Commentary

'That wasn't Cowboys football'

Poor execution, mental mistakes cause offense to sputter against Seahawks

Updated: September 16, 2012, 10:26 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

SEATTLE -- You know it's going to be a long day for the Dallas Cowboys' offense when sure-handed tight end Jason Witten drops three passes.

Apparently, the Cowboys left their solid execution and big-play offense in New Jersey. Dallas had five drops on Sunday in a 27-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, just one aspect of a day when little went right.

After such an impressive Week 1 showing by the offense in the 24-17 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Cowboys couldn't get the job done Sunday when they needed it.

[+] EnlargeJason Witten
Steven Bisig/US PresswireUsually sure-handed tight end Jason Witten had four catches and three drops against the Seahawks.

"That wasn't Cowboys football," Witten said. "It's unacceptable. We have to get it fixed. You can't have a big win on the road like [the Giants game] and then come back and play as bad as we did.

"We didn't play good football and I didn't play good football. Too many drops and too many opportunities missed. You can't do that and win games in this league."

The Cowboys' special teams didn't do the offense any favors by spotting Seattle a 10-0 lead (a fumbled opening kickoff that led to a field goal and a blocked punt for a Seahawks' TD) before five minutes had come off the clock.

"We made way too many mistakes in every aspect of the game to win," said Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. "Obviously, we did not get off to the start that we wanted coming into what may be the toughest environment to play in the NFL. We stressed that this week, but we didn't execute.

"Some of it was communication issues from the noise, but we didn't do the little things that we normally do very well. We had way too many mental mistakes and physical mistakes."

Statistically speaking, the first half wasn't so bad. Dallas had 211 yards of offense and converted six of nine third-down attempts. A 22-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin was perfectly executed, including Austin diving to reach the ball across the goal line inside the pylon.

That was it for the day. The Cowboys were scoreless in the final 42 minutes of the game.

"It's our job to execute and we didn't do it," Austin said. "It's as simple as that. It's frustrating. We have to think logically about it and see what we need to do better."

All the players pointed to the same things over and over: failure to execute on key plays and too many mental mistakes. But why?

[+] EnlargeChris Jones
Stephen Brashear/Getty ImagesThe Cowboys found themselves in an early hole after a Chris Jones punt was blocked and returned for a touchdown.

"Those guys are a good bunch," Romo said of the Seahawks, who are 1-1. "You have to give them credit. They took it to us.

"We had our opportunities, but we had physical breakdowns and mental mistakes, and that includes me. Sometimes you can overcome that with big plays, but we didn't have those. I can literally think of 10 things, where you say, 'You can't do that and win.' And we did all of them."

Romo threw one interception, but it easily could have been two if not for a brick-hands drop by Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright -- a likely pick-six in the third quarter had he caught it.

As bad as it was, the Cowboys didn't get many chances to correct things in the second half. Dallas had only three possessions in the last two quarters until the final 36 seconds, after the game was decided. Seattle controlled the clock with a solid rushing attack and timely completions by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.

"That was the deal," Witten said. "We felt like even after all the mistakes, we could come back. But our touches were limited. That's [Seattle's] plan. They ground and pound. With a young quarterback, that's how they want to attack you.

"That's why we can't make mistakes. You have to capitalize on every opportunity. Our offense has proven it's better than seven points. We didn't help our defense out and we just didn't play well."

The Cowboys had only 85 yards of offense in the second half and failed to convert on three of four third-down opportunities.

Receiver Kevin Ogletree, who had eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants, had one reception for 26 yards. But he wasn't alone in failing to live up to the standard the offense set in the season opener.

"We didn't play real cleanly on offense," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "There were some drops there. We had some opportunities to make big plays and didn't convert on them. You can't do that."

CenturyLink Field is considered one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. The early special teams mistakes by Dallas made it even louder.

"It was loud and it's a hostile environment," Witten said. "But that's not an excuse. We knew that coming in. They hit us hard and put us in some tough situations. We're pissed off right now and we should be."

Witten caught four passes for 58 yards, but it's the uncharacteristic drops everyone will remember. He said his long layoff from a spleen injury during the preseason didn't affect his play Sunday.

"I feel 100 percent," Witten said. "I just dropped the ball. No excuses there. The injury had nothing to do with that. Rest assured, I'll get it fixed."

After this miserable showing, there are plenty of things that need fixing for everyone on the Cowboys' offense.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

ALSO SEE