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Monday, September 17, 2012
Cowboys got pushed around in Seattle

By Dan Graziano

Russell Wilson
Seattle's offensive line did a good job protecting Russell Wilson and pushed the Cowboys around.

Before Sunday's game in Seattle, I thought the matchups between the Dallas Cowboys' wide receivers and the Seattle Seahawks' cornerbacks could go either way. In Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, the Seahawks have two of the biggest, tallest and most physical corners in the game. So it was certainly possible that they could out-muscle Cowboys receivers Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree all day and make it tough for them to find easy freedom down the field. It was also possible, if they didn't do that, that the Cowboys' receivers could win with their speed, which appeared to be their advantage over that big Seattle secondary.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, it went that first way. The Seattle defense beat up Austin and Bryant and Ogletree, and other than Austin's second-quarter touchdown catch, the passing game couldn't get anything going. I often say on here that Bryant is a physical mismatch for any defensive back who tries to cover him. In Seattle, he may have found the exceptions.

It was a similar story in the run game, where the offensive line was unable to open holes for DeMarco Murray. It was a similar story on the other side of the ball, where the Cowboys got very little pressure on rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and their defensive front got pushed around and beaten up physically in the run game by the Seattle offensive line in the second half.

These things happen, of course, and it's the NFL and it was a road game in a notoriously tough place to play. But all of the special teams mistakes and the defensive game-planning issues people are upset about this morning take a back seat, for me, to the fact that the Cowboys simply weren't physical enough to hang in the game with the Seahawks.

This is a potential problem for a team that is stronger on the lines than it was last year but still may not be as strong as it eventually wants to be. The offensive line issues are something we've been discussing here for weeks, and we know they're still working on building a line in front of Murray and Tony Romo. I expect it will be better next year than it is this year, but for now they're making do with substandard play, especially on the interior of the line. The defensive line is in a similar situation while they wait for Tyrone Crawford to bulk up and develop. Inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are excellent open-field playmakers, but they're not exactly thumpers who are going to help beef up the line when it needs muscle against a more physical offense.

The Cowboys looked fantastic in their Week 1 victory over the New York Giants, but the Giants are not a super-physical team. They too have issues on the offensive line, and their defensive line, while loaded with excellent playmakers, does have a tendency to get pushed around at times by more physical teams. The Giants are an excellent team, I believe, but you'd certainly classify them more as a finesse team than a physical one. The point being, if the Cowboys are the kind of team that will struggle with the physical aspect of the game, Week 1 may not have exposed that.

But Week 2 certainly did, and that has to be what stings the most. By no means do I think the Cowboys are doomed because they lost in Seattle, any more than I thought they were Super Bowl-bound after they beat the Giants. Long way to go, and lots could still change. But there are going to be games on the schedule that require Dallas to play much more physically tough up front than they did Sunday. And you wonder if they can.