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Monday metatarsal musings

Posted Nov 7, 2011

Or footnotes: A look at three things that worked in the Seahawks' loss to the Cowboys on Sunday and three things that need work as they prepare for this week's game against the Ravens.


Marshawn Lynch rushes for 135 yards and a 5.9-yard average. DeMarcus Ware is held without a sack for only the second time this season. The fans at Cowboys Stadium boo their offense – and their quarterback – off the field after two of the Cowboys’ first three possessions.

This trio of events adds up to another upset victory over another NFC East opponents on the road for the Seahawks, right?

Not on this given Sunday, when things that had been a given for the Seahawks were left in the locker room.

So instead of a yee-haw victory, the Seahawks absorbed another I-don’t-believe-what-I-just-saw loss. This time it was 23-13, as they reached the midway point of Pete Carroll’s second season as coach at 2-6 and having lost three in a row.

The run defense that had been allowing a league-best average of 3.2 yards per carry? Cowboys rookie DeMarco Murray averaged 6.3 while running for 139 yards – not only the first triple-digit rusher against the Seahawks this season, but a total that matches the most rushing yards surrendered to an entire in the first seven games.

“I was really disappointed they ran the football like they did. That just has not happened to us with any consistency at all,” Carroll said. “The way it felt was like we just could not tackle Murray. We missed him time and again.”

The return of Tarvaris Jackson as the starting QB after sitting out the game against the Browns in Cleveland two weeks ago because of a strained pectoral in his throwing shoulder and then coming on in relief of Charlie Whitehurst last week? Jackson threw three interceptions, after throwing six in his first six games.

“I had three turnovers and that’s just unacceptable,” Jackson said. “I just feel very sick with how I played.”

The emphasis on reducing penalties? The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for a season-high 88 wrong-way yards.

“Well, this is a classic game where a football team goes out and plays real hard and does their stuff and then makes the mistakes that put you in the loss column,” Carroll said. “And it started with the penalties, and the turnovers will be the story.”

With that said, here’s a look at three things that worked against the Cowboys and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for this week’s game against a 6-2 Baltimore Ravens team at CenturyLink Field:

WHAT WORKED

The running game, and the offensive line The Seahawks emphasized getting the running game going during the week after seeing the Eagles rush for 239 yards against the Cowboys the previous week. Sunday, they preached what they had practiced. Their 162 rushing yards and 5.4-yard average were not only season highs but their best regular-season marks in the past two seasons.

In addition to opening holes for Lynch, and often running right at Ware to defuse his ability to run down plays, the Seahawks also held the Cowboys’ pass-rusher supreme without a sack for only the second time this season.

The line has taken its share of the blame for the growing pains that have fed the offensive struggles, so it deserves ample credit for what happened against the Cowboys – from tackles Russell Okung and James Carpenter; to guards Robert Gallery and John Moffitt; to center Max Unger; to tight ends Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy

“Just kind of gelling a little bit more,” Okung said. “Week in and week out, we’ve been challenged up front. Now we’re responding.

“But there still were too many mistakes, too many errors. That’s not going to win games.”

Jon Ryan He punted only three times, but they were doozies. Ryan averaged 61.0 yards, which would have obliterated the club record (55.2 by Rick Tuten) if he’d had the fourth punt needed to qualify. His 58.3-yard net, however, was almost 10 yards better than his personal best (49.0 against the Lions in 2007 while punting for the Packers).

On his first punt, a 58-yarder, Kennard Cox dropped the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant for a minus-4 yard return at the Dallas 2-yard line. Ryan’s second punt went for 70 yards, and a 12-yard return. His third punt was a 55-yard that went out of bounds at the Cowboys’ 21.

Richard Sherman The guy is a rookie, and the third option at left cornerback after Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond were lost to season-ending injuries. But he’s not playing like either. The Seahawks have forced three turnovers in the past two games, and Sherman has had a hand in all three.

Sunday, he followed his one-interception, one-tipped-ball-to-setup-another-interception performance against the Bengals with a TD-saving hit on Bryant that forced a fumble just when it appeared the Cowboys’ wide receiver was about to cross the goal line. Nickel back Roy Lewis recovered the fumble.

WHAT NEEDS WORK

Penalties – The Seahawks have been getting in their own way, and helping their opponents get on their way, since the preseason. After Sunday’s 10-for-88 showing, they have 70 penalties to rank second in the league behind the perennially penalized Oakland Raiders (84) and their 523 penalties yards are the sixth-highest total in the league.

Against the Cowboys, the penalties were across the board: four against the offense, two against the defense and four on special teams. Eight players were flagged, including two each by Gallery and special-teamer Byron Maxwell.

They were called for holding (three times) and false starts and unsportsmanlike conduct (two each), as well as a facemask, an illegal block and a pass interference.

“In a close game at halftime, we come out in the second half and look great running the football and we get a penalty that stops us,” Carroll said. “Then we get a penalty in the kicking game that gives them great field position.

“We had three penalties in the first half and seven in the second half. That told the story.”

The pass rush – Not only did the Seahawks not sack Tony Romo, they were credited for only two hits on the Cowboys’ QB. It was the third time this season the Seahawks went sackless and the two hits tied their season-low.

They have 13 sacks in eight games, and five of those have come from “Leo” end Chris Clemons. The league average is 18.8 and only the Cardinals (nine) and Buccaneers (12) have fewer sacks than the Seahawks.

The mystery element – After the game, Carroll offered, “There’s an issue that we have, and we’ve got to help out our young guys up front cadence-wise. … We can fix the line of scrimmage. We need to make a move there. We have to do something. That needs to go away.”

Asked to elaborate, he said, “I can’t talk about it anymore than that, OK. We’re just going to fix it.”