As Sunday approaches the Cowboys once again face the Seahawks -- although this time at AT&T Stadium -- needing a win few think is possible that could define their 2015 season.
Few thought last year’s win was possible because the Seahawks simply did not lose at home with Russell Wilson at quarterback. In fact, it was just the second time it happened. The 30-23 score did not indicate just how much the Cowboys dominated that day.
Special teams’ gaffes nearly cost the Cowboys the game, like last week’s loss to the New York Giants.
It was the Cowboys’ fifth straight win in what turned out to be a six-game winning streak. Murray ran for more than 100 yards in his sixth straight game on his way to eight straight 100-yard games, an NFL record to start a season. The defense smothered Wilson, limiting the Seahawks to 206 yards.
Those Seahawks might not be these Seahawks. Seattle’s 3-4 record is unexpected after it made the Super Bowl the last two years, but they are coming off a dominating Week 7 win against the San Francisco 49ers and will have 10 days of rest.
Those Cowboys certainly aren’t these Cowboys.
These Cowboys are in midst of a four-game losing streak, will start Matt Cassel at quarterback for the second time and have a defense that has not forced a takeaway since the second week of the season.
“We’re still in the hunt,” tight end Jason Witten said in the locker room after last week’s loss to the New York Giants. “We’re going to get it turned around and get it fixed and it takes work, but this group isn’t going to break. We’re not going to point fingers. We are just going to keep fighting.”
Last year’s Cowboys needed a signature win to validate their fast start. This year’s Cowboys need any kind of win to stay in the hunt.
“Hopefully it can start more wins, more confidence,” Morris Claiborne said. “I feel like everybody knows what we think we’re supposed to be but the season took a big turn on us. We can’t continue to hold our head. We just got to continue to keep working.”
The Cowboys have not won in more than a month because they have not made enough explosive plays offensively, not had any takeaways defensively and not affected the game positively enough on special teams.
Last October they beat the Seahawks because they made explosive plays offensively (five pass plays of 20 yards or more, four runs of 10 yards or more), came up with key stops defensively (allowed nine first downs) and a big special teams play (Dan Bailey kicked a 56-yard field goal).
They answered adversity, whether they created it or the Seahawks did.
They overcame adversities against the Giants, but not enough. The lasting memory of that game is Greg Hardy's altercation in the special teams’ huddle and along the sidelines, but Garrett doesn’t see frustration with the losing streak boiling over.
“If you watch our football team play, they play the right way,” Garrett said. “They fight. They battle. They scratch. They claw. There is a relentless nature to them and I really like our team and the approach we take every day. Guys come in and they get themselves ready.”
But they have to turn that readiness into success. It has to happen Sunday the way it did last year in Seattle when few thought they could win.
If they do, they could do more than just stay in the hunt. They could define their season.