Offensive Game Ball: Offensive Line
It would be real easy to hand the ball to DeMarco Murray for his effort in this game, but without those guys up front, Murray would not have had the day that he did. Murray received his share of blame for his lack of production last week against the Chiefs, but he alone should not have shouldered the criticism. This Cowboys offensive line was outstanding today both in the run and pass. Murray had more than enough room to operate and Tony Romo was hardly touched as he sat in the pocket. Head coach Jason Garrett and his offensive staff have strived for balance, and they got it today from a line that hasn’t always been given the credit that it deserves.
Defensive Game Ball: Jason Hatcher
Going into this game, the Rams offensive line was expected to have problems handling the Cowboys defensive tackles. For the third straight game, Jason Hatcher was outstanding. For a player who had questions about staying consistent in this scheme, he has more than proved himself. Hatcher played with explosive quickness and power. He was disruptive on the move and was relentless in the way he attacked the pocket. His play did not allow Rams quarterback Sam Bradford any room to step up and make a throw. Hatcher was quick to shed blocks, and he was technique-sound the entire day. His play overall caused this Rams’ offensive scheme huge issues.
Coaches Game Ball: Rod Marinelli
The Rams were going to have trouble running the ball, which meant that defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and his troops were going to have to play the majority of the game rushing the passer. Bradford put the ball up 49 times for St. Louis with an average gain of only 3.6 yards per completion. Bradford was never comfortable in the pocket, and it started on the opening series and did not end until the final whistle. Despite playing shorthanded without Anthony Spencer, Marinelli’s group put on quite a show. There was a slot blitz or two mixed in from Orlando Scandrick, but the majority of the pressure came from a four-man rush. Marinelli has always preached quickness off the snap and to get up the field as quickly as you can. He did an outstanding job of rotating his defensive line, and they rewarded him with a dominating performance against a Rams club that has some explosive offensive weapons, totally holding them in check. Today, it started up front with his guys.
ARLINGTON, Texas – The announcement in the AT&T Stadium press box momentarily hushed the crowd – Miles Austin had left the game against St. Louis with hamstring problems.
Austin had a quiet afternoon before aggravating his legs on a deep route in the third quarter. He came away with two catches for 22 yards.
The veteran wideout didn’t reappear, though Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that was a precautionary move.
“The discussion we had was that he was going to continue to stay warmed up,” Garrett said. “I said ‘That’s a good thing, he needs to be ready, but we’ll keep looking at that scoreboard and making sure we can handle the situation without him.’”
The lopsided win against the Rams certainly made it an easy call to rest Austin. The Cowboys scored to go up 31-7 with roughly 12 minutes remaining in the game and were able to cruise to a comfortable win without their No. 2 receiver.
“Because the game – you know, we were ahead in the ballgame – we decided to keep him out of it,” Garrett said. “We’ll just evaluate it over the next couple of days.”
Austin’s absence opened the door for receiver, Dwayne Harris, for his first touchdown of the season.
“He really showed a lot of mental and physical toughness throughout the game,” Garrett said.
Fittingly enough, it was Harris’ hands – shaky to start with the muffed punt – which sealed the win, as he brought in his lone catch for a 24-yard touchdown.
“It was a bad play,” Garrett said of the muffed punt. “It was a bad play by him and our defense went out and responded the right way, and I think Dwayne responded the right way himself as the game wore on.”
Here are some more notes from the Cowboys’ 31-7 win against St. Louis:
- Anthony Spencer was inactive for the second time in three weeks with the same knee injury he had surgery on in July. The Cowboys managed fine without the Pro Bowler, as they racked up six sacks, but there’s no doubt they’d like to get one of their sack artists back to the field. “It’s just real frustrating for this to be the same lingering problem, but it is what it is and I’m handling it the best way I can,” Spencer said. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said the team had an idea earlier in the week that Spencer would be unavailable. Spencer tried to work out on the knee as late as Friday but “it wasn’t going.” The thought is that the knee is still sore from the stress of playing against Kansas City, and Spencer said he’ll “play it by ear” going forward.
- Brian Waters said following the win he thought he could play a full game on the offensive line. Waters and Mackenzy Bernadeau rotated at guard against the Rams, after Waters worked just a few series of each half last week against the Chiefs. “At the end of the day, that’s the coaches’ call. I’m just going to continue to do what I can,” Waters said. “We got some good guys – we got a good group, and the more players the better, because it’s a long season. As we find in the NFL, you’ve got to have more than five offensive linemen to be successful.”
- At one point, both Bernadeau and Waters played guard together, as Ronald Leary tweaked his knee in the third quarter. Garrett said it was the same knee Leary injured during training camp, but he was fine and was able to return to the game.
- Like Harris, Gavin Escobar made the most of a small opportunity. The rookie tight end managed just one catch, but it isn’t one he’ll soon forget. Escobar brought in a beautiful 24-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to put Dallas up, 24-0. “I was very excited,” Escobar said. “That’s usually not a play where I’m the go-to guy, but you never know and you have to be ready to catch the ball.” The play was actually the exact same as the one Harris would late score on. Escobar had just missed on several opportunities this season, but Tony Romo said the rookie is coming along nicely. “He almost had one earlier in the game. I think he lost his shoe against New York on one where he would have had one. So it was just a matter of time,” Romo said.
- Not everything went swimmingly for the Cowboys in an otherwise easy win. Kicker Dan Bailey missed a manageable field goal wide right from just 35 yards out. Harris’ muffed punt also factored into a forgettable day.
- Orlando Scandrick’s sack of Sam Bradford in the first quarter gave the cornerback 7.5 sacks for his career – fourth-best among defensive backs in Cowboys history. It seems like a stat that could be more common for Scandrick in this defense. “He’s got good timing, and he wants to be around that football,” Garrett said. “He’s got that big ass chip on his shoulder, too.”
ARLINGTON, Texas – Whatever might have been spoken behind closed doors, there was nothing but love in the Dallas Cowboys’ open locker room Sunday afternoon.
Reports surfaced during the weekend of an altercation between Jason Hatcher and Tony Romo, in which the veteran defensive tackle took the $100 million quarterback to task.
To hear it from Hatcher, it’s really quite the opposite.
“Where is Romo at? Tell him to come over here. I’m going to hug his neck,” Hatcher said. “We ain’t got no issues. Where’d you all get that from? I love Romo – Romo loves me. We are teammates, we are brothers – brotherhood.”
Hatcher’s own words are the most telling, as it was he who had reportedly called out the Cowboys’ quarterback this week for audibling too much and not committing to the run.
Plenty of other voices within the organization begged to differ, however. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Hatcher certainly spoke during the Cowboys’ preparation for St. Louis, but it wasn’t merely directed at Romo so much as the whole team.
“I think those reports are inaccurate,” Garrett said. “One of the things we try to do as a football team is empower the people – get everybody invested. Get players invested, get coaches invested and guys to take leadership roles. This is their football team, and leadership manifests itself a lot of different ways. It’s best when it’s just by performance – by what you do, by example. But sometimes you need to step up and say something. I thought Hatcher’s words after practice were directed at our entire football team.”
That message was one of consistency, to hear it from the players. The Cowboys have had a recent inability to string together positive results, highlighted by last week’s ugly loss to Kansas City – something Hatcher said needs to change.
“The main thing I got from Hatcher’s speech was being consistent, being consistent, not being a roller coaster team, not being up and down, winning a big game then going a losing a game,” said DeMarcus Ware. “That’s what we did last week, losing a game that we should have won — not to talk about the past. Now, how consistent can we be playing week in and week out, that’s one thing that Hatch talked about. Let’s be a consistent team. We can be a great team, but the consistent teams are the ones that are going to win.”
Romo himself agreed with that assessment. Asked about it following his postgame press conference, the Cowboys’ quarterback said he hadn’t heard about the report. He did say Hatcher’s words were good for the team and the team’s younger players to hear.
“He wants the guys – young guys – to understand how important this is,” Romo said. “I thought it was a great talk … Guys who have been around – when Witten talks, guys listen. When I talk, when Hatch talks, they listen.”
It remains to be seen how the message resonates going forward. This is the eighth time in 11 years the Cowboys have managed a 2-1 record through three weeks. They failed to improve to 3-1, instead falling to 2-2, on six of those seven previous occasions.
Next week’s game against San Diego will be telling in that regard.
“I love Romo to death, man. I wasn’t getting on Romo – I love Romo to death,” Hatcher said. “He came out and balled out tonight. Did you see that? He balled out. They ran the ball, he threw the ball great – he’s the best quarterback in the league. So I love Romo to death. That’s my brother.”
Editors comment: A lot is said about the ‘start’ of the season with the Dallas Cowboys in the past decade. Some of that ebb and flow is the result of NFL scheduling, some of that is NFL parity … and yes, some of that is finishing 8-8 in consecutive years. I think the emphasis should be on how they finish, not necessarily as much about how they start. It’s an interesting thing to watch, based on this recent history of on-again and off-again peaks and valleys. At this point, we should all hope to see a team mentally balanced … and confident enough to put together some nice long winning streaks. Jimmy Johnson was a master at keeping the players psych up, even during tough stings of games. It’s Jason Garrett’s job to build on the confidence gained during these big wins, not to let it slip away with the next opponent. It’s the players responsibility as well. Kudos to Jason Hatcher and the other leaders on this roster. The St. Louis (and New York Giants) games show the potential of this years’ Dallas Cowboys. If this is the ‘slow start’ … I can’t wait to see how they develop as the year progresses.
ARLINGTON, Texas — DeMarco Murray found the perfect antidote for his recent malaise: the St. Louis Rams.
Murray rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown two years after torching St. Louis with a franchise record as a rookie, and Tony Romo threw for three scores in a 31-7 victory Sunday.
Murray’s first 100-yard game in more than a year started with a 14-yard run on Dallas’ first offensive play, and he had plenty of open space on a 36-yarder to start Dallas’ second drive to a 10-lead late in the first quarter.
Sam Bradford, Murray’s old college teammate at Oklahoma, didn’t have nearly as much room to operate.
The Cowboys (2-1) sacked him four times in the first half and had six in total after St. Louis (1-2) hadn’t allowed a sack in four games dating to last season. It was the longest streak for the Rams since John Hadl was under center for a division champion in 1973.
Bradford still went 29 for 48 and was not intercepted.
DeMarcus Ware had two sacks and broke Harvey Martin’s 30-year-old franchise record of 114.
The Rams, trying for their first 2-1 start since 2006, had just 18 yards total offense in the first half compared to 96 for Murray alone. The Cowboys had 202 yards before halftime.
Romo, who had 217 yards passing, went 2 yards to Dez Bryant for the first Dallas score. He had a pair of 24-yarders in the second half to rookie tight end Gavin Escobar and Dwayne Harris, who bounced back from a muff on the game’s first punt.
When the Rams finally started getting defenders around Murray at the line of scrimmage, Romo found him on the outside for a pair of catches on a drive that ended with a 2-yard run by Murray for a 17-0 lead. Murray, who had 253 yards against the Rams in 2011, went around left end before extending the ball over the goal line right on the pylon, and there was no review. His last 100-yard game was the 2012 opener, and he was coming off a 25-yard performance in a loss at Kansas City.
St. Louis avoided the shutout on Bradford’s 4-yard pass to Austin Pettis on fourth down late in third quarter after an interception by rookie safety J.J. Wilcox was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Jason Hatcher.
The Rams had a chance to stay in the game on their next drive, but Bradford threw behind Chris Givens while Givens on fourth down. Dallas scored three plays later for a 31-7 lead when Romo hit Harris in stride in the back of the end zone.
Tavon Austin had an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown called back by a holding penalty. The Rams also were penalized for a blind-side block that laid out Dallas’ Kyle Wilber, who stayed down for a few minutes before leaving the field on his own.
The Arizona Cardinals will take on the New Orleans Saints on Sunday without starting defensive tackle Dan Williams, who is dealing with a terrible personal tragedy.
Team spokesman Mark Dalton told The Associated Press that Williams was excused from the game due to the death of his father, who was killed in a car accident. Williams’ sister and mother also were in the car, but Dalton said they were expected to recover from their injuries.
Dalton told The AP that Thomas Williams was en route from the family’s home in Memphis, Tenn., to New Orleans to watch his son play. The accident occurred near Jackson, Miss.
It’s a heartbreaking story. Our condolences go out to Williams and his family.
After a deflating loss to Kansas City last weekend that killed the momentum they built with their victory in the opener, the Dallas Cowboys face St. Louis today. Two seasons ago, Dallas blasted the Rams, 34-7. But St. Louis has improved considerably since then with a different coach, Jeff Fisher, and better personnel. In 2012, St. Louis went 4-1-1 within an NFC West division that includes San Francisco and Seattle. This year, the Rams are 1-1 and have one of the most productive passing attacks in the NFL. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
After Dallas gained only 37 yards on 16 carries, the Cowboys faced questions about their deficient ground attack. Head coach Jason Garrett said they need to run it more frequently. So did DeMarco Murray, who in his last game against the Rams set a single-game franchise record with 253 rushing yards in a 2011 victory. St. Louis appears much stingier than it was then, conceding an average of 61 yards per game on the ground this season.
When the Cowboys pass
Despite the fact that Tony Romo had the fourth-most pass attempts in the league after Week 2, his productivity has left plenty to be desired. Fifteen quarterbacks have thrown for more yards than Romo has. Romo has protected the ball well but only two of his completions have resulted in gains of 25 yards or more. Luckily for Romo, the Rams’ pass defense has been leaky as they’ve conceded 330.5 yards per game.
When the Rams run
For the first time in 10 seasons, Steven Jackson isn’t lining up in the backfield for the Rams. He’s now a member of the Atlanta Falcons. His replacement is Daryl Richardson, the second-year player from Vernon who never started an NFL game until this season and has gained only 98 yards in two games. Richardson will have a tough time gaining traction against a Cowboys’ run defense that has allowed 82 yards per game and held Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles to 55 rushing yards last Sunday. (Editors note: Alex Smith also ran for 57 yards on 8 carries)
When the Rams pass
Sam Bradford looks more comfortable in his fourth NFL season. After two weeks, the Rams quarterback has accounted for the sixth-most passing yards in the league and has developed an instant rapport with rookie Tavon Austin, the speedy receiver who has already made two touchdown receptions. So the Cowboys, who have allowed quarterbacks to produce a healthy 98.9 passer rating against them, will have their work cut out for them.
This season, the Cowboys’ Dan Bailey and the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein have made all of their field goal attempts. That’s 11 combined. But Bailey’s conversions have been more impressive because he’s connected on two tries of 50 yards or longer. Bailey remains one of the Cowboys’ biggest weapons and he has led a special teams group that managed to block a field goal last Sunday.
The Cowboys return home smarting from their defeat to Kansas City last Sunday. AT&T Stadium hasn’t exactly been an intimidating environment for opponents, who have won 46 percent of the time there. But while Jerry Jones’ football palace hasn’t given the Cowboys a significant edge, the team seems to perform well there when the game kicks off at noon, winning eight of the previous 12 times they’ve played in that time slot. Dallas should be feeling good about the early start.
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When: Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 at high noon (Dallas time)
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Watch on TV: FOX and DIRECTV: 709
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