Yesterday we finally saw the kind of performance we always thought the Cowboys were capable of. On offense, they performed at a high level in both the running and passing games. And on defense they came close to pitching a shutout. What made the difference?
On offense, it was the performance of the line. It didn’t matter whether Mackenzy Bernardeau or Brian Waters were in at right guard, the result was the same. And the total result was 175 rushing yards by DeMarco Murray and three touchdown passes by Tony Romo. Romo was sacked once, other than that the line did a very impressive job of providing Romo with time to find a receiver to throw to. And in the running game, Murray seemed to have several holes to choose from almost every time he was handed the ball.
With this whole balance thing that’s been an ongoing conversation since the season began, it’s really quite simple. You take what they give you. In this case the Rams were so determined to not get beaten by the Cowboys tight ends and wide receivers they allowed the Cowboys to run wild on them. This will quiet concerns about the run game for the time being, but they will face teams in the future that are determined to stop the run, causing them to forget about balance as they pass almost every down.
The ongoing problems with Miles Austin’s sensitive hamstrings once again became an issue as he injured them in this game, causing Terrance Williams and Harris to play in Austin’s place late in the game. Using history as a guide, I am not sure Austin’s hamstrings will be healthy again this season. But I have always thought Harris was a dynamic playmaker that needed to be given more playing time and I also think the combination of size and speed William’s possesses adds another dimension to the Cowboys.
Thirty one points is a good enough score to win most games, but the Cowboys left several more points on the field. Missed opportunities in trying to get into the end zone led to a field goal attempt and a rare Dan Bailey miss. And the special teams fumble by Dwayne Harris took a possession away that could have led to more points. With some games that might be the difference between a win or loss, but not this game as the Cowboys were able to hold the Saint Louis Rams to only seven points.
And that brings us to defense. With Anthony Spencer unable to play, George Selvie did what he’s been doing since the Cowboys lifted him from the scrap heap by getting a quarterback sack to go along with a couple of tackles. Add to the sack total one sack each by Jason Hatcher, Orlando Scandrick and Kyle Wilber to go along with two sacks by DeMarcus Ware that made him the Cowboys all-time sack leader with 115, one more than Harvey Martin.
The linebackers performed well, flowing to the ball on every play and it was apparent with every tackle how focused the Cowboys are with taking the ball away. And in one instance that did result in a turnover by the Rams. And speaking of taking the ball away, it was a shame that safety J.J. Wilcox’s interception in his first NFL start was nullified by a penalty by Hatcher. Wilcox appeared to be very active helping to stop the run and is an upgrade over Will Allen. I was also impressed with the play of cornerback Morris Claiborne, especially in light of the harness he was wearing to protect the shoulder that was dislocated in the Giants games a couple of weeks ago.
All in all this was an impressive outing by the Cowboys in a stadium that seems to have become a home field advantage after changing the name from Cowboys Stadium to AT&T Stadium. The added bonus is that the rest of the teams in the NFC East lost again, leaving the Cowboys sitting on top at 2-1.