Takeaways from Seahawks 41-35 loss to Cowboys

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 30: DeMarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after forcing a turnover on fourth down during an NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks at AT&T Stadium on November 30, 202

The Seattle Seahawks  played one of their best games of the season in many ways and still found a way to lose Thursday night against the Dallas Cowboys.

DK Metcalf scored three touchdowns for Seattle, Zach Charbonnet scored his first career touchdown, and the offense had the breakout performance they'd been searching for, but tree fourth quarter drives ended in failed fourth down tries in a 41-35 loss to the Cowboys.

Neither team punted once in the game as both defenses struggled to come up with stops of any kind for most of the contest. But ultimately, the Cowboys stopped the Seahawks on each of their final two drives by pressuring Seattle into a pair of failed fourth down attempts to hold on for the win.

"Hard game for anybody to lose," Carroll said. "I love the way our guys played. Played hard, tough, creative and executed, and battled the whole time. It was a fantastic effort. Give them credit too. They were playing hard too."

It's the fifth game in NFL history to feature no punts from either team.

It's Seattle's third straight loss and brings the real possibility of a four-game (or more) losing streak with games against the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles the next two weeks. The Seahawks have only had one four-game losing streak in the entirety of Pete Carroll's tenure as head coach, which came in the final four games of his first season at the helm in 2010.

"For our guys to bounce back and play against a great football team at home, they’ve got this big win streak and all of that and they’re legit as can be, right down to the end. There’s no concession to losing, but we will definitely build on this," Carroll said.

"Because the execution, the come-through and toughness, and the physicality of it, because of the respect we have for them, all of those things are of course things we can build on. There’s all kinds of stuff that’s going to happen. The story’s not told, what’s going to happen. We’ve got great chances again in the next couple of weeks against teams that are worthy of being on top of this thing at the end, and we’re going to show the world we’re worthy of being right there with them."

The Seahawks now sit at 6-6 on the year with a repeat matchup with the 49ers on deck next week. Thursday's performance seemed like a step in the right direction in many ways, but it still didn't deliver the result the team wanted.

Here are the takeaways from the loss to the Cowboys:

– Seahawks offense has breakout game it desperately needed, but were unable to keep up with Dallas.

The Seahawks scored 35 points, didn't punt once, and had their best performance of the year converting on third down. That performance came against a Dallas defense that entered the matchup third in the NFL in total defense, second in pass defense, and fourth in points allowed per game.

Most games that's a recipe for a win.

""I thought we got into a rhythm early," quarterback Geno Smith said. "I thought we came out strong in the second half. I wish we finished the game a lot better. In those situations when we have the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win it, you usually thrive in those situations. We just fell short." 

Smith passed for 334 yards with three touchdowns and an interception on the night. Seattle converted on 9-of-14 third down opportunities, which was easily their best mark of the year. After scoring just three touchdowns in their last four games combined, the Seahawks scored touchdowns five times in seven drives Thursday night.

"We varied it throughout and frustrated their rush at times where they have been having a lot of success," Carroll said. "The guys made the plays, made the catches. I think it was just a really good combination of stuff. We finally put together a really good third down night on offense. I think they’re third in the league in third down defense. You felt it. You could see us move the football and we made the plays and we made the throws and the catches and the protections and all that to get that done. That’s where we’re trying to go."

Metcalf had his way early with Cowboys standout cornerback DaRon Bland. Metcalf caught three passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. It's the second time in his career he's caught three touchdowns in a game, matching the performance he had in a 59-21 win over the Detroit Lions in Week 17 of the 2021 season. He finished with 134 yards on six receptions for Seattle.

"We finally started executing," Metcalf said. "We were moving the ball down the field and we scored in the red zone. I think that’s one positive take away we can take from this game."

The Cowboys moved Bland off of coverage of Metcalf as the game progressed. Metcalf's 73-yard touchdown on the opening drive was Seattle's longest play of the season and involved Metcalf beating Bland on a in-breaking route and racing away for his first touchdown of the night.

"DK had a huge game. I thought he did great. Dominant. I love the way he played tonight," Carroll said. 

Additionally, Smith did a really good job of getting the football out of hands quicker, which helped mitigate the pass rush threat of Micah Parsons. Smith was only sacked once in the game.

"Just getting the ball out," Smith said. "I thought Shane [Waldron] called a great game. He called an amazing game. The receivers ran great routes. The protection was awesome…The whole o-line played phenomenally. They gave us a good chance to make plays and guys made good plays."

But speaking of Waldron, the final call offensively of the night may sting for a while.

– Fourth down call on final play seems a bit peculiar.

On the most important play of the night for Seattle's offense, the Seahawks called a play that attempted to get the ball to third-string running back DeeJay Dallas and ultimately left star Cowboys pass rusher Micah Parsons completely unblocked.

When phrased that way, such a call doesn't seem to make much sense. On a fourth-and-2 passing play, the Seahawks weren't looking for Metcalf, Tyler Lockett or Jaxon Smith-Njiba, they were trying to get the ball to a reserve running back in the lineup because of injuries to Ken Walker III and Zach Charbonnet.

"Micah coming free, we knew that would possibility happen. We tried to get the ball around him. I just wasn’t able to," Smith said.

So to dive into the particulars of the call, the Seahawks had their offensive line slide to the left against a pressure look from the Cowboys defense. DeeJay Dallas was lined up to Smith's left in the shotgun and was supposed to come underneath him and leak out into the right flat as a pass option. The three receivers to the right side of the field serve to run coverage away from the flat to aid in spacing for the route.

However, Parsons came firing up field directly at Smith off the snap and Dallas was unable to get through the line of scrimmage traffic cleanly out into his route. 

"We're expecting DeeJay to be able to slip out of there," Smith said. "Usually sometimes teams have what they call a peel with the end where if the back releases, the end  would peel, Parsons would peel. On that play, it's all out so he continued to rush. We thought DeeJay could slip through there and we could give them the ball in the flat. Wasn't able to get through here and kind of a held up and that's how the play went."

Dallas was slow getting across the formation and Parsons' pressure seemingly got to Smith in an instant. Smith could only dump the pass into the ground to seal the win for the Cowboys.

"That very last play on offense, it was a zero pressure, so I have to do what is called a shift," right tackle Abe Lucas said. "So I have to come down so as not to leave the middle free – a lot of people don’t really know that. So it looks like, it would look like we just let him run of the edge. No, that is the rule of protection. There was a method to the madness, so to speak."

The Seahawks did almost everything they were supposed to do with the play that was called. And that might just be the problem. It seemed to ask too much of a third-string running back and paid too little respect to the ability and speed of Parsons in the biggest moment in the game.

– Defense continues to have problems with penalties, couldn't get off the field.

The Cowboys only had one drive all night where they did not manage to score at least a field goal (excluding final kneel downs).

Dallas has a good offense. Dak Prescott is one of the front runners in the MVP race at this point in the season. However, that still shouldn't mean the Seahawks defense cannot be more effective than it was on Thursday night.

"I think a big part of it was penalties," defensive tackle Leonard Williams said. "I think we gave up over 200 yards of penalties, which is going to hold us back. We need to clean that up. Overall, I feel like we played good ball and we just need to build off of this."

Not quite 200 yards in penalties, but 10 penalties for 130 yards is still plenty of yellow to nuke your chances of winning a game. Seattle's defense was responsible for seven penalties for 104 yards on the night with Riq Woolen called for two pass interference penalties and a defensive holding penalty that accounted for 87 of those yards.

"It’s unfortunate," Carroll said. "It feels like there’s a whole other factor in this game. I don’t know. You guys saw it a lot better than I did, but there were just way too many penalties in this game from both sides, and we’ve got to get out of that kind of football."

Certainly you can question the officiating performance overall Thursday night. It's clear several members of the Seahawks wanted to even if the bit their tongues in order to avoid fines. A pass interference call against Bobby Wagner was particularly egregious, for instance.

However, it's not the first time this season, the Seahawks have let penalties impact a result. The 12 penalties for 130 yards two weeks ago in a loss to the Los Angeles Rams was similarly responsible for contributing to a narrow defeat, 17-16.

"It's very frustrating," cornerback Tre Brown told FOX 13's Ian Furness. "With the refs against us at the same time, that didn't really help the game. In certain situations we beat ourselves, so it can be very frustrating.

"It's very hard. … What more can we do? it seems like you can't even be yourself out there without having to worry about a flag."

But even beyond some legitimate frustration with calls, the Seahawks defense ultimately allowed seven drives that netted over 50 yards on the night.

"There is just something small that is lacking right now that we can tighten up and finish these close games," Williams said. "I feel like we have all the talent in the world. The talent is there. The want to is there. It’s not like guys are slacking throughout the week. Guys are working hard. We have the camaraderie and all those things. I think there are just like very small things that we need to clean up on."