The Cowboys dominated on both sides of the ball in a 31-7 win over the Rams. They outgained the St. Louis offense by 164 yards, and won the time of possession battle. A breakdown of the 24-point blowout:
The positives: DeMarco Murray recorded his fifth 100-yard game as a Dallas Cowboy, and the first for the ‘Boys in 18 games. And history shows that Murray’s success is big for the Cowboys, who are 5-0 in his 100-yard days. Murray totaled 175 yards on the ground on 26 carries (6.7 yards per carry), and added 28 receiving yards on three catches. Neither the three catches nor the 28 yards is a lot, but he was only targeted three times, proving effective in the passing game when he needed to be – which wasn’t often.
Murray has accumulated 23 percent of his career rushing yards in just two games against the Rams. DeMarco rushed for 253 yards against St. Louis in 2011. So maybe it’s just something about St. Louis, but Murray’s big game potential is nothing but encouraging for the Cowboys. It was the first time Dallas established a consistent running game and maintained it for four quarters. It was especially impressive (and rather unexpected) against a defense that had allowed only 136 yards on the ground in the first two weeks combined.
Tony Romo was also a positive, as he went 17-for-24 for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Romo had another near-touchdown on a questionable play call on third-and-goal at the two, as Gavin Escobar couldn’t control possession in-bounds. Most importantly, Romo played mistake-free football Sunday, and let Murray take over the game when he needed to.
The Cowboys posted another strong performance against an offense that had scored 51 points through the first two weeks. And, they recorded six sacks of Sam Bradford, who hadn’t been sacked in 193 dropbacks entering Sunday’s game. DeMarcus Ware broke Harvey Martin’s unofficial Cowboys career sack record, as Ware’s two sacks put his career sack total at 115, one ahead of Martin’s career total. What it boils down to is this: Monte Kiffin’s defense put pressure on Sam Bradford, and made plays when it needed to. The Rams converted just one of 13 third down conversions, with the one conversion being on a third-and-six on the final play of the game as the clock expired.
And that is a recipe for success on the defensive side of the ball.
The negatives: Honestly, it’s tough to find a lot to complain about x’s-and-o’s-wise from the Cowboys’ perspective Sunday. The aforementioned play call on a third-and-goal at the two-yard line was puzzling, though. Murray had accumulated 86 yards on the ground and had only two carries of less than two yards to that point. Conventional wisdom would suggest that keeping the ball on the ground in that situation would be more likely to produce a touchdown, rather than a low-percentage fade to the second-string tight end that Bill Callahan called. The ‘Boys kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal. The play didn’t mean much in the end, but leaving four points on the board is not something Dallas will want to do in closer games later in the season.
Dan Bailey missed his first field goal of 2013, and just his second in 42 attempts at AT&T Stadium. This isn’t cause for much concern, as it’s uncharacteristic of Bailey, but the miss was from 35 yards, well within his range.
Miles Austin limped off the field in the third quarter with a hamstring injury, and did not return. Muscular injuries are becoming part of the routine for Austin, who has been plagued by hamstring issues in the past. He likely would have been kept out of the game as a precaution no matter the severity of the injury, but it will be interesting to watch Austin’s evaluation in the wake of Sunday’s game.
Glass half-full: The rest of the NFC East seems to be mediocre (at best) through three weeks. DeMarco Murray gained more total yards Sunday (203) than the New York Giants (150), who were blanked 38-0 by the Panthers. The Redskins lost to the Lions after another slow start by RG3 and the ‘Skins offense. The Eagles lost to the apparently-for-real Chiefs on Thursday, and Dallas is atop the division with its 2-1 record.
So even if the performance against St. Louis is a flash in the pan, the Cowboys could still be in luck. An average-to-above-average season could give them an outright win of the NFC East.