SEATTLE — At this time last week, head coach Pete Carroll was wondering how his Seattle Seahawks would respond to a gut-wrenching loss in their season opener.
On Sunday, his team’s answer left no doubt that any Week 1 hangover was short-lived. The Seahawks didn’t just bounce back from last week’s loss in Arizona with a victory, they physically dominated the Dallas Cowboys for the better part of four quarters on the way to a 27-7 victory in front of 68,008 at CenturyLink Field.
“This was a really good day for us,” Carroll said. “The week was challenging because last week was so emotional and was so close. It was the highest of expectations and we didn’t get out with a win last week. To come back and challenge them to focus and put their attention on the next team and handle that really well, a bunch a young guys, I was really, really pleased with that. … Our first chance to handle a loss, we did it really well.”
And it wasn’t just that the Seahawks won, and won big, it was how they did it that had Carroll so excited.
For the most part, this victory was the epitome of what Carroll looks for in a football team. The Seahawks won because their special teams came up with big plays, particularly early in the game. They won because the defense kept Dallas from running the ball, limited the damage done by Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and were able to force a turnover. They won because the offense, while not always dynamic, protected the football, ran the ball well — especially in the second half — and got better as the game went on.
This wasn’t a win as much as it was a clinic in Carroll-ball.
“That is the way we’d like to do it,” he said.
Or as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones put it when talking to reporters in the Dallas locker room: “I know this, in everything about playing football, they were better than we were today. Every aspect of it.”
The game couldn’t have started much better than it did for the Seahawks, who were quickly up 10-0 after a pair of huge special teams plays. Michael Robinson forced a fumble on the opening kickoff, which was recovered by Earl Thomas, setting up a field goal. After a Dallas three-and-out, Malcolm Smith blocked a punt and Jeron Johnson recovered and waltzed three yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Dallas’ next possession ended with Brandon Browner intercepting a Romo pass and returning it to midfield. But even though momentum was very much on Seattle’s side, the blowout wasn’t on quite yet.
The Seahawks were unable to get going offensively in the first half. After failing to capitalize on Browner’s interception, the usually-stingy defense was unable to stop Dallas, which drove 95 yards on 15 plays to make it a 10-7 ballgame. Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense were a little better on their last drive of the half, but still had to settle for a field goal.
In the second half, however, Wilson and the offense found their rhythm. And with the defense locking down the Cowboys — Dallas had just 85 yards in the second half, 51 of which came in garbage time on the last drive of the game — that was a formula for a blowout.
“Our special teams spotted us 10 points, but we just weren’t clicking offensively,” said fullback
Robinson. “Second half, we stayed true to our game plan and it worked in our favor.”
Wilson struggled in his debut last week while being, as Carroll put it, “under siege,” thanks to some shoddy pass protection and an impressive Arizona pass rush. Wilson finished his second start 15-for-20 for 151 yards and one touchdown, good for a quarterback rating of 112.7. He was particularly efficient in the second half, completing 6 of 8 attempts for 66 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony McCoy.
The running game also picked up in the second half, which along with Wilson’s improved play allowed the Seahawks to score touchdowns on drives of 90 and 88 yards on consecutive possessions. While Marshawn Lynch was only able to grind out 22 yards on 10 carries in the first two quarters, he had 100 yards on 16 carries in the second half, including the final touchdown on a 3-yard run that all but put the game out of reach.
That the running game, and Lynch in particular, improved as the game went on is hardly a coincidence.
“You might get pumped up to hit (Number) 24 in the first quarter and he might get three yards, but in the fourth quarter, you really don’t want to hit him,” said Robinson. “He gets stronger, our offensive line gets stronger, and we stay with our play call.”
So with the Seahawks playing exactly the way their coach wants them to, they were able to bounce back in impressive fashion Sunday. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was exactly the response that they were hoping for to show that there was no hangover from their season-opening loss.
“I think it shows the character of the team,” said safety Thomas. “You could tell around the facility everybody was down the first couple of days, but we really focused and we knew we had a chance to win, even if anybody else didn’t think so.”