Monday, November 02, 2009

Spreading the wealth: Dal 38, Sea 17

Dallas will have a chance to redeem themselves for last season's embarrassment in Philadelphia, but if the Cowboys play to the level they played in a walk-thru victory against the Seahawks, it could be another unfortunate ending at the Linc. Five different Cowboys scored touchdowns in the 38-17 win over Seattle on Sunday, but there were several "oh what the hell" where Romo and company did not look the part of a team capable of claiming the outright lead in the NFC East next weekend.

The Cowboys put the ball on the turf several times, but were fortunate to recover all but one time. The sole lost fumble resulted in the Seahawks taking over inside the 10 yard line and cashing in for a touchdown two plays later. The running game looked sluggish all day, as if Marion Barber and crew had a foot stuck in a bucket during the contest.

But because it was Seattle, the Cowboys rolled to a no-doubt victory for the second straight year.

A triumph next week against the Eagles will require a much more complete game to erase the memories of the embarrassing 44-6 loss that ended the Cowboys 2008 campaign. For that to happen, Tony Romo will need to continue his trend of taking care of the football, and the defense must continue to create turnovers.

The Cowboys were +1 in the turnover ratio on Sunday. Dallas now has eight forced fumbles with five recovered to go along with four interceptions. The ball-hawking Eagles have 14 picks on the year (2nd most in the NFL) with eight forced fumbles, seven of which they recovered. The Eagles will work to take the ball away. The Cowboys must not only protect it on offense and special teams, but the defense has to at least keep the turnover ratio even if not win the turnover battle outright.

It'll be a Sunday night showdown at Lincoln Financial Field. The last time the Cowboys faced the Eagles on Sunday night in Philly, Dallas emptied the seats early, taking a 21-7 lead in the second quarter and the route was on. In fact, the Cowboys and Eagles frequently meet on Sunday night, with the Cowboys winning the 2008 home-opener battle as well.

The win over the Seahawks wasn't nearly as impressive as it was necessary. The Cowboys have to win the games they're supposed to win in this 2009 quest to return to the playoffs and actually win a game. A few more thoughts on the second Seahawk stuffing in the last two years:

+ Quarterback Tony Romo spread around the ball to 10 different receivers in completing 21 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Heck, he even completed a pass to a Kevin Ogletree for 19 yards. And for the third straight game, Romo went without an interception, the first time in his career he went mistake free for three straight games. There were ugly moments, however, against the Seahawks. At one point, Romo faked a handoff to no one, and his fumble in the fourth quarter set up a gift touchdown for Seattle.

+ The receiving corps - the entire receiving corps - got in on the action on Sunday. Roy Williams, Miles Austin and even Sam Hurd grabbed TDs, and Patrick Crayton ran back a punt for a score for the second straight week. When games like this happen, it can help to force opposing defenses to respect all of Romo's options, and let's not forget Jason Witten. If Miles Austin is left one-on-one, he can win a foot race to a deep ball. Roy Williams has had some trouble hanging onto the ball, but drops are forgivable if #11 can come up with big plays on a clutch 3rd down. As for Hurd, he did a great job to maintain his balance and turn the corner to get into the open field. Poor tackling by the Seahawks secondary allowed him to get into the end zone.

+ Keeping with the receivers, Mile Austin really needs to work on his touchdown celebrations. His attempted dunk over the crossbar isn't quite on par with the Cowboys former top wideout #81.

+ Bobby Carpenter ran right through the Seattle o-line for a sack, his first sack since 2006. He now has a whopping 2.5 career sacks since being selected in the first round four years ago. Thanks, Bill.

+ It was nice seeing Julius Jones again. The former Cowboys second-round pick ran 15 times for 56 yards in his second game in Dallas since signing with Seattle before the 2008 season.

+ Not nearly as many penalties in this game compared to previous games this season. The Cowboys were flagged five times for 43 yards. Here's a look at the Cowboys penalty issues from the first seven games this season:

Sept. 13@ Tampa BayW 34-21441
Sept. 20New York GiantsL 33-31450
Sept. 28CarolinaW 21-7980
Oct. 4@ DenverL 17-10770
Oct. 11@ Kansas CityW 26-201390
Oct. 25AtlantaW 37-21850
Nov. 1SeattleW 38-17543

After a four-game stretch of ugliness in the penalties department, the Cowboys look to be a little more under control. They'll need to keep that up in Philly next week.

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