By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – Turnovers killed the Dallas Cowboys in a season-opening
loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Cowboys were able to limit their mistakes in a Week 2 win at Tennessee and
now try for back-to-back road wins Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was intercepted three times by the 49ers and set
up the defense in awful spots. Romo, who is returning from December back
surgery, did not have any turnovers against the Titans and passed for 176
yards with a touchdown.
Romo is still working off the rust and needs to improve his footwork.
“You have to have the ability to move in the pocket, throw from different
positions with your feet, different arm angles,” Cowboys head coach Jason
Garrett said. “One of Tony’s real strengths throughout his career has been the
ability to do that. The more he plays coming back off this injury, I
anticipate that continuing to get better and better. We saw some good examples
of that (Sunday) and maybe some examples where he wasn’t quite himself. He’ll
continue to get better.”
Romo got on board with wide receiver Dez Bryant, hitting the playmaker 10
times for 103 yards and a touchdown. Bryant, who was held to four catches and
55 yards in Week 1, didn’t mind the gameplan to give DeMarco Murray a chance
to shine. Murray did to the tune of 167 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries.
“DeMarco is turning straight beast mode, man, straight beast mode,” Bryant
said. “I know he’s going to keep doing that. When he runs the ball like that,
all the running backs, it just makes our jobs that much easier.”
Dallas racked up 220 rushing yards and, as they say, the run sets up the pass.
“This is how you want to play, obviously,” Garrett said. “You have to control
the line of scrimmage in order to run the ball throughout the game. Hopefully,
if you’re able to do that, you can do that at the end of the game.”
Murray will probably get the same workload, maybe a bit less, against a Rams
defense that 30th in the NFL is rushing yards allowed (171.0). Murray leads
the NFL with 285 yards on 51 carries, which is second behind Arian Foster (55)
of the Houston Texans. The 285 yards is the most by a Cowboy in the first two
games to begin a season and that includes NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt
Smith and Tony Dorsett.
Murray ran for 175 yards and a touchdown in a 31-7 win over the Rams last
Sept. 22, while Romo threw for three TD passes. Murray had 253 yards versus
St. Louis back on Oct. 23, 2011 for the Cowboys, who are 12-11 in the regular
season against the Rams and 16-15 all-time with playoff matchups.
The Cowboys have won two straight and three of the last four games against
St. Louis, scoring 30-plus points in those victories.
St. Louis escaped Tampa Bay with a 19-17 win over the Buccaneers after the
home team was penalized to run out the clock.
Austin Davis, who began the season No. 3 on the Rams depth chart, made his
first career start and completed 22-of-29 passes for 235 yards. Davis became
the first Rams quarterback to win his first career start since Scott Covington
on Dec. 30, 2002.
“I felt a peace out there. I felt at home, and it had a lot to do with the
guys I was around and how well we played,” Davis said.
Davis started in place of an injured Shaun Hill and engineered three
consecutive scoring drives in the second half. Hill is bothered by a
quad/thigh injury and his status for Sunday is unknown.
“If Shaun is healthy and able to play and not going to subject himself to re-
injuring this or making it worse, then Shaun’s our quarterback and Austin’s
our backup,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “That’s just the way it is.”
Fisher said he will have the same response to the quarterback question for the
rest of the week. It could serve in St. Louis’ favor to sit Hill one more game
with the bye week coming up, giving him another week to rest.
Fisher liked what he saw from Davis in Tampa.
“He has a good feel for what we’re doing offensively,”Rams head coach Jeff
Fisher said. “He made good decisions, handled the run checks very well. He did
well with the play action stuff. He gave receivers opportunities to make
Greg Zuerlein kicked a 38-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining
for the Rams, who last started 2-1 in 2006 (3-1).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Rams will try to use Dallas’ philosophy of setting up the pass through the
run, and running back Zac Stacy faces a tough challenge. Stacy rushed for 71
yards and a touchdown on 19 touches against the Buccaneers. It was the second-
year back’s eighth career rushing touchdown.
Stacy has excelled in recent games at home, compiling 628 yards and five TDs
in the past six in the Gateway City. He has four 100-yard games in that time.
St. Louis used eight different receivers to beat Tampa Bay and is expected to
get another weapon back this week in wideout Stedman Bailey. Bailey had his
suspension of four games reduced to two in accordance with the league’s new
policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Bailey probably won’t make much of an impact since the Rams have plenty of
pass catchers in Brian Cook (173 yards), Jared Cook (102 yards) Tavon Austin
(34 yards) and Kenny Britt (17 yards).
Dallas benefited from the new rule change and will get cornerback Orlando
Scandrick back Sunday. Scandrick also violated the substance policy.
“You’re talking about a guy who could blitz and cover,” Cowboys DE Jeremy
Mincey said. “He has a knack for making plays. It would definitely be a great
positive to have Orlando back. Right now, we’re just holding it down for him
the best we can do.”
With Scandrick back, Sterling Moore will see less time.
Cowboys DE Anthony Spencer was back at practice this week and appeared in just
one game last season. Spencer underwent microfracture surgery a year ago will
be a nice addition to Dallas’ front line.
Defensive tackle Davon Coleman suffered a strained calf while working out and
needed crutches to take the weight off. Coleman said he sustained the injury
doing squats and thinks he’ll “probably” play this week. Ken Bishop will fill
in if Coleman can’t suit up against the Rams.
“I’m happy it happened in the weight room and not the field … it’s not too
serious,” Coleman said.
Bryant (shoulder) and Romo (back) were limited in practice to rest.
Murray will run for another 100 yards on Sunday and Romo will protect the ball
in a second straight win for a Cowboys team that has the potential to make a
run toward an NFC East title. Also, Dallas’ defense seems to have jelled
quickly and the addition of Scandrick and Spencer will only inhibit St. Louis’
chances of pulling off a win in the dome. The Rams will have trouble with
Bryant in pass defense and won’t know who to stop first: Murray or Bryant.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Cowboys 27, Rams 13