SEATTLE , WA (105.3 THE FAN) – A couple of days ago, as his then-1-0 team prepared for Sunday’s roadie at Seattle, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tried to explain how to find a balance between the joy of winning and the folly of over-celebrating.
So he paraphrased an old Merle Haggard tune.
“We’re not just drinkin’ that sweet Bubble-Up an eatin’ that Rainbow Stew!’’ Jones sing-songed.
Dallas was served neither delicacy in the 27-7 loss to the Seahawks, a game essentially decided when Seattle’s special teams scored 10 points in the first five minutes – more than the entire Cowboys squad would manage in 60 minutes.
“We made way too many mistakes, in every aspect of the game, to win,” said quarterback Tony Romo. “Obviously, we did not get off to the start that we wanted coming into what may be the toughest environment to play in the NFL. We stressed that this week, but we didn’t execute.’’
This team’s whipping guy, Felix Jones, earned a million eye rolls when he fumbled away the opening kickoff that led to three easy points. Then Jason Witten dropped the first of his handful of botched pass-catch attempts. Then Dallas allowed a blocked punt for a score. A Dez Bryant drop, a Tony Romo pick, another Witten drop, a fumbled shotgun snap ….
The better coaching staff overseeing the better talent with the benefit of 10 days to prepare – as was the case in Dallas-at-Seattle – should translate to victory. Instead, the Cowboys are now busying themselves working to make sure the fact that the breath has been knocked out of them is a permanent state.
It proved to be temporary for linebacker Sean Lee, the victim of a vicious and illegal crackback block by Seattle’s Golden Tate, a play that drew the wind from Dallas’ sail and served as a momentum-swinging point.
The Seahawks were up 20-7 early in the fourth quarter when Seattle’s rookie QB Russell Wilson ran left from the pocket. As Lee zeroed in on his target, Tate did the same – and administered a head-to-head blow to a defenseless player that is this year specifically a violation of the rules.
The stadium scoreboard showed the replay on almost continuous reel. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll celebrated to the point of taunting. Tate did the same.
“That’s part of the deal,” said Lee, who eventually re-entered the game after undergoing concussion testing. “He can celebrate all he wants. I bet if we went head-to-head and squared up, he probably wouldn’t be celebrating as much. That’s part of the deal. It’s part of football. Hits like that happen.’’
Oddly, the hit on the play that was flagged was a tap on Wilson’s back as he was crossing the sideline. Bruce Carter was assessed a 15-yard penalty for that – another dubious call – and suddenly the play that could’ve ended the drive instead was allowed to end the game when Marshawn Lynch eventually capped the long possession with a TD.
“I was looking for an explanation on why that wasn’t called as a defenseless player as that is something the league is trying to guard against and is a pretty good example of what that was,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
Blaming the zebras isn’t the top issue here, though, and Garrett knows it. The Cowboys’ defensive plan was to confuse and contain Wilson, and the plan (which kept DeMarcus Ware from harrassing a Seattle offensive line missing its best player) fell apart after the half, even with Wilson throwing just a total of 20 passes. Also part of coordinator Rob Ryan’s intention: Crowd Lynch. Eventually, that dam broke, too, as the Seahawks rushed for 182 yards on 41 carries, including 122 on 26 carries by Lynch.
In the second half, Dallas gave up clock-eating touchdown drives of 90 and 88 yards.
“If we continue to let that happen, we won’t be a very good defense,” Lee said. “This is obviously a step back. But finding a way to learn from it and move on is the only way we’re going to be the consistent defense that we’re looking for.”
The theme in the locker room? An insistence on the problem being one of “execution’’ rather than one of “focus,’’ “talent’’ or “physicality.’’
But, Witten said, “It’s unacceptable. You can’t have a big win on the road like (at the Giants) and then come back and play as bad as this. … That wasn’t Cowboys football.’’
Yeah, but in a sense, it is Cowboys football. This is a league full of teams that, at their essence, are 8-8 teams … trying to get a bounce to go right to break from 8-8. Dallas, at 1-1, is one of those many clubs.
And that’s why they’re not just drinkin’ that sweet Bubble-Up an eatin’ that Rainbow Stew.
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