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Five things to watch: Look out for Jones

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  • Five things to watch: Look out for Jones

    By Jim Thomas

    The Rams gave up 217 yards rushing on Christmas Eve to a less-than-stellar San Francisco offense. The Cowboys, meanwhile, lead the NFL in time of possession and are coming off a game in which they rushed for a season-high 214 yards against Carolina's highly ranked run defense. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the Cowboys' intentions Sunday night.

    "I think they're going to hand every guy off that (team) bus a ball," Rams interim head coach Joe Vitt said. "I really do. They have that running game going now."

    RB Julius Jones, whom Dallas coach Bill Parcells opted for over Steven Jackson in the 2004 draft, rushed for 194 yards and two TDs against the Panthers. Despite missing three games with a lingering ankle injury, Jones needs 42 yards to become only the fifth player in Cowboys history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

    Dallas' run game features power, slashing and misdirection. Jones and backup Marion Barber fit that mold.

    On the receiving end

    Dallas has a pair of golden oldies at WR in Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson, both in their 10th NFL season. Before transferring to Northern Iowa, Rams S Mike Furrey was a teammate of Glenn's at Ohio State.

    "T.G. still has his speed and quickness," Furrey said. "He's a phenomenal receiver. Keyshawn still does his thing - he catches balls across the middle with the short routes."

    Glenn is nursing a dislocated thumb that was heavily wrapped in practice during the week, but he was not listed on the Cowboys' injury report. The Rams can't concentrate solely on Johnson and Glenn because Dallas has one of the league's more productive TEs in Jason Witten (62 catches for 707 yards).

    Defending Drew

    QB Drew Bledsoe has revived his career since being reunited with Bill Parcells in Dallas. He's a classic dropback passer. When the Cowboys throw the ball, they like to use maximum protection and get the ball downfield.

    "This is not a dink and dunk offense when he drops back," Vitt said. "He has a strong arm and good vision."

    But if the Rams can somehow force the Cowboys into predictable passing situations by containing Jones and the running game, they can get Bledsoe on his back. The Cowboys have given up 45 sacks this season.

    Rams DE Leonard Little, who has three sacks in his last two games, is matched up on rookie RT Rob Petitti.

    Secondary concerns

    Rams QB Jamie Martin threw for a career-high 354 yards last week, but that was against an injury-depleted and 32nd-ranked San Francisco secondary. Dallas figures to provide a much stiffer challenge, even though several of its defensive backs enter Sunday's game at less than full strength. Cornerback Anthony Henry, who has missed four of the Cowboys' past seven games because of a groin injury, plans to play. In addition, Pro Bowl strong safety Roy Williams limped his way through the practice week with a sore ankle. Against Carolina, starting free safety Keith Davis and backup Willie Pile were beaten for big plays by former Ram Ricky Proehl.

    With the availability of Steven Jackson (hip pointer) and Marshall Faulk (illness) uncertain, the Rams may rely more heavily on their passing game than usual.

    Ware vs. Pace

    More often than not, rookie DeMarcus Ware, a rush linebacker in the Cowboys' 3-4 front, will square off against Rams LT Orlando Pace. Ware was named NFC defensive player of the week after registering three sacks and three forced fumbles against Carolina. Pace has been slowed by hamstring, hip and groin injuries over the last third of this season, but still was named to his seventh straight Pro Bowl.

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  • RamWraith
    Rams-Cowboys: The breakdown
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Sunday, Oct. 19 2008
    When the Rams run the ball

    Another tough challenge for Steven Jackson & Co. Dallas comes to town with the
    NFL's seventh-ranked rush defense. The Cowboys have the speed at linebacker to
    make it tough to get outside, and the size up front to make life difficult
    between the tackles. One of the key matchups will be Rams center Nick Leckey
    against Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff. This is the first 3-4 front the Rams
    have faced in the regular-season, so Leckey will have the underrated Ratliff
    over him all day. If Leckey can't neutralize Ratliff, who uses quickness and
    leverage to his advantage, Jackson won't have much running room inside.

    EDGE: Cowboys

    * * * * * * *

    When the Cowboys run the ball

    With speedster Felix Jones out with a hamstring injury, the Rams will see a
    steady dose of Marion Barber all day long. Don't be surprised to see Barber
    approach his career high of 28 carries Sunday. Barber enters the game ranked
    seventh in the NFL in rushing (440 yards) and third in yards from scrimmage
    (674). "The guy runs to hurt people," Rams coach Jim Haslett said. "I mean, he
    runs hard." A powerful, relentless runner, Barber also is a threat as a pass
    catcher and a determined blocker. The danger for the Rams is getting worn down
    as the game progresses, and pushed around by the Cowboys' big, physical
    offensive line.

    EDGE: Cowboys

    * * * * * * *

    When the Rams pass the ball

    With Terence Newman out with an abdomen injury and Adam (Pacman) Jones serving
    a league suspension, the Cowboys are paper thin at cornerback. Anthony Henry is
    a solid, productive veteran at one corner. But rookies Mike Jenkins (starter)
    and Orlando Scandrick (nickel) will be counted on at the other corner spots.
    Safeties Ken Hamlin and Roy Williams are big hitters, but can be liabilities in
    coverage. So there could be opportunities here for St. Louis, if the Rams can
    protect quarterback Marc Bulger. The Cowboys are tied for sixth in the NFL with
    15 sacks, and usually rely on outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis
    for pressure, without much blitzing.


    * * * * * * *

    When the Cowboys pass the ball

    No matter who's at quarterback for Dallas, the Rams will be hard-pressed to
    cover all of the Cowboys' receiving threats. Any plans to double-team Terrell
    Owens were dampened by Tuesday's trade with Detroit for wide receiver Roy
    Williams. He's expected to be on the field for 15 to 20 plays Sunday, giving
    the Cowboys another big target and playmaking threat. Tight end Jason Witten
    runs routes with the precision...
    -10-19-2008, 06:50 AM
  • MauiRam
    Rams face Dallas team seeking the end zone ..
    by MauiRam
    BY JIM THOMAS Friday, October 21, 2011 12:25 am

    No NFL team has lived on the edge of victory and defeat quite like the Dallas Cowboys this season. All five of their games have been decided by four points or less. And with the scrutiny America's Team gets on a daily basis, it has been a well-chronicled, wildly fluctuating roller-coaster ride from week to week.

    Just two examples:

    Quarterback Tony Romo has been a superhero, leading the Cowboys to a 27-24 overtime victory over San Francisco in Week 2 despite a cracked rib and a punctured lung.

    Two weeks later, Romo was a dud, throwing three second-half interceptions in a 34-30 loss to Detroit, a game in which the Cowboys blew a 27-3 third-quarter lead.

    The winless Rams (0-5) can only hope Dallas and Romo are in dud mode Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. Despite lots of potential firepower on offense, the numbers don't add up for the Cowboys (2-3). On one hand, Dallas is seventh in the league in total offense, which ranks teams according to yards gained. Somehow all those yards have produced only 10 touchdowns this season.

    They are second-to-last in red zone offense, with only six TDs in 18 red zone trips. That 33 percent success rate trails only you guessed it the Rams, who have scored TDs on just 25 percent (three of 12) of their red zone opportunities.

    Hampered by changes and injuries on the offensive line, the Dallas running game has been close to nonexistent, ranking 27th in yards per game. On top of that, the Cowboys' top back and leading rusher, speedy Felix Jones, is expected to miss Sunday's game because of a high ankle sprain. Far removed from the glory days of Emmitt Smith and before that, Tony Dorsett Dallas has only one rushing touchdown this season. That's tied for second worst in the league with the Rams. (Kansas City has yet to score a rushing TD.)

    How can the Cowboys get their running game going?

    "Just got to keep banging away at it," coach Jason Garrett said. "Got to get better up front, got to get better as runners, and got to get better at the tight end spot, the receiver spot, fullback spot. It takes everybody, and we've just got to keep banging away."

    Another thing that's keeping the Cowboys out of the end zone is turnovers. They have coughed up the football 12 times via interception or lost fumble. Only Philadelphia, with 17 turnovers, has more in the NFL.

    One less turnover here, better red zone execution there, and the Cowboys easily could have another victory or two or three.

    "You just have to execute at different times," Romo said. "We've won a couple of really close games and executed well, and then we've lost one or two. So we're just going to do the little things better when they come."

    The Rams' defense is trying to make sure it's not...
    -10-21-2011, 10:26 AM
  • RamWraith
    Big Loss Leaves Cowboys Flustered
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats

    A difficult week for the Dallas Cowboys reached its nadir Sunday, when the Rams pounded out a 34-14 victory at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams' two-game winning "streak" mirrors the Cowboys' two-game slide.

    In an overtime loss to Arizona last week, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo broke the little finger on his right (throwing) hand. He was replaced by 40-year-old Brad Johnson, who slogged through a rugged outing Sunday.

    Speedy rookie running back Felix Jones and punter Mat McBriar also were lost to injuries. Then cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was slapped with a league suspension Tuesday of at least a month for his involvement in a late-night scuffle with his own bodyguard at a Dallas hotel.

    Pacman had just landed a starting role because Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman had groin surgery Oct. 10.

    Suddenly, the Cowboys, popular preseason picks to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, are 4-3 and fighting to resurrect their flagging season.

    "I'm angry, disappointed and embarrassed," second-year Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "We didn't want to get beat at all. But we shouldn't get beat like that, for sure. ... This is the worst game this team has played since I've been here."

    Said tight end Jason Witten: "To be 4-3 at this point ... nobody would've thought that."

    Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted that he but not his team, he stressed took the Rams too lightly. "I really did think when I walked out of our dressing room for the second half, I said, 'We'll get a couple of scores and we'll be back in it,'" Jones said. "I give the Rams the credit for that. I was just thinking a little lighter than I should have about this ballgame."

    The Cowboys outgained the Rams 341 yards to 325. But much of the Dallas real estate was gathered well after the outcome was decided, and an uncharacteristically sloppy performance helped keep the Cowboys in arrears most of the afternoon.

    Defensively, the Rams gobbled up four turnovers and sacked Johnson three times.

    "We're not even giving ourselves the chance to put points on the board," Witten said. "Seven points against this team? We're not running the ball, we're not giving the quarterback time, and we're not getting open like we should. ... It's unacceptable."

    Offensively, the Rams posted easily their highest point total of the year, prospering behind quarterback Marc Bulger's best day of the season, and running back Steven Jackson's 160-yard rushing output and three touchdowns.

    "We obviously need to play better," linebacker Greg Ellis said. "We just need to stick together. Not a lot more needs to be said."

    Wide receiver Terrell Owens insisted...
    -10-20-2008, 04:24 AM
  • MauiRam
    Double Coverage: Rams at Cowboys
    by MauiRam
    By Todd Archer and Nick Wagoner

    The Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams will meet for the second time in three seasons at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys won convincingly, 34-7, in 2011, but this Rams team is different. ESPN Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer bring you their Double Coverage preview.

    Archer: It's always about the quarterback here with the Cowboys and Tony Romo, but I'm curious about Sam Bradford. Where is he in his development and is there any doubt he is their answer at the game's most important spot?

    Wagoner: The Rams have made every effort to turn this into Bradford's team, and, through two weeks, it's absolutely become that. Bradford has had two strong statistical weeks to start the season, led a comeback win against Arizona in the opener and nearly did it again last week in Atlanta. He's clearly more comfortable in his second season with the same offensive coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer and surrounded by better skill position players such as tight end Jared Cook and receiver Tavon Austin. Bradford is showing signs of having the breakthrough season many have long expected. For the Rams' part, there's no doubt he's the guy moving forward and the decision-makers have repeatedly and publicly said as much.

    Speaking of quarterbacks and committing, the Cowboys made their move to lock up Romo already. How has he responded to that financial vote of confidence?

    Archer: I think it goes beyond the financial commitment, although wed all like to be guaranteed $55 million at some point in our lives. The bigger vote of confidence came from Jerry Jones wanting him in on the game planning with the coaches. Romo has more say now than he has ever had as the starting quarterback. Its his offense in a lot of respects. The Cowboys are doing more no-huddle work than ever before, and thats where Romo has complete control. Now there could be some drawbacks, too, because theyre not running the ball. The Cowboys talked about running the ball more and better in 2013 than they did in 2012, and they have 39 carries for 124 yards in two games. Romo has dropped back to pass nearly 100 times in two games. There is even more of a burden on him now, and hes already had to do so many things here lately to win games.

    One guy I cant wait to see Sunday is Austin. Everybody had him pegged for greatness this summer, and hes coming off his first two-touchdown game. How have the Rams tailored their offense for him?

    Wagoner: Well, it's been a bit of a mixed bag for Austin so far. Yes, he had a couple of touchdowns last week, but he also had some issues with drops. The Rams have used him as a receiver, lined him up at running back and used him as the primary punt returner, and those will all be ways they'll continue to use him moving forward. Through two weeks, they haven't been able to get him out in space where he can operate at his...
    -09-19-2013, 12:09 PM
  • Nick
    Cowboys inept in 'sloppy' opener
    by Nick
    Cowboys inept in 'sloppy' opener
    12:36 PM CDT on Sunday, August 14, 2005
    By JEAN-JACQUES TAYLOR / The Dallas Morning News

    TEMPE, Ariz. Coach Bill Parcells has worked his team hard in the first two weeks of training camp.

    There have been two scrimmages totaling 154 plays. And intense full-contact practices. And there has been an increased attention to detail.

    Parcells said all of the work was designed to get his team ready to perform at a higher level earlier in the preseason. After all, the Cowboys failed to score in each of his previous two preseason openers.

    The changes did not produce the desired effect.

    The starting offense was inept, and the starting defense wasn't much better as Arizona beat Dallas, 13-11, Saturday night before an announced crowd of 36,687 at Sun Devil Stadium.

    Billy Cundiff missed a potential game-winning 53-yard field goal following a 5-yard false start penalty with 1:07 left.

    The first-team offense, saddled with poor field position, never found a rhythm under Drew Bledsoe, who completed just four of eight passes for 27 yards.

    He was sacked twice and knocked down at least three other times. He also showed a tendency to hold onto the ball too long but that could have also been the result of the Cowboys' receivers' inability to get open.

    The Cowboys produced just one first down in five possessions with Bledsoe at quarterback, while netting 22 yards on 17 plays. They did not move past their own 43.

    Julius Jones managed just 10 yards on six carries with a long of seven. Dallas trailed 10-0 when the starting offense and defense left the field.

    This is not what Parcells had in mind for the preseason-opener.

    "Pretty sloppy first outing," Parcells said. "We're not going to be able to overcome a lot of the things we did."

    He scheduled two scrimmages in the last seven days as part of his attempt to change his team's attitude.

    Parcells wants a tougher mentally and physically team that can fight through the difficult moments that occur during most games. At times last season, Parcells has said he thought the Cowboys stopped competing.

    He doesn't want that to happen again. So this has been an off-season of change.

    Parcells has been more active on the practice field, bouncing from group to group to disseminating information he says will help his players perform better.

    He changed the practice schedule to create more teaching and film-study time in an effort to lessen the mental mistakes the Cowboys made last season. Parcells even spent the last 25 minutes of Friday's walk-through making sure each player knew the substitutions on every special teams unit from the kickoff coverage to the return unit following a safety. Clearly, there...
    -08-14-2005, 05:10 PM