This is the unedited version of my game story that will appear in tomorrow’s News Tribune:
By Frank Hughes
IRVING, Texas – Basement, meet the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle Seahawks, meet the basement.
It certainly felt like the woebegone Seahawks bottomed out on Thursday afternoon, dropping a nationally televised 34-9 decision to the Dallas Cowboys in the last Thanksgiving Day game played at Texas Stadium.
Though Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren insisted his players had been performing better in the past few weeks, he certainly could not make that claim about what became Seattle’s fifth consecutive loss, dropping its record to 2-10.
Whether it was because the Seahawks have nothing left to play for or because their talent level is far inferior to Dallas’, they were thoroughly dominated in every aspect of the game, leaving very little about which they can actually feel good as they head into the final quarter of what has become an acutely long season.
"It’s going to be tough like that throughout," said offensive tackle Walter Jones, who was uncharacteristically beat for two sacks by DeMarcus Ware. "Everybody we play is jockeying for position in the playoffs, so it’s not going to get any easier to the end."
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dissected Seattle’s secondary with surgical precision; its defense pressured Matt Hasselbeck all afternoon, sacking him seven times; and everything else came together harmoniously for Dallas, which improved to 8-4 and remains in the midst of the race for an NFC Wild Card berth.
The Seahawks knew their smallish secondary was overmatched by the Cowboys’ big receivers. Yet, rather than pressure Romo early on, the Seahawks sat back in a zone.
With a pass rush unable to penetrate an offensive line that averages 329 pounds a man, Romo relaxed in the pocket and played pitch and catch with his receivers.
He found rookie tight end Martellus Bennett in the front corner of the end zone only two minutes and 24 seconds into the game, giving Dallas a 7-0 lead.
Julius Jones, returning to Dallas to prove something to his former coaches and teammates, only verified why they let him go in favor of Marion Barber. He fumbled on his second carry of the game, leading to Romo marching the Cowboys down the field again and handing off to Barber for a two-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
The Seahawks kicked a field goal to offer a scintilla of hope, but the Cowboys got back the ball, sprinted down the field again and took a 21-3 lead with a pass from Romo to tight end Jason Witten.
With that, more attention could be paid to Stove Top stuffing instead of potatoes.
"They were really good," Hasselbeck said. "We knew that coming down. We weren’t scoring touchdowns early and they were. They did a nice job."
Many questions were raised during a game that only served to highlight the myriad shortcomings of the Seahawks this season.
Like, why did they not attempt to blitz and apply more pressure to Romo until after the game got out of hand?
"I think we are a pressure D, definitely," Leroy Hill said. "I think we play better when we pressure. The first couple series we just sat back to see what they were going to do or whatever. And they drove on us. I definitely think the pressure helped us. But we didn’t weather the storm."
And, why did they continue to ignore Witten slipping into seams between the linebackers? Witten had nine receptions for 115 yards, including seven catches in the first half, and the Seahawks never seemed to make adjustments to his presence.
"When you are in a zone, there are always holes in the defense," Julian Peterson said.
Defense was not the only problems the Seahawks’ faced. Because they got down by so much so early, Dallas’ defensive line knew Seattle had to pass and rushed accordingly.
They got to Hasselbeck seven times, including Ware getting around Jones twice, much to everyone’s dismay.
The Cowboys were shimmying all over the place, after sacks, after catches, after runs. They embarrassed the once-proud Seahawks before the nation. And the Seahawks could do nothing but endure.
Afterward, they wanted to embrace the holiday and be thankful. But their efforts sounded as hollow as their season has become.