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Keys to the Game: Dallas

Posted Sep 20, 2013


1. Getting to Romo

Following a year in which he established a Cowboys record by passing for 4,903 yards, QB Tony Romo has produced at a similar rate through the first two games of 2013. Romo has averaged 280 yards per game through the air, and has completed a league-best 72.5 percent of his passes.

Defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long represent one of the league’s best pass-rushing combos. They’ll need to be a factor often on Sunday in order to prevent the big play through the air for Romo.

2. Ogletree vs. Witten:

While WR Dez Bryant will be sure to gain considerable attention from Rams defensive backs this week, TE Jason Witten often serves a favorite target on third down and in the red zone. Witten was held to 12 yards on three catches in the Cowboys’ Week 2 loss to Kansas City, but grabbed eight passes for 70 yards in Dallas’ 36-31, season-opening win over the New York Giants. Ogletree had a strong showing in Week 2 while defending Tony Gonzalez, and will be tasked with a similar challenge this week in Witten.

3. Establish the Running Game

The Rams look to open up opportunities on the ground in Week 3.  Leading rusher RB Daryl Richardson enters the week with 98 yards on 30 carries. Dallas enters Sunday with the league’s 10th-stingiest run defense, allowing 82 yards per game on the ground. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer addressed the team’s ground game at his Thursday press conference.

“In the running game, I think we have a lot of room for improvement,” Schottenheimer said. “We put ourselves in some positions where we haven’t had favorable numbers, whether it was the score board or just some heavy boxes and stuff trying to run against. It just comes down to execution. I think we’ve kind of tightened things down a little bit this week in the plan, and we know what we’re good at. They do a lot of ‘two-Tampa’ and some things like that, so try to get back just to a real simple plan rule, core group of plays that we want to try to feature and hopefully that helps.”

4. Spreading the Wealth

The Rams are off to their best two-game start through the air in QB Sam Bradford’s four-year career, largely due to the democratic approach with which offensive touches have been distributed.

WR Chris Givens and TE Jared Cook have each logged 100-yard receiving games, the first time two different Rams receivers have done so in consecutive games since Torry Holt and Shaun McDonald achieve the feat in Week 3 and Week 4, respectively, during the 2005 season. Continuing that trend could prove productive against a Cowboys defense that has allowed 313.5 passing yards per game entering Week 3.

Friday Injury Report:

Rams:

Out: T Rodger Saffold (knee) did not practice Friday and is out for Sunday.

Questionable: TE Mike McNeill (chest) also did not practice, and is listed as questionable. S Darian Stewart (thigh) was a full participant Friday and is listed as questionable.

Probable: DE William Hayes (hip), DE Eugene Sims (foot), Cortland Finnegan (nose), G Chris Williams (foot), RB Daryl Richardson (foot) and DE Chris Long (hip) were full participants Friday and are listed as probable.

Cowboys:

Out: DE Ernie Sims (groin) did not practice Friday and is out for Sunday.

Questionable: DE Anthony Spencer (knee) did not practice Friday and is listed as questionable.

Probable: DE DeMarcus Ware (neck) was limited during practice Friday and is listed as probable. WR Dez Bryant (back), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and QB Tony Romo (ribs) all participated fully Friday and are listed as probable.

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