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Tuesday, September 18, 2012
A look back: It's a new Rob Ryan, get used to it

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas – In this week’s version of A Look Back, we focus on the pass rush, Marshawn Lynch's big run and a defense that was thrown off early.

On Monday, Tim MacMahon lamented Rob Ryan’s decision to not pressure Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Today, Calvin Watkins wonders a little about it.

Didn’t we spend time after the New York Giants' game hearing how Ryan has made some changes to his scheme in 2012? Ryan’s history might say he likes to blitz and bring pressure, but maybe that come-to-Jesus season Jerry Jones alluded to on the radio last week has had something to do with Ryan not being as aggressive.

The Cowboys were killed by the big play through the air last year. To combat that so far, Ryan is banking on his front to get to the quarterback, even against an inexperienced quarterback.

I don’t know if two games offers enough evidence, but Ryan has not been a gambler against the Giants or the Seahawks. He pressured Eli Manning seven times in the opener. He pressured Wilson seven times in Week 2.

Ten times the Cowboys brought four-man rushes against Wilson and they recorded three pressures and an Anthony Spencer sack. Seven times they brought five guys and had a sack, two pressures and a pass deflection.

Eight times they rushed only three guys and didn’t get any pressure. Wilson had four straight completions against three-man rushes in the second quarter that led to a Seattle field goal.

** Sometimes you have to tip your cap when an offense picks the right play against the right defense. That’s what happened on Lynch’s 36-yard run. Ryan brought a will-free safety blitz with DeMarcus Ware and Gerald Sensabaugh, which Seattle ran away from.

Sean Lissemore was double-teamed and had no chance. Josh Brent got turned away. Victor Butler, playing a little soft with the blitz call from the other side, could not hold the point of attack. The fullback blocked Sean Lee. Bruce Carter could not track it down from the backside. Boom, there goes Lynch.

It was a good play by Seattle.

** On the second play of the game, Josh Brent got into a shoving match with Seattle center Max Unger. A play later, he threw a punch (apparently) at Unger and was called for unnecessary roughness. Also on that play, Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher got into some extracurricular activity with Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan. It was chippy from the get go and looked as if the Cowboys weren't prepared and too sensitive to Seattle’s aggressive styles -- and it eventually cost them with their poise. They simply can’t be drawn offside (sorry for the pun) that early in the game.

** Jason Garrett said Seattle’s defense was pretty easy to figure out. They play eight guys in the box and dare you to beat them in the passing game. Of the Cowboys' 57 snaps, the Seahawks played an eight-man front 25 times. They had seven guys in the box 14 times. The Cowboys were not awful running into that eight-man box but they did not run much out of their 11 personnel groups when the Seahawks could not load up.

** Seattle corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are big. One way to combat tall corners is to break them down with quick routes. Why didn’t the Cowboys run more slants? They lived on them in the opener against New York. I counted only a handful, including one to Miles Austin at the end of the first half that was knocked into the air. Until Dez Bryant shows he can beat press coverage, like Browner and Sherman played, then the opposition should just get into Bryant at the line. He was a non-factor Sunday.

** A lot of times when the Cowboys lose, people gripe about Garrett getting away from the run. The Cowboys ran it only 14 times (not including two Romo plays). They only ran 19 plays in the second half, so it’s difficult to run it when you don’t have it. What about after the Seahawks made it 20-7? DeMarco Murray got the ball on three of the first four plays and then the drive broke down. On first-and-10 from the Dallas 47, guard Nate Livings was beat quickly up the middle by Chris Clemons, who forced an early throw to the flat to Felix Jones, who was dropped for a 5-yard loss by K.J. Wright. On second down, Tyron Smith had a false start. Do you run it on second-and-20? Third-and-20? The next time the offense got the ball back, it was 27-7 with 7:51 to play. Of the Cowboys' 24 first-down plays vs. Seattle, 18 were pass plays, including the final three in garbage time. The six first-down running plays gained 14 yards. Should Garrett’s abandonment of the running game be boiled down to the one play that lost 5 yards on a pass to Jones? I wouldn’t go there.