Sunday, the Seahawks travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys for the second year in a row. Most fans and analysts alike consider this to be a must win game if the Seahawks continue to have any realistic hopes of making the playoffs. Here's some keys to the game that can spell the difference between a win, a close game either way, or a complete rout. Remember that on any given Sunday, anyone can win so it's not hopeless. These are the specific battles I think the team needs to win to close out the deal Sunday.
1) Our defense held the high powered Cardinal's offense to 3 points over almost 3 quarters of play in the last game. If they can similarly hold the Cowboys, it will once again be up to our offense to put some points on the board in order to have a chance. If we can't do that, it doesn't matter how good our defense plays. We have to score some points this week.
2) We can't let ourselves get in a hole right off the bat. If we can avoid that, we have a chance. The Seahawks aren't a strong enough team to come from behind on a good team and the Cowboys are a good team. We can't let them put us in a position where we have to abandon our game plan in the first quarter because we're already down a couple of touchdowns.
3) McIntosh won't be able to handle Ware by himself. The Seahawks need to have a plan to help him out and keep Hass from getting creamed. Either one of the backs will have to help out or we may have to run some double tight end sets in order to get extra blocking help on the Cowboy's premium pass rusher. If we don't have a plan to contain Ware, we may lose our quarterback or at the least see a repeat of the Cardinal's game from our offense.
4) We have to get pressure on Romo. Romo has statistics generated over his three seasons that clearly show that he's a different player when pressured or in a highly showcased game than when he's comfortable and loose and has the time to find his receivers. His quarterback rating is in the low 70's when he's under pressure or in a Nationally televised game and close to 100 when he's in his comfort zone. He also had a low 70's rating in the fourth quarter as opposed to a high 90's rating in the first three quarters over his career. He's phenomenally hot in the third quarter. If we can keep him under pressure, he will make bad decisions and be an ordinary quarterback. If we let him get comfortable, he'll shred our defense. Simple as that. We also need to get to the fourth quarter and still be in the game when his tendency is to not be as good at decision making and when his performance normally falters.
5) Our offensive line has to give Hasselbeck time to set up and throw. In the Cardinal's game, he was under severe pressure the whole game and as a result, we only crossed midfield a couple times in the whole contest let alone made it to the red zone. Our running backs couldn't get a hand-off and take a couple steps towards the hole before being met by defenders for the most part. That was all a direct result of poor offensive line play. McIntosh, Sims, Spencer, Unger, and Willis have to step up and control the line of scrimmage and not let themselves be pushed back into the offensive backfield where they greatly cut down the space in which Hasselbeck needs to operate. Dallas has a very good defensive front seven and it will be a difficult chore for our offensive line to beat them but we can hope that having our backs to the wall will provide the extra motivation needed to win that battle.
6) Our skill players need to step up and make plays when the "moment of truth" that Mora talks about arrives. That is the moment that the ball arrives to the receiver/defensive back and one or the other will make the play on the ball. That is the moment when the running back sees a hole and makes his cut and either he'll get through it for a gain or a linebacker or safety will make the play and deny him the yardage. When that moment of truth comes, our players need to make the catch or hit the hole and get through and not let Dallas control the moment. Jones needs to run with that huge chip on his shoulder and show Dallas what they traded away.
All in all, we have to play a near perfect game to come away with a win or Dallas has to fall flat. I wouldn't count on the latter judging by the Cowboy's last game. It certainly looks as if they've hit their stride. It's possible that the Cowboys will be overlooking the Seahawks with their less than stellar 2 - 4 record but I wouldn't count on that happening either. Our team should come into this game with a lot more confidence since we've gotten some of our best players back in the lineup. That coupled with a sense of urgency will hopefully provide the spark needed to get our team back on track. Colin Cole said on KJR this week that the Seahawks are well aware of their place in the league and how important the next three games are to their season aspirations of getting to the playoffs. If the Seahawks lose, it won't be because they don't understand the situation.
I'm looking for a hard fought game with the Seahawks giving as much as they get proving that injuries were the main cause of the team's inability to compete early in the season previous to the bye. I look for a team more closely oriented to the one we saw on opening day than the one we saw last game against the Cardinals to take the field against the Cowboys. Maybe it's the eternal optimist in me but I think the team will be ready to face this challenge and should give a good accounting of themselves. Go Hawks!