Keep playing like they did against St. Louis, Dallas Cowboys will win the NFC East
ARLINGTON – Exactly what the Dallas Cowboys needed, a victory courtesy of a dominant day on the ground.
Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys manhandling the St. Louis Rams 31-7 Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
1.) If DeMarco Murray continues to get running room like that, the Cowboys will win the NFC East. Murray didn't reach his franchise-record of 253 yards like the last time the Rams came to town but he was just about as effective. Murray, who entered averaging 55.5 rushing yards a game this season, had 10 carries for 86 yards in the first quarter alone. The Cowboys were terrible at running the ball last season, finishing 31st in the NFL. Sunday's efforts could be a sign that better days are ahead. Murray finished with 175 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 26 carries.
2.) For the third consecutive game, the defense played well, especially up front. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford hadn't been sacked during St. Louis' first two games. He was sacked six times on Sunday. DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher led the charge. Ware had his second consecutive two-sack game and passed Harvey Martin as the Cowboys' all-time sack leader with 115. Hatcher continued his pace of a sack per game this year. George Selvie and Nick Hayden also played well at times. Maybe Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli really didn't need any extra help up front out of this year's draft.
3.) St. Louis won't be confused with any of the top teams in the league this season, but in a division that could be won with an 8-8 record, this victory could be pretty valuable come December. The Cowboys will be the only team in the NFC East to enter Week 4 with two victories.
4.) Jason Garrett talked all week about how the Cowboys have more weapons than just Dez Bryant on offense. The Cowboys head coach mentioned guys like Jason Witten, Miles Austin, Terrance Williams and Murray when asked about Bryant possibly getting 20-25 targets in a game. Well, rookie tight end Gavin Escobar and third-year wide receiver Dwayne Harris both said, "don't forget about me" with their second-half touchdown grabs. Tony Romo went to seven different receivers with no one getting more than six targets (Witten, Bryant). It doesn't look like Bryant's getting 20-25 targets any time soon.
5.) I thought the Cowboys would be 3-0 at this point, but that's because I overlooked the talent in Kansas City. I also had the Cowboys finishing 9-7 and being in the thick of the playoff race, maybe grabbing a Wild Card spot. But with what we've seen so far, nine or 10 wins is till very realistic and eight might win the division. As long as they don't go back to having the high number of significant injuries they sustained last year, the Cowboys have no reason not to be in the playoff mix.
Follow Jon Machota on Twitter: @jonmachota