Everyone knows the big headline: DeMarco Murray has breakout game against the St Louis Rams. I'll be talking more about that later this week, but there were a lot of other things going on in the 34-7 win by the Dallas Cowboys.
But first, one absolutely huge sigh of relief. This was a performance that the Cowboys needed, and perhaps it is not too much to say that they had to have. Here in the BTB community, we all thought that the team had this kind of dominant performance in it, but now we know. Yes, the Rams are a battered, troubled team, but they are also a team that has haunted the Cowboys in the past. This year, all the scaring was done by Dallas, and right now it feels very good.
And it also feels good to know that right about now Andy Reid and his defensive coordinator Juan Castillo are looking at DeMarco Murray's performance (ninth best rushing performance in NFL history, folks) and thinking "Oh, fudge!" Or something more or less like that. The Eagles defensive game planning just got a lot more complicated.
Meanwhile, as I said, there are some other things that jumped out at me during the game.
What they were after the jump.
First, a negative. Six Cowboys penalties for 30 yards. I think three of them were offsides calls against the Cowboys (I can't find one of them in the box score I checked), and the total yards would have been higher if one of the penalties had not been offset. I like the aggressiveness of Rob Ryan's defense, but these need to be avoided.
A much more positive thing was the turnover ratio, which was Dallas' friend tonight. Three to one, and Dallas got 17 points off the ones they took from St Louis, while holding the Rams to a three-and-out after the Choice fumble in the third quarter.
Maybe even more positive: The game was clearly not on Tony Romo's shoulders tonight. Tony was 14/24 for 166 yards, 2 TDs, and a 107.3 passer rating. But all he really had to do was manage the game and protect the ball. Romo and his famous rib needed a night like tonight, where the running game and the defense took the pressure off and let him have a comparatively relaxed game. I think the game was good for him physically, with only two sacks and three hits recorded, and psychologically. I think knowing that the other players can carry the load will help him tremendously down the road. I can't say what goes on in his head, but I have to think that this game will go far in getting his head straightened out and letting the good Tony take over and keeping bad Tony out of sight.
Now, a word of contrition. I was one of those applauding loudly when Montrae Holland was cut. Lumpy, I am sorry. I don't know if perhaps the time off helped you, but regardless, you and the rest of the O line had a very good game. The Yuglies were much more solid. Doug Free did get beaten on the first sack of Tony, but other than that, they were providing good protection and obviously opening up some huge lanes for Murray and Phillip Tanner.
Speaking of Tanner, we finally got to see if he could bring anything to the table. I have been wanting him on the field because I suspected he might be able to help with getting those tough yards. And though he was obviously overshadowed by that other guy running the ball, he did a very good job. Six carries for 34 yards, and on his touchdown run he was everything I was hoping for - going straight for the goal line, running over people, and powering his way to the end zone. I hate to say it, but maybe Felix having to sit out with his injury is going to be a blessing in disguise as Dallas discovers a running game. And I don't hate to say that I hope it is a while before Tashard Choice gets another carry. Oh, and speaking of backs, I have to think that having Tony Fiammetta back was a big help running the ball.
Dez Bryant was a mixed bag tonight, but at least the bad was in the first half and the good down the stretch. I believe four of his receptions were in the second half, and the touchdown catch was a thing of beauty. His duty as a punt returner was a bit anticlimactic, with only one return for seven yards, but I am beginning to change my mind and think that having him back to take the kicks may be a good thing. On the Cowboys radio pregame show, there was an extended discussion of whether putting him in for returns was a good thing or not, but I rather liked the idea that having him take punts will get his head more into the game. Maybe tonight it worked.
Defensively, Rob's Mob was in top form. Abram Elam was superb, especially early on, leading the team in tackles and forcing and recovering a fumble. And guess who were second and third in tackles? Bradie James and Keith Brooking, who both had excellent nights, almost as if to prove that Sean Lee (who was still quite good) is not the only inside linebacker who can make a play. Even Alan Ball had a good performance with three tackles and a beautiful pass breakup.
Back on offense, the red zone woes certainly got a lot better. Four trips, for three touchdowns and a field goal. And my favorite was the Tanner run I have already praised. And by the way, have you noticed that all Dan Bailey does is convert field goal attempts?
All in all, it was not a perfect game. But it will sure as hell do until one comes along.