MMQB: Cowboys 34, Seahawks 9

More many people, Thanksgiving dinner is traditionally turkey. For those people who call themselves Seahawk fans, they were subjected to an extra helping of turkey: the Seahawks play against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.

Seattle Seahawks 9, Dallas Cowboys 34
Texas Stadium, Irving, TX
November 27th, 2008

Handouts to the Standouts: TE John Carlson had the best game of his short career, catching 6 passes for 105 yards… K Olindo Mare did a good job on kickoffs and earned his money kicking field goals… ST Specialist Lance Laury made a couple big tackles for the special teams unit… Seattle did a good job at stopping the run until the game was out of reach, successfully containing Dallas RB Marion Barber… Really, I can't think of anyone else who played a strong game…

Today's Turkeys: The entire offensive line was simply terrible, even Walter Jones yielded two of DeMarcus Ware's three sacks... CB Marcus Trufant did an excellent job the past two weeks, but was torched against Terrell Owens this week… Julius Jones ran for a full 3.5 YPC and fumbled twice, losing one of them… Another week, another couple of drops by the Seahawks… The defense did a good job of pressuring QB Tony Romo, but failed to finish the job, as Romo escaped several sacks… This was a terrible performance where Seattle was beaten in every aspect of the game…

Referee Report Card: There were definitely some mistakes made. Seattle seemed to be held to a higher standard of discipline than Dallas. The "illegal hands to the face" on Josh Wilson was splitting hairs at best, and while the pass interference penalty on Trufant was legitimate, Dallas got away with similar contact by their defensive backs. They did an acceptable job, but there are definitely better crews.

Offense: So much for Julius Jones' big game against his former team. The Cowboys held Jones in check, which isn't exactly a rarity, but Jones fumbled twice, which is surprising, since Jones isn't a fumbler. While the sample size is undoubtedly too small to form any solid conclusions, it is plausible that Jones psyched himself out in this game and his play suffered because of it.

That the offensive line turned in their worst performance of the year on both sides of the ball did not help Jones any. Or any other member of the Seahawks offense. Terrible only goes so far in describing the performance that likely ruined more than one appetite. Hasselbeck was knocked down one in every four pass attempts and sacked an astounding seven times. Even Walter Jones, who has played well this year, yielded two sacks to pass-rush-extraordinaire DeMarcus Ware. That Jones gave up two sacks is a little disconcerting, simply because Walter Jones doesn't do that very often, but more worrisome is that he was beaten by pure speed. That is likely to get worse, and while Jones can still play LT at a pretty high level, the team would be wise to gauge Jones' reaction to playing RT as his career winds down.

Since we're on the subject of careers, please explain to me what Hasselbeck is doing out there? I can understand starting the game with him at quarterback, because he does bring an element of skill to the team that nobody else does. But after halftime, with the offensive line playing terribly, the running game going nowhere, receivers dropping passes… what was there to gain by keeping Hasselbeck in there? Overall Hasselbeck played very well with the pieces handed to him, but he took several brutal hits that make you wonder why Seneca didn't come in for half the game.

Speaking of half the game, I was surprised to notice how little difference Steve Vallos at Center made from Spencer at center. I am not a big fan of Vallos, and while I don't think Spencer is great by any means, I'm impressed that Vallos only allowed once sack… which says it all when talking about lowered expectations. Aside from him missing a blitz pickup, I barely noticed Vallos, which is generally a positive. Things didn't improve for the team as a whole, however, so I can't say I was impressed either.

Defense: One of the supposed benefits of having a group of undersized linebackers is that they are supposed to be better in coverage than their larger brethren. Does that sound like our Linebackers right now? Lofa is normally among the best in the league with his coverage but allowed at least three receptions due to not being deep enough in his zone. LeRoy Hill, Julian Peterson, and DD Lewis were all burnt in coverage as well. Frank Hughes of the Tacoma Tribune reported some remarks by the defense that could be interpreted as criticism of the defensive scheme, which just means that the players are saying now what astute Seahawk fans were saying in 2006: John Marshall does not utilize his players well at all.

The one positive thing that can be said about this Thanksgiving matchup is that Romo got hit. Romo consistently got rid of the ball just before getting drilled, and while I'd love some of those "hits" to become "sacks", it is refreshing to see Seahawks flying into Quarterbacks instead of just waving their hands in the air. We made Romo pay for the 300 yards he got against Seattle, and while a moral victory is still a loss in the standings, this season Seahawk fans are reduced to finding the silver linings in 34-to-9 drubbings.

Seattle has played Terrell Owens several times. He's not a new player, there are years and years of film that will tell Seattle exactly what Owens is and isn't capable of. Anyone with eyes can see that Owens is among the strongest wide receivers in the league, and that he has some speed as well. This makes some of the coverage decisions on Owens absolutely mystifying to witness. Why jam Owens with 5'9 Josh Wilson, who gives up half a foot and some 30 pounds to the veteran wide-out? By the same token, why do you leave Linebacker Julian Peterson alone in coverage against Owens? It isn't just that Seattle's defense is terrible, but the way Seattle plays defense is maddening. There seems to be no adjustment to personnel, either to increase our performance or decrease theirs, on a consistent basis. The 4-man-coverage on Steve Smith in the 2005 NFC Championship game only excuses so much, and John Marshall long since used up the credibility that provided.

Special Teams: For the first time since the New York Giants game, KR/PR Josh Wilson did not rip off a "can you believe it" type of return. By no means did he play poorly, but the level of excellence we've become accustomed to on kickoff returns wasn't there, despite Dallas kicking off seven times this game. Overall, though, the unit played fairly poorly, with Olindo Mare and Lance Laury the only bright spots.

Summary: Well, perhaps I criticized Holmgren too soon. No doubt a terrible game, but there were a few changes. Chris Spencer was finally pulled for C Steve Vallos, at least, and TE John Carlson was involved in the passing game. It is a subtle change in philosophy, but there is some sign that Holmgren is trying new things, either in an attempt to win, or an attempt to play youth without appearing like he is quitting on the remaining games. Either way, it is a step in the right direction.

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