Cowboys eager to build on Rams win
IRVING, Texas - Coming to Philadelphia for "Sunday Night Football," the Cowboys look good. And they're getting better. This goes further than a 34-7 rout of the hapless Rams Sunday, a poor team to use as a measuring stick on its best day (to which the Eagles can attest, after a season-opening win in St. Louis) and a laughable measuring stick when A.J. Feeley starts at quarterback.
IRVING, Texas - Coming to Philadelphia for "Sunday Night Football," the Cowboys look good.
And they're getting better.
This goes further than a 34-7 rout of the hapless Rams Sunday, a poor team to use as a measuring stick on its best day (to which the Eagles can attest, after a season-opening win in St. Louis) and a laughable measuring stick when A.J. Feeley starts at quarterback.
This goes further than Tony Romo, too. His broken rib felt so good Sunday, he thinks he will not need the painkiller shot he needed to play the last four games - at least, not before the game.
The Cowboys, 3-3 and in second place in the NFC East, are eager to see just how good they can be.
"This is going to be a big test for us," tight end Jason Witten said Monday. "I'm sure they feel like their season is on the line. We're starting to play our best. Having Tony healthy and confident, and everybody else hitting on all cylinders, we're a much better team."
After they won Sunday, explosive receiver Dez Bryant reiterated his statement that the Cowboys "can't be beat."
They're certainly less beatable than they were.
Left guard Montrea Holland, a cut out of training camp, returned to the team a week ago, started Sunday in place of injured, struggling rookie Bill Nagy and played very well.
Veteran defensive lineman Jason Hatcher said he expects to return from a calf injury that cost him the past three games. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware shook off back spasms that limited him last week and logged his eighth sack of the season, second in the NFL. Free-agent safety Abram Elam had his best game to date.
And, of course, third-round rookie DeMarco Murray exploded onto the NFL consciousness with a 253-yard rushing performance. Yes, it came against the league's worst rushing defense; yes, had top back Felix Jones not been hurt, Jones might have run for 353 yards.
But Murray, a horse at Oklahoma, could be for real, and the Eagles' 23rd-ranked rush defense remains suspect, despite limiting the Redskins to 42 rushing yards.
"He's got to keep it going," Witten said. "He can't be a one-hit wonder."
The running game might still be the biggest area of concern for the Cowboys, who were ranked 27th entering the Rams game and are now 12th.
Jones likely will miss a second straight game with a left high-ankle sprain. Tashard Choice suffered a subluxation of his right shoulder on his second and final carry Sunday, a carry on which he fumbled for the second time in as many games. Choice said he will play Sunday night, but he realizes his carries will be limited.
"[Murray] certainly has earned the right to get the ball a lot," coach Jason Garrett said. "It's a sign, hopefully, of things to come."
The prospect of facing the pliant Rams and Eagles on consecutive weeks with Jones injured had Choice salivating. Choice agonized over the fumbles more than the injury.
"It was an opportunity to maximize and do really well," Choice said.
It remains another opportunity for Witten to shine. The Eagles still have not found a way to stop tight ends who are big parts of opposing offenses.
Witten passed Eagles legend Pete Retzlaff for fifth among tight ends in receiving yards. He ranks fourth in receptions, seventh in touchdowns.
Against the Eagles, Witten has 1,026 receiving yards, 87 catches and seven scores, all his best production against any opponents.
"It always helps when you have two good players on the outside, like we do, in Miles [Austin] and Dez Bryant," Witten observed.
It helps, too, when, on defense, you've got an extra good player up the middle, especially since dynamic Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has found his stride, ranking fourth in the conference in rushing yards. Hatcher can't wait to return as a part of the best rushing defense in the league, and he realizes that, after consecutive losses, the Cowboys put themselves in position to step forward in a shaky division.
"That win [Sunday] put us right back in the middle of things," Hatcher said.
Staying there, or moving forward, means continued progress in Philadelphia.