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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

September 15, 2012 at 10:14 AM

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Keys to the game: Cowboys at Seahawks

Seahawks keys

Seahawks Take the training wheels off the offense.
Four teams scored more than 40 points in Week 1 while the Seahawks had only one play gain more than 20 yards. Seattle has to open things up. That doesn't mean rookie Russell Wilson should throw 40 yards downfield every other play, but Seattle has to find ways to make the defense at least fear the possibility of being beaten over the top so opponents will ease up on the steady stream of blitzes.

Seahawks Dial up the pocket pressure on Tony Romo.
Defensive end Chris Clemons was the only Seahawk to consistently apply pass-rushing pressure in Week 1. Sound familiar? It should. That was the case too often last season, and Seattle chose Bruce Irvin in the first round to give Clemons some help. Well, Irvin had a single quarterback hit in his regular-season debut, but maybe the home crowd will jumpstart his ability to rush the passer.

Seahawks Protect Russell Wilson's neck.
He was sacked three times last week, but that doesn't illustrate how much pressure he faced in Arizona. Well, the Cowboys are just as proficient at rushing the passer. They finished with 42 sacks last season, tied with Arizona and San Francisco for seventh-most in the league. The Cowboys sacked Eli Manning three times last week, and Seattle's attempt to improve its offense starts with giving Wilson time to look downfield.

Cowboys' keys

cow-mark-1-cl.gif Keep the back end buttoned down.

The Cowboys ranked No. 24 in the league in pass defense last season, and No. 26 the year before. They went out and signed cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency, drafted LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne in the first round of the draft and went out and held the Giants to 187 yards passing last week. Seattle had 139 yards passing last week, fourth-fewest of any team in the league, a total the Seahawks will want to improve.

cow-mark-1-cl.gif Don't jump.
The Cowboys are one of two teams in the league who begin the season with consecutive road games, and last week in New York, Dallas was penalized five times for false starts. Three of those penalties were against Tryon Smith, the second-year lineman who moved from right tackle to left this year. Well, his second start at that position will be in one of the loudest stadiums in the league so he better settle down and cut back on the flags.

cow-mark-1-cl.gif Don't give up on the running game.
Seattle allowed 43 yards rushing last week, but Dallas shouldn't give up on the running game before it gets started. Running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 139 yards on 22 carries against Seattle last year, one of only two running backs who hit triples figures against the Seahawks in 2011 (Washington's Roy Helu was the other).

Matchup microscope
Seahawks LT Russell Okung vs. Dallas LB DeMarcus Ware
Ware is one of the league's most prolific pass rushers, someone who has four sacks in his four regular-season games against the Seahawks. Three of those came on Thanksgiving in 2008. Okung is questionable after suffering a knee bruise, which left him questionable. Even if he does play, he'll get some help with Ware, who is going to be the biggest focus for Seattle's defense.

Series history
This is the fourth time the teams have met in five seasons. The Cowboys have won the three previous meetings, all by double digits. Seattle's last regular-season victory over Dallas occurred in October 2005 when the Seahawks scored 10 points in the final minute and won 13-10.

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