Sat, 31 Oct 2020

Big Picture: 5 Storylines for Cowboys & Seahawks

Dallas Cowboys
23 Sep 2020, 20:24 GMT+10

Kyle Youmans

The way that the 2020 NFL schedule was constructed, there were going to be plenty of storylines that emerged this past Sunday regardless of if the Cowboys beat the Falcons or the Seahawks beat the Patriots. Both teams just happened to be on the winning side of the two best games across Week 2 and have high-powered offenses that are led by two top NFL quarterbacks.

This week, they clash in a game where the victor could easily be vaulted right into the 'Super Bowl contender' conversation. Here are some of the key storylines for each team.

Seahawks Texas' own L.J. Collier played the part of hero for the Seahawks during Sunday's win over the Patriots. The Munday native and second-year TCU product made his second career start on Sunday but it was what happened at the end of the game that made him the savior. With a five-point lead and two seconds left the play, the Seattle defense was tasked with stopping Cam Newton and the New England offense for one goal line try. Newton took the direct snap and ran left, away from linebacker Bobby Wagner, where Collier stepped up, plugged the hole to secure the stop (and the win) for Seattle. Playing in Seattle can be one of the more challenging tasks for an NFL team to overcome. The '12th Man' at CenturyLink Field is known for some of the loudest fans and overall disorienting environments in all of football. However, for the first three home games of the 2020 season, the Seahawks have prohibited fans from attending due to Covid-19 concerns and local public health guidelines. Since the opening of CenturyLink Field in 2002, the Cowboys have won just two games in six tries when the '12th Man' is in attendance but won't have to worry about that on Sunday. Through the first two weekends of the NFL season, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is playing at an MVP level. Through his first two games, he leads all NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage (82.5), passing touchdowns (9), and quarterback rating (140.0) all while throwing just one interception that was off a tipped pass. A stunning stat surrounding Wilson that was unearthed this offseason was the fact that he has never received a vote for MVP in his eight-year career. Should he continue on his current path, he could not only secure his first vote, but win the whole thing. Sunday will mark the first meeting between Pete Carroll and Mike McCarthy since 2018 and the eighth game overall (Carroll leads 4-3). The connection with the two Super Bowl winners stems all the way back to infamous 2012 "Fail Mary" game when rookie Russell Wilson's last-second heave was caught by both the Seahawks Golden Tate and Packers M.D. Jennings to end the game. The controversial play was then called both a touchdown and an interception by a pair of replacement officials due to the 2012 NFL referee lockout. Seattle was ruled the winners of that memorable game and Carroll secured the first three meetings between the two coaches. While the storylines ran wild surrounding Jamal Adams and his 'inevitable' return to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, reality set in as he was instead traded to the Seahawks this July. This week, Adams gets his first shot at his hometown team since joining Seattle, while he comes in with 22 combined tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and as the 25th highest graded safety (PFF). Cowboys Dallas is fresh off their historic comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. Dak Prescott threw for 450 yards for just the third time in his career, Ezekiel Elliott had his second straight week with over 100 all-purpose yards, and the Cowboys offense overcame 3 early turnovers to erase a 20-point deficit. The defense allowed 39 points, but it was truly a game that included mistakes from Dallas in all three phases. Most notably special teams after failing to convert on two separate fake punts, both on the Cowboys side of the 50-yard-line. Luckily, the special teams unit came through late with an onside kick recovery and the game winning field goal, but it's a heavy point of emphasis for the coaching staff to clean things up moving forward. Much like Wilson, Dak Prescott also played at an extremely high level in his first two contests. While the passing touchdown number (2) doesn't jump off the page, his completion percentage is at a career-high pace and he ranks third in the league in passing yards (716). Prescott also set multiple records in Week 2 as he became the first player in NFL history to throw for 400-plus yards and run for three touchdowns in the same game. 312 of those passing yards came in the second half alone. Tyron Smith was a Week 2 inactive as the future hall of famer dealt with stingers in his neck all last week. The one-week patch job was done by Brandon Knight and Terrence Steele at the tackle positions despite the Cowboys looking elsewhere for other options. Following a mid-week meeting with Ron Leary, a deal with the veteran reportedly fell through and no outside help is on the way at the moment for the offensive line. Smith is expected to be back in the lineup this week as his scratch was more of a precautionary decision. It took until the fourth quarter of Sunday's matchup with the Falcons for the Cowboys to record a sack of Matt Ryan, as the frustration surrounding the lack of pass rush grows. The Cowboys currently sit 23rd of 32 NFL pass rush grades according to Pro Football Focus after mustering just 23 pressure and two sacks through the first two games. After an offseason with the additions of Everson Griffen, Aldon Smith, Dontari Poe, and Neville Gallimore, the defensive line looked to be revamped and poised to be a key to the Dallas defense. Right now, the expectations have not been met and the defensive front has left much to be desired entering Week 3. The conclusion of Sunday's game with Seattle will mark a three-game streak of Dallas facing an organization that has either won or been to a Super Bowl with their current head coach. Not to mention, all three teams have established quarterbacks, a top wide receiver, and a notable playmaker on defense to game plan against. The early gauntlet for McCarthy early serves as a benchmark to the pre-season expectations placed on the Cowboys as they navigate to a lighter part of the schedule.

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