The last time the Dallas Cowboys traveled to Seattle Tony Romo was a first-year starter whose mere presence on the field had completely changed the dynamic of the team. Head coach Bill Parcells had benched his best man Drew Bledsoe midseason in favor of the undrafted 3-year backup out of Eastern Illinois.
Romo ran away with the job and brought the Cowboys their second playoff appearance in 7 years. His complete meltdown in the final seconds of that wild card game against Matt Hasselbeck's Seahawks - when he botched the hold on Martin Gramatica's game-winning 19-yard field goal and fumbled the ball trying to scramble across the goal line - was originally blamed on Seattle's infamously boisterous "12th man" crowd. However, numerous big game collapses later Tony Romo has managed to acquire a reputation of turning into a bowl of Skittles when the game is on the line. For better or for worse, Tony Romo is always the player to watch when the Cowboys are playing.
TONY ROMO: The Dallas QB did very well in week 1, defying all odds by defeating the defending Super Bowl champions on their own field, but the season rolls on. Everyone knows Tony Romo has the tools to be great, but he has consistently shown an allergy to consistency. One week he can look like vintage Brett Favre, while the following week he can look like vintage Akili Smith. Regardless, when Tony Romo plays well the Cowboys play well. With Rob Ryan's defense now equipped with two shut-down corners to mitigate the opponent's passing game Romo isn't playing with his head on a swivel; his brain on a frying pan. It's actually very simple: When the defense does its job the opponent's score is lower, and when the opponent's score is lower Tony Romo has less pressure on him. When Tony Romo has less pressure on him he plays great. Essentially, he wins games.
Sure, hs famous for winning games that don't "matter", but that's only because there's no real pressure on him. Free agent CB Brandon Carr and top draft pick Morris Claiborne can help alleviate that pressure into week 2 and beyond.
RUSSELL WILSON: Seattle's rookie QB is almost certainly going to have trouble with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne on the other side of the ball. Both showed considerable effectiveness against Eli Manning. The Giants were forced to run the ball more, and the Giants are not a running team (they finished dead last in rushing last season). The Giants score more rushing touchdowns than most teams, but they rely on Eli Manning to get them within the red zone. Russell Wilson's performance in this game will ultimately be what sets the tempo of this game.
He threw for only 153 yards against Arizona in week 1. Look for Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to utilize the full press on the inexperienced QB. Dallas will try to force Wilson to make mistakes by pressuring him up front. This is not only a great way to take advantage of a rookie QB, it's also the only way you can hope to neutralize the volcanic RB Marshawn Lynch.
Arizona is a defense that relies heavily on coverage, while Dallas is a balanced unit that tilts in favor of the blitz. DeMarcus Ware is still DeMarcus Ware, coming at Wilson full-steam on his blind side. Though Tony Romo is always the player to watch in a Cowboys game, Russell Wilson will likely be the one who gets the ball rolling to either victory or defeat for the Seahawks. If Russell Wilson turns the ball over then Tony Romo will capitalize, at which point their last line of defense could be very important.
EARL THOMAS: I have watched Tony Romo throw hundreds and hundreds of passes, and if there is one thing I have noticed it is that he has a tendency to disregard defensive players downfield who aren't in his narrow cone of vision. I hesitate to say his peripheral awareness needs work because I have also seen him evade attackers in the pocket in uncanny ways. Then, he scrambles out and looks downfield, tossing the ball with a zip few other quarterbacks can imitate. The ball appears to be thrown well and everyone seems to be in their right place, but in swoops Champ Bailey from another dimension to snatch the ball out of the air. If Romo isn't getting tagged with the INT because Dez Bryant is bobbling the catch then he's getting tagged for not paying attention to the guy who was floating just outside the coverage island... hoping the quarterback isn't paying him any mind. That's where Earl Thomas comes in.
He's the anchor of this Seattle defense. Depending on who is out-performing who on Dallas' side of the ball, Thomas might be called to double team either Dez Bryant or Miles Austin. In either scenario Tony Romo's margin for error becomes razor thin. Or, if defensive coordinator Gus Bradley keeps him up the middle then he can stifle what has always been Romo's safety blanket. Though TE Jason Witten is recovering from a lacerated spleen injury he suffered in early August, he's expected to play this week just as he was expected to, and played last week. Whether he plays or not, Romo's safety blanket of dumping the ball will be weaker due to Witten's slowed abilities, and the fact that former backup TE Martellus Bennett now starts for the Giants.
Another option, of course, is to keep Earl Thomas deep. Tony Romo is ranked 5th all-time in career yards per pass attempt (he's ranked no. 2 in the Super Bowl era). He likes to air it out, and when he does Earl Thomas could very well pull a Champ Bailey and appear to teleport from the other side of the field to completely change the course of the game.
Success for either the Seattle Seahawks or the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday lives and dies on these 3 players.114107