ReFo: Rams @ Cowboys, Week 3
If the score line suggests this one wasn’t much of a contest – don’t be fooled – it really wasn’t even that close. When you can only convert one of 18 third down opportunities and get over a third of your net yardage in the last 4:08 of the fourth quarter (against the Cowboys second string defense – playing prevent) it’s fair to say this is one game St. Louis would prefer to forget. Destroyed in virtually every facet of play, trying to find positives is a fruitless exercise so maybe having a game on Thursday Night (at home to the 49ers) will be a godsend.
Dallas now sits atop the NFC East and more than that, look by far the most accomplished team in the division. It’s early, and the Cowboys sometimes have a way of getting ahead of themselves, but it does seem that this team has the best playoff shot of any Dallas team of the last four years.
St. Louis – Three Performances of Note
The Anticipated Match-Up
Over the last two weeks Robert Quinn (+0.6) has thrust himself into the national spotlight by pressuring opposing quarterbacks 18 times (including sacking them four times). However, this was in large part predicated on the quality of the opposition with neither of Levi Brown or Sam Baker likely to be garnering any All-Pro nominations this year (well not from anyone watching games at least). Tyron Smith was considered a far more worthy opponent and so it proved as the third-year left tackle held Quinn in check throughout the game. Two hurries, one of which drew a flag, was all he could generate in 22 pass rushes and it didn’t help that on the other disruption Tony Romo spun out of his grasp, avoiding the sack before completing his pass.
In run defense things went slightly better and he did make four tackles (all of them stops) including a forced fumble. However, even that came with a caveat as on about 50% of those plays he was matched up with Jason Witten and while the tight end is no poor blocker, a “franchise end” needs to do better than fight out a draw.
When your quarterback is pressured on 63% of his first half drop-backs – as Sam Bradford was – when he does get the ball away it’s incumbent on the wide receivers to do their bit. Unfortunately, in Chris Givens’ (-3.0) case, he did everything but. In 47 pass routes run, he was targeted eight times and caught as many (two) as he dropped. Worse, when he did actually hang on to a 26-yard reception, he then fumbled on the hit from Justin Durant. In his defense, he did draw two flags although the one on Morris Claiborne was more on the corner then anything he did and the other was well into garbage time.
The Rare Bad Day
Harvey Dahl (-3.8) has been one of the better and most consistent offensive linemen since we started our grading in 2008. So you know when he has his worst game ever, this is an unusual day. To some degree he was hamstrung by trying to compensate for some of new right tackle Joe Barksdale’s shortcomings, but he played so poorly that was no real excuse. He allowed a sack, a hurry, and a further hit that was nullified by penalty and struggled as a run blocker to the point it was difficult to spot a single key block where he definitively beat his man.
Perhaps it was all best summed up by play deep in garbage time (1:43 left in the game) where he found himself one-on-one with Durant on a screen block that if he executed would have netted significant yardage. Durant rounded him easily and made the tackle on Isaiah Pead for a 2-yard gain.
Dallas – Three Performances of Note
Over the last couple of years, there’s been few more-maligned figures in Dallas than right tackle Doug Free (+5.4). A poster child for playing well, getting paid, and then bombing, most Cowboy fans would have been happy to see him leave in the offseason after last year registering a -10.1 overall grade.
However, maybe the green shoots were visible in the last three games of 2012 when he put together a combined +8.3 and didn’t grade negatively in any single facet of play.
He’s now carried that through into this year and got better week after week culminating in a stellar performance here. Perfect in pass protection against one of the best pass rushing left defensive ends in football (Chris Long) his run blocking was also high-class; though more by the weight of consistently winning the small battles than by any particularly dominating play.
Murray in a Hurry
Our grading isn’t kind to fumblers – it hates them in a way that Tom Coughlin would be proud of. So, when you fumble and still come away with an extremely healthy number, you know you’ve had a great day. That’s how well DeMarco Murray(+3.0) played as he consistently found the hole on cut-back runs and then broke tackles to extend his gains.
115 of his yardage came after contact with seven forced missed tackles but perhaps the most notable thing about his yardage was where it came. Of his 175 yards, 148 of them came on runs to the left of the center – maybe a cause for thought for upcoming defenses.
Church of Pain
When Barry Church (+4.1) stepped up to play safety in his rookie season (2010) due to Gerald Sensabaugh’s injury, it was fairly apparent he wasn’t ready. Three missed tackles and a -4.7 grade saw him consigned to spot duty for two years before he was again given a chance in 2012. Disaster struck in Week 3 as he tore his achilles and many suspected his career might be over.
However, 2013 is dawning very bright for Church currently with him grading “in the green” every week this year culminating with this fine effort. An excellent all-around display, it was his work in coverage that rightly gets the plaudits as he provides the kind of back end support the team desperately needs.
– On just 28 pass rushes, DeMarcus Ware picked up two sacks, a hit, and three hurries.
– Dallas missed four tackles and dropped one pass. The Rams? They missed 11 and dropped six.
– Tony Romo was pressured on only 3-of-25 dropbacks.
PFF Game Ball
The Cowboys won behind the excellence of DeMarco Murray with ball in hand.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil