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Moore: Play-calling alone not the reason for Seahawks’ loss to Cowboys

In a game the Seahawks lost by two points, there are plenty of places to point for blame. (AP)

The Seahawks’ season ended before anyone wanted it to, and the complaints and blame game are to be expected when a team loses to another playoff team that wasn’t necessarily the better team.

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Dallas and Seattle were both 10-6, and the Cowboys, as 2 1/2-point favorites, won 24-22. Just as Vegas thought, there was a slim difference between the two teams.

If Russell Wilson had thrown the ball more than he did, would the Seahawks have won? Based on social-media reaction, it appears that many fans feel that way even though the Seahawks got to the playoffs by becoming a run-dominant team after losing their first two games of the season. It certainly makes sense to have this opinion after watching the Seahawks go three-and-out six times in the game and rushing for less than half of their average per game during the regular season.

After rushing for more than 100 yards in his last three regular-season games, Chris Carson rushed for just 20 on 13 carries against the Cowboys, and the Seahawks ran for only 73 yards after averaging 160 yards over the course of the season. If you take away Rashaad Penny’s 29-yard run in the third quarter, the Seahawks collected just 44 yards on their other 24 carries.

I can see both sides of it. In defending the barking 12s, I’d say that offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer might have blown it with his play-calling. He had access to the same stats we did – Dallas gave up an average of 70 rushing yards in its eight home games this year. Now if I’m Schottenheimer, I’m thinking: “Well, maybe so, but we’re the top rushing team in the league, and Dallas hasn’t faced a team at home that can rush the ball like we do. Plus we’ve rushed it against every opponent this season, and boy did I take heat, and rightly so, when I went to Russell too frequently in the first two games when we started 0-2.”

So that’s why I hedged and say he might have blown it. He should have had a better Plan B for a Plan A that wasn’t working like Plan A worked for the last 14 regular-season games. He should have improvised better than he did. But he could also argue that with his conservative game plan, the Seahawks still led 14-10 going into the fourth quarter.

Was it the offensive coordinator’s fault that the defense gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter? Perhaps you would say “yes” to that question, citing two three-and-outs in the fourth quarter that may have contributed to a tiring defense being on the field too long, helping an average Dallas offense come from behind.

Plus there’s this side of it – let’s say he unleashed Wilson in the second quarter after the Seahawks went three-and-out three times in a row in the first quarter. Maybe the Seahawks would have won going away if he’d done that. And you’d have a strong argument with Wilson turning in one of the most efficient regular seasons of his career. Plus we all know how terrific he’s been in the postseason too, entering the Dallas game with an 8-4 record in the playoffs.

But if it hadn’t gone well, what would you have said then? I’m guessing it would have been something along the lines of: “Hey, what were the Seahawks thinking? They got here running the ball and now they’re throwing it all over the lot? They should have stuck with what got them them there.”

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There’s always the benefit of hindsight, and for all I know, Schotty is kicking himself for not passing more, but I’m pretty sure he made decisions he thought were the best ones for the team. Maybe you think you have a better idea, but I’m thinking a guy that has studied all of the tape and tendencies and has a long history as a coach in the league has a better handle on what to do in a game than you and I do. What, you want Darrell Bevell back? Didn’t think so, but I also thought criticism of the former OC was unwarranted too.

Whomever replaces Schottenheimer, whether it happens in the next two years or in 2025, doesn’t matter. The next time the Seahawks lose in the playoffs, someone will complain about the new offensive coordinator’s play-calling. Here’s what I’d like to know – why aren’t there complaints about defensive coordinator Ken Norton? I personally don’t have any issues with him, but if you’re going to hammer on Schottenheimer, why is Norton free from blame? His unit was on the field when Dallas took the lead and scored the game-clinching touchdown.

I don’t think what happened is his fault either, but spread it around. There’s not just one reason or one person to single out for the loss. What happened to winning as a team and losing as a team, and how about this? They just plain lost Saturday night in Dallas. Yes, they could have been better on third down, converting 2 of 13. They could have gotten non-calls from officials on pass interference by K.J. Wright and Justin Coleman. Any number of things could have transpired differently, and the Seahawks would have advanced to play the Rams this Saturday.

That’s the most disappointing part. By beating the Bears 16-15 on Sunday, the Eagles gave the Seahawks what they were hoping for – a matchup against the Rams in the divisional round. The offensive frustration would have disappeared in that game. The Seahawks scored 31 points in both regular-season games against the Rams and surely would have rushed for more than 100 yards against a Los Angeles defense that ranks 23rd against the run (Dallas was fifth).

I also get the frustration from this one-and-done by the Seahawks – it’s wide open in the NFC this year, and Pete Carroll’s team had just as good of a chance as any other team to make it to the Super Bowl and maybe even win it all. Beating Kansas City 2 1/2 weeks ago proved as much.

The big picture is clear – the Seahawks have a young team whose window is just opening, and this season offered an unexpected glimpse into the good times ahead. Don’t let the small picture get in the way of that.

Commitment to run that saved Hawks’ season sinks them in playoffs