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Three phases, one result

Posted Sep 16, 2012

First, it was the special teams. Then, it was the defense. And, finally and emphatically, it was the offense. With all three phases contributing, the Seahawks posted a 27-7 victory over the Cowboys in their home opener.

The finger pointing in the Seahawks’ locker room after their home opener was rampant – and infectious.

No. Not that kind of finger pointing. After a 27-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at CenturyLink Field on Sunday that was as convincing as it was impressive, the players were falling all over themselves to share the credit with the guys on the other side of the room. Or in the next cubicle. Or just down the row.

And there was enough to go around, as the specials teams spotted the Seahawks to a 10-0 lead in the first five minutes, the offense ground out 90- and 88-yard touchdown drives in the second half and the defense bounced back from allowing a 15-play, 95-yard drive in the second quarter to shutout the Cowboys and limit them to 82 yards in the second half.

All three phases making major contributions to a needed victory? That works, and then some.

The Seahawks can use the confidence boost and momentum heading into next week’s matchup against the Green Bay Packers in a “Monday Night Football” game at CenturyLink. Then it’s trips to St. Louis, Carolina, San Francisco and Detroit sandwiched around an Oct. 14 home game against the New England Patriots.

But that’s all down the road – literally. Sunday, it was time to relish what a team that scored 16 points in a four-point loss to the Arizona Cardinals in its opener is able to accomplish when its gets contributions from its special teams, offense and defense.

This one was more than a blueprint for sustained success, it was an affirmation of what the Seahawks displayed during their unbeaten preseason – playing hard, playing aggressively, playing smart and making plays in all three phases.

“We prepare hard, and I want to give credit to the guys that don’t get enough of it – like the guys on special teams,” said Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas, who had the recovery of the forced fumble by Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson on the opening kickoff. “They give us great looks throughout the week and everyone in the building supports us, win or lose, and it feels good for your preparation to payoff and win.”

After rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, Marshawn Lynch pointed to his offensive line.

“They did a great job today,” he said. “It is not always as easy as you may want it to be, but one thing about them is that they are real standup guys – each and every one of them.”

Frank Omiyale started at left tackle – against a steady diet of sack-specialist DeMarcus Ware – as Russell Okung was a late scratch after working out before the game because of the bruised knee in the opener. John Moffitt started his first game at right guard since he got a season-ending knee injury last November, and split time with rookie J.R. Sweezy – who had started the opener and the last three preseason games while Moffitt was sidelined following a surgical procedure on his left elbow.

“Frank came in without any idea of him starting and he did a great job,” Lynch said. “J.R. came in and did a great job, as well. They just keep grinding and in my eyes they’re standup guys and I’m glad to have them.”

Along with the special teams and defense – which also contributed an interception by Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner after a Cowboys’ first-half drive had reached the Seahawks’ 24-yard line and seven tipped passes.   

The push that got this one rolling in the right direction was the plays turned in by the Brian Schneider-coordinator special teams. Robinson forced a fumble on the opening kickoff and Thomas recovered at the Cowboys’ 29-yard line to setup a 21-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka. After the defense forced a three-and-out, second-year linebacker Malcolm Smith blocked the punt and second-year safety Jeron Johnson took the ball on a hop and ran three yards for a touchdown.

Three offensive plays into the game, the Cowboys were down 10-0 – which played into rookie QB Russell Wilson being able to throw when he wanted to rather than because he had to while completing 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown; and the Cowboys’ Tony Romo being forced to put the ball in the air 40 times (with 23 completions for 251 yards) while playing catch-up from the get-go.

“We got beat in all three phases,” said Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee, who got beat up on a vicious block from wide receiver Golden Tate during the 88-yard TD drive in the fourth quarter. “We were taking steps forward; this is obviously a step back.”

In the second half, it was all Seahawks, as Wilson capped an eight-play, 90-yard drive with a TD pass to tight end Anthony McCoy and Lynch ran the final three yards to punctuate a 12-play, 88-yard drive than chewed half the fourth quarter.

The poster player for this half-’n-half performance was Lynch. He had 22 yards on 10 first-half carries, but broke runs of 16 and 36 yards in the third quarter while rushing for 100 yards on 16 second-half carries.

“Usually in football, and especially in the National Football League, that’s how it happens,” Wilson said. “Those first runs go for two yards, three yards max. Then sometimes later in the game they bust open and you can get big hits from them. That’s just a good job of the offensive line staying on their blocks and maintaining their mental focus and just keep fighting.”

In the end, it was all good.

“For us to put together that kind of game and finish in the second half so aggressively and so tough, I’m really proud of that,” coach Pete Carroll said. “That is the way we’d like to do it.”