The defending champ Seattle Seahawks provide an effective formula for winning championships. Currently they are first in the NFL in rushing and first in the NFL in defending the run. They also rarely turn the ball over. That along with a very vocal home crowd (unlike in Dallas!) make it very challenging for teams to leave Seattle with a win. Their fans hold Guinness world records for noise at about the 137db level so they don’t mess around when it comes to the 12th man stuff. That’s a little louder than a 747 taking off and nearly as loud as Texan fans in the Cowboys stadium last week.
Remember the last trip out there for Dallas in 2012 where it fell apart quickly for Dallas and Sean Lee got blindsided with a vicious block in the game?
Do the 4-1 Cowboys even have a chance to win this one? Maybe if Dallas plays a nearly perfect game, so to borrow a quote from the movie “Dumb and Dumber”, “So you’re sayin’ there is a chance!”.
Running the Ball:
So far Dallas has run the ball effectively with Murray behind a talented offensive line. In fact, the Cowboys are only second to the Seahawks in rushing yards per game. Dallas will likely want to stick to that winning formula of running Murray however the Seahawks are excellent at shutting down the run. The Seahawk defense only allows about 62 yards rushing a game which is far less than Dallas has been getting on the ground at 160 yards. The Seahawks will make stopping Murray a top priority.
Running the ball is going to be difficult for Dallas especially early in the game, however I think it is going to be important for them to not completely abandon it. But to score in this game, they will rely on Romo passing it.
As I mentioned earlier, the Seahawks simply take care of the ball better than any team in the NFL. Russell Wilson will not make mistakes that cost his team. Remarkably this season the Seahawks have only one turnover and that was an interception. They have committed 0 fumbles which is in sharp contrast to the Cowboys running back Murray who has four fumbles already this season. In addition Romo has thrown 5 interceptions for a total of 9 turnovers compared to 1 by the Seahawks.
Dallas committed 3 turnovers last week but over came then to defeat the Texans. I can not see them over coming three turnovers in Seattle. Murray must eliminate his weekly first quarter fumble and Romo must take care of the ball too.
Pass with patience and T.O.P.:
The Seahawks were defeated this season in a game at San Diego. Looking back at that loss, the Chargers dominated the time of possession that game. This season Dallas has dominated T.O.P. in all but one of their games.
The Chargers held the ball for a stingy 42:15 compared to just 17:45 for the Seahawks. But it wasn’t because they were running it that well as the Chargers only had 2.7 yards a rush but they kept at it to get 84 yards rushing.
What the Chargers did effectively on defense was hold Lynch to only 36 yards on 6 carries and made Wilson more of a passer than I believe the Seahawks prefer as he passed 25 times.
Offenses have had success passing the ball against the Seahawks particularly the shorter passes that basically substitute for running the ball. It will be critical that Romo and the offense not become impatient and try to get all the yardage in one play. Instead have a move the chains mentality in the passing game and chew the clock with drives. The Seahawk defense ranks only 22nd in passing yards allowed. Clearly they commit to stopping the run but allow underneath passing for short gains. Rivers passed for 284 yards on 28 completions with 3 TDs in their win.
Manning and the Broncos were probably a coin toss in overtime away from coming out of Seattle with a win and they used a similar strategy as the Chargers.
DALLAS GAME PLAN:
Stopping the run is priority one. Remember Wilson is an effective runner.
Make Wilson become a passer.
Blitz to pressure the passer.
Don’t abandon the run and become impatient when it isn’t working.
Take the short passes and consume the clock with drives.
Taking care of the ball is a top priority. Tuck that ball away Murray!
Expect it to be very loud. Trust your silent count and don’t panic.
I think the Cowboys best hope is to keep the game close and find a way to win at the end with a special teams play or rare turnover from Wilson. Becoming impatient will only lead to trouble. Make the Seahawks become impatient.