By Shawn Lealos
In the first quarter of the Dallas Cowboys week three NFL game against the St. Louis Rams, Dallas turned in the worst performance of their 2014 NFL season. Even in week one, when the Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers, the team didn’t look this bad. However, at the end of the second quarter, something happened and Dallas just roared back to life and ended up coming from behind to win the game, 34-31.
The game was not a good start for Tony Romo. He should have been solid here against a St. Louis Rams defense that hasn’t really looked good this season. However, Romo looked really shaky in the first half of play. He threw a horrible interception and both under- and over-threw receivers the entire half. However, Romo finally worked things out at the end of the first half and then played a smart and effective game in the second half.
In the past, Romo would see Dallas fall behind and take the entire incentive to win the game on his own. Dallas fell behind by 21 points, and in the history of the franchise, the Cowboys had never come back from that deficit to win in regulation time. That changed this week. Romo didn’t do too much and trusted his teammates, only throwing the ball 23 times for a nice 78 percent completion percentage. He also threw two touchdowns, one to Dez Bryant and one to Terrance Williams, and played a smart game after a rough start.
DeMarco Murray continues to play light’s out this season, but he did fumble for the third time this season. No matter how good Murray is playing, he can’t keep fumbling the ball and has done it once in each game of the season, all in the first half of play. However, just like the last two weeks, Dallas didn’t give up on him and let him continue running. Murray joined Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith as only the third running back in Cowboys’ team history to start out a season with three straight 100-yard rushing games. He also punched in his second touchdown of the season.
Dez Bryant came into the game questionable with a shoulder injury, but still led the team with six receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. Terrance Williams continues to struggle this season, with only two receptions in the game, but he did score his first touchdown of the season. This was also Jason Witten’s best game of the season, with four receptions for 49 yards. It was an effective performance by the offense as they remained strong to come from behind to win the game.
After two surprising games to start the 2014 NFL season, a defense that was called the worst in NFL history was much better than advertised. However, in the first half of play against the Rams, they looked as bad as everyone expected them to be. The Rams moved the ball at will the entire first half and Dallas couldn’t stop them and looked confused the entire half. St. Louis took a big 21-0 lead over Dallas, which looked insurmountable at the time.
However, while the Cowboys’ offense heated up, the defense finally locked things down and saved the day. Rookie quarterback Austin Davis completed 30-of-42 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns against the Dallas defense. In the second half, Bruce Carter intercepted a Davis pass and returned it for a touchdown to give Dallas a 10-point lead. Then, When St. Louis was driving to try to re-take the lead, Morris Claiborne intercepted a pass of his own.
Dallas’ defense gave up a lot of big plays early. However, as the game wore on, the Cowboys bent but never broke and made the big plays they needed to get the win. Anthony Hitchens, who started in place of the injured Rolando McClain, finished with 13 tackles to lead the team, while Bruce Carter, who moved into Justin Durant’s weak side spot, finished with 12.
The special teams were consistent. Dwayne Harris had a nice day returning kicks, with three returns for 74 yards. Dan Bailey broke the Dallas Cowboys’ record for consecutive field goals by hitting two on the day. Bailey has now hit 28 straight field goals without a miss.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.