Is Seattle ready or not? The answer to that question will decide not just the outcome of the Seahawks’ home opener against the Dallas Cowboys today at CenturyLink Field, but the trajectory of this season in Seattle.
The Seahawks began the season believing they were ready to turn the corner after four consecutive losing seasons. They scored the most points in the NFL in August while allowing the fewest, but down in Arizona, it became apparent that Seattle wasn’t as prepared as it thought. The offensive line struggled to protect the quarterback, the defense gave up an 80-yard, game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson – who led Seattle to six consecutive scores in Kansas City – didn’t lead Seattle on a single scoring drive of more than 33 yards.
Now come the Cowboys for a game that will serve as a landmark in Seattle’s season. A season-opening loss on the road is a setback, but an 0-2 start officially constitutes a hole.
“The focus has been easy to turn towards Dallas because they are so good,” coach Pete Carroll said after his team’s final practice of the week. “The preparation has been strong and we’re excited about playing at home, everyone is looking forward to that.
“We really want to put together a nice football game, and we’ll need to.”
Dallas has beaten Seattle three times in the previous four seasons, winning by an average of almost 20 points. The Cowboys have a pass rush loaded for bear under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, a rebuilt secondary and a quarterback in Tony Romo who was the league’s fourth-most efficient passer last year. Dallas went on the road to New York and rag-dolled the defending Super Bowl champion Giants in Week 1.
But the Seahawks are at home, playing in front of one of the league’s loudest crowds, and as good as Dallas might be, this game is really more of a litmus test for Seattle’s resolve. Can the Seahawks pick themselves up after a close road loss, dust themselves off and come back better for it?
“I think we have a team mature enough to learn from that game,” said fullback Michael Robinson, one of Seattle’s captains. “It’s not about accepting a loss, it’s about learning how to win, and right now we’re still learning how to win on a consistent basis.”
The Seahawks are getting closer in that regard. Their last three regular-season losses have been by a combined total of nine points, and while that may constitute progress, it also points out the work that’s still left to be done, specifically on offense.
“The focus on our offense is communicating,” Carroll said. “Making sure we’re all on the same page across the board.”
That wasn’t supposed to be a problem this season as Seattle returned all but one starter from last year’s offensive line. But in the season opener, a blitz-happy Cardinals defense exposed some problems up front as rookie right guard J.R. Sweezy was at times overwhelmed and left tackle Russell Okung was penalized three times for false starts.
Carroll didn’t anticipate the turmoil he saw up front.
“We played right all the way through this preseason, on a much different level than we did in that game,” Carroll said. “That was really disappointing because we really expected that to carry over.”