Dallas Cowboys: jeron johnson
They held him to 27 return yards on punts and kickoffs, but that meant nothing.
Chris Jones’ first punt Sunday was blocked by Malcolm Smith, who muscled past Dan Connor, and returned for a touchdown by Jeron Johnson.
“We knew they were going to bring the rush,” special teams’ captain Danny McCray said. “Of course, the first punt they brought the rush and we didn’t execute as a team to get them blocked.”
The last time the Cowboys had a punt blocked for a touchdown came in last year’s season opener at the New York Jets.
The punt block came eight plays after Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff of the game, which Seattle turned into a field goal.
“Felix is a professional,” McCray said. “He’s a veteran. He’s been through these things. He came to me and said, ‘Good job blocking, I’m going to get it back for y’all.’ It wasn’t us picking him up. It’s him letting us know we need to keep blocking.”
Jones remained the returner and continued to take kickoffs out of the end zone, which was not always the best decision. Two first-half returns gave the Cowboys the ball at the 15 and 16 yard lines.
But it wasn’t only Jones’ play that affected the special teams. Dez Bryant muffed a punt in the final seconds of the first half after the defense held Seattle. To top it off, the special teams were flagged for 12-men on the field in the fourth quarter, leading to the Seahawks converting a fourth-and-1 instead of punting.
“Rough way to start,” McCray said of Jones’ opening kickoff, but he could’ve been talking about the whole day.
The Cowboys had a grand total of four rushing attempts in the second half, so Jason Garrett is going to get criticized for abandoning the run. But that's what happens when a team has to come back from a multi-score deficit, especially when there isn't any room to run anyway. DeMarco Murray had to earn every one of his 44 yards on 12 carries. The Seattle front seven whipped the Cowboys on a consistent basis. Oh, Felix Jones got his first carry of the season. He gained a whopping 1 yard.
Did the Seahawks slip in the infamous K ball while the Cowboys' offense was on the field? How else to explain the drop-fest from the usually sure-handed Jason Witten and Dez Bryant? Bryant was a total bust (three catches, 17 yards). Week 1 hero Kevin Ogletree had one catch for 26 yards. Tony Romo's numbers (23 of 40 for 251 yards and one touchdown with one interception) weren't awful, but the big, tough Seattle secondary won its matchup with Dallas' receivers, with Miles Austin's TD catch being the exception. And Romo's interception came on a bad decision to kill a drive in the red zone. Unlike last week, Romo couldn't overcome protection that was poor on a regular basis.
The good news: The Cowboys held Marshawn Lynch to 22 yards on 10 carries in the first half. The bad news: Lynch dominated the second half, gaining 100 yards on 16 carries as the Seahawks buried the Cowboys. Lynch busted a 36-yard run to set up Seattle's touchdown in the third quarter, which made it a two-touchdown game. He had seven carries for 32 yards and a TD on the dagger drive, when the Seahawks marched 88 yards on 12 plays to go up by 20 points. The Dallas defense was simply dominated physically after halftime.
Rob Ryan and Co. made it easy for rookie QB Russell Wilson to play a poised, mistake-free game, completing 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a TD with no turnovers. The Cowboys rarely blitzed despite the undersized Wilson's struggles against pressure in Seattle's Week 1 loss. (According to ESPN Stats and Information, Wilson was 6-of-18 for 47 yards and was sacked three times when the Cardinals rushed five or more men.) Anthony Spencer got two sacks, but that was it for the Dallas pass rush despite the Seahawks playing with two backup offensive linemen. Perennial Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware didn't exploit his matchup against a second-string left tackle.
What is it with epic special teams disasters for the Cowboys in Seattle? It started off as poorly as possible with Felix Jones gift-wrapping a field goal for the Seahawks by losing a fumble on the opening kickoff. It got even worse soon, with backup linebacker Dan Connor getting beat to allow Seattle's Malcolm Smith to block a punt. Jeron Johnson scooped and scored. Just like that, Joe DeCamillis' guys handed the Seahawks a 10-point head start. Dez Bryant gained a grand total of two yards on two punt returns and was fortunate not to commit a turnover just before halftime. Punter Chris Jones had another strong performance, but special teams killed the Cowboys.
The head coach gets a big share of the blame when his team lays an egg like that after 11 days to prepare. It's also fair to question whether Jason Garrett's constant messages about mental toughness are really getting through after the Cowboys roll over like they did in the fourth quarter, when the Dallas offense had a couple of three-and-out series while the Seahawks ran 25 offensive plays. And defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's game plan was puzzling, to put it politely. Why play soft against a rookie quarterback who struggled badly when blitzed last week?