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Cowboys vs. Rams Turning Point: Nullifying The Turnover

In a game that was thoroughly dominated (there is really no better word for it) by Dallas, the tone was set very early.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Really, in the 31-7 butt-whupping administered to the St. Louis Rams by the Dallas Cowboys, the course of the game was fairly clear almost from the outset. After Jason Hatcher called upon his teammates to stand and deliver in a team meeting last week, he provided leadership by example from the very first play when he made the tackle. And everyone else clearly demonstrated that they had taken his exhortation to heart by playing one of the most complete games the Cowboys have put on the field in a long time.

But there was a moment (one I had to hear on the radio since I was not quite back home) when things could conceivably have swung the other way. After the Cowboys forced a three-and-out on the opening Rams possession, Dwayne Harris muffed a punt and gave the Rams a great opportunity at the Dallas 34.

Given the way Dallas, and particularly Monte Kiffin's take-no-prisoners defense, played the rest of the game, an early score by St. Louis might not have changed the eventual outcome significantly. But I can also remember past games (like the Seattle Seahawks mess last year) where an early turnover like that wound up creating not just a deficit on the scoreboard, but also took some of the heart out of the team. Momentum is sometimes overemphasized in the NFL, since it can and does switch with just one good play so often, but it does speak to the mental side of the game. And in the past few seasons, that has not gone all that well for the Cowboys.

Thankfully, this does not look like the same old Dallas team. It was just one game (to put in the obligatory Garrettism), but this bunch showed a lot of fire and backbone after Harris gave the ball away.

It started with another of the leaders for the defense, DeMarcus Ware, making a solid stop on a first down play to limit it to a one-yard gain. Then Morris Claiborne, injured shoulder and all, laid another big hit to hold the next play to a single yard. On third down, Orlando Scandrick blitzed and Sam Bradford, who we were all reminded multiple times had not been sacked in the last four regular season games he played, went down for a six-yard loss. Jeff Fisher then called for a bit of trickeration with a pass from the punter. It was not a bad idea, at least in my mind, but Dallas was ready for it, and Harris came close to picking it off and possibly would have had clear sailing to the end zone. But the incompletion still gave Dallas the ball on their own 39. That led to a DeMarco Murray fueled touchdown drive, and the Rams stayed in the rearview mirror from then on.

As turning points go, this one will not likely be remembered as much, because it was just a few good plays among many that the Cowboys had on both sides of the ball. And some observers don't put much credence in the whole idea of turning points. For me, though, I think the Cowboys did have a very real one.

I'm no longer talking about how the defense made the turnover meaningless here. I am talking about the entire game. This has the potential to set a tone for the rest of the season. We won't know for a while, of course, but this may be a game that we will look back on as the start of . . .

Well, I'll not get ahead of myself here. Dallas has to face the San Diego Chargers next. All that really matters now is how they play that game. But for a little while, I'm going to enjoy the optimism.

It tastes a bit like Kool Aid.


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