With Tony Romo battling a rib injury, the Dallas Cowboys are going to need to get the run game going if they want to keep their quarterback healthy enough to play.
The Cowboys look to bounce back from a one-point loss last weekend as they host the St. Louis Rams in a battle of 1-1 teams at AT&T Stadium.
Despite never trailing by more than four points last Sunday versus Kansas City, the Cowboys had just 16 rush attempts to 42 Romo passes in a 17-16 loss. Romo completed 30 of his throws for 298 yards, getting sacked three times while also hitting wide receiver Dez Bryant on a two-yard touchdown pass.
Ten straight points by the Chiefs put them up by four and the Cowboys could only manage a 53-yard field goal from Dan Bailey with 3:50 to play before Kansas City ran out the clock.
"We had a good plan and did some things that gave us a chance to win this football game. We put ourselves in position, but we didn't win it," Romo said. "Ultimately, that's all that matters."
Romo said after the game he had an injection before the contest to reduce pain. Though he dismissed any thought that his ribs were impacting his play, the Cowboys could certainly lend him a hand by running the ball more. DeMarco Murray led the team with 12 carries for 25 yards.
"We haven't ran the ball well enough, and we haven't ran the ball enough," said Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. "We want to have more balance on our offense. We just have to do better. We'll do that as coaches and as players and hopefully get better next week."
Dallas failed to force a turnover against Kansas City after getting six versus the New York Giants in a Week 1 win.
The Cowboys did see defensive end DeMarcus Ware log a pair of sacks to give him 113 in his career. That has him just one sack shy of matching Harvey Martin for the most in franchise history.
Jason Witten, meanwhile, made three catches to move past Shannon Sharpe for second-most among tight ends with 817.
Perhaps a meeting with the Rams can get the ground game going. When the clubs last met on Oct. 23, 2011 in Arlington, Murray filled in for an injured Felix Jones and ripped off a franchise-record 253 yards on the ground.
Murray broke Emmitt Smith's previous mark of 237 yards and also eclipsed the single-game rookie record of 206 yards previously held by Tony Dorsett. Murray had a 91-yard score in the game.
Looking for their first 2-0 start since 2001, the Rams instead dug themselves an early hole on the road versus the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday and despite a late charge fell in defeat 31-24.
Sam Bradford threw for 352 yards on 32-of-55 passing, completing touchdown passes on each of St. Louis' final three drives. Two of those went to rookie wideout Tavon Austin.
"I think it says a lot about the guys we have in this locker room," Bradford said. "That's two weeks in a row we found ourselves down. This game we were down pretty big early in the game and no one gave up. We knew all it was going to take was one play to get us going. We kept fighting. Made it somewhat of a game towards the ends. Unfortunately we came up a little short."
St. Louis struggled to contain Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who threw for 374 yards. He hit wideout Julio Jones for an 81-yard touchdown catch.
The all-time series between these clubs is tied at 11-11. The Cowboys will try to win two straight over the Rams for the first time since 1981 and '84.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Garrett seems insistent that he wants to run the ball more, but may be tempted to put the ball in Romo's hands again this weekend seeing as the Rams are giving up 330.5 yards per game through the air compared to just 61.0 YPG on the ground, a total that ranks as sixth best in the NFL.
Murray has gotten the ball just 32 times for 111 yards and the Cowboys have totaled just 39 rush attempts on the season. Murray does have 13 receptions, tied with Bryant and Miles Austin for the team high.
"We've played our best offensive football around here when he's been a big part of what we're doing. DeMarco's a good football player, and we've got to give him more chances," noted Garrett.
Then there is Romo, who struggled a bit late versus the Chiefs and lost a fumble in the game.
Romo should see plenty of pressure this weekend from St. Louis ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, who recorded his fourth sack of the young season last weekend versus the Falcons.
Fellow end Eugene Sims also got to the quarterback and the Rams have notched at least one sack in 17 of their 18 games under head coach Jeff Fisher.
The secondary is of more concern after corner Janoris Jenkins was beaten in man coverage for Julio Jones' long score. Jones ended with 182 receiving yards one weekend after the Rams allowed the Arizona Cardinals' top three receivers to combine for 259 yards.
"Could be better. We had breakdowns, which we talked about (Sunday). We could be better on third down. We got our hands on some balls," said Fisher of the pass coverage versus the Falcons.
St. Louis' secondary faces another elite receiver this weekend in Bryant, who had nine catches for 141 yards versus the Chiefs. Bryant did miss practice on Wednesday due to back soreness that caused him to miss some time in Week 2, but he expects to play on Sunday.
"I'm a little sore, but you know I'm playing," declared Bryant.
Fisher is seeing his offense perform well. Bradford's fourth career three- touchdown game saw him get his young receivers involved. Austin Pettis had a score and caught eight passes for 78 yards, while Austin ended with 47 receptions. Chris Givens led the way with 105 receiving yards on five catches.
Also, Bradford was not sacked for a fourth straight game dating back to last season, the longest such stretch for the Rams since 1973.
Ware will look to snap that streak after getting his first two sacks of the season. He did suffer a shoulder injury late in the contest last Sunday, but Garrett doesn't believe it to be an issue.
What is more of an issue is second-year defensive back Morris Claiborne. He battled a shoulder injury versus the Chiefs that he suffered in Week 1 and took a pass interference call on 4th-and-10 versus Kansas City that allowed the club to run out the clock with the fresh downs.
Garrett admitted on Monday the right call was made on the play, but a Claiborne wasn't sorry for his aggressiveness a day earlier.
"That's not how we play. When you are out there at corner, you're going to be aggressive. That was an opportunity to be aggressive. They just called a (penalty)."
Complaints about the same-old Cowboys are surfacing in Dallas and Garrett will need to get a hold of things quick. His patience will be tested against a Rams club that has a solid front four and has struggled in coverage. Expect Fisher to really turn Quinn and Long lose on a hobbled Romo.
That makes Murray and Lance Dunbar, who has touched the ball just twice this year and has one fumble, important for the game plan this weekend.
Dallas recorded four sacks versus Kansas City and will try to get pressure this weekend to prevent a confident Bradford from picking on Claiborne and company. That is easier said than done.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rams 26, Cowboys 24