By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys entered the fourth game of the 2014 NFL season with a lot to prove. After three straight 8-8 seasons, they needed to beat a New Orleans Saints team that blew them out in 2013 in one of the Cowboys’ most embarrassing losses. Dallas not only pulled off the win, but they did it with a great offensive and defensive performance, winning the game, 38-17. Here is a look at the Dallas Cowboys’ team grades.
Tony Romo had one of the best games of his career against the New Orleans Saints. It took a while for Romo to realize it, but this season it seems that he realized that he can trust the running game to help him win football games. Romo finished the game by throwing the ball 29 times, completing it on 22 of those attempts (75.8 percent), and handing it off 29 times. That perfect 50-50 run-to-pass ratio helped Dallas score when they needed to and run the clock down when they needed to. Romo also threw three touchdown passes and had a 15 yard run, the longest of his career. It was a perfect game for Tony Romo.
Romo threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns while DeMarco Murray ran the ball 24 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Even Joseph Randle came in and provided some spark in the running game with 22 yards on four carries. Murray now has 534 rushing yards through four games, a full 156 yards better than the next best runner in the NFL. Murray is also on pace to break the NFL single-season rushing record, although there is a lot of season left.
The reason that Murray is playing so well, and Romo is getting so much time to throw the ball, is because of the offensive line. Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free had a near perfect game blocking for Murray, opening holes, and blocking for Romo, who was only sacked once.
In the passing game, Romo connected with eight different receivers, with Terrance Williams leading the way with six receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns. It was a slow game for Dez Bryant, who only had three catches for 44 yards, but he scored a touchdown as well. Jason Witten also had a solid game, with five receptions for 61 yards while also blocking on most of Murray’s runs.
When people said that the Dallas Cowboys 2014 defense would be the worst in NFL history, they didn’t see this coming. Dallas finished the game with nine passes defensed and five quarterback hits. The defensive line also quadrupled their sack total for the season when defensive end Jack Crawford and defensive tackle Henry Melton each recorded a sack in this game. To top it off, Justin Durant returned from his groin injury and recorded an interception in the game. The defense also recovered two fumbles by the Saints. It was an all-around great performance that was only marred when New Orleans came back to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter in an attempted comeback.
The biggest defensive play came in the fourth quarter when the New Orleans Saints tried a fake punt and Dallas read the fake the entire way, chasing down the punter and stopping the play. Dan Bailey, who set the Dallas Cowboys’ record for most consecutive field goals last week, was sent out only once for a long 51-yard attempt and hit it easily. Chris Jones punted the ball four times, putting two of them inside the 20.
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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.