Rams cave in 3rd quarter
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
IRVING, TEXAS — Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett apparently sensed trouble brewing. Although his unit was seventh in the NFL in total defense heading into Week 4, he expressed concern about its lack of consistency.
"We've got to do it for four quarters," he said. "We can't do it for 3 or 3 1/2 quarters; we need to play the whole game."
Haslett's fears materialized Sunday in a 35-7 spanking at Texas Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys, whose 38.7-point average was the league's best, led only 14-7 at the half. Then they got serious.
The Cowboys (4-0) found the end zone on each of their three possessions in the third quarter. And they got there with shocking ease: drives of 59 yards on three plays, 52 yards on three plays and 80 yards on five plays. Advertisement
"They're a great, great offense," linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "You've got to stay with it for four quarters. We did good for two of them, but in the third, they really opened up. They showed why they're the No. 1 offense."
The Cowboys piled up 502 total yards, the most by any team against the Rams in two seasons under Haslett and coach Scott Linehan.
"We haven't been able to put a game together yet," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "Guys are working hard, the coaches are coaching hard. We just haven't been able to get it done."
Veteran cornerback Lenny Walls, who started on the left side for the third week in a row in place of injured Tye Hill (back), was a glaring victim of the Dallas eruption. He was burned by wide receiver Patrick Crayton on back-to-back series for TDs of 59 and 37 yards.
On the first, Walls unwisely went for the ball with the Rams blitzing on third and 10. He arrived late, and Crayton broke free and sprinted unimpeded the rest of the way.
"I got a pretty good break, actually," Walls said. "I felt like he would've got a first down catching it anyway. I went for the ball, didn't really secure the tackle, and when you're in an all-out like blitz like that, there's nothing else behind you. If you don't make that tackle, he's gone."
Crayton got past Walls on the next possession, hauled in Romo's toss and was off again. Walls said his calves locked up as he tried to stay with Crayton.
"I was dehydrated a little bit, cramping up, before the first half was over," Walls explained. "I came in at the half, tried to get an IV and get myself back together. But obviously I didn't really recover."
Walls then pulled himself from the game. Rookie Jonathan Wade finished for him.
"I had to shut it down," Walls said. "I'm one guy that never, ever wants to come out of a game. But at that point, knowing I couldn't run — and for some reason I just felt like (the Cowboys) knew that — I felt like it was better if I did that before I hurt my team any worse."
Crayton finished with seven catches for 184 yards; in the previous three games, he had six receptions and 78 yards. He indicated that the "guarantee" of a win by Rams wideout Isaac Bruce spurred the Cowboys.
"He's not the one who pays for it," Crayton said. "The defensive backs ... they paid for it."
Walls couldn't argue the point. "It was a really tough day," he said.