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Big Picture: Dallas D Improving; Rams' Pass Rush Struggles


Dallas CowboysIt's hard to judge this team through two weeks, given the contrasting performances from Week 1 to Week 2. The one constant has been a devastating ground game, as DeMarco Murray leads the league in rushing yards and is No. 2 in carries after two weeks.

The rest it a bit more muddled, as the Cowboys now have a cleaner, dominant road win to go with an ugly, turnover-laden home loss so far on their 2014 resume. It was a bit unusual to see Tony Romo to pass for fewer than 200 yards last week in Tennessee, but it's hard to argue with the end result.

The gameplan might call for more of the same this weekend in St. Louis. In their 2013 meeting, Romo threw for just 210 yards while Murray romped to 175 on the ground. When Murray set the franchise rushing record of 253 against the Rams in 2011, Romo threw for just 166.

Behind Murray, the biggest headline in Dallas is the improved defensive play to this point. The Cowboys stymied Jake Locker and the Titans' offense to just 314 total yards – in fact they rank No. 12 in the league in total defense after two weeks.

Perhaps the biggest problem for the Dallas defense so far has been tight end. Vernon Davis had just four catches for 44 yards in Week 1, but he scored two of San Francisco's three offensive touchdowns. On Sunday, Tennessee's Delanie Walker had 10 catches for 142 yards and a long score.

Another athletic tight end is coming the Cowboys' way in Week 3 in Jared Cook. He's been productive but not outstanding so far this season, with nine total catches for 102 yards this season.

St. Louis RamsAny conversation about the Rams this week will probably begin and end with their quarterback situation – does Shaun Hill return to the lineup, or does Austin Davis get his second career start? [embedded_ad]

Hill, the primary starter with Sam Bradford out for the year, injured his quad in the Week 1 loss to Minnesota. That opened the door for Davis to start his first-ever game on Sunday in Tampa. He looked fantastic in completing 22-of-29 passes for 235 yards on the day. He didn't commit any turnovers, and he drove the Rams 71 yards for the game-winning field goal with 42 seconds remaining.

It's unclear if Hill is fit to play just yet, but Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Monday that he will return to the starting role when he is healthy. That begs the question – will Hill be ready in time for the Cowboys' visit to the Edward Jones Dome? Or will Davis get another opportunity to show his stuff?

The Rams' defense is missing Chris Long for the foreseeable future, but with the weapons on their defensive front – Pro Bowler Robert Quinn, as well as first-round picks Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald – the early numbers are a bit surprising.

Both Minnesota and Tampa Bay ran at will on the Rams in the first two weeks. St. Louis is allowing an average of 171 rushing yards through two games – 30th in the league to this point. Led by Quinn, that fearsome defensive front has also combined for just one sack on the season, which is tied for 31st in the NFL. A big chunk of that likely has to do with the absence of Quinn's pass rush partner, Chris Long.

Long is expected to miss several weeks with an ankle injury. It'll be interesting to see how the Cowboys handle Quinn, since they won't have to handle Long on the opposite side of the line.

The St. Louis secondary has allowed just 371 combined passing yards through two games, though opponents have completed 71 percent of their attempts.

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