Aug 16, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; The Dallas Cowboys in a huddle during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium. Baltimore beat Dallas 37-30. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Prior to Sunday’s roller-coaster 34-31 victory over the St. Louis Rams, I would have never wondered whether or not the Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive lines in the NFL. There wasn’t enough evidence yet to ask such a bold question.
Then came Week Three of the 2014 regular season, the first true fork in the road for any and all teams coming in with a record of 1-1. Either way, a team in this group will be heading towards the end of the first quarter with an uneven record be it positive or negative.
Such was the case for a Dallas team hoping desperately to avoid falling into an early sub-500 pothole. This just wasn’t a good strategy moving ahead with teams like the New Orleans Saints and defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks looming ahead.
Despite a poor start at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo was able engineer another fourth quarter comeback despite throwing for well under 300 yards. Romo also threw his fourth interception to Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins that was promptly returned 25 yards for a touchdown.
But after it was all said and done, there were the Cowboys, sitting somewhat pretty with a 2-1 record once again under head coach Jason Garrett.
The whole thing was possible because the Dallas offensive line may very well be the best unit in the NFL. This, of course, could change at any moment and for a variety of reasons, but for right now it’s starting to look like this group is beginning to click.
Remember that St. Louis defensive coordinator Greg Williams, among the most aggressive defensive play-callers in the league, was not exactly short on talent for this game. I would argue that the Rams starting lineup much more resembled that of the San Francisco 49ers on opening weekend than it did the Tennessee Titans just over a week ago. In fact, San Francisco didn’t even have its top pass rusher or a key inside linebacker available for that contest.
The Rams had pretty much everybody necessary to beat the Cowboys, takeaway defensive end Chris Long of course. Fellow end Robert Quinn, owner of 19.0 sacks in 2013, linebacker Alec Ogletree, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and a young, rising defensive unit had a victory practically gift wrapped for them by the most recent horrible start for the Dallas offense.
A three-touchdown lead should mean lights out in the NFL. I don’t have the exact figures, but teams that fall behind by that margin in the first half of games can’t win very many of them. Whatever that number actually is, the Dallas offense eventually kicked into gear and the offensive line was the driving force behind everything—exactly as it should be.
As they have done all season, the Cowboys were able to run the football quite effectively against a Rams defense that often looked fully committed to making Romo beat them with his arm. For much of the first half, Williams’ strategy of stacking the box had some success, especially against Murray.
But the offensive line took this game over at a time when it was least expected.
Despite being harassed early and often, Romo was never sacked in this game. Instead, he was able to cash in on just enough running game from Murray to connect on some big plays in the passing game. This is exactly what was missing from the Dallas offense over the first couple of weeks, yet always an element that could show up at any time.