Rams vs Cowboys: Takeaways from Dallas' 31-7 Win Against St. Louis

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIISeptember 22, 2013

Rams vs Cowboys: Takeaways from Dallas' 31-7 Win Against St. Louis

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    The Dallas Cowboys showed off what their team looks like rolling on all cylinders in their 31-7 home win over St. Louis.

    On offense, the talk leading into this Week 3 matchup was getting DeMarco Murray more involved. The team did so, and the Rams looked clueless as to how to stop him.

    The Dallas defense did everything it needed to not only to keep the Rams at bay but to completely shut down Sam Bradford's offense.

    Here are eight takeaways from an impressive home showing for the Cowboys.

     

    All statistics courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise specified.

Dallas Defensive Line Harrassed Sam Bradford

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    Sam Bradford was seeing stars all game long in Arlington, Texas. It seemed like almost every offensive snap for the Rams involved the Cowboys defensive line collapsing the pocket on Bradford.

    DeMarcus Ware had two sacks on the game, in the process breaking Harvey Martin's Cowboys career sack record. Dallas finished with six sacks on the day. The Rams hadn't given up a sack on Bradford through the first two weeks of the season.

    There were very few plays where one could argue that Bradford had ample time to look downfield. The pass rush was simply stout from the Dallas frontline in Week 3. Bradford finished with just 240 yards and completed only 29 of his 48 passes.

Cowboys Commit to DeMarco Murray on Offense

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    DeMarco Murray had Cowboys fans partying like it was 2011 this week thanks to his 175 yards and diving touchdown in the win.

    The last time Dallas played St. Louis two seasons ago, Murray made his first big mark in the NFL with his franchise-record 253 yards in a single game.

    The Cowboys offense has been in need of balancing things out between its number of run and pass plays called.

    This week offensive coordinator Bill Callahan ran the ball 34 times compared to 24 passes from Tony Romo. The result led to a 31-7 victory and was the first real showing of a complete 2013 Cowboys offense this season.

    The Rams are not exactly the 2000 Baltimore Ravens on defense, but the Cowboys have to feel confident in what they did on the ground. Now Callahan, Murray and Co. need to carry that momentum out to San Diego and apply the same strategy next week.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin Not Needed

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    Dez Bryant did catch one of Tony Romo's three touchdown tosses on the day, but other than that, he wasn't a huge factor.

    Dallas' No. 1 receiver went through another Sunday dealing with double coverage most of the afternoon. In Week 1, the Giants' double teams on Bryant led to a surge from Miles Austin, but that wasn't the case against St. Louis.

    Austin had just two catches for 22 yards, while Bryant had only four grabs for 38 yards. Dallas' top two receivers weren't really a factor this week—it was the DeMarco Murray show almost all day.

    Murray had three receptions for 28 yards in addition to his 26 carries on the ground. The Rams were committed to taking Bryant out of the game. The Cowboys showed their NFC West opponents that they're not completely reliant on Bryant and the passing game.

    The fact that Dallas was able to put up 31 points with no receiver tallying more than 67 yards, let alone 100, is impressive.

     

Special Teams Was a Bit Shaky

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    The Cowboys' special teams unit was really the only concerning aspect of the game for the home squad.

    Dwayne Harris muffed a punt return that led to the Rams taking over in Cowboys territory. Luckily for Harris, the defense bailed him out and forced a punt from St. Louis.

    Later in the game, Dan Bailey missed just his second field goal ever in AT&T Stadium. Bailey kicked the ball a tad too far to the right on his 35-yard field goal attempt.

    Overall, Jason Garrett and the Dallas coaching staff has to be excited with its Week 3 outing. Special teams still needs a little talking to in practice next week. Luckily for Bailey and Harris, the mistakes didn't really hurt their team.

Tony Romo Thoroughly Protected

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    Tony Romo didn't need to do much against St. Louis, but when he did, he had plenty of time.

    The Cowboys quarterback was sacked just once in Week 3, completing 17 of his 24 passing attempts. Romo also threw three touchdowns on the day to three different receivers.

    Perhaps the biggest reason for Romo's solid afternoon was due to the big men protecting him up front. In addition to helping Murray on the ground, Brian Waters, Travis Frederick and Co. kept Romo upright with time to look around.

    One of the big concerns heading into the year when looking at the Cowboys' roster was the offensive line. In Week 3 against the Rams, the offensive line was arguably Dallas' biggest asset.

Rams Receivers Were a Complete Non-Factor

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    At halftime, the St. Louis Rams had 18 total yards of offense to show for their offensive efforts. Things did not turn around in the third and fourth quarter for the visiting team.

    Sam Bradford actually finished with 30 more passing yards than Tony Romo, but they weren't extremely helpful ones. Tavon Austin had six catches for 30 yards while Chris Givens had two for 54. Those were the Rams' leading wide receivers in terms of yards by the end of the contest.

    Tight end Jared Cook and running back Isaiah Pead were arguably more effective than their wide receiver teammates. Cook had five grabs for 44 yards, while Pead recorded seven catches for 43 yards.

    Bradford didn't have enough time to look for the big play downfield and was forced into more than a few screens and check down passes.

    Cook and Pead recorded as many catches as they did thanks in large part to the Dallas pass rush. Bradford had to get rid of the ball fast on almost every passing play.

Barry Church and Orlando Scandrick Impress

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    The Cowboys secondary as a whole looked stingy against the Rams. Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church had two of the more impressive showings in this one.

    Orlando Scandrick tallied the Cowboys' first of six sacks on Sam Bradford. It was the first sack St. Louis had given up in five straight regular-season games dating back to 2012.

    The veteran cornerback was effective when being asked to blitz and also broke up a slant play when the Rams were on the Dallas six-yard line.

    Barry Church didn't earn a sack, but he did play equally well in the secondary. The safety broke up a pass from Bradford that easily could have led to a touchdown when the Rams were in the red zone. Instead of celebrating the broken-up pass, Church was mad at himself for not making the interception.

    The Rams did complete one 29-yard pass to Chris Givens, but other than that, Church and the safeties kept St. Louis from gaining big chunks of yardage.

    Dallas' secondary played well against the Rams, and its biggest contributors weren't from the biggest names in the unit. Church and Scandrick stepped up in this one.

Cowboys Won a Game They Were Supposed to Win

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    The Rams are not the lowly team they were when Dallas last played them in 2011. In fact, St. Louis finished with just one less victory than the Cowboys last season.

    That being said, the Cowboys were favored in this game and should have won this game. Dallas has the edge in experience, the more dangerous offense and a defensive identity. The Rams have talent but just don't match up well with the Cowboys.

    Dallas showed what its team looks like when the production meets the potential. The offense was balanced, and Tony Romo wasn't asked to do everything. Rod Marinelli's defensive line wreaked havoc, and the unit recorded a takeaway.

    If a team wants to make the postseason, it has to win the games it's favored in. The Rams aren't pushovers, but the Cowboys (on paper) have a playoff-worthy team. St. Louis does not.

    This is a game the Cowboys were supposed to and needed to win. They took care of business at home and will sit atop the NFC East this week for their efforts.

     

    Alex Hall is a Dallas Cowboys Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall.