Only in Seattle would we be talking about "trap games" right after a two-game losing streak, but I think the phrase is apt as we approach a road contest in Dallas against the Cowboys. Ten quick observations:
1. "America's Team" is sitting at 3-4 and appears to be struggling, but appearances could be deceiving. Dallas opened the season with some close games against a brutal schedule, never losing by more than four points against the Jets, Lions, or Patriots. Last week they were buried to the tune of 34-7 by a Philly offense much more dynamic and interesting than Seattle's. The closest analogy to the Seahawks on Dallas' schedule is the Rams, whom Dallas dismantled 34-7 themselves.
2. Tony Romo is quite the "choker" this year, but it's hard to predict whether that will show up on Sunday. He's got a little bit of Tarvaris in him right now - he's put up multiple 300+ yard games, but it's not translating to wins. This week, however, he faces a defensive line scheme that isn't really interested in getting to the QB and a secondary that, for all the good things they're showing, is both inexperienced and penalty-prone. That's the sort of setup that gives QB's multiple chances and turns chokers into heroes. And now, just when interior DT Alan Branch was starting to get some interior penetration, he may be held out with an injury Sunday and won't be 100% if he does play. This is an experienced QB who knows his receivers and likes to challenge secondaries deep for the big play - expect some fireworks.
3. Has anyone else noticed that it wasn't until we started playing 4-3 defenses that Tarvaris Jackson suddenly seemed to improve? Me neither, until Mark Clagett pointed it out. We haven't seen a 3-4 defense since the first three weeks of the season, and 3-4's are by nature more unpredictable and harder to block. The number of combined sacks/hits conceded by this O-line is already in the double digits per game; this Sunday could give them even more fits than usual. You just know that DeMarcus Ware will line up on James Carpenter alllll daaaaay loooong, and then follow him to the hotel so he can bullrush him into the vending machine.
4. It'll be interesting to see how Tarvaris Jackson handles the pressure. He's been a warrior already, staying in the game and making things happen against Cincinnati despite taking hit after hit. Cincinnati, by the way, was one of the top-ranked pass defenses in the league before it encountered Jackson, so it was a legitimate accomplishment for Jackson to post 300+ yards, especially in 2.5 quarters and with no running game and a ton of drops and penalties to overcome. He's playing unsupported right now. Kudos to him, but whether he can maintain that level of play for another eight quarters (he faces the league's best defense the week after Dallas) is a big whether.
5. Last week, CB Richard Sherman received props for limiting AJ Green, who has since confessed to playing a lazy game. Fieldgulls' Thomas Beekers, in his weekly hunt for cornerback caveats that everyone else has skipped over, observed that Sherman got lucky on a couple of bad throws from Dalton and found his success largely in coverage on a few go routes, which makes up a pretty minor slice of a passing game. He'll be tested much more severely by Tony Romo throwing to Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, who are physical enough to win a slugfest and speedy enough to shake coverage should they be given free releases. Sherman looked alright in his first game, but the ultimate test of an NFL player is consistency and Sherman is far from show enough fundamentals to hold up on his own when the pass rush can't get home against a multi-dimensional QB.
6. Speaking of pass rush, Seattle this week faces another of the questionable O-lines that have given this defense a few breaks this year. The possible absence of Alan Branch could either be a grave liability or a chance for a smaller, more strictly pass-rushing player to make an impact and show Pete Carroll that interior penetration really can be nice. I suspect the former, purely because I don't see anyone on this roster who can slice into backfields. Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane aren't doing it, aren't the right profile for it, shouldn't be expected to do it.
7. From the nail-biting that Sean Lee's absence has induced in a few Dallas fans, his backups have been made to sound like Aaron Currys in coverage. With Lee out, Jackson could have an easy outlet for pressure over the middle to running backs and tight ends. First, however, our tight ends need to stop dropping the ball. I don't expect much from Cameron Morrah and am mildly disappointed by Anthony McCoy's drops, but I expected a lot better from the expensive, consistent-by-reputation Zach Miller. He's had a couple ghastly drops-leading-to-interceptions this year. It's more likely that Jackson will turn instead to a big underneath game with Doug Baldwin.
8. This is all moot if Seattle can't stop handing its opponents five first downs on penalties. Pete Carroll is definitely being watched in terms of his ability to get his team disciplined. Of course, a big chunk of those penalties are false starts from an inexperience offensive line, so that's another problem we're just waiting for time to fix.
9. As always, it would be a tremendous help if Tarvaris Jackson can score early. The last three times Seattle has beaten a decent QB on the road (San Diego, Chicago, and New York), part of the winning formula has been early points on the board followed by a field-position stalemate that kept the opposing offense deep in their own territory. Unfortunately, the Seahawks are amongst the league's worst in both first-half scoring and special teams this year.
10. Jason Witten is the first respectable tight end threat the Seahawks have faced in a while. It'll be a tough test for our linebackers.
Pete Carroll's Seahawks have a way of hanging around in a game they rightfully shouldn't be, but only once this year has Seattle faced a passing offense this good. It could be an unpleasant reminder that the defense isn't built to stop the pass and has a long ways to develop.
Seattle 16 - Dallas 36