Closing Thoughts: Timely Turnovers Prove Pivotal as Seahawks Squeak Past Cowboys
When it comes to playing conventional, normal football games, coach Pete Carroll's Seahawks simply do not know how to do it. This has been illustrated countless times during his tenure, including last week's thriller against the Patriots that required a last second goal line stand to preserve what at one point looked to be a comfortable home victory.
In similar fashion, after squandering a 15-point lead to the Cowboys on Sunday, Carroll's squad rallied in the final two minutes to escape with a 38-31 win, using another outstanding performance from quarterback Russell Wilson and well-timed turnovers to remain unblemished with a 3-0 record.
After re-watching Sunday's latest drama as it unfolded, here are some final thoughts from Seattle's latest escape act at CenturyLink Field.
- Having thrown 14 touchdown passes through three games – a new NFL record through the first three games of the season – Russell Wilson continues to amaze as the magician under center for the Seahawks. Yesterday, the Cowboys were able to muster a far fiercer pass rush than the star quarterback had seen in the previous two weeks, hitting him eight times and sacking him four times along with additional hurries forcing him out of the pocket. Still, despite the ramped-up pressure and some uncharacteristic misfires on a handful of passes, the MVP front-runner still finished with 315 passing yards and five touchdowns, including three scoring tosses to the ever-so-reliable Tyler Lockett. His quarterback play right now is the equivalent to a cheat code on a video game and it remains unclear how defenses will slow him down.
- Lockett and DK Metcalf will draw most of the headlines – and understandably so – after both players reached the 100-yard mark on Sunday. But bouncing back from a rough Week 2, Greg Olsen picked a great time to have his best game as a Seahawk so far, catching five of his six targets for 61 yards, including two clutch receptions. The first one came before halftime, as officials ruled a defender illegally pushed Olsen out of bounds, allowing him to re-establish himself as a receiver and catch a 16-yard pass at the goal line. On the next play, Wilson found Lockett for their third score to extend the lead to 23-15. Before their game winning drive, Wilson indicated to reporters he told the veteran tight end he was going to make a big play, and sure enough, he reeled in a critical fourth down catch to keep the chains moving and allow Metcalf to catch a 29-yard touchdown shortly after.
- Injuries were a major problem for the Seahawks on Sunday, particularly on the offensive line. Starting left guard Damien Lewis left with an ankle sprain and right guard Mike Iupati and center Ethan Pocic battled through knee injuries in the second half. Thankfully, Seattle has better depth than it has had in some time and the duo of Jordan Simmons and Jamarco Jones were able to check in for snaps at the guard spots with the offense not skipping a beat. Simmons in particular played very well subbing in for Lewis, which shouldn’t be a surprise given how well he performed two years ago filling in as a starter for a handful of games. With his presence at 340 pounds, the team won’t have to rush into getting Lewis back into the lineup.
- Meanwhile, both of Seattle’s starting tackles endured inconsistent showings against the Cowboys. Not playing at 100 percent, Duane Brown got pushed around a bit by Aldon Smith throughout the game, allowing him to produce 3.0 sacks and four quarterback hits. On the other side, Brandon Shell gave up quick pressure to Demarcus Lawrence several times, forcing Wilson to step up into the pocket with mixed outcomes. In terms of talent, Dallas has one of the more formidable trios of edge defenders in the NFC, so these results shouldn’t be overreacted to. The two veteran blockers will have a great chance to bounce back next week against a Miami team lacking pass rushing talent.
- As every opponent has done so far against the Seahawks, the Cowboys dropped back and launched 57 passes on Sunday. With so many chances to rush the passer, the Seahawks continued to struggle with consistency getting to Dak Prescott, but there were some encouraging signs from the front line. Jarran Reed produced his first sack of the season on the first play of the second half, forcing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Benson Mayowa, who had two quarterback hits of his own. Then on the final pivotal defensive stand, Shaquem Griffin made a hit on Prescott and rookie Alton Robinson picked the perfect time to register his first NFL sack, setting up a 3rd and 14 opportunity for the Cowboys after bringing down the star quarterback. There’s still a long way to go for this group, but young players such as Griffin and Robinson proved they deserve more opportunities.
- It's still a small sample size, but the Seahawks run defense appears to be legit. For the second straight week, they held their opponent to under 70 rushing yards, limiting All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott to just 34 yards on 14 carries. Though he wasn't credited with tackle, L.J. Collier has played a big role in that success, proving to be a disruptive force off the edge. In the interior, Bryan Mone continues to surprise and made one of the biggest plays of the day bringing down Elliott in the end zone for a safety in the first quarter. Led by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, the linebackers are being kept clean from blockers and as a result, they're making a ton of plays at the line of scrimmage. Carroll has to be impressed with what he's seen up front shutting down opposing rushing attacks thus far.
- Continuing to play at an elite level, Wagner and Wright stuffed the stat sheet for the Seahawks, combining to produce 19 tackles, two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, and a pass defensed. But the Seahawks have to figure out how they’ll move forward short-term without rookie Jordyn Brooks, who could miss a couple weeks with an MCL sprain. Cody Barton will likely be next in line, but if the coaching staff was paying close attention to the final drive, it might not be a bad idea to consider Griffin for the SAM role. He looked really good flying all over the field throughout that drive, making an excellent open field tackle on Ezekiel Elliott, hitting Prescott once, and deflecting a pass intended for Cedrick Wilson. He’s one of the fastest defensive players the Seahawks have and given his motor and toughness, they need to find a way to play him in some capacity.
- It’s hard to find many positives with how Seattle’s secondary has played considering all of the yardage and explosive plays surrendered through three weeks. This group has far too much talent to keep getting burnt to a crisp like this every single week and injuries have certainly been part of the problem, but giving up 28-plus yard receptions to five different receivers is inexcusable, regardless of the talent Dallas has at the receiving positions. Kudos to Ugo Amadi for being the one consistent bright spot on Sunday. Stepping in and playing more than 80 percent of Seattle’s defensive snaps at slot corner, the second-year player was all over the field in coverage and as a run defender, recording seven tackles and making two pass deflections. He also made a critical play that didn’t show up in the box score, stopping tight end Noah Brown just short of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt midway through the fourth quarter to keep Seattle in front 30-28. There’s so much to clean up in the back half of the Seahawks defense, but Carroll and his staff should feel very good about Amadi's stellar play, as he looks far more comfortable in the slot than he did as a rookie.
- As has been the case all season, Seattle’s special teams units remained a key part of a victory. Jason Myers didn’t miss any field goals or extra points. Michael Dickson was launching booming punts, and even though a few of them rolled into the end zone for touchbacks, he’s back to his rookie form astonishing with the way he’s able to get pin opponents deep in their own territory. The kick and punt coverage teams did a good job keeping CeeDee Lamb and Wilson in check for the most part, allowing Seattle to dominate the field position game all afternoon. The Cowboys had four possessions start inside their own 20-yard line, while the Seahawks only had one.