In light of the freshly initiated NFL season, Micah Parsons rashly announced that the Dallas Cowboys had an ‘elite defense in the National Football League.’ However, it was the Dallas offense that turned out to be their saving grace during Thursday night’s game against Seattle.
Much to the Cowboys’ relief, they managed to clinch a narrowly won victory, despite their defense’s precarious performance allowing for 406 yards and resulting in 10 penalties. The team owes its success to the remarkable offense led by Dak Prescott that managed the crisis skilfully and was instrumental in securing a 41-35 win.
Prescott, with each game raising his probability of becoming an MVP nominee, navigated the Cowboys to score in eight of their nine drives. Powerfully holding the ball for over 36 minutes, the offense collected a robust tally of 411 yards. The defense, though far from perfect, did have its shining moments, chiefly towards the end. Key actions that tipped the scale in the Cowboys’ favor were the three vital fourth-down stops.
Critical for turning the tide was the go-ahead touchdown facilitated by a fourth-down stop executed by DeMarcus Lawrence with only 7:04 on the clock. Additionally, Seattle was held back twice on the fourth down at 3:11 and then again at 1:07. Pressure from the Cowboys forced the Seahawks quarterback, Geno Smith, to abandon the ball on both accounts.
However, the defense seemed to relinquish more than they could grasp. The defense certainly boasts a wealth of talent, but their inconsistent performance is a potential threat to the team’s Super Bowl ambitions. As much as they exhibit sparks of defensive brilliance, they are also susceptible to significant on-field blunders.
A particularly glaring example was the first half which saw a drastically underperforming defense that had only conceded 37 points in the last three matches. Seattle seized the initiative quickly, securing the season’s first lead against Dallas in the initial quarter. At this point, a highly effective short pass into a 73-yard touchdown by D.K. Metcalf outmanoeuvred DaRon Bland, the Cowboys cornerback.
Prescott and his team of course retaliated resiliently, but sadly, every counter-move was undermined by the defense’s frequent slip-ups. Notably, many mistakes in the defense were a result of lack of discipline. The Dallas Cowboys’ struggle was evident in the fact that they were penalized 11 times in the initial two quarters, with penalties costing them an astounding 107 yards. More so, the defense was the main culprit in eight of these infractions, inadvertently aiding the Seattle offense.
The damage inflicted by these penalties only seemed to compound with each successive instance. After building a 17-7 lead which hinted at a potential early close, they instead handed Seattle the chance to strike a touchdown via two significant pass-interference penalties.
Further damage was inflicted by Bland who, despite starting strong as a potential Defensive Player of the Year, had a notably poor first half. Interference with Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the end zone, seconds before the halftime whistle, resulted in a 1-yard touchdown pass that gave Seattle a 21-20 halftime lead. This trouble-prone trend continued into the second half, with linebacker Markquese Bell’s 15-yard facemask penalty setting up a 5-yard touchdown run that put Seattle in the lead at 28-20.
Such mishaps could perhaps be expected from two of the most penalized teams in the NFL. In a game that saw referee Clete Blakeman and his crew officiating over 19 penalties for a whopping 257 yards, the level of discipline was remarkably low. Despite this, it’s clear that the Cowboys’ eight accepted penalties seriously impacted their performance. Even without these penalties, their play was far from commendable.
Judging by the yardage, only the 49ers have managed to vex the Cowboys more than the 406 yards gained by Seattle. Notably, this was a relatively struggling Seattle team that had lost three of its recent four games, accruing a mere 29 points and 511 yards in their last two matches. Despite these less-than-stellar stats, they managed to score three touchdowns and pile up 334 yards against the Cowboys.
The Cowboys were ultimately fortunate that their offensive prowess, led by Dak Prescott, was sufficient to compensate for the frailties of their defense, clinching victory. With Prescott completing 29 of 41 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns, along with CeeDee Lamb’s outstanding 12 successful catches totaling 116 yards, the team’s offensive core was in top form. The running game also contributed with 136 yards.
Though the Cowboys’ defense has generally performed better this season, this disappointing display comes at a less-than-optimal time considering the crucial phase in their schedule. As the Cowboys eye the Super Bowl, this potential setback against the Seahawks could spell some concern. They undoubtedly realize that etheral or haphazard efforts won’t hold water when they go up against the Eagles (10-1) next Sunday night.
Given the current NFL landscape, their upcoming games will serve as the team’s litmus test. If they aim to become bona fide Super Bowl contenders, they need to demonstrate their capability of defeating teams like the Bills (6-6), Dolphins (8-3), and the Lions (8-3). Taking into account Thursday’s performance, their defense will need significant improvement if they hope to succeed.
Despite their defense’s shortcomings, the Cowboys were ultimately victorious, and that will be their primary focal point moving forward. Recognizing the need for rapid improvement, their defense must elevate their game. Because while their offense has proven reliable, a stronger defense is crucial for any realistic shot at winning the championship.
Previously confident in their defensive prowess, they will now need to recover quickly, restoring their championship-level defense if they hope to remain competitive in the NFL. Given the uncertainties thrown up by their recent performance, the last word remains on how the defense takes up this challenge.