Dallas and St. Louis. Many Rams fans consider this to be a rivalry. I’m not sure what most Dallas fans think of that. I’m not even sure what I think about that. Many pinpoint to the old Cowboys/[Los Angeles] Rams days of the late 1970s up to the mid-point of the 1980s where they met in ’78, ’79, ’83, and ’85.
You haven’t seen too much of that lately. During the last couple of seasons, the Rams have been the lambs and the Cowboys, well, have been short of a playoff win since 1996, having gone through quarterbacks like Quincy Carter, Steve Hutchinson, Drew Henson, Drew Bledsoe, Vinny Testeverde, etc. until they found a gem in a man by the name of Tony Romo, who happens to pimp Jessica Simpson like a ’92 Dodge Viper.
The Rams, on the other hand, have happened to win a few playoff games since 1996, including two Super Bowl appearaces (1999, win; 2001, loss), about six playoff wins (counting the Super Bowl XXXIV win) since ’96 (or, more accurately, since January 16, 2000).
Dallas and St. Louis met last season, which saw the Cowboys defeat the Rams in an impressive 35-7 win, as Tony Romo dominated statistically by passing for over 300 yards, and compensating for a botched snap by picking up the ball and running for an untouched 15- or 20- or-so yards down the field.
This year, for Romo, the story is different. Does he sit or does he play? A broken pinkie hinders his decision. Romo says he wants to play through the injury and lead his team to a victory. Cowboys fans’ opinions vary. “I think Johnson should start — a healthy Johnson is a lot more safe than a banged up Romo,” one fan emitted. Another offered a unique view: “Brad Johnson’s immobility will kill the ‘Boys if he plays. He will end up getting Little-Longed (term dubbed by when you’re hit by either Rams’ defensive ends Chris Long or Leonard Little) before too long. The thing about the Rams is that their secondary is weak, and to attack that exploit in their coverage, Johnson will need some to throw the ball and time to escape the pocket. The good thing about him is that he has a quick release.”
The significance between this year’s game and last year’s game is amusing. Last year, it was the Rams who were banged up coming into Dallas. Marc Bulger and his broken ribs, Steven Jackson not even playing, Orlando Pace being out for the year, and the dismal offensive line could not protect Bulger. In effect, Romo tossed the football 339 yards for three touchdowns and a sole interception.
The Rams need to look for a way to patch their secondary. Now that Dallas has recently acquired wide receiver Roy Williams, everything looks a little blurry for St. Louis again. Patrick Crayton caught two touchdowns and had a career high 184 receiving yards against the Rams last year. I think the Rams can vouch for my statement that they don’t want to let that happen again.
And so the Rams shouldn’t. Jim Haslett, interim coach trying to change the ways of the team after taking over for the mediocre Scott Linehan, fired the team up for a win last Sunday against the Redskins in Washington, 19-17. If anything, the players and the rest of the coaching staff respect Haslett. Linehan lost the team a long time ago. They seem to want to work hard now that they have a winning attitude in place. Rumor has it that if the Rams win at least six games this year, Haslett will be offered the 2009 coaching position.
This Sunday is the Rams’ Super Bowl. This Rams offense still has to explode. That could happen.
Orlando Pace may be out this weekend, but Marc Bulger is feeling lucky. The Rams’ receiving corps is finally stable and ready to get out onto the field. In hopes that the Cowboys double cover Torry Holt, possession receiver Keenan Burton and speed demon Donnie Avery will be finding seams in the Dallas’ secondary to give the ‘Boys a scarce reason to be on their heels.
Steven Jackson is poised for a big game rushing. He had over 100 total yards last week (rushing and receiving combined), but he’s bound to be putting up Jackson-esque numbers on the ground sooner or later, as the media hype that surrounded him a year ago is now shifting away, lessening the pressure or, the ‘monkey off his back,’ per se.
I think Dallas will be ready, though. Or else they should be. They have lost two of their last three games (and barely escaped Cincinnati after the Bengals made an ardent comeback in the end of the game), and are in dire need of a win. Perhaps ‘dire need’ may be an over-exaggeration, but what can you do when your best receiver is hanging his head on the sidelines and yelling at the coaches, and you throw for three consecutive times in overtime, swindling Marion Barber, who ran in a key touchdown in the fourth quarter against Arizona last weekend? I can’t blame Terrell Owens for opening his mouth last week, but then again, I don’t have the whole side of the story like Cowboys fans do. I’ve read a couple of articles about the Cowboys’ struggles against Arizona, but other than that, nothing.
The Rams will have to put some points on the board this Sunday — there’s no doubt about it. The Cowboys are going to light up the scoreboard no matter how much time you give them. The offense has so many eclectic emanations for either quarterback (Romo or Johnson) to choose as receivers, not to mention Marion Barber. I would add Felix Jones, but according to reports, he’s set to be out of the game this Sunday.
The Rams defeated the Redskins because of their special teams play. Whether you want to believe it or not, the Rams may very well have the best punter in the league in Donnie Jones, who has been kicking the football flawlessly this season, not to mention a man made of money — also known as Josh Brown — booting field goals.
The Rams can’t rely on a fumble return for a touchdown and a couple of field goals to save them this Sunday. Marc Bulger will have to dispatch some damage on the Cowboys’ defense, as well as Steven Jackson will have to bruise through their defense, taking time off the clock and adding points as the game ensues. Dallas will have to find a way to exploit the Rams’ secondary like most teams have done this season (sans the Redskins).
Dallas Cowboys. St. Louis Rams. What a lovely fiasco.