champions 30-23 with a solid, mistake-free performance from Tony Romo and another great day of running for DeMarco Murray.
The Cowboys are now at 5-1 for the first time since 2007, and have four wins above .500 for the first time since the 2009 season, their last playoff appearance, when they finished 11-5. It’s proof that having an offensive line that doesn’t fold (Romo was sacked just once) makes everything a lot easier, and going to the ground game gives the defense a lot more air and time to breath, resulting in a fantastic and efficient performance in the fourth quarter, holding Russell Wilson at just 4-of-14 in the final quarter.
Early on, the Dallas Cowboys special teams lost their battles and allowed the Seahawks to start strong and later stay in the game. A blocked punt allowed Mike Morgan to return it 25 yards and give the Seahawks a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Another botched punt in the third quarter gave the Seahawks very short field to work with, ending with Russell Wilson running nine yards for the touchdown. But other than that? The Cowboys won in the trenches and kept Seahawks receivers covered quite well the entire game.
Russell Wilson finished with just 14-of-28 with no touchdown passes and one interception in his worst performance this season and a very rare dud for him when playing at home. The Cowboys didn’t blitz him a lot, but managed to get basic pressure to make him look bad. Marshawn Lynch did run for 61 yards on 10 carries, but that was about it from the former best ground game in the league, while Percy Harvin was held to -1 yards on three attempts to surprise the Cowboys.
If you’re looking for one play that changed and won the game for the Cowboys, it has to be the completion on 3rd-and-20 with the Cowboys down by three points. The Cowboys were inside their own territory and Bruce Irvin nearly got a sack on Romo, but the quarterback managed to pull a move that freed him from the pressure and throw on the run to a wide open Terrance Williams near the sidelines. The receiver managed to drag the tip of his shoes on the field to complete the 23-yard reception, which stood after Pete Carroll made a desperate challenge that didn’t work and cost him a crucial time out.
From there the Cowboys simply ran to get field goal position, but ended up simply scoring a touchdown as DeMarco Murray ran through the Seahawks defense again and again, even after the right tackle Doug Free had to leave the game with an injury. Murray ended the drive on a 15-yard touchdown run and finished the game with 115 yards on 29 carries. He also caught six passes for 31 yards, now becoming only the second running back in NFL history along with Jim Brown to start the season with six consecutive games of 100 yards rushing or more.
The Seahawks could only move forward four yards on their defining drive of the game as the Cowboys special teams unit kept Percy Harvin from breaking loose into open field after the kickoff. The Cowboys stuck to man on man defense instead of the zone, and the Seahawks couldn’t break out for big plays for almost the entire game, and certainly not in the closing minutes of it. On 4th and 6 on their own 23, Russell Wilson couldn’t work his late game magic, and the Cowboys took over to score a field goal and make it a 7-point game. Russell Wilson threw an interception on the next drive, and it was all over.
The Seahawks aren’t used to losing at home, and are only at 3-2, which suddenly makes their aura of being invincible and perfect a little less impressive, considering they barely made it out of their game against the Broncos as well. The Cowboys look like a completely different team than they did when the season started, but staying focused on what’s been working well and not letting the success go to their heads might be the most important thing as they move on to the next challenge.