Behind Enemy Lines; Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams: Breaking Down St. Louis' Game Plan

The St. Louis Rams (1-1) will return to Edward Jones Dome in Week 3 to host the Dallas Cowboys (1-1). The game will kick off at 1 p.m. ET and can be viewed on Fox for local broadcasting as well as DirecTV channel 714.

Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams: Breaking Down St. Louis' Game Plan

The Rams are coming off a refreshing 19-17 road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that came down to the final seconds. The narrow victory was a much-needed morale boost following a disastrous 34-6 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings during the season opener—a loss that nearly shattered all hope for the loathing St. Louis fanbase.

The Cowboys also suffered a Week 1 defeat—a 28-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Dallas—but America's team had a Week 2 rebound after securing a 26-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

This is an important game for both teams. A victory will result in a two-game win streak for either team, which could spark confidence and set a positive tone for the remainder of the season. On the other hand, a Week 3 loss could send either team back into the cellar and turn the 2014 season into an uphill battle.

Will St. Louis record another win and transform that Week 1 disaster into a distant memory? Or, will Dallas disappoint the Rams and pick up a second consecutive road victory?

We'll get the answer this Sunday. Meanwhile, this article will outline the key objectives for the St. Louis Rams this Sunday.

If the Rams can meet these three basic objectives, there's a strong possibility they'll escape Sunday's battle with resounding victory and a two-game win streak.

Any St. Louis fan can tell you that Dallas running back DeMarco Murray has been a nightmare for the Rams defense since joining the league in 2011.

As a rookie, Murray humiliated the helpless St. Louis defense with a career-high 253 rushing yards (nearly a third of his 897 rushing yards that season), including a 91-yard touchdown run. In 2013, Murray had 203 yards from scrimmage against the Rams, including 175 rushing yards and a touchdown.

On average, Murray had produced 228 yards per game against the Rams. That's a trend that must come to an end this Sunday, but that's far from a simple task.

Murray currently leads the NFL in rushing with 285 yards in two games, including a 167-yard performance against the Titans last week. He has been the centerpiece of the Dallas offense this season and appears to be well on his way to a career year.

The Rams did an admirable job holding Adrian Peterson to 75 yards on 21 carries in Week 1, but the team was gashed for 102 rushing yards by Cordarrelle Patterson during that game. Last week, the Rams surrendered 157 yards on the ground to the Buccaneers.

In two games this season, the Rams have allowed an average of 173 rushing yards per game. For a team that's supposedly a strong defensive force, this is unacceptable production.

Jeff Fisher and Rams coordinator Gregg Williams must produce a solid game plan for stopping Murray. Dallas' passing game has been stale so far this season, so the Rams must stack the box against Murray and force the Cowboys to beat them through the air.

If St. Louis can hold Murray under 100 yards, it's likely the Rams offense will be able to keep up.

Rattle Tony Romo

Tony Romo has taken plenty of heat from Dallas fans over the years, and it appears the pressure is finally overwhelming him.

Romo coughed up three picks in Dallas' Week 1 loss to San Francisco, and he was held to just 176 yards against Tennessee in Week 2.

Also, Dez Bryant—Romo's top wide receiver—suffered a shoulder injury against the Titans and has been limited in practice, according to NBC news out of Dallas Fort-Worth. This will further complicate things for the stale Cowboys aerial attack.

Romo was sacked three times by the 49ers and four times by the Titans. The heavy pressure has knocked Romo off his game, and the Rams must continue that trend Sunday.

The Rams have just one sack this season, and that's an embarrassing amount of production for a team that's built to get after after quarterbacks. If St. Louis can get Robert Quinn rolling against Dallas, it'll be a long day for Romo and the Cowboys offense.

Expose the Defense

The Dallas defense was dreadful in 2013. The unit ranked 30th in pass defense and 27th in run defense, and there's little reason to believe that will witness a monumental turnaround.

Sure, the Dallas defense has not completely imploded yet two games into the season, and media figures are beginning to overpraise defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli for fielding an average defense over a whopping two-week duration. (Someone is overrating the Cowboys? Shocking.)

However, that doesn't mean darker days aren't on the way.

During the offseason, the Cowboys lost top pass-rushing threat DeMarcus Ware due to salary-cap issues as well as linebacker Sean Lee to season-ending ACL injury, according to CBS in Dallas. Ware and Lee were two of the few reliable defenders on Dallas' roster.

The Cowboys added defensive tackle Henry Melton in free agency, but the former Chicago Bears star is in his fifth year and has yet to play a full 16-game season. He's two years removed from his 2012 Pro Bowl form.

The team added defensive end Demarcus Lawrence in the second round of the 2014 draft, but he has yet to suit up for a game. Dallas also added fourth-round linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who has started one game but is not yet a difference-maker.

So overall, unless you consider the trade-off of Ware and Lee for Melton a lateral or beneficial move, it's not unreasonable to say this is the same sorry unit that weighed Dallas down in 2013.

If the Rams can get Zac Stacy and the run game rolling with the same intensity we saw in Tampa Bay and if Austin Davis can have another inspiring performance in his second NFL start, the Rams will have more than a few opportunities to put points on the board.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer must develop a competent game plan that exposes the Dallas defense for the underwhelming unit that it is.
Behind Enemy Lines; Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams: Breaking Down St. Louis' Game Plan Behind Enemy Lines; Dallas Cowboys vs. St. Louis Rams: Breaking Down St. Louis' Game Plan Reviewed by Mr. DCStands4 on 10:55:00 AM Rating: 5

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