After mounting an impressive comeback in week 1 versus Arizona, and almost pulling off a comeback upset during week 2 in Atlanta, the Rams appeared to be earning a reputation as a "down to the wire", "cardiac" or second half team. Heading into Dallas for week 3, the Rams were looking to continue to gel, commit fewer penalties, keep Bradford turf-free and get the offense rolling sooner rather than later.
Alas, it was just not to be on this Sunday afternoon, as it became apparent early on in this game that the Rams were not quite prepared to take the next step toward being a fully-realized, consistently-productive, mistake-free squadron. The Cowboys' defense, under veteran coordinator Monte Kiffin, set the tone for the game early on as the Rams' offense could only muster 18 yards in the first half along with a just single first down. Additionally, Kiffin ensured the Rams' offensive line was in constant adaptive mode, throwing blitz after blitz and look after look to create confusion. All told, Bradford suffered 6 sacks, at least 16 hits and 20+ pressures on 48 drop backs. He will need some ice packs tonight.
For a microcosmic view of first half offensive ball movement, consider that the Rams' special teams unit forced PR Dwayne Harris to turn over the ball at the Dallas 35. After several hiccups, the Rams found themselves at a 4th and 14 predicament. They could attempt a long field goal, or punt (they chose the latter). P Johnny Hekker was authorized to exercise a throw option if gunner Tavon Austin was singled. Austin was singled, so Hekker attempted the throw, which was high and wide (game film might reveal Austin was held slightly, but no flag). Otherwise, the red zone was not close to being reached during the first half, and the offense was completely stymied until the close of the third quarter.
On the defensive side, it was tough sledding against an old foe. Instead of relying on an air attack, the Cowboys decided to turn loose RB DeMarco Murray on a strong Rams run defense. Earlier in the week, former pro personnel directory Louis Riddick said the following about Murray: "DeMarco is a hard runner, but I have always had some issues with DeMarco because he is very, very, very straight line. He has no ability to make people miss." Apparently Murray did not get the memo, as he found cut-back lanes and broke many tackles in a dominant, 175 yard effort (similar to his 253 yard effort in 2011 versus the Rams). Likewise, Romo was extremely efficient, throwing two touchdowns on his way to a staggering 137.2 rating. Credit the Cowboys' offensive line, as Romo was sacked once, and hit/pressured just a handful of times.
The "tough man of the game" award certainly goes to Bradford, as even after being sacked, hit or hurried on approximately 80% of drop backs, he still hung in there and delivered with enough accuracy to be in the radius of his target. A review of the game film will be necessary to see how many of his check downs were due to pressure, as he appeared unable to have time to deliver downfield. The Rams will obviously need to keep him clean if they want to get the ball in the end zone.
The Rams will face a "reeling" San Francisco 49er's team in the Edward Jones Dome on Thursday Night Football. OLB Aldon Smith is reported by NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal to be out indefinitely, and after a 27-7 loss to the Colts could be ripe for the picking.
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