By Jay Betsill
The Dallas Cowboys opened the season in front of a national television audience by providing a statement that they were the new and improved America’s Team by defeating the Super Bowl champion New York Giants on the road. Act II of the 2012 campaign was a resounding thud as they failed to capitalize on any momentum they may have had after 11 days off en route to a 27-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
The game took a bad turn for Dallas (1-1) as Felix Jones continued his less-than-stellar play in his contract year by fumbling the opening kickoff that led to a field goal for Seattle. The Cowboys special teams struggles continued when Chris Jones had his punt blocked and returned for a touchdown. Before some fans in the notoriously loud stadium were even in their seats, Seattle was staked to a 10-0 lead. Running back Marshawn Lynch earned his nickname “The Beast” as he rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown while the Seahawks offensive line manhandled the Dallas defense at the line of scrimmage. The icing on the cake for the Cowboys special teams occurred late in the game when they were flagged for 12-men on the field in the fourth quarter, leading to the Seahawks converting a fourth-and-1 rather than punting back to Dallas.
The play that truly defined how the Seahawks outmuscled the Cowboys occurred in the fourth quarter when Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate curled around, lined up and absolutely de-cleated Dallas linebacker Sean Lee with a vicious hit that while it did not draw a penalty flag from the replacement referees, will undoubtedly draw a fine from the league office. Lee would return five snaps later, but a SportsCenter highlight was already sealed.
“We stuck with our game plan: Run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, and eventually they’re going to get tired,” Tate said. “Our motto is play longer and harder than they can and then it started opening up in the pass game.”
Tony Romo finished 23 of 40 for 251 yards and one touchdown to Miles Austin. Running back DeMarco Murray was held to just 44 yards on 12 carries and tight end Jason Witten had several key drops. Dallas was trying to open the season with consecutive wins for the first time since the 2008 season. Now the Cowboys return to Arlington for their home opener to battle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while trying to figure out if they are going to resemble the team that thrived against the Giants in the season opener or the one that self-destructed in Seattle.
“This is a disappointment to us and an example to us about how to play at home,” Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. “I just thought we could, even though we started behind the eight ball, I thought we could come back and not only make this a game, but come out positive. But they had a lot to say about that. Their coaching and their preparation had a lot to say about what’s ended up right here. We’ll just learn from this, and we all know we’re just starting.”
Tampa Bay (1-1) will be traveling to Cowboys Stadium dealing with some adversity of their own. Where the Cowboys were soundly beaten by Seattle, the Bucs had the game in control after three first half interceptions of Eli Manning gave them a 24-13 lead. The second half was a different story for Manning and Tampa Bay as the Giants’ quarterback would end the game completing 31 of 51 passes for 510 yards and three touchdowns. 295 yards passing came in the second half, tying for the eighth most in NFL history and coming up three yards short of Phil Simms’ club record. Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns, contributed to the Giants comeback with two interceptions in the second half.
Look for the Cowboys to be active in the passing game on the heels of Manning’s near-record performance in slicing up the Bucs secondary. Meanwhile the defense will have to contain Bucs 6’0, 247-pound running back LeGarrette Blount with more success than they had against the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch.