By Cedric Williams
When the St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys meet for an NFL Week 3 matchup at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday, they will do so as two clubs that feel a whole lot better about themselves than they did this same time last week.
The Rams were coming off an embarrassing 34-6 dome opener loss to the Minnesota Vikings, while the Cowboys were feeling equally inept following a 28-17 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
This past Sunday though, both clubs looked like new teams altogether, pulling out a pair of scintillating wins (19-17 for St. Louis over Tampa Bay and 26-10 for Dallas over Tennessee).
Sunday’s high noon matchup will present several intriguing storylines, with perhaps the best being that despite their Week 1 woes, come dinner time Sunday night, either the Rams or the Cowboys will be 2-1. That’s a prospect hardly anyone would’ve predicted after the Week 1 losses.
Dallas on Offense
The Cowboys have as much offensive talent as any team in the league.
Quarterback Tony Romo, in his 11th season out of Eastern Illinois, has thrown for over 4,000 yards four times and surpassed 25 touchdown passes six times in his career. Wideout Dez Bryant is one of the league’s elite pass-catchers, with more than 4,200 yards and 41 touchdowns in four seasons, and tight end Jason Whitten, who has the second-most catches by a tight end in NFL history, is still going strong in his 12th season.
But the feature player on Dallas’ offense these days is running back DeMarco Murray, who leads the NFL in rushing after two games, with 285 yards (142.5 yards/game) and two touchdowns this season.
Murray is a particularly scary player in the minds of Rams fans, who probably remember the former University of Oklahoma star’s two previous outings against St. Louis, when he rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown last year and his career-high day of 253 yards and a touchdown back in 2011.
Dallas on Defense
The Cowboys fielded one of the worst defenses in the history of the NFL last season, allowing the third-most yards any defense has ever allowed. And with the departures of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher and the injury to middle linebacker Sean Lee, many predicted Dallas would have the worst D in the league again.
But two weeks into the new season, the Cowboys haven’t been that bad, ranking a respectable 14th in total yards allowed and 11th in total points allowed.
Even in that dismal first game against San Francisco, the Dallas defense was really hurt by the three turnovers its offense gave up in the first half.
When the Cowboy O didn’t put the team in bad spots with turnovers, the D held up pretty good. They’ll need that same kind of effort against a physical ground and pound team like St. Louis on Sunday.
Dallas on Special Teams
Cowboy kicker Dan Bailey has one of the biggest legs in the league – and most accurate, too – evidenced by his five-for-five effort, including a 51-yarder last week.
Punter Chris Jones is off to a phenomenal start. The third-year man out of Carson-Newman, leads the NFL in punting with a whopping 54.5 yards/punt average. And he was even better than that last Sunday, when he averaged 55.0 yards per punt, including a career-high 62-yard boot against the Titans.
Dallas leads the all-time series 16-15 with St. Louis, including wins three of the last four times the two clubs have played.
The Rams did win the last meeting played in St. Louis, when Steven Jackson ran for 160 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 34-14 victory over the ‘Boys.
Fans might remember that game. Romo had a broken pinkie finger and didn’t play for Dallas. Forty-year-old backup Brad Johnson played instead, and threw three interceptions to aid the St. Louis win.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.