In the week leading up to the game, my ongoing thought was that this contest, as lopsided as it looked on paper, would be paramount to how the Cowboys season unfolded. A winless opponent without their quarterback, at home, is the type of game you're supposed to "get fat on". The Cowboys had gone 11 consecutive games of barn-burners. As was pointed out several times over the past week, the mark of a good team isn't winning close games, it's blowing out opponents.
The Cowboys did just that, dominating the Rams with the ground game early and often. The team ran for over 280 yards, the most in the NFL this season. Entering the game, the Cowboys were averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Leaving it, they are averaging 4.5 per pop.
DeMarco Murray had breakaway run after breakaway run, racing through the St. Louis defense for 253 yards, breaking Emmitt Smith's record of 237, and scored. On the Cowboys first possession, he raced up the field 91 yards for the score; the second longest in Cowboys history. His total for the day also broke Tony Dorsett's rookie mark. When Murray pulled up exhausted after a 43-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, Phillip Tanner got his first action of the season. He promptly forced his will on the wilting Rams D with a couple big gains including a touchdown that sealed the game with nine minutes left.
Dez Bryant, despite a couple drops in the red zone near the end of the first half, was finally rewarded for all his fight after contact. He was able to catch four second-half passes for 56 yards and a late touchdown to somewhat quiet his critics. The passing game didn't look fluent today, and that may be the one negative fans take away from this game, but it really wasn't needed this week. It will be next Sunday night against Philadelphia.
The Cowboys defense started out sharply, stuffing the run and getting some pressure on quarterback AJ Feely. Dez Bryant went back to field the first punt, but didn't, allowing it to roll all the way to the two-yard line. Dallas gave RB Tashard Choice the first crack at replacing Felix Jones, who was out with a high ankle sprain, and his scamper accompanied by a short pass to Witten netted a first down. A holding penalty on Tony Fiammetta would put the Cowboys at 1st and 19 from their 9, where third-round draft pick DeMarco Murray got his first action of the game.
One his first carry of the game, a delay draw with great blocking by Fiammetta and Witten sprung Murray throw a gaping hole; and he accelerated through it like a man that wanted a reputation. A great move on the last line of defense, former Eagle safety Quintin Mikell, and Murray was off. The closest man to him was his escort, Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys continued to stuff the run, but were burned by a screen to back up running back Cadillac Williams. Williams caught the ball and raced up the sidelines where he was abruptly popped by a charging, and clad up to his knees in pink, Abe Elam. The hit forced the fumble and Elam, who's momentum had taken out of bounds, reestablished himself in play and scooped the fumble.
After a lengthy delay due to the Rams Jason Smith suffering a neck injury, Doug Free would get bullied by James Hall. A punch and a step around took him directly to Romo for the sack. On the next play, Romo stepped up in the pocket and found a wide open Dez Bryant across the middle of the field. As Austin crossed underneath the coverage from the left slot, Bryant ran a post route and proceeded to go into into his "mode". "Dez did Dez thing"s an broke out from a group of Rams to gain another 10 yards. A few plays later and the Cowboys were up 14-0 on a play fake pass to a wide open Jason Witten on 3rd and goal from the one.
The Cowboys would let the Rams back in the game, on the ground no less, the very next possession. On 3rd and 3 from midfield, Stephen Jackson raced through a hole created by a left guard pull that cut off Sean Lee. Jackson wouldn't be brought down until he was inside the Cowboys 10. The Rams would overload right, but the Cowboys would run downhill and Jackson went through a hole untouched to cut the lead to 14-7.
Unable to do much on the next drive, the Cowboys pinned St. Louis deep via a 62-yard McBriar punt. On 3rd and eight, after DeMarcus Ware took away the running back, AJ Feeley threw the pigskin directly to Mike Jenkins, who was covering Brandon Lloyd underneath and had position the entire route. Two failed attempts to Dez Bryant later and Dan "Split 'Em" Bailey would give Dallas their halftime lead of 17-7.
The Cowboys got the ball to start the second half, and greeted the Rams defense with Murray for six, then Murray for 19. Dallas brought in Tashard Choice for a spell, and he fumbled away what might have been his last opportunity. He appeared to be injured on the play... appeared.
The defense held, and Dallas went on a 14 play drive that resulted in Dan Bailey's second field goal of the contest, a 51-yarder for his 16th consecutive make.
The teams alternated punts three times, before the Cowboys iced the game with Murray's amazing runs. He powered through Rams defenders, keeping his legs churning after contact. A five-yarder was followed by his 43-yard scamper where he appeared to just run out of gas after rumbling into the open. Tanner would clean up on that drive and end up with a eight yard per carry average himself.
To ice the game, the Cowboys defense came up with a goal line stand with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. A fourth-down Stephen Jackson run was snuffed out by Abe Elam in the backfield and the team would replace Tony Romo with Jon Kitna.
The defense made several big plays, and outside of the 2nd quarter scoring drive, allowed very little on the ground. They held the Rams to 70 yards on 21 carries, a 3.3 average. Safety Abe Elam led the team with eight tackles along with his forced and recovered fumble. Demarcus Ware added a late sack and forced fumble to his day, and now sits at eight on the season. Even Keith Brooking got in on the fun, recording several unexpected run stops.
On first glance, the offensive line did it's job today. Romo was pressured only slightly, and the running lanes were huge.
Great win, exactly what this team was supposed to do. Now, let's get ready for those Eagles.