The Cowboys entered today's game with many storylines circulating the team. Where is the vertical passing game? How in the world could the run game actually be worse than it was in 2012? Is there discord between the offense and the defense in regards to the offense's play-calling? The Cowboys need to send a bouquet of roses to the schedule makers for placing the Rams as the Week Three opponents. Dallas' defense set the tone early and the offense did pretty much whatever they wanted as they took care of the St. Louis Rams, 31-7.
The Cowboys outgained St. Louis 396 to 232 in yards, en route to their easiest victory since a 44-7 home blowout of the Buffalo Bills in the 2011 season.
Dallas was firing on all cylinders, as the defense refused to budge an inch and tormented Rams quarterback Sam Bradford relentlessly; St. Louis wouldn't earn a first down until their fifth drive of the game. The offense rediscovered their running game senses and rode the back of DeMarco Murray. Of course, Tony Romo and the passing game refused to be left out of the festivities as he completed two long touchdown throws to rookie Gavin Escobar and third-year receiver Dwayne Harris in the second half.
The Cowboys defensive line has been tremendous so far this season, entering today's game with 7 sacks and 44 total QB pressures. 3-technique Jason Hatcher followed through with his midweek speech to the team and recorded a sack for the third-straight game. DE Demarcus Ware had two sacks for the second straight game, with his second breaking the Cowboys all-time sack record, previously held by Harvey Martin at 114.
The defense, which is clearly becoming the story of the Cowboys season, sacked Bradford 6 times in the contest; after St. Louis hadn't given any up in their last five games. Orlando Scandrick blitzed several times in the first half from the CB position, getting to Bradford once. Even Kyle Wilber got in on the action recording his first career QB takedown. The D also forced a turnover, bringing the team's total to seven on the young season. A second, what would've been JJ Wilcox's first career pick in his first career start, was negated by a hands-to-the-face ticky tack call on Jason Hatcher that eventually led to the Rams first score of the game.
In this game though, the D-line was joined by their trench-mates from the offense, as Dallas gave Murray running lane after running lane to gash the Rams defense to the tune of 175 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. Murray would also haul in 3 catches for another 28 yards. The line also gave Tony Romo plenty of time to dissect the Rams porous secondary. Romo entered this game with a lowly 6.2 yards per attempt average despite a guady 94.6 passer rating. Not a problem today, as Romo would finish 17 for 24, for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Cowboys continued to work Brian Waters into the season, rotating him with RG Mackenzy Bernadeau. A new wrinkle is that when Waters came in, Bernadeau would also rotate with Ron Leary as the team worked on finding the best combination.
It worked, as the Cowboys had the most total yardage in a game so far this season, 396.
Dallas started out the game committed to the run, giving it to DeMarco Murray for big gains on the first two plays. That, of course, opened up the play-action game on the next play. Dallas wouldn't be satisfied though, riding Murray for 43 yards on the first drive, including a 14 yard gain (second of drive) on a delay draw. When it came down to third and goal, Dallas decided that a fade to Dez Bryant in one-on-one coverage might be a good idea and it gave them an early 7-0 lead.
The defense again refused to give up a first down on the next drive and that led to Murray having a beautiful 36 yard scamper on a pistol draw inside of a Brian Waters pull block. The drive would stall with an incompletion to Escobar in the end zone that would lead to Dan Bailey's kick making the game 10-0. Dallas would close out the first quarter without giving up a first down, and then continued to dominate as the game wore on.
They milked the clock to start the second quarter before DeMarco Murray punched it in from two yards out to make the score 17-0 with about 9 minutes left. that would end the scoring for the half, but the defense stayed sturdy. A screen pass on the Rams first play of the next possession would net a first, but they wouldn't get another one the entire half.
Dallas opened up the second half with a big 41 yard run by Murray out of the pistol formation and behind a pulling Brian Waters. A few plays later, Romo would find Escobar over the top of a chasing linebacker for the rookie's first career touchdown and a 24-0 lead. On the Rams next play, Justin Durant would chase down Chris Givens and force a fumble that Sean Lee would recover.
The Rams would finally get on the board their next possession, ending the Cowboys bid for their first shutout since the 2009 season-ending, division-clinching 24-0 win over the Philly Eagles. It would take them three fourth-down conversions and 12 plays inside the 20 before finally getting in on a pass to Austin Pettis.
Dallas would cash in their final score of the game in the fourth quarter when Romo would thread the needle and find Dwayne Harris for a beautiful 24-yard touchdown behind TJ McDonald.
The game didn't come without a few blemishes. Wideout Miles Austin left the game with a left hamstring injury and would not return. Dan "Split'Em" Bailey also missed his first kick of the season, his first career miss between 30-39 yards. Of course, Dallas was already leading 24-0 when it happened, so his timing might still be considered impeccable. Dwayne Harris fumbled the game's first punt and turned it over and the Cowboys recovered a second quarter Murray fumble.
The Cowboys now prepare to face off against the San Diego Chargers next Sunday.