F ‘Dem Cowboys

Previewing Week 3 at Dallas with sound from Wednesday’s practice. 

The St. Louis Rams travel to Dallas Sunday for a big Week 3 contest just four days before a Thursday Night showdown with San Francisco. Practice was lighter than usual on Wednesday to accommodate, and “sleep-in Thursday” is in effect tomorrow with practice starting at 3:50 PM.

While everyone circles the prime time event with the 49ers, the preparation this week surrounds the Cowboys, who enter with an identical 1-1 record.

The last regular season game between these teams happened in 2011, with Steve Spagnuolo running the show. The contest turned into a blood bath. Dallas won 34-7 with then-rookie running back DeMarco Murray stealing the show. His 253-rushing yards was the second-most in-game by a rookie in NFL history.

But Robert Quinn says those days are over:

And he’s right. The 2013 Rams have dominated the line of scrimmage. The Rams defense ranks 6th in the NFL giving up an average 61 yards per game on the ground, and just 2.9 yards per carry.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, unhappy coming off a 17-16 loss to Kansas City, wants a more balanced attack offensively.

“We have to run the ball more than 16 times in the game, and we have to be able to run it throughout the game. We just simply have to do a better job of that. We didn’t run the ball very well.”

So Dallas, who finished 31st in rushing yards AND rushing attempts last season — is still fighting the same uphill battle from a year ago.

Tony Romo has thrown the ball at least 40 times in both games this season. In his career, when throwing 40 or more passes, the Cowboys are 6-15 in those games. Both Carson Palmer and Matt Ryan threw 40+ passes against the Rams in the first two games … and found success picking apart the Rams’ secondary.

Jeff Fisher believes the secondary will get better as the season continues — blaming the poor play on lack of time in camp to get the defense up to speed. Both passing and scoring are up across the league, but he expects that number to come back to earth.

GAMEPLAN

For one, the Rams cornerbacks have to tackle better. Julio Jones ran wild last Sunday after fighting off the initial contact. Dez Bryant brings even more physicality to the table on Sunday, and a whiff defensively could lead to similar damage.

Eliminate the run. Making the Cowboys one-dimensional offensively hurts them — pointed out by their 5-16 record when Romo has 40+ attempts. The Rams defensive line is able to pin back and get after the QB when the running game is a non-factor. When they do get to Romo, wrapping him up has proven difficult. His athleticism keeps a lot of plays alive.

Start faster. Sam Bradford emphasized not falling into these deep deficits early in the ballgame:

Win the field position battle. The Rams were backed up all game against Atlanta. On the road, specifically, backing up the home team can deflate the atmosphere and anytime the offense can get a short field in a place like Cowboys Stadium, that’s a good thing.

FAMILIAR FACE

Lining up for the Cowboys at left end is George Selvie, who was drafted by the Rams in 2010 and spent his rookie season on the team. Selvie has developed into a strong pass rusher and will go up against Joe Barksdale, starting for the injured Rodger Saffold.

Barksdale was signed off waivers from Oakland last season, a pickup the Rams think could prove very valuable. Special Teams coach John Fassel helped scout Barksdale from his time in Oakland.

NOTES

  • Mike Florio says Dallas isn’t playing much Tampa-2 defense, as was expected.
  • All-time series is tied 11-11 between these two teams
  • Tony Romo is 2-0 versus St. Louis
  • Jason Witten has a TD score in all three games versus St. Louis
  • Robert Quinn leads NFC with 4 sacks
  • Dallas has a +3 turnover ration; St. Louis -1

SOUND OF THE DAY

Sam Bradford disputes he ran same no-huddle offense at Oklahoma.

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