Greetings from CenturyLink Field, where several of the Seahawks already are on the field preparing for this afternoon’s home opener against the Cowboys.
The teams had vastly different outcomes in their season openers, as the Cowboys traveled to the Giants and beat the defending Super Bowl champions, while the Seahawks were able to generate only 16 points in a four-point loss to the Cardinals in Arizona.
Can you say pressure? The Seahawks do not want to slip to 0-2, not with the Packers coming to town for a “Monday Night Football” game on Sept. 24 and then a stretch where the Seahawks play four of their next five on the road – at St. Louis and Carolina, as well as San Francisco and Detroit. The home respite? That would be the New England Patriots on Oct. 14.
To avoid that you-know-what scenario, the Seahawks’ defense will have to contend with the running of DeMarco Murray, who had 131 yards against the Giants and 139 against the Seahawks in Week 9 last season; and the passing of Tony Romo, who has picked the Seahawks apart in their past three meetings (all wins, all in Texas) and added Kevin Ogletree (eight catches for 114 yards and two TDs against the Giants) to a productive group that already included Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten and wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. While the defense has played well, they’ve also been susceptible to two-minute drives and no-huddle schemes. Last week, Kevin Kolb came off the bench in the fourth quarter to complete 6-of-8 passes in leading the game-winning TD drive.
“Our rush was really good,” coordinator Gus Bradley said of the defensive effort last week. “We had batted balls (five by the linemen). We hit the quarterback (five times). So our D-line, I thought, did really a good job on that. It was more in the back end, just a communication thing.”
On offense, Russell Wilson makes his regular-season home debut and his blockers need to give the rookie better protection than they did in Arizona. The Seahawks’ best option remains Marshawn Lynch, the NFL’s leading rusher since that Week 9 game in Texas last season. Remember, the Seahawks’ offense is all about setting up the play-action pass with the running game. But to do that, you can’t fall behind. And when that happens, here comes DeMarcus Ware and all those sacks (two last week, 19.5 last season). And, Part II, Ware will lineup opposite left tackle Russell Okung on most snaps. Okung bruised a knee last week and was limited in practice during the week. The Cowboys added Morris Claiborne in the NFL Draft and Brandon Carr in free agency, and the new duo at cornerback allows D-coordinator Rob Ryan to dial up more press coverage. But Golden Tate returns to start at split end after sitting out the opener, so that gives Wilson another athletic target in the passing game.
“We have so much respect for Dallas’ defense,” Wilson said. “First of all, it starts with the defensive line – they have one of the best (pass-rushers) that’s ever played the game (Ware). So you really have to do a great job blocking him. Then their linebackers, the fly around, they’re very, very athletic, make plays, get a lot of tackles. So we’re going to have to break those tackles. In terms of the DBs, they’ve got a lot talent there, too. … Like every game, it’s going to come down to capitalizing.”
Then there’s the intangible element that comes with this afternoon’s games – defensive end Red Bryant, Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas, backup QB Matt Flynn, snapper Clint Gresham, linebacker Mike Morgan, cornerback Jeremy Lane and Okung are from Texas. So growing up, the Cowboys weren’t just America’s Team, they were their team.
“It always means something playing the Cowboys,” Bryant said. “I’m a Texas boy to my heart. Grew up loving the Cowboys. I’m not going to get outside of myself and my game playing them. I know I was really excited last year and wanted to do extremely well. Sometimes you can press. It’s just human nature. So I’m just going to rely on everything I’ve been working on. And just get after them.”
Sit back and enjoy today’s game, with kickoff set for 1:05 p.m., TV coverage on Fox (KCPQ/13) and radio coverage on 710 ESPN AM and 97.3 FM.