Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (90) celebrates after sacking Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) during the first half of a game on Sept. 16, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (90) celebrates after sacking Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) during the first half of a game on Sept. 16, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Game preview: Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys

A look at key matchups, key number, X-factor and gameday grub for Sunday’s home opener.


Trailing 9-7 in the third quarter of a Week 16 game last season in Dallas, Seahawks cornerback Justin Coleman picked off a Dak Prescott pass, raced 30 yards into the end zone for a touchdown and jumped into the Salvation Army kettle behind the goalpost as Seattle took the lead en route to a 21-12 win. It was a memorable moment in an otherwise forgettable game for both teams. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson finished with just 93 yards passing and was also Seattle’s leading rusher with a whopping 29 yards on nine carries. Seattle finished with just 136 yards of offense, but was aided by three Dallas turnovers.


Russell Wilson vs. the Dallas pass-rush

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. For the third week in a row all eyes will be on Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi as he battles another Pro Bowl pass-rusher in the Cowboys’ Demarcus Lawrence. After racking up 14.5 sacks last season, Lawrence already has two in two games this season on a defense that is second in the league with nine sacks overall. Uh oh. Seattle has given up a league-worst 12 sacks in the first two games, but some of that blame falls on Wilson’s sudden inability to get rid of the football. Whoever is to blame, Seattle’s pass protection has been utterly abysmal. According to, a football analytics website, the Seahawks’ adjusted sack rate (a statistic that looks at sacks per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance and opponent) of 15.4 percent is worst in the league by a wide margin and light years behind the league average of 6.7 percent. On the other side, Dallas’ adjusted sack rate on defense of 11.6 percent is third best in the league. And yet for some reason Seattle is still throwing the ball almost 65 percent of the time. Unless the Seahawks figure out a better balance on offense and a way to get more first downs to keep the Cowboys’ defense on its heels, Wilson could be in for another long day.


Pete Carroll vs. Brian Schottenheimer

This may not be your typical “matchup,” but it’s an interesting situation to follow nonetheless. The Seahawks head coach said this week that his impatience in wanting to take deep shots in the passing game is what has led to Seattle having the fourth fewest rushing attempts (38) in the NFL through Week 2. This after an offseason in which a re-commitment to the run was seemingly a top priority, a point made by hiring Schottenheimer, who is known as a run-first offensive coordinator. So who’s calling the plays here? Carroll vowed to back off and let Schottenheimer do his thing moving forward, but that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, #BringBackBevell has replaced #FireBevell in the Twittersphere as frustrated fans clamor for the return of oft-criticized former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

Kris Richard vs. Ken Norton Jr.

Fired as Seahawks defensive coordinator in the offseason, Richard is now the defensive backs coach and passing-game coordinator in Dallas. Richard has generally been given credit for the early success of the Cowboys’ secondary, which is allowing the fifth-fewest passing yards per game (183.0) in the league through two weeks. And if that’s not enough to make Seahawks fans sick, Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said that Richard has handled almost all of the play-calling duties for a defense that’s allowing the fourth-fewest total yards per game (274.0) in the league. Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who coached at the University of Washington for five seasons under Jim Lambright, told Dallas-area media that Richard has been instrumental this week in helping Dallas’ offense learn what Seattle likes to do on defense. With someone so familiar on the other sideline, will new defensive coordinator Norton stray from the Seahawks’ simple base defense they’ve been running for years and dip into his bag of tricks? Or will Richard’s knowledge of Seattle’s scheme be a big advantage for Dallas’ offense?


1 — The number of rushing touchdowns by Seahawks running backs in the past 18 games. And it gets worse. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, Seattle running backs carried the ball 20 times inside the 10-yard line last season and managed -3 yards. Negative three! So far this season, Seattle running backs have exactly one carry inside the 10 and that went for -2 yards. Yes, the Seahawks need to run the ball more. But more importantly, they need to run the ball more effectively.


CenturyLink Field

Since they began playing at CenturyLink Field — then known as Seahawks Stadium — in 2002, the Seahawks are 14-2 in home openers, including winning the past nine in a row. They have won those games by a combined score of 380-162 for an average margin of victory of just over 13.5 points per game. Even in down years home openers generally have an electric atmosphere that makes life tough on visiting offenses and gives the Seahawks’ defense that extra boost of energy. Just ask the Cowboys. During Wilson’s rookie season in 2012, Dallas came to Seattle and fell 27-7 in the Seahawks’ home opener. Longtime fans will remember Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate’s crushing hit on Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee on a Wilson scramble in the fourth quarter. That hit was an early defining moment for what became the attitude era of Seahawks football.


To defend the pass, the Seahawks employ a simple Cover 3 zone defense with a single-high safety. You’ve probably heard it referenced on broadcasts. So what is the Cover 3? At its root, the Cover 3 is a three-deep, four-under zone. The deep part of the field is split into thirds (hence the 3), with each cornerback responsible for covering the outer thirds, and the single-high safety (you guessed it, Earl Thomas) responsible for the deep middle. The strong safety and the three linebackers each take one of four “underneath” zones (four-under) to defend short and intermediate routes. As with any offensive or defensive scheme, there’s countless variances to this simple concept, but when you are watching the game on Sunday see if you can identify this base alignment that is a Seahawks staple.


With the Cowboys coming into town, this feels like a barbeque brisket kind of afternoon. Make sure and choose the right cut, partially trimmed with a thick layer of fat, and allow at least six hours of cooking time on a charcoal grill. Not interested in doing it yourself? Head up to Jeff’s Texas Style BBQ in Marysville for authentic Texas brisket. Pair your meal with a Shiner Bock, an American-style dark lager brewed in Shiner, Texas.


Seahawks 20, Cowboys 17

Coming off two losses on the road and back in the cozy confines of CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks find a way to pull this one out. It won’t be pretty, but then again, nothing is pretty about the Seahawks these days.

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