Chicken Soup for the Cowboys Soul: Cowboys 34, Rams 7

The Rams looked like a tonic for a Cowboys squad which had not celebrated a win in a month.  They soothed the hurt from New England and offered a booster shot of confidence to a running attack which had averaged less than 90 yards rushing per game through five contests.

Dallas sprinted to an early 14-0 lead, mainly on the legs of rookie DeMarco Murray, who ran the stock lead draw 91 yards for a touchdown on Dallas’ first series of the game.  Murray struggled the rest of the first half, but when the defense kept the anemic Rams attack under control, Jason Garrett had the opportunity to find the Murray template.  Garrett learned that Murray worked best on the perimeter, off tosses and outside zones, though he also showed the muscle and drive to make the lead draw an effective tool.

The Rams are the NFL’s worst rushing defense, so it’s likely premature to over-react to the team’s 294 yards rushing today.  Murray’s skills are obvious however, and the St. Louis contest gave the offensive line ample reps (34) to build some cohesion and continuity.  With a key division game upcoming, against an Eagles team that has also had trouble stopping the run, the timing could not be better.

As is the way with the 2011, the spike in rushing performance was offset somewhat by the most uneven passing game performance of the season.  The timing was off for much of the game.  Open receivers were missed and passes were dropped.  Dez Bryant dropped a certain touchdown off a slant just before the half.

Bryant shook off the mistake and had a four-quarter game.  The last of his five catches was a 20 yard touchdown fade up the right sideline.

On defense, Rob Ryan’s guys had a one bullet-point game plan:  stop Stephen Jackson.  Jackson beat then for two consecutive big plays on the Rams lone scoring drive, running a trap-draw for 40 yards, then running a counter to the right for a score one play later.  The Cowboys re-grouped, allowing Jackson less than 30 yards the remainder of the game.  The defense stopped Jackson on 4th and goal from the one in the last minute, stopping St. Louis on downs after 1st and goal from the two, showing the energy they displayed last week carried over.

Notes:  This was a big day for the rookie runners.  Murray shattered Emmitt Smith’s team single-game rushing record of 237.  He was joined in the big-smile department by Phillip Tanner, who got several fourth quarter runs and notched his first career touchdown.

— On the downside, Murray’s and Tanner’s rise may mark Tashard Choice’s demise.  The 4th year veteran fumbled the ball away on Dallas’ first 3rd quarter series and did not play again.  This was Choice’s second lost fumble in the last two games.

— A solid start for prodigal guard Montrae Holland, who showed no conditioning issues, while making some big blocks.

—  The challenge for Eagles week is getting both phases of the offense in sync.  The passing game has carried the offense, but tonight it sputtered, while the running game finally got out of the garage.

Play of the Game

1st-and-19.  One play after a Tony Fiammetta holding penalty wiped out a long Murray edge run, the Cowboys lined up in a base 21 set, with Jason Witten flexed right.  The extra space pulled an outside linebacker into space, putting six defenders inside the Rams box against the six Cowboys blockers.  The Rams put both safeties deep, expecting the Cowboys to pass to get back much of the needed 19 yards.

The Rams are playing pass.  Their LE, RE and LDT charge upfield.  Kyle Kosier lets his man rush upfield and seals him outside.  Both Doug Free and Tyron Smith do the same with their men.  LG Montrae Holland the C Phil Costa double team the tackle lined up over Costa:

 Tony Romo’s play pass action has the middle linebacker and the weakside linebacker dropping and dithering.  They’re not sure if the play is a pass or a run.  That hesitancy gives fullback Tony Fiammetta time to get upfield and block the middle linebacker.  Jason Witten does the same on his linebacker.  Holland comes of his double team block and seals the third linebacker.  Dallas had the desired “hat-on-a-hat” situation on every one of the seven Rams defenders:

Murray cuts left and has only FS Quintin Mikell to beat.  A sharp cut to the left sideline spins Mikell around and turns Murray loose to the left sideline.  He has too much speed and finishes the play.

Everything is better — and easier — when your offense can run the ball.  Here’s to more of the same.   Long report tomorrow.

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Senior Analyst Cowboys at Sports Talk Line
Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for
Rafael Vela

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  • Timschultz09

    Big picture: if you had told me at the beginning of the season how good this Defense would be, and how good Dan Bailey would be, I would’ve said “11-5.” But the O-Line and running game have both been much worse than expected, due largely to the woefully overmatched Nagy-Costa hole. If a slimmed down Holland can partially patch that, and Fiammetta run blocks as well as it looks he can, even a Cowboys pessimist like me has reason for hope.

    Sunday night’s game is a barometer game: it’s the only game in our next seven in which we’ll be an underdog. We’re up against a division rival that torched our pass defense last year, but against which the 2009 team dominated. I think this game will answer: is this the 2009 Cowboys, or the 2008 Cowboys?

  • The Turk

    Wow what an eye opener  ** 

    It looks like Murray & Tanner just play { HUNGRIER } than Felix & Choice when they have the ball in their hands  ** 

    No NEED to stop the progress of Tanner or Murray any FURTHER  ** 

    Its Time to PART WAYS WITH CHOICE and Bench Felix  ** 

    Dallas Cowboy FANS LOVE to see RB’s Run with AUTHORITY  and ole Choice & Felix are fresh out and they can’t buy any at 7- Eleven and for Jerry Jones Choice & Felix won’t sell any tickets  (look at attendance numbers)  **    

    I Hope This Marks the END of Skip Peete’s TENURE as the Cowboys RB Coach cause when a Rookie comes in with better Technique, Decisions Making & Effort than your 4 YEAR VETERANS its time to pack up the U-HAUL  Skip and skip on down the road  **  

    I hope Rob Ryan can impress with his play calling next week  **


  • Cosby Sweater

    Now maybe we can put Fragile Felix back where he belongs…the 3rd down back.

    • The Turk

      Murray never need to come off the field

      Murray can do it all on all downs

  • Oklahoma

    I’m no visionary and I’ve yet to meet Kirk Douglas, but it seems to me that as a starter next year, if Murray can average yesterday’s output, then he’ll rush for 4048 for the season (and 40,480 over a 10 year career).  As such I can only conclude the Boys really don’t need Luck, an improved OL or better safeties.  Thanks Rams for showing Dallas that everything they need for the picnic is already in their basket!

  • White Wolf

    On one of Holland’s pull blocks, I thought to myself, “Who is this guy, and what has he done with Lumpy?” Did Garrett finally get through to him? If he continues to care about his NFL future, we might have something there.

  • kameleon_o

    I listened to The Lunch Break podcast after the Cowboy resigned Holland. They were really surprised it sounded like with his conditioning. They said he looked better than before.

  • Lance

    I loved being able to enjoy an easy win. Murry was great. Choice, who i hate, sucked again. Did i see him asking for Feelys autograph after the game?

  • WA_cowboy

    what Murray had today that has been lacking in the running game…vision.  hitting the hole, cutting back.

    • Rafael Vela

      What he also had was the Rams defense.  Don’t lose sight of that.

      • Chiacrack

        Raf we know that, but we witnessed magic and history today

        it was just magical, 253 yards against any NFL team is impressive, 2nd best rookie performance of all time, longest rookie TD since the AFL NFL merger, over 10 yards per carry

        Felix and Choice lack vision, this kid has it

        we found our RB

        • Rafael Vela

          I think Felix would have done similar work against that defense.  Murray did his thing, but Jones is the starter for a reason.   He’s got a lot of home run runs of his own.  

          The way people wad up and throw away backs always amazes me.   Not saying you’re doing it, but there’s always a cry for the new guy to be the guy.  

          Let’s see what happens against Philly first.  There were no holes like this against New England, I assure you.

          • davidh22

            I guess there weren’t any 91 yard or 43 yard holes, but Murray was having a solid day (8-35) against the Patriots until his last two carries, when everyone knew the Cowboys were going to try and run out the clock.

          • Timschultz09

            Felix lacks Murray’s top end speed, though I think he’s a better runner (when healthy).

      • kameleon_o

        Amen. I think we should be able to do ok against the Beagles next week but it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re all asking what the hell is wrong with Murray next week. Or blaming the O-line again. Lets see it twice before we get carried away.

      • Davemhickey

        Murray did way better than LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice or Ahmad Bradshaw did against the Rams.

        • Rafael Vela

          Patience.  Patience.  Julius Jones got something like 177 yards in his first start.  And he was immediately annointed the next great thing.  

          How did that turn out?  

          • davidh22

            Fair enough…although JJ didn’t turn out so bad (aside from passing up Steve Jackson) – 3400+ yards in four seasons, 100+ in playoff game, two games of 190+. I tend to go with the school of thought that Parcells messed JJ up and then Barber was favored from mid 2006 on.


      • WA_Cowboy

        duly noted.  It just seemed to my untrained eye as if during the first few games that Felix would have good cutback opportunities and not see them.  then, when there was a gaping hole, someone would make an ankle tackle the stopped him from breaking it

  • Kjd811

    Murray looked great, good burst and a little something extra that we haven’t seen from Felix. I’ve had enough of Choice-time to go. Hopefully this will carry over to next week against the Eagles. no more margin for error.

    • Rafael Vela

      That something extra was space.  Can you think of one play vs. New England where Felix or Choice had space like this?  

      • Rafael Vela

        Actually, Murray played the 2nd half against the Pats, cause Felix got hurt in the 2nd quarter.   He got an 8 yard toss, and that was about it.  

  • Milkshaker

    I know it’s St Louis, but there’s something so satisfying about a dominant running game. It’s what football will always be about.

    I like Felix a lot, but he’s always looking to the sidelines. Always looking for a break. He’s a talent, but he doesn’t have the personality of a no. 1 back. Murray is every bit the home run threat as Felix but he’s also much more difficult to tackle. Tanner too. They’re the kind of RBs that take 4, 5, 6 guys to bring down. 

    Also, Fiammetta and Holland were a big jump up in quality. So far, seems when Fiammetta plays, we run well.

  • Not really a downside to see Choice sit or cut. I use to think he was used inappropriately but he just seems like he doesn’t care.  I think he wants out

  • UrinalMint

    I expect the run game to slump right back where it was next week, even though Philly is very, very soft up the middle. Costa will still be overmatched.

  •  This is a great warm-up for the Eagles.  The Eagles are in a position where if they beat the Cowboys they could get confidence and get hot but if the Cowboys beat them they are a 2-5 team and out of any potential playoff talks.

    If this Cowboys team wants to deliver the dagger to the Eagles they need to run the ball hard at their terrible linebacker corps and make opportunistic pass plays.  That is exactly what they did today and DAMN did they ever do it!

    This is the perfect warm-up.  If we do these exact same things against Philly we will have a win and Philly will be in 2012 draft mode.