FRISCO, Texas -- In a normal season, traveling to Seattle's CenturyLink Field would be a nightmare for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Seattle Seahawks (2-0) have had one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. The stadium is usually one of the loudest, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, no fans for the Seahawks or Cowboys will be in attendance for Sunday's game at 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox). Also, Seattle has had one of the best defenses around, although that might be somewhat suspect this season given the Seahawks have allowed 55 points in two games.
In their past three games in Seattle (2012, 2014 and 2018), the Cowboys (1-1) have totaled 50 points, and 30 came in their signature regular-season win in 2014. In quarterback Dak Prescott's only regular-season trip there, the Cowboys lost 24-13, gained 303 yards, converted 3 of 13 third-down tries, and he was sacked five times.
Succeeding away from AT&T Stadium has turned into a chore as of late for the Cowboys' offense.
Mike McCarthy is only one road game into his tenure as Cowboys coach, so it is unfair to draw conclusions. But it is fair to raise questions, especially since Kellen Moore is still the offensive coordinator, Prescott is the quarterback, Ezekiel Elliott is the running back, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are the top two receivers and three-fifths of the projected starting offensive line remains.
Including the season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys have lost four straight road games, failed to score a touchdown in two of the games and have crossed the end zone five times in their past 45 possessions. Three of those touchdowns came in the fourth quarter of a 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears that was not as close as the final score indicated.
"It's just very quiet," Moore said. "You've got to bring your own juice, energy, excitement while still playing simple execution football. We learned from the experience of going to L.A. and that unique environment. Obviously, at home it was awesome to have a little bit of natural enthusiasm of the crowd and with the energy that's in the stadium. We were able to benefit, hopefully, from that. Obviously, we're back to probably no crowd [in Seattle] and I think we'll be prepared for it."
The crowd noise Sunday will be added in and will never exceed 75 decibels, and the weather in Seattle should be fine, too.
So, how do the Cowboys improve?
One of the longest-running axioms in the NFL is a good running game travels. Elliott has not cracked 100 yards in his past four road games, but he has had at least 81 in three of those contests, including 96 yards against the Rams.
Since Elliott ran for 127 yards on 16 carries Week 3 of the 2018 season in Seattle, the Seahawks' defense has given up three 100-yard rushers at home. Instead of Earl Thomas, the Seahawks have Jamal Adams at safety.
"I would say this week, just knowing where [Adams] is," Elliott said when asked about the Seattle run defense. "He pressures a lot. You got to know where he is. You got to be ready for him to pressure and just kind of containing him and 54 (Bobby Wagner) and 50 (K.J. Wright)."
While the Cowboys know what they will get from Elliott, the most confounding issue of all for the Cowboys' offense away from home is Cooper.
In 14 games at home since being traded to the Cowboys, Cooper has 93 receptions for 1,520 yards. In 13 away games since the trade, he has 53 catches for 575 yards. All seven of his 100-yard games as a Cowboy have come at AT&T Stadium, including his six-catch, 100-yard effort last week.
Moore said Cooper's home/away splits were part of an offseason study by the Cowboys, but he said there was not "one glaring thing" that stood out as to why there is such a large fluctuation.
"Sometimes stats create a trend like that," Moore said. "I don't think it changes us drastically. Amari's going to go out there on the road and I think we're going to expect big things like always. He's done it before and hopefully we get those opportunities again."
Cooper's 10 catches against the Rams at SoFi Stadium are the most he has had on the road for the Cowboys. His 81 yards were second most.
Maybe he will start a new trend.
The Cowboys certainly need a productive Cooper to put up better numbers on third down. In their past four road games, the Cowboys have converted 14 of 56 third-down chances. Against the Rams, the Cowboys were 3-of-12 on third down.
"You've got to just convert those things," Moore said. "Sitting there at third-and-8, -9, -10, probably not going to go well. Third-and-1, third-and-2, all day you can convert those."
What matters most to McCarthy is execution.
"It's important for us to go get that first road win," he said. "That is the message and the focus of our football."