ReFo: Cowboys @ Seahawks, Week 2

| September 18, 2012

Most expected the Dallas Cowboys to come through Week 2 with a 2-0 record, in fact, just one PFF analyst picked against them. After outdueling the defending Super Bowl champions on opening night, and seeing their Week 2 opponents lose to the Arizona Cardinals, it was almost elementary. Instead it was the Seattle Seahawks that came out on top, convincingly, in a 27-7 game.

Aided by a blocked punt, the Seahawks jumped out on Dallas for an early 10-0 lead and never looked back, as the offense took care of the ball and controlled possession and the defense never allowed the Cowboys’ explosive offense to get in rhythm.

This result generates many questions: should expectations be tempered once again in ‘Big D’ or was this just a case of the Cowboys overlooking an opponent led by a rookie QB? Is the much maligned NFC West suddenly better than we all thought? And can the Seahawks make a run at a playoff berth? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, here are some of the factors that led to a big Seattle win.

Dallas – Three Performances of Note

Back on the ‘Romocoaster’

Coming off of what many considered the best game of his career, Tony Romo (+0.1) came back down to earth with a Week 2 effort that can be described in much the same manner as his entire career; inconsistent. Romo made his usual number of spectacular plays, often eluding pressure and extending plays, as he completed 57% percent of his passes and was sacked just once on his 15 drop backs under pressure. But there were also many errors that prevented the Dallas offense from getting in any kind of rhythm. These mistakes consisted overthrows of open receivers or Romo failing to see defenders, or read the coverage properly, throwing one interception and at least two others  that should have been picked off. Many of these mistakes came on short throws in the middle of the field, throws that shouldn’t be difficult for quarterbacks of Romo’s quality to make. Some plays failed simply because he wasn’t on the same page as his receivers.

Speaking of his receivers, the group deserves its own share of blame for these mis-communications, as well as a number of dropped passes. Dez Bryant (-3.3) was particularly bad, catching just 3-of-7 balls thrown his way with a drop and a fumble, while Jason Witten added three dropped passes of his own.

Smith Struggles

Through two games it’s looking like Tryon Smith may not be suited to the left side after all. Following a game in which he received a grade of -3.1, Smith was even worse on Sunday, earning himself an overall -5.2. In the passing game, Smith had troubling handling the Seahawks’ defensive line and was beaten multiple times around the edge, largely by Chris Clemons (+3.9 rushing the passer), allowing three hurries and a hit. His effort in the run game was not much better as he failed to get any push and also picked up a holding penalty. The Cowboys hope that Smith will improve as he gets more comfortable on the left side and he has had to face two of the better pass rushing teams in the league so far, but things won’t be getting easier with the defensive fronts in the NFC East. If his struggles continue next week against Tampa Bay and Adrian Clayborn, who was hasn’t been sharp in his first two games, the thought of moving Smith back to RT where he excelled last season may start crossing minds in Dallas.

Strong Up Front

Though Seattle scored 27 points, the Dallas defense didn’t have the same issues as their offense. One strong performance came from Sean Lee (+2.0), who contributed eight stops against the run, part of his 14 overall tackles. Going back to last season, Lee just always seems to be in the right spot and involved in nearly every play. Not to be overlooked is his toughness; after taking a big blindside hit from Golden Tate – a hit that went un-penalized – Lee was right back in the game after a few snaps. This was fortunate for Dallas because Dan Connor did not look up to the task of replacing Lee in his 11 snaps played. On the other hand, Victor Butler (+1.1) looks like he deserves increased playing time on the outside, following his strong performance in limited duty.

While he was uncharacteristically quiet rushing the passer, Demarcus Ware also put in a good effort against the run, earning him a grade of +1.1 in that area.  The Dallas defensive line looked strong as well with only Marcus Spears grading in the red.

Seattle – Three Performances of Note

Feed Marshawn Lynch the Ball

In Week 1 Marshawn Lynch didn’t have his best day, held to just 85 yards with a fumble. Against Dallas, Lynch (+1.4) bounced back in a big way and was one of the main reasons Seattle had a 10-minute advantage in time of possession. The numbers, 26 carries for 122 yards and a TD seem good, though not spectacular. Consider, however, that of those 122 yards, 103 came after initial contact. This contributes to an Elusive Rating of 121.9. If unfamiliar with this Signature Stat, last year Jonathan Stewart led the league with a rating of 81.4, so Lynch’s mark is extremely good. Lynch was especially impressive running between his right guard and right tackle, with five carries for 51 yards through this gap. Credit RT Breno Giacomini, who played every snap and was the only lineman to receive a positive grade for his run blocking.

Efficient Passing Game

Though not spectacular, Russell Wilson (+3.0) was more than solid in just his second NFL start. Seattle didn’t ask a lot of its rookie QB, relying on the run and asking him to drop back and pass just 25 times, but Wilson was efficient when he was asked to throw the ball, completing 15-of-20 passes, the bulk of which were over the middle of the field. Of those 20 passes, just seven were thrown beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Where Wilson was most impressive was in his ability to extend plays with his legs, very similar to what Romo does so effectively, and make accurate throws downfield. As we’ve also seen with Romo, extending the play doesn’t do a whole lot if the throw is a poor decision or off target.

As for Wilson’s targets, six different receivers caught passes led by Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and TE Anthony McCoy. All three players caught at least three passes and graded positively for their efforts. There were also no dropped passes, an improvement over Week 1 in which the receivers combined to drop three.

Second-Year Stud

With many fine performances in a great overall defensive effort, no one stood out more than second year LB K.J. Wright. Whether in coverage, where he defended two passes and allowed just five receptions on nine targets, or against the run, where he picked up two stops, Wright was all over the field. He even rushed the passer seven times, hurrying the QB once. All of which led to this Seahawks defender receiving a grade of +3.0, the highest of any of the game’s defenders. Combined with the +2.4 he received in Week 1, Wright has already  nearly matched the overall grade for his rookie season (+5.7). Based on his first two games this year, I’d expect him to pass that mark sooner rather than later.

Game Notes

- Anthony Spencer rushed the passer just eight times, yet tallied two QB sacks and two additional hurries.

- The Seahawks used at least two tight ends on 40 of their 68 offensive snaps.

- Seattle might want to consider going to more single back sets: in 26 snaps, full back Michael Robinson received a grade of -1.9.

PFF Game Ball

It has to be Russell Wilson, who picked up his first win as a starter on Sunday, out-dueling Tony Romo with an efficient outing.

 

  • Keith Waters

    One of these days, Ken Pomeroy, the NFL and people who write about football are going to learn the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. I am not holding my breath.

  • Nathan

    What was the primary reason the Cowboy’s couldn’t stop the run?

    • John

      11 missed tackles. Lynch is certainly a load to bring down though.

  • Andrew

    I am curious about what made Tate’s block on Lee an illegal block in your opinion. As far as I can tell he was in front of Lee, he certainly hit him in the front.
    The only think I can think off is possibly helmet to helmet, but watching in slow motion it seems to me like Lee’s mask snaps down into Tate’s head rather than Tate driving up into it.
    I’m not looking to argue here, I’m just curious about your analysis. I feel like Lee took for granted that Tate was too small to block him, and paid for it in a violent and embarrassing fashion.

    • DP

      It’s illegal for a crackback blocker to hit a defenseless player in the head or neck. That is what Lee was, and that is what Tate did. Consider that Tate came up and through Lee’s face and left his feet. And somehow Dallas was flagged on that play for a very light touch on Wilson as he headed out of bounds.

      • DDrew

        The phantom touch on Wilson I’ll certainly give you as an example of a stupid penalty.
        However, If not looking in front of you makes you defenseless then I’ve got a new plan for kick and punt coverage: Sprint down-field with my eyes closed and open them when I’m past the blockers.
        Not to mention route running. You just need to keep your eyes closed past 5 yards and they can’t touch you!
        As far as head/neck go, watch it in slow motion and if you still think he’s hitting Lee’s head/neck area then I can’t do anything for you. I suggest switching to Rugby, where any tackle above the shoulders is illegal and blocking isn’t allowed.

    • http://twitter.com/PFF_Sam Sam Monson

      Helmet to helmet contact and he launched himself, it was a fairly textbook example of the kind of block they made illegal after years of Hines Ward use

    • neurocell

      First of all, it wasn’t a crackback block, a crackback has the offensive player running parallel to the line of scrimmage. Tate was running towards the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t a crackback.
      Secondly, Tate’s left foot is on the ground (it is really hard to see in the video), so he didn’t leave his feet. He did launch himself, but it’s the same as any player getting better leverage on a larger player.
      Tate did hit Sean Lee in the numbers, then his forehead hit Lee’s face mask. You really can’t get mad at a ref for throwing a flag on that, though it would’ve turned out to be incidental contact.
      Lee was defenseless, because he was not looking to where he was running. That is the only reason why this hit could be considered illegal.
      Consider one more piece of information; Lee said the hit was a good hit. How come all of Tate’s detractors don’t mention this? It was in Lee’s post game interview.
      It’s Wednesday, so we’ll find out if Tate gets fined soon enough.

      • DP

        so definitions and frame-by-frame viewing aside, you realize the NFL doesn’t care why Lee was defenseless or how his head was rocked, right?

  • Jon

    The blurb on the front says AFC West when you meant NFC West…

  • DS

    wondering about Richard Sherman, he is probably a tough guy to rate now. through two weeks he’s allowed pretty much nothing. looks to be getting that nnamdi treatment from a few years ago he just doesn’t get thrown at.

  • GoldenTaint

    Wooo! Wilson scores his second straight game of 150 yds and a TD and suddenly he’s Top 10.

  • http://sportdfw.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

    you really can’t put much stock in these ratings here, I mean Gosh, last year they had Marty Bennet ranked higher than Jason Witten lol. Iove how P Manning throws 3 picks loses a game and people make excuses for him. Romo has receivers running bad routes/not being where they are supposed to be and he made bad decisions. Yet only had 1 pick running for his life while P Manning has all day in the pocket. Things that make you go hmmmm. I guess these guys forgot to note that Romo is the 2nd most efficient passer off all time with a 96.9 career passer rating. Let’s see where Wilson ends up. If the Dallas Defense could have made the rookie play it would have been ugly. He got carried through the game because the Cowboys couldn’t contain Lynch.

  • http://twitter.com/DCBlueStar DC Blue Star

    Love all of your guys’ work, but really can’t take the first point seriously when Romo’s blamed for his WR/TEs ails… putting the “Romocoaster” on.