After two weeks of futility on the ground, Murray broke out in a big way to lead the Dallas Cowboys to an easy 31-7 victory Sunday afternoon before 80,848 fans at AT&T Stadium.
The third-year back ran for 175 yards and a touchdown in his first meeting since setting the franchise rushing record against St. Louis two years go. Murray racked up 253 yards on the Rams in 2011.
“We had great balance tonight. I thought the guys up front did a great job of opening up holes and creating holes for DeMarco and he did a great job seeing where it was at and putting his foot in the ground and getting vertical,” said quarterback Tony Romo. “That makes my job and everyone else’s much easier. We wanted to run the football today.
The Cowboys (2-1) found little resistance running the ball or anywhere else against the Rams. Murray set the tone early for a team that had been prohibitively pass-heavy in splitting games with the New York Giants and Kansas City.
“Offensively, the most important thing we did was run the ball,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “We were physical with them. I think we were stronger inside demonstrating that physical presence and giving DeMarco Murray the opportunity to run.”
Romo tossed three touchdown passes, and the Dallas defense had its most complete effort under new coordinator Monte Kiffin. The Rams had just 231 yards of total offense and didn’t score until late in the third quarter.
After a pair of close games, St. Louis (1-2) was never in it Sunday. The Rams didn’t get a first down until less than nine minutes left in the second quarter. After not getting sacked in the first two games, the Cowboys got to Sam Bradford six times. St. Louis was 1 of 13 on third down.
“We didn’t really do anything well today,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “We didn’t run, we didn’t stop the run. We didn’t throw it or stop their passing game. We had difficulty on third down, both sides of the ball. We obviously had some penalties on special teams.
“They’re a good football team. I didn’t see this coming. This is a defining moment for us right now. We need to get past this and get ready for the 49ers.”
Even when the Rams did something right, something went wrong. Bradford’s 26-yard completion to Chris Givens early in the third quarter — their longest play to that point — ended with a fumble.
Bradford finally got the Rams on the board with a 4-yard scoring pass to Austin Pettis in the third. The Rams also had a long punt return for touchdown called back due to penalty.
NFC East-leading Dallas is attempting to go 3-1 for the first time under Garrett next week at San Diego. St. Louis plays host to NFC West rival San Francisco in a Thursday night game.
The Cowboys completely dominated the first half, taking a 17-0 lead into the locker room. Murray had 96 yards rushing and the team put up 202. Dallas held the ball for 19 minutes and totaled 12 first downs.
“We did a good job up front,” Garrett said. “When you get a runner like [Murray] going, you can feed off him. That’s when you’re playing your best offensive football, when you have balance.”
The numbers weren’t pretty for the Rams, who had one first down and 18 offensive yards in 30 minutes of football. Bradford was sacked four times, including three on third down.
“You name is as far as execution,” Bradford said of the Rams’ problems. “Whatever it was, we didn’t do it. In the first half, we played behind the chains. It was a very poor performance.”
The Rams did get the game’s first big break, recovering a muffed punt after going three-and-out of their first possession. Dwayne Harris charged and failed to catch a short punt, with Will Witherspoon falling on the ball on the Dallas 34.
The extra possession amounted to naught. St. Louis went backwards in three plays and failed to convert a fake punt on fourth down.
“That’s unacceptable,” Bradford said. “You have to be able to put points on the board.”
Murray carried the load on the first drive, gobbling up 43 yards on the ground and taking the Cowboys to the brink of the end zone. The payoff came via Dez Bryant, who hauled in a 2-yard scoring toss from Romo.
The Cowboys went up 10-0 on Dan Bailey’s short field goal late in the first quarter. Murray’s 36-yard cutback run was the key play on the march.
Murray scored his first touchdown this season in the second quarter, punctuating a 67-yard drive with a 2-yard sweep to the left pylon.