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Seahawks done in by third quarter from hell

You might say the Seahawks had some momentum at halftime as they took a 6-6 tie into the locker room in Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.

6-6 isn’t exactly a tidal wave of momentum but quarterback Tarvaris Jackson hadn’t made any big mistakes and the running game was showing some signs of life. The Hawks had 75 yards on the ground, just three penalties and were plus-1 in turnover ratio.

The ground game came courtesy of some excellent zone blocking by the offensive line, one of the three penalties was a face mask that prevented a DeMarco Murray touchdown and led to a fantastic goal-line stand by the Hawks D, and the turnover was the result of a big hit by rookie cornerback Richard Sherman at the 1-yard line.

The defense gave up over 300 yards but they were the definition of “bend but don’t break”, holding Dallas to just two field goals. It wasn’t pretty, but there was a lot to like.

Unfortunately, the Seahawks came out of the locker room for the third quarter.

The unraveling began with an illegal block penalty on the opening kickoff return of the second half that took the Hawks back to their own 6-yard line, and ended with an 8-yard Murray run to the Seahawks 5-yard line as time expired in the third quarter.

I think we were all happy to see that quarter end but the damage had been done. Two plays into the fourth quarter Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw a 6-yard touchdown pass that pushed the score to 20-6, and as they say in Texas, that’s all she wrote. The final tally for the worst third quarter of Seahawks football I’ve seen in years:

• 5 penalties
• 1 interception
• 1 blocked field goal
• 2 glaringly bad missed tackles
• 1 blown pass coverage for a touchdown

That’s how you lose on the road. Ironically, those were many of the mistakes the Seahawks had forced Dallas into early on. During the first half the Cowboys committed five penalties for 57 yards, fumbled on the 1-yard line and were 0-2 in red zone efficiency. They had 304 yards and just two field goals to show for it.

Offensive line gets an A-plus

One thing Seahawks fans can be very excited about is the offensive line play. One late sack of Tarvaris Jackson and 165 yards rushing would be good against any team in the NFL but this was more than that.

DeMarcus Ware had 12 sacks coming into this game and didn’t get a sniff of the quarterback all day. The Cowboys defense was No. 4 against the run and although they were missing their leading tackler, Sean Lee, the yardage the Hawks gained on Sunday pushed Dallas back to No. 10 vs. the run.

I was particularly impressed by Max Unger’s and John Moffitt’s execution of the zone blocking scheme. They both showed the ability to seal off double teams at the line of scrimmage and then get up to the second level and block linebackers, providing the space Marshawn Lynch needs to go to work.

Gruden finally caves

I’ve voiced my contempt for Roger Goodell and the direction the NFL is headed many times this season as it relates to the over-officiating taking place on the field. Especially when it comes to the punishment of the players who are playing the game the way it’s meant to be played.

The penalties and fines for hits on the “vulnerable” and “helpless” make me want to move to France and join a commune of poetry reading communists. The referees are taking over the game and I’ve long predicted that it’s going to have a long-term negative effect on the popularity of professional football.

During the television broadcasts of the games this year, I’ve noticed that many of the analysts seem to be toting the commish’s party line, even guys like Chris Collinsworth and Daryl “Moose” Johnston who played the game and should know better. It makes me wonder what kind of pressure is put on these ex-players and coaches to drink the Kool-Aid and support Goodell’s vision of a kinder, gentler game of football?

But one guy I could count on to voice my kind of dissent was always Jon Gruden, who calls Monday Night Football with Ron Jaworski and Mike Tirico. Until last night.

It was obvious to me that the NFL forced the mandatory corporate lobotomy on Gruden. He agreed with every pass interference and illegal hit called in the Philadelphia-Chicago game. You could hear the beaten-down, wary tone in his voice as he agreed with a penalty for a hit on Jay Cutler in which it was obvious that the Philadelphia defender was pushed into the Chicago quarterback.

In light of Gruden’s ingestion of the Purple Kool-Aid, I’ve left instructions with some of my colleagues like Paul Moyer, Dori Monson and Jessamyn McIntyre instructing them the following: If you ever hear me defending any of these penalties or ridiculing a defender for hitting someone too hard, I want you to take a pillow just as Chief did to Randle McMurphy in Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and smother me.