Going into Sunday for their game against Dallas the Rams knew they would have an uphill battle ahead of them. Dallas was coming off of tough last minute loss to New England and still in the hunt for the NFC East title. The Rams were coming off of a blow-out defeat at the hands of Green Bay and in the hunt for job security. Who has more to play for is a matter of perspective.
As it turns out, motivation and the drive for a spot in the playoffs brings out more from a team than the motivation not to go 0-7 and continue your backward spiral. Well, that and talent. How would Spagnuolo game plan against Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware just to name a few.
The problem with having a depleted line-up is when game planning you almost have to sell out one way which it turn exposes you in other areas. The Rams were able to hold Dallas’ dangerous passing game mostly in check, with Romo and Co only totaling 151 yards through the air. Even the hobbled Rams offensive line stepped up to protect their QB (wish they would have done it sooner, and with the other guy standing back there) allowing only one sack on the day.
So that leaves us with the running game. Yes, the running game. One of the five or six Achilles heals the Rams seem to have. To say DeMarco Murray went off is an understatement. 25 carries and 253 yards later he did something no other Cowboy running back has ever done…and that is saying something.
So here is a breakdown of the big plays and big decisions that lead to Murray’s record setting day and yet another disappointing Rams loss.
Sam Bradford out for the game, so A.J. Feeley makes his first start since 2007 and 16th overall in his career.
3rd and 7 on the opening drive. Feeley pass short left to Salas to 12 yards for the 1st down. Good conversion to open the game. 2 plays later however on 3rd and 10 and Feeley misses Alexander.
A terrific 59 yard punt by Jones pins Dallas at their own 2 yard line.
1st and 10 Choice rushed for 8 yards but a penalty on Dallas for Offensive Holding brought it back. On the ensuing 1st and 19 D Murray with the 91 yard TD run on the delayed draw. Murray's TD run is the longest first-career TD run since the league's merger in 1970. The Rams knack for giving up the big play shows itself early this week.
3rd and 1 Steven Jackson for 5 yards and a 1st down. Rams finally with a little bit of rhythm as Cadillac rushes for 17 yards and another first down across midfield. Before Williams would go down he fumbles the ball and it is recovered by the Cowboys. Making things much worse starting RT Jason Smith was seriously injured during the play and would leave the game and not return.
Rams challenged the loose ball recovery ruling, and the play was upheld. Play stands. Cowboys’ ball. Rams charged with a timeout.
Dallas takes over on their own 38. On 1st and 10 Romo hits Witten to the Rams 44 for 18 yards on a down and out.
1st and 10 James Hall sacks Romo for an 11 yard loss back across midfield bringing up 2nd and 21. Then it was big play time again for Dallas. A 33 pitch and catch to Dez Bryant for 34 yards took Dallas to the 21 yard line. Bryant broke multiple tackles to add on another 9 yards at the end of the play. Then on 1st and 10 again Romo found former Ram L. Robinson for 17 yards down inside the 5 yard line.
3rd and 1 from the one, after 51 yards on two plays Romo finds Jason Witten standing wide open all by himself in the end zone for a touchdown. Touchdown pass comes off play action.
Rams moving the ball well on this drive. After a Dallas penalty gave the Rams a 1st down on 3rd and 3 Brandon Lloyd made his second catch of the drive that. After that it was the Rams turn for a couple of big plays of their own.
2nd and 6 Feeley passed short right to Hoomanawanui for 16 yards off naked bootleg. Getting the Rams into Dallas territory.
3rd and 3 again and Steven Jackson breaks off a 40 yard run to the Dallas 6 yard line. Next play Jackson walks in from 6 yards out. No small feat here as the anemic Rams’ red zone offense comes up with a touchdown. First rushing TD for the Rams since week 1.
On the Cowboy’s next drive they looked poised again to move again to move the ball on the Rams. Big off-setting penalties (Offensive pass interference on Austin and personal foul on King.) on deep ball to Miles Austin on first down stalled the drive. As a result the Ram defense was able to force a 3 and out.
1st and 2nd down on the Rams drive netted 2 yards. Then On 3rd and 8 a miscommunication between Lloyd and Feeley leads to an INT as Lloyd broke off his route early.
After the turnover gave Dallas tremendous field position at the St. Louis 30. The Rams came up with a big red zone stand. 1st down from the 12 yard line for Dallas only nets a FG. Nice pass defense on 3rd and goal by Al Harris on Dez Bryant. Also Bryant’s drop on 2nd down played an important role.
Darell Scott hurt on ensuing kick-off. He would not return to the game.
The Rams offensive-line gave up no sacks in the first half was a statement in itself. Rams did give up over 150 yards rushing in 1st half and multiple big plays.
Dallas opens with the ball and it’s Murray time again. Murray opened the half with 25 yards on 2 carries before Mikell forces forced a Choice fumble on 1st and 10 and Al Harris recovered on next play. Giving Rams great field position.
Rams cannot capitalize. On 1st down the rams tried to strike long but a deep 40+ yard strike to Lloyd is incomplete. The next two plays gained no yards forcing a Rams punt.
3rd and 2 for Dallas. Romo’s pass is incomplete short left to Robinson but a penalty for having 12 men on the field gives Dallas a 1st down. This is the penalty of a soon to be 0-6 team.
Four plays later after a Dallas 1st down at the St. Louis 33 Romo is sacked a by Gordy Gibson for a loss of 4 yards. St. Louis was able to stop Dallas on 2nd and 3rd and long to hold them to a 51 yard field goal and keep it a two score game.
Rams defense and depleted secondary somehow keeping the Rams in the game. Still a two possession game but it might as well be 7-70 with the way the Rams are moving the ball.
Dallas Kickoff goes out of bounds giving the Rams the ball on the 40 yard line to start. With their best starting field position of the day the Rams do nothing at all. Three straight runs by Jackson leads to another 3 and out.
1st and 10 Demarco Murray rushes for 19 yards, nearing the 200 yard mark and we are not even through the 3rd quarter yet. He would add 11 more yards on the next two carries.
2nd and 6 Romo misses Austin open down the right side for a sure touchdown. Big 3rd down and 6 for St. Louis to stay in the game. Al Harris again on the play breaks up the pass to Austin forcing another Dallas punt. Mr. Harris sure looked like he found the Fountain of Youth on Sunday.
A great punt by Dallas give the Rams the ball at their own 3 yard line.
1st and 10 and a Saffold false start puts the Rams back to the 1 and a half yard line for 1st and 11. The play call is a short pass to Jackson just passed the line of scrimmage. Wonderful, Rams look to move 98 ½ yards 3 yards at a time.
2nd and 8 Feeley from the back of the end zone hits Hoomanawanui for 27 yards. HUGE for Feeley to avoid the safety and find Hoomanawanui. Looked like a busted play from the snap. Hoomanawanui takes the ball near midfield and give St. Louis some breathing room.
3rd and 10 Feeley can’t get it to Lloyd open down the right sideline. Lloyd looking frustrated as he walks off the field. The Rams called four consecutive pass plays after the 1st down…none were completed. Donnie Jones continues his strong day however with a 53 yard punt.
1st and 10 and a 43 yard run by Murray takes him over 200 yards for the day. Highlighting again the Rams inability to stop the run. Murray is averaging nearly 11 yards a carry on the day. This was the back breaker everyone could see coming. Perhaps taking mercy on the Rams Murray gave himself up on the play before a St. Louis defender could take him down.
On 1st down from the St. Louis 30 it the other rookies turn, as Tanner gets in on the mix with consecutive carries the second for a touchdown. Up the middle to the 6 for 17 yards then again off right tackle for 6 yards and a touchdown.
Rams get the ball back and it appears as if DeMarcus Ware took it personal Feeley was still standing. Really making his presence known on this drive Ware forces a Feeley fumble on 4th down, hitting him as he prepares to throw. Though it’s only rumor, Sam Bradford was seen listening for footsteps on the sideline.
1st and Murray rushed left for 8 yards. With that carry, DeMarco Murray broke the Cowboys' single-game club rushing record previously held by Emmitt Smith who had 237 yards vs. Philadelphia on Oct. 31, 1993. Look at that Rams…you’re in the record books at least. Granted it is by allowing a rookie to do something neither Emmitt Smith or Tony Dorsett could do in the entire careers.
3rd and 10 at the St. Louis 20 After 2 more Murray carries. Romo passes deep right to Bryant for 20 yards and a touchdown.
Waiting until the game is entirely out of reach Feeley orchestrates the Rams best drive of the day.
1st and 10 Feeley goes short left to Lloyd to SL 45 for 10 yards. Two plays later on 3rd and 2 Feeley hits Lloyd for his 6th reception of the game, this time for 34 yards. Lloyd catches and takes it across the field inside the red zone to the Dallas 13 yard line.
Back in the red zone. After losing 4 yards on his first carry on 2nd and 14 Jackson goes off left tackle to Dallas 15 yards to the Dallas 2 bringing up 1st and goal for the Rams.
In a stellar display of the their ineptness the Rams get 1st and goal on the 2 yard line and cannot punch it in. Trying desperately to get Lloyd his 1st TD they throw incomplete to him twice. Then on 4th and goal Jackson is stuffed. Have to wonder why DX was not on the field here.
Turnover on down to Dallas. Victory formation time.