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  • Double Coverage: Rams at Cowboys

    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 we’d 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. It’s his offense in a lot of respects. The Cowboys are doing more no-huddle work than ever before, and that’s where Romo has complete control. Now there could be some drawbacks, too, because they’re 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 he’s already had to do so many things here lately to win games.

    One guy I can’t wait to see Sunday is Austin. Everybody had him pegged for greatness this summer, and he’s 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 best. That's why he has yet to hit any of the big plays many are expecting from him. On the flip side, he's been better in short areas moving the chains than expected. His first touchdown catch against Atlanta was particularly encouraging because he showed a knack for being able to make a tough grab in a congested area.

    Not to keep piggybacking off your questions, but let's talk a little about Dallas' most exciting wideout, Dez Bryant. Clearly he's not too banged up given his performance last week, but what is his status? The Rams have really struggled against the pass the first two weeks and Bryant could have a monster game if he's up to full strength.

    Archer: He should be fine, but this is something that has cropped up the past couple of seasons. He missed a handful of plays against the Chiefs because of back spasms, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as last year’s finale at Washington, where he could barely move. I think it’s a matter of keeping loose for him because they say it’s not a structural issue. He is just a nightmare matchup because he can overpower corners in man-to-man. The Chiefs' Brandon Flowers wasn’t in bad position on a couple of those plays, but Bryant just ripped the ball away from him. And the best pass Romo threw to Bryant all day was the one the receiver dropped on what would’ve been a big gain. Unfortunately for the Rams corners, I think he’ll be fine for this one.

    The Cowboys haven’t been able to run the ball early in the season and the Rams look to be pretty good against the run (but maybe that’s because the pass defense has been shaky). How good is the front seven?

    ----------
    Rams at Cowboys: Stat of the Week: 253

    DeMarco Murray had a Cowboys record 253 rushing yards on 25 carries when he last saw the Rams on Oct. 23, 2011, at then-Cowboys Stadium.
    ----------

    Wagoner: Yeah, it's hard to get a read on just how good the Rams' run defense is right now because they've played pretty anemic run teams in the first two weeks. I do think they'll be pretty good in that regard over the course of the season, but let's see how they do when they face the likes of San Francisco, Seattle and Houston. The front four is the strength of this team as a whole, and the linebackers are solid, too. The front four generates a pass rush on a consistent basis. Ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn have been as good as ever so far this season.

    The Rams haven't given up a sack in the first two games and four in a row dating back to last season. How are the Cowboys adjusting to a new defensive scheme and what kind of challenges do they pose in regard to the pass rush? And how are they using DeMarcus Ware?

    Archer: Last week against the Chiefs, the Cowboys used Ware on both sides in part so he could go against rookie tackle Eric Fisher. He had two sacks in the game and was a constant source of pressure on quarterback Alex Smith. I wonder if the Cowboys continue to do that this week with Rams tackle Rodger Saffold looking like he will miss the game with an injury. Ware has predominantly lined up against the left tackle for his career, but with George Selvie showing he can play both sides and Anthony Spencer rounding into shape after missing so much time with a knee injury, I think the smart thing is to move Ware around.

    Predictions

    The final word on Sunday's matchup at AT&T Stadium:

    Nick Wagoner: The teams look to be pretty evenly matched, which should make for a close game. Although it's a small sample size, the Rams have showed some moxie to mount late comebacks and finish games strong. They can't afford another slow start on the road, but they'll find a way to finish strong enough to steal a win here. Rams 27, Cowboys 24

    Todd Archer: If the Cowboys want to show they are a different team from the one of recent years, they must win this game. It won't be easy, but the defense, held without a takeaway last week at Kansas City, gets a key turnover in the fourth quarter to salt away the win. Cowboys 26, Rams 20

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  • 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
  • r8rh8rmike
    Tony Romo Will Take Pain Shot Before Cowboys Game
    by r8rh8rmike
    Tony Romo will take pain shot before Cowboys game

    By Gregg Rosenthal Around The League Editor
    Published: Sept. 19, 2013

    Tony Romo's ribs were a forgotten storyline in a Week 2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but it remains a problem for the Dallas Cowboys quarterback.

    He plans to take another painkilling shot before the team faces the St. Louis Rams this week, just like he did a week ago.

    "I think tentatively we are planning on it just because of the nature of it and what we thought," Romo said Wednesday via The Dallas Morning News. "But we'll see as we get there. It does feel better now than it did last week. It'll just keep getting better and better this week. ... I've gotten shot up before in the rib and it seems like it's a normal part of playing quarterback in the National Football League."

    It's worth wondering if Romo's effectiveness decreased last week after the effectiveness of the injection wore off. Romo was less accurate in the fourth quarter after making good decisions and a number of nice throws throughout the game against Kansas City. Romo mostly got good protection against the Chiefs, but that protection -- and his ribs -- will be tested against St. Louis' tough defensive line.
    -09-19-2013, 12:48 PM
  • RamWraith
    Big Loss Leaves Cowboys Flustered
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    10/20/2008

    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
  • RamWraith
    Rams-Cowboys: The breakdown
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    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.

    EVEN

    * * * * * * *

    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
  • 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
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