Can The Cowboys Bring Their Week 3 Dominance To San Diego?
Since 2010, when the Dallas Cowboys started 1-7, fired coach Wade Phillips and promoted Jason Garrett, every season started as a true roller coaster — an insane display of inconsistency that borders on bipolarity.
Judging by Sunday’s 31-7 win over the Rams, this year’s no different.
Coming off a lackluster effort and hairsbreadth loss in Kansas City, the Cowboys dominated the Rams so completely and in so many facets that one wonders just what kind of fire and brimstone Garrett preached in Week 3.
It wasn’t just DeMarco Murray silencing the haters with 178 rushing yards, recalling his 253-yard breakout game against St Louis in 2011. It wasn’t just the defense surrendering a mere seven points while continually notching sacks and pressures on third down. And it wasn’t just the impeccable play-calling, with all its precisely delayed handoffs and steady play-action success.
No, it was about the Cowboys coaching and playing as well as they’re capable of for four quarters: consistently making plays on third down, controlling the tempo and possession, radiating offensive balance and defensive dynamo — Week 3 was an epitomizing performance, special teams aside. Let’s look at the three biggest positives from the matchup, and see how they might manifest themselves against the Chargers.
Murray Can Still Ball
Start with the obvious. Murray was a model of efficiency against the Rams, showing exceptional patience, vision, shiftiness and downfield acceleration on rush after rush. No yards left on the table this week; Murray’s blockers did a great job opening and maintaining the holes at the right times, and he hit them.
San Diego’s 3-4 defense is built on speed at linebacker; it’s better equipped to defend perimeter runs. The hesitation and cutbacks that enabled Murray’s huge rushes against the Rams won’t work as well, so the Cowboys must establish the ground game between the hash marks. Murray still needs his touches, but against this kind of scheme, receiving contributions may be the most practical and useful.
The Rams hadn’t surrendered a sack since Week 15 of 2012, but the Cowboys’ front D-line got five off them. They routinely rushed four men, routinely shuffling their pre-snap looks and having more success with it than they should have.
On paper, the Chargers’ O-line is worse. The unit allowed 49 sacks last year, but according to the coaching staff, has played well in 2013 under a patchwork structure not unlike the Cowboys’. However, Philip Rivers is hardly a mobile quarterback and the Dallas front is thriving with George Selvie and Nick Hayden filling in. If they expect to get their usual amount of points, San Diego’s game plan should start and end with controlling this position set.
Smart Quarterback Play
Tony Romo’s reads were spot-on against St. Louis. His internal clock was ticking on schedule — even with good pass protection — and his check-downs were taken at the right time. He had vertical success, finding TE Gavin Escobar on a post-route from the slot for a touchdown, and he sold his play-fakes hook, line and sinker.
The Chargers have allowed a league-worst 1,022 passing yards. Like Dallas, they play soft underneath — with less press coverage — and fall back on the swarm-and-strip style. If Romo’s protection is equally good, he can pick the San Diego pass defense apart. And with no lockdown corner to cover Dez Bryant, he’ll have his downfield chances. If he’s your fantasy quarterback, start him.