October 13, 2014
Cowboys 30, Seahawks 23
3rd and 20.
Stop Dallas from converting a 3rd and 20, and you win. You win despite inexplicably giving Marshawn Lynch only 10 paltry carries. You win despite Russell Wilson having perhaps his worst performance yet at Seahawks Stadium. You win despite missing Byron Maxwell and Bobby Wagner on defense for large chunks of the game. You win despite the Legion of Boom appearing startlingly mortal.
The pass rush doesn't quite get to Tony Romo. He throws a perfect pass. Terrance Williams does the best Steve Largent impression I've seen in quite a while, BARELY dragging his toes in bounds. The drive stays alive, and Dallas goes on to score the go-ahead TD.
That's what roils and stings my insides about yesterday's game. We were INCHES away from stealing a win over an NFC contender who largely outplayed us. Yes, there were some questionable calls and non-calls by Bill Leavy and his crew, but Dallas deserved to beat us. Like San Diego a month ago, an opponent delivered their best performance of the season, and even then we had the ball with a chance to win or tie at the end of the game.
My biggest concerns coming out of this one? First, who will play corner opposite Richard Sherman while Byron Maxwell is out with a calf sprain? The secondary, which was the best unit in the NFL last season, now seems dangerously thin (on top of not playing at the same level as last season, even before the injuries started to mount). Second, Bobby Wagner evidently has turf toe, which felled Russell Okung for much of 2013 (Oh, by the way: Okung is playing with a torn labrum). If he's out for an extended period, the defense becomes dangerously vulnerable. The travails of the LOB remind me of that episode of Parks and Recreation where the flu is going around and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) freaks out.. “My body is like a microchip, and flu is like a grain of sand. It could literally shut down my whole system.” Over the next few weeks, we'll see if Seattle's defense can keep processing terabytes of data after being dropped into a sandbox (figuratively).
Falling to 3-2 changes the focus from winning home field advantage to merely winning the NFC West and avoiding the prospect of needing three road playoff wins to reach XLIX. Seattle's deeply odd schedule gives the Hawks a chance to win the West with a late surge (five of our last six games are against divisional foes), and it makes this Sunday's game at St. Louis crucial to keeping pace with the Niners and Cardinals. Realistically, Seattle needs to be 7-3 going into the final month-and-a-half to be in position to take the division. If the Hawks can steal two 10 am road games versus the Rams and Panthers in the coming fortnight, they'll be in great shape going into a brace of home games against the Giants and Raiders.
The next two games will tell us a lot about the Seahawks. I believe that they are fundamentally different from their franchise ancestors, who made a habit of dropping winnable road games with early kickoffs. I believe they will bounce back and start a winning streak, even though they've been caught flat-footed and gotten dictated to by the enemy in two of their last four games. It's worth pointing out that the Chargers and Cowboys might be two of the top 5 teams in the NFL this season, but we're not supposed to cede ground to ANYBODY in this league. To get where we want to be, we might have to beat both of those teams in January/February, and to prevail we'll have to deliver performances far beyond anything we've seen yet during this campaign.
I don't doubt that these Hawks can still play Championship football, but the margin of error is vanishing. St. Louis is a divisional foe, and one that is beatable, even as the Seahawks limp into town half-asleep this Sunday. The 2005 Seahawks started a 10-game winning streak with an October win at the Edward Jones Dome. Why can't the Emerald Empire do likewise? Go get it, boys.
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