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Cowboys fans around the world will wake up this morning excitedly unwrapping Christmas presents. Many will tear the wrapping paper open to reveal a Cowboys jersey, t-shirt, hat, mug, or some other team paraphernalia. Their first glance will send adrenalin pumping through their veins with excitement and glee. Then, a memory will flash. Byron Maxwell punching the ball free from Dez Bryant for a fumble. Justin Coleman snatching a Dak Prescott pass and returning it for a touchdown. Bobby Wagner chasing down Ezekiel Elliott and slamming him to the ground. Excitement will be replaced by resignation. Pride with shame. Merry Christmas, Cowboys fans. Seahawks Claus came to town, and decided you were all naughty.
No two Cowboys fans were more disappointed than the FOX broadcasting crew of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck. Apparently, the Seahawks lost more than a game last week when they were dismantled by the Rams. They also lost the right to any form of respect from the announcers. Aikman and Buck called this game as if Jerry Jones was their boss. They were practically bursting with anticipation to share stats about why the Seahawks defense was done and why the Cowboys are elite on offense when Elliott is available to play.
They got a little of what they wanted early. Every Elliott 3-yard run was celebrated like a 40-yard gallop. But that breakaway never came. Dallas expected to dominate the Seahawks on the ground. That dominance never came. What they and the FOX crew were left with was equivocating horrible pass interference penalties against the Seahawks, and belittling the Seattle defensive performance by describing the game as a ugly.
Far more ugly than the game was the coverage. This Seahawks defense has been historically good over the past six years. They are the best defense of this generation by a long stretch. They are better than the Cowboys offense will ever be. Seahawks fans sold out the Kingdome to watch Dave Krieg play, are consistently among the highest in television ratings, and travel as well as any fanbase in the league. This franchise has made the playoffs 12 times in the past 20 years, won 13 playoff games, and made 3 Super Bowls. Far more than the Cowboys 8 playoff appearances, 2 playoff wins, and 0 Super Bowl appearances. We get it. The Cowboys used to be great. When Windows 95 was buzzworthy.
Show some damn respect for a franchise that has mattered the last two decades. Think they are on the last legs after the game against the Rams? Fine. Honor them with reflections on what they have done, and marvel at the spirit and professionalism on display when they rise up to stop what has been an unstoppable offense when their star running back is on the field. Listening to Aikman and Buck spend the entire game trying to force the narrative they desired blew past infuriating and became comical. This team, this fanbase, this franchise deserve respect. They have earned it. Shame on you FOX for refusing to give it.
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Since we know that respect will not be coming anytime soon, let me offer some. They say that you do not truly know someone until they go through adversity. Some people fall down and focus on the pain. They amplify the anguish and look to others for pity. The Seahawks defense could have easily looked at the beating they took last week, understood their long playoff odds, focused on being away from home on Christmas eve, and mailed this game in. Aches and injuries scream a little louder and a relaxing offseason tugs a little harder when there is only pride to play for. They could have turned down the intensity after seeing their offense fail time and time again. Instead, they persisted. They dominated. They crushed.
Many fans will read that and say, “Well, that’s what they are paid millions of dollars to do!” That is not how motivation works. Players who are only playing for the money are exactly the types of players who would fold in moments like this. There is a reason players call it a “business decision” when someone turns down a chance to make or take a hit. The players on this defense go about their business differently, and I am grateful for it.
If there was any doubt how important a healthy Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are to this defense, there should be none after this game. Both linebackers were brilliant against the Cowboys. Wagner was back to his heat-seeking self, and Wright had an interception and fumble recovery. Elliott’s longest run of the day was 9 yards, and he averaged just 4.0 yards per rush. He ended up with less than half his goal of 200 rushing yards, and his offense failed to score a touchdown in a game he played in for the first time, a span of 25 games.
Seattle generated a good pass rush, with Frank Clark leading the way. He has one sack and a number of pressures. People seem to be down on Clark for some reason, but he recorded his 9th sack yesterday and now has 22.0 sacks in his first three seasons with the Seahawks. That moves Clark past Cortez Kennedy with the second-highest sack total in a player’s first three seasons. Only Jeff Bryant (25.5) has had more.
I’m guessing people would like to see Clark be more consistent. That’s not how most pass rushers work. A lot of players have a few “burst” games now and then, and little some half-sacks and one-sack games in between. Clark definitely has room to improve, but he is easily the Seahawks best young defender. He has been a productive pass rusher and is very solid against the run. He was great against Dallas.
Earl Thomas garnered some headlines after the game after he entered the Cowboys locker room and told their coach to “Come get me,” making his desire to play in Dallas public. Entire Seattle Times columns were dedicated to this subject this morning. Please. Thomas is entering the last year of his deal. His best friends, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman, may not be playing for the Seahawks again. This defense is likely going through a transition and rebuilding period. He just got married. Is it really so surprising or horrible that he is thinking about what comes next?
If Thomas was going through the motions on the field, I could understand outrage. His motions were the typical Thomas blur on Sunday. He led the team in tackles and was terrific yet again. Thomas is a Seahawks legend no matter what happens in future years. He is one of the best players to ever put the uniform on. If Jerry Rice can play for the Raiders and the Seahawks, Earl Thomas can play for the Cowboys. Just don’t expect John Schneider to feel any motivation to honor the requested relocation unless it fits with his roster plans.
No team gets better by moving a motivated Hall of Fame safety in his prime. If Thomas is not going to be at his best here, and Seattle can get significant draft capital for him to help rebuild the roster, Schneider will consider it. Mostly, there is nothing to see here.
Speaking of nothing to see, how about that Seahawks offense? The 21 points they scored was the most scored by a Seahawks offense that had less than 136 total yards since Gino Torretta and Stan Gelbaugh led the team to a win over the Raiders with 28 points on just 129 yards in 1996. It was another dreadfully inefficient performance by a group that appears incapable of finding consistency in any part of their game.
What I can compliment is their ability to counterpunch in this game. Three times the Seahawks defense caused a turnover. Coleman took one of those back for a touchdown. The Seahawks offense took the other two back for touchdowns. That included a 79-yard drive. The passes to both Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin for touchdowns were Russell Wilson’s best throws on the day. Baldwin’s release was a thing of beauty yet again.
The offensive line had a terrible time creating space for running backs or protecting Wilson. Mike Davis ran hard, but there was little room. Thomas Rawls looked refreshed and continues to make a case for more carries, or at least a higher share of the workload.
There does not seem to be any formula that will result in this offense finding reliable footing. That is the story of this season, even if the headlines are about the aging Legion of Boom. Remarkably, Seattle has a chance to make the playoffs next week if they win against the Cardinals at home and the Panthers beat the Falcons in Atlanta. The fitting end to this season would be 10 wins without a playoff berth. No matter how this season ends, this team continues to earn my respect with the way they handle adversity. Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating today, even you Cowboys fans who choose to put that jersey in the back of the closet for now.