ReFo: Cowboys @ Seahawks, Week 6
Well that didn’t exactly go according to plan.
The Seattle Seahawks have looked unbeatable at home in recent years, but don’t tell that to the Dallas Cowboys who took it to them in the early going and came away with a 30-23 victory.
Dallas overcome a 10-point deficit after surrendering a field goal and having a punt blocked for a touchdown within the first eight minutes of the game, but they stuck with their new-found dedication to the running game, and the ground-and-pound style — combined with some timely third-down conversions — made for an efficient outing for the Cowboys’ offense. While the offense did their part, it was the defense that made a statement on a national stage as they held Seattle’s offense in check from start to finish.
As for the Seahawks, it’s certainly not panic time, and with a team still loaded with talent, a game like this is sure to bring out their best moving forward. They were uncharacteristically handled in their own building, but there is no time to sulk about their own homefield mortality. So instead of sulking, let’s take a look at some of the key performances from the game.
Dallas Cowboys – Performances of Note
Rolando McClain, ILB: +5.2
Breakdown: One of the season’s biggest surprises got even bigger on Sunday as McClain continued his strong play in the middle of the Dallas defense. He made an impact in all phases as he graded at +1.8 against the run, +2.5 in coverage, and +0.8 as a pass rusher with two hurries on his three rushes. He beat running back Marshawn Lynch for his two pressures and he continues to make enough plays in coverage to make people forget his first few years in the league.
Signature Plays: McClain’s game-clinching interception is his most notable play as he ran the seam and made a nice play on the ball to secure the turnover at the end of the game. But for those who love hard-nosed football, there wasn’t much better than watching him working downhill on fullback Derrick Coleman at the 4:46 mark of the third quarter, as McClain blew him up, re-directed the run, and shed the block to get in on the tackle.
Zack Martin, RG: +4.1 and Ronald Leary, LG: +2.1
Breakdown: It was a strong game for both guards, particularly in the running game. Both players played extremely well on the move, whether pulling out in front, or securing blocks at the second level. Martin and Leary were also solid in pass protection, combining to surrender three hurries on the day to go along with a Leary holding penalty. It’s a good sign for the Dallas offense as Martin has now posted his third straight game in the green while Leary is working on four straight positive grades of his own.
Signature Plays: Nothing sums up the guard play like watching Martin and Leary working in tandem out in front of the play. On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, together they pulled in front, discarded of strong safety Kam Chancellor, and then Martin peeled off the block to secure the backside by sealing linebacker K.J. Wright. It was a thing of beauty and it lead to an 8-yard gain in which running back DeMarco Murray didn’t even have to break stride.
Jeremy Mincey, DE: +3.1
Breakdown: For all the talk of Dallas being weak up front, Mincey has been a key cog in easing those concerns this season. He put in his best effort with a +2.0 pass rush grade and a +1.2 effort against the run. He finished with five hurries on his 24 rushes and added two stops in the running game.
Signature Plays: Mincey got inside LG James Carpenter at the 8:33 mark of the fourth quarter to force a Russell Wilson throwaway attempt that almost ended up in a Dallas interception. In the running game, he collapsed LT Russell Okung at the point of attack with 0:59 to go in the third quarter, forcing RB Marshawn Lynch to bounce outside into McClain’s waiting arms.
Seattle Seahawks – Performances of Note
Russell Wilson, QB: -2.4
Breakdown: The Seattle offense was out of sync throughout much of the game, and Wilson continued to play with fire with regard to taking care of the football, though he only had one turnover to show for it. First, the good, which included a pretty deep ball down the sideline on a rub route with 12:04 to go in the first quarter and then an absolute laser that somehow managed to get to WR Doug Baldwin’s hands, only to be tipped away by FS Barry Church at the end of Seattle’s first drive.
Beyond that, Wilson nearly turned over a few times, first when he fumbled unprompted on a scramble early in the first quarter. He then made two poor decisions, both while trying to make a play while in the grasp of the defense. He didn’t see LB Kyle Wilber and threw one right into his hands in order to avoid a sack at the 4:09 mark of the third quarter and then made a similarly poor choice when he tried to throw the ball away at the 8:33 mark of the fourth quarter but the ball didn’t get out of bounds and nearly landed in LB Justin Durant’s lap.
Signature Plays: While the near-interceptions were bad, Wilson’s final throw was his worst as he forced the ball down the seam to Luke Willson and into McClain’s waiting arms.
Brandon Mebane, DT: +2.3
Breakdown: Mebane’s battles with Cowboys center Travis Frederick went back and forth throughout the game and Mebane forced the Cowboys to adjust their game plan a bit. Mebane proved difficult for Frederick’s patented reach block that usually opens up the Dallas zone running attack. The Cowboys adjusted by running more to the outside and when they wanted to come back inside, Frederick pushed Mebane out of the way to set up the cutback rather than working around him for the difficult reach block. Overall, Mebane made a positive impact, both blowing up running plays, and forcing Dallas to make in-game adjustments.
Signature Plays: On near-identical plays at the 10:05 mark of the first quarter, then at the 9:12 mark of the second quarter, Mebane stood Frederick up at the point of attack and easily shed him for the tackle.
Richard Sherman, CB: +1.2
Breakdown: Speaking of fun battles, Sherman against WR Dez Bryant pitted two of the league’s best against each other. Bryant was targeted five times when lined up against Sherman, catching two passes for 39 yards and while also drawing a pass interference penalty. Bryant lost Sherman on the crossing route with 1:10 to go in the second quarter and later outmuscled him for a 16-yard gain on a back shoulder throw with 6:55 to go in the game. Sherman won his fair share as well, even doing so from an unfamiliar spot at right cornerback. He was draped all over Bryant on an errant third down pass by QB Tony Romo early in the third quarter. It was fun back-and-forth battle between two superstars.
Signature Stat: Sherman lined up at RCB on 27 snaps, the most he’s done so since Week 15 of 2012. He lined up there on just three snaps last season.
PFF Game Ball
Rolando McClain was on his way to a strong game, but his game-ending interception clinched both the game and the PFF Game Ball all at the same time.
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