By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – Fans of the ground attack should be in for a treat
Sunday in the Emerald City, as the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle
Seahawks welcome DeMarco Murray and the Dallas Cowboys to CenturyLink Field.
Murray leads the NFL with 670 yards and is averaging a league-best 134.0 yards
per game with 5.2 yards per carry. He will go up against Seahawks running back
Marshawn Lynch, who is sixth in the NFL with 306 yards (76.5 ypg). Murray has
posted five 100-yard games to start the season for the 4-1 Cowboys and has
five rushing scores. He is trying to become the first Dallas running back to
lead the league in rushing since Emmitt Smith in 1995 (1,773 yards).
Smith, of course, surpassed Walter Payton to become the NFL’s all-time leading
rusher against the Seahawks back in 2002 (18,355).
In Sunday’s 20-17 overtime win over the Houston Texans, Murray carried the
ball 31 times for 136 yards and was kept out of the end zone. He joined Jim
Brown (6) and O.J. Simpson (5) as the only players to run for 100 yards or
more in at least five games to start a season.
“Those are pioneers at the running back position,” Murray said. “You know they
did a lot of great things for the position and for the NFL. A lot of respect
for those guys.”
Murray, the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, is gaining more
respect and has been able to start off strong as evidenced by his 177 yards in
the first quarter. The Cowboys are 15-1 when Murray carries the ball 20 or
more times and will face a Seattle defense ranked No. 1 against the run,
allowing just a mere 62.2 yards per game.
It will be a huge test for Murray and the Cowboys, who are second in the NFL
in rushing with 160.0 yards per game. Guess who’s first? That’s right, the
Seahawks lead the league with 167.2 rushing yards a week. Murray has 183 yards
rushing in two games against Seattle and ran for 139 yards on 22 carries in a
23-13 win versus the Seahawks on Nov. 6, 2011.
The Seahawks returned the favor with a 27-7 victory over the Cowboys on Sept.
16, 2012, when Lynch racked up 122 yards and a score on 26 touches. Lynch has
accumulated 257 yards and two TDs in the last two meetings with Dallas, which
had a three-game winning streak in this series stopped in that 2012 loss. The
Cowboys hold a 9-5 edge in the regular season against Seattle, but haven’t won
in the Pacific Northwest since Dec. 6, 2004, losing three straight trips
there. Seattle beat Dallas in the Wild Card Playoffs on Jan. 6, 2007.
Dallas comes into Sunday’s matchup on a roll with four straight wins after a
Week 1 loss to San Francisco. Quarterback Tony Romo likes where his team is
at, but knows it’s a long season.
“Your record is what it is,” Romo said. “You want to put yourself in the best
position at the end of the year. Being 4-1 is great but we have a long way to
Romo will tie Hall of Famer Roger Staubach (114) for the most games started by
a Cowboys QB, while HOF QB Troy Aikman is first with 165 starts. Romo has won
three of his four starts against the Seahawks and helped Dallas rack up 456
yards over the Texans, passing for 324 with two TDs and an interception.
The Cowboys, who are fifth in the NFL in total yards (398.2), have won three
in a row on the road and remain tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for first in
the NFC East. The New York Giants are right behind with a 3-2 record and will
visit south Philly Sunday night.
The Seahawks will try to slow down the Cowboys’ reborn offense, especially
Murray. Linebacker Bobby Wagner leads the team in tackles with 43 and posted
eight in Monday night’s 27-17 victory in Washington.
Wagner also had a sack and two passes defensed, and is looking forward to
Sunday’s meeting with Murray and the Cowboys. Wagner is riding a streak of 15
consecutive games with at least eight tackles, including the playoffs.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Wagner said. “He’s trying to lead the league in
rushing and I’m trying to lead the league in tackles. So, I’m looking forward
to the challenge.”
Wagner’s confidence should bode well for the Seahawks. They were able to hold
Redskins running back Alfred Morris to just 29 yards on 13 carries, but their
pass defense was exposed a bit. DeSean Jackson had 157 yards and a touchdown
on five catches and burned the Seattle secondary for a 60-yard TD and a 57-
yard reception. The Seahawks are 22nd against the pass, allowing 255.5 ypg.
Seattle will be in for a long afternoon if it can’t get to Romo because Dez
Bryant, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten are three formidable receivers.
Bryant had 85 yards and a touchdown against the Texans and Williams ended with
71 yards and a score. Seattle’s Legion of Boom could be in trouble with a
three-headed monster paying a visit.
“Terrance really has become a good receiver for us,” Romo said. “He’s starting
to come into his own. I’ve always had confidence in his ability. I think
you’re seeing him understand things even better and he’s gotten better every
Williams has four TD catches in the last three games and Bryant has a
touchdown reception in each of his previous four contests. Witten eclipsed the
10,000 receiving mark and needs two more catches for 900. He will join future
Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez as the only tight ends with 900 receptions.
Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor were burned by Jackson on his long TD
catch Monday night. The defense must tighten up this week by forcing Romo to
beat them on his own because it will be tough sledding for Murray and the run
“It’s a great challenge for us. Obviously, they’re world champs and they play
great at their stadium and have for a few years now,” Cowboys head coach Jason
Garrett said. “It starts with how good of a football team they are. They’re a
really, really good team. They didn’t win the Super Bowl last year by
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Dallas defense is almost the exact opposite of Seattle’s in which it
allows more than 100 yards (122.0) per game. The Cowboys have allowed more
than 100 yards four times in five games this season, and were gashed by
Houston, which racked up 176 rushing yards.
Texans running back Arian Foster ripped off 157 yards and two scores on 23
carries in a losing effort.
Maybe activating safety Jakar Hamilton (suspension) will help in the box if
the Cowboys put him in. Hamilton was suspended the first four games because he
violated the league’s substance abuse policy.
“Just trying to contribute in any way that I can,” Hamilton said. “I don’t
care if I’ve got to pass out water, you know what I’m saying? But it feels
great to be back with my teammates and coaches.”
The Cowboys face the top-rated rushing offense this week and have the luxury
of trying to stop both Lynch and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson
ran for a career-high 122 yards against the Redskins, while Lynch added 72.
Wilson also passed for 201 yards with two touchdowns and faces a Dallas
defense that is 18th against the pass (247.8) and 21st in total yards (369.8).
“Russell had a phenomenal game,” Seattle head coach Peter Carroll said. “He
was everywhere. He did everything we could have asked of him.”
Dallas will try to limit Wilson’s scrambling ability.
Wilson and the Seahawks are only 30th in passing with just 201.0 yards per
game and generally hitch their wagon to Lynch’s legs. But they proved both
Wilson and Lynch, and some defensive help, are enough to succeed. Wilson is
19-1 at home, including the playoffs, with 36 TD passes and eight INTs.
He has a solid surrounding cast in receivers Percy Harvin, Jermaine Kearse and
Doug Baldwin. All three wideouts and Lynch have more than 100 yards receiving.
Lynch leads Seattle with three receiving TDs to go along with three rushing.
The Seahawks were a bit shaky in DC on Monday night and allowed the Redskins
to creep back into the game. Now they face a more balanced and potent Cowboys
team that is trying to establish itself as one of the league’s best.
Romo is anxious to see how his team stacks up with the Seahawks.
“I think we’ve seen plenty of times that one game isn’t going to define your
season at this point. However, there are very important games and you know
this game is a game that is a great test for us.” Romo said. “It’s going to be
good to see our team come out with great energy and great enthusiasm and
really see how we stack up.”
Sunday’s matchup between Seattle and Dallas will be competitive, and features
two of the best running backs and quarterbacks in the NFL. The Seahawks have
the edge simply because of homefield advantage, but the Cowboys will fight to
the finish and stay atop the NFC East because Philadelphia will have its hands
full with New York in the evening.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Seahawks 30, Cowboys 27