Cowboys Rally and Move to 2-1
ST. LOUIS – The Cowboys recorded an unlikely 34-31 win at the Rams on Sunday, though game 3 wins for the Dallas franchise are as likely as clockwork. The Dallas Cowboys overcame a 21-point second quarter deficit with the help of their depleted and bust-laden defense to defeat the St. Louis Rams 34-31 in the Edward Jones Dome. … and they avoided busting a notable trend as well.
With the Rams (1-2) driving to kick a game-tying field, the beleaguered Morris Claiborne picked off a deep ball at the 1:02 mark intended for Brian Quick to give the Cowboys possession of the ball, a chance for the two kneel-downs to end the game, and a 2-1 record as they escaped the Gateway to the West.
The interception was sweet redemption for Claiborne, the first-round corner who had been burned by Rams receivers all day and critics all week. “I pretty much stunk it up, I feel like,” Claiborne told me in frankly evaluating his day. “But we came out with a win and a big play at the end. So (I’m) happy.”
Another maligned Cowboy defender who made a momentous play was Bruce Carter, the fourth-year linebacker who had to fight for reps and playing time in preseason. Carter intercepted a swing pass intended for running back Zach Stacy and returned it 25 yards to give Dallas a (seemingly) commanding 34-24 lead with 5:58 left in the game.
“I’ve been feeling good,” Carter said when I asked about his confidence level – long a measuring stick of his success. “At the beginning of the year, I made a promise to myself and everybody around me that I was going to go out and have fun regardless of what would happen while I’m playing. And if I made a mistake, it’s about the next play, same if I score a touchdown. When I scored the touchdown, the first thing (linebackers) coach Flus (Matt Eberflus) said to me was, ‘Next play. Next play.’ That’s my mindset right now.”
With the status of linebacker Rolando McClain in doubt all week, Cowboys fans and commentators doubted the effectiveness of the defense to ever make that “next play.” McClain had been the defense’s catalyst since Opening Day. His absence in St. Louis was seen early as Rams running backs gashed Dallas on the ground early, taking 8:50 off the first quarter clock to build a 7-0 lead. DeMarco Murray’s fumble on the ensuing possession gave the Rams an opportunity to add seven more points and make it a two-score game.
Midway through the second quarter, Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins guessed right on a Tony Romo pass, turning it into an interception that was returned for a touchdown to give St. Louis a 21-0 lead. And yet the Cowboys truly seemed unshaken…and certainly not in their playcalling.
“We are who we are,” Romo said. “That’s the way you want to be. You want to continue to do what you do well.”
The offense did its part to overcome the 21-point deficit. Tony Romo looked spry in going 18 of 23 for 217 yards and two touchdowns along with a critical third-and-run for a conversion. Murray rushed 24 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first player in the last 10 years to reach 100 yards and a score in each of the season’s first three games. Dez Bryant caught six passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Jason Witten also caught four passes for 49 yards.
The defense also came together and only allowed 10 points in the second half to clot the bleeding as the offense repaired the damage. Rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens made a fine play on fourth-and-1 from the Dallas 15. With Bruce Carter on the sidelines getting a cognitive evaluation, Hitchens took charge and stopped running back Zac Stacy for a one-yard loss to turn the ball over on downs.
Mo. And Bruce. And more. Some forgotten and maybe some mislabeled talent came to the Cowboys’ aid in St. Louis, but for the Cowboys – no matter who is on the field over the years – game 3 of a season always turns out this way. Sunday marks the 12th straight year Dallas has won its third game of the season…a remarkable total…though most of those games haven’t been quite as remarkable as this turnaround victory.
“The identity we’re creating, we want it,” said Dez. “We want it to be strong. We want the world to know who we are.”
And what are the Cowboys? Well, 2-1. And 12-0 in game 3’s. And in contests in which they trail by 21 and come back to win? The franchise is now 1-0 in those.