Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Sunday, September 22, 2013
Cowboys looking down on NFC East

By Todd Archer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- This isn’t baseball, but is it too early to talk about magic numbers?

Sure it is, but a 31-7 win Sunday against the St. Louis Rams has the Dallas Cowboys looking down at the rest of the NFC East.

The Cowboys will have no worse than a share of first place as they enter October even if they were to lose next week to the San Diego Chargers.

Edging a game over .500 in Week 3 is hardly worth celebrating -- and this is by no means a lowering of the bar -- but the Cowboys have been a picture of mediocrity the past two years with consecutive 8-8 finishes.

The more the Cowboys can stack up wins early in the season the better, especially with the way the rest of the NFC East looks right now.

The division has three wins in the first three weeks and the Cowboys have two of them.

Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware
DeMarcus Ware got the 114th and 115th sacks of his Cowboys career Sunday.
The Washington Redskins and New York Giants are 0-3 and don’t look like the teams that won the division last year (Redskins) or the Super Bowl two years ago (Giants). The Philadelphia Eagles are 1-2 and Chip Kelly already is facing questions in his first season as coach.

Who knew the Cowboys would look so stable?

“We needed this type of game,” said defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who picked up sack Nos. 114 and 115 of his career, passing Harvey Martin for the most in team history. “Coming off the loss we just had to Kansas City this sort of puts us back on track.”

The Cowboys’ 24-point margin of victory was the second largest since Jason Garrett took over as head coach. Only a 44-7 win against Buffalo on Nov. 13, 2011 was better. Three weeks prior to that game they beat the Rams 34-7 with DeMarco Murray rushing for a franchise-record 253 yards on 25 carries.

Murray managed only 175 yards on 26 carries Sunday, including a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that gave the Cowboys scores on their first three possessions and a 17-0 lead.

The defense was stifling. The Rams had one first down in the first half. Sam Bradford was not sacked in the first two games of the season (and four in a row dating back to last season), but he was sacked six times Sunday. The last time the Cowboys had six sacks in a game was an overtime win at San Francisco on Sept. 18, 2011.

Tony Romo played that game with a punctured lung and fractured rib. His ribs were merely bruised this time and he did not need a pain-killing injection before the game.

“You feel good when you win and it doesn’t feel good when you lose,” said Romo, who completed 17 of 24 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. “That’s probably the aftereffect. This Monday will feel good. Last Monday probably didn’t feel as good.”

The goal now is to make sure a week from Monday, they feel good after playing San Diego. The Giants play at Kansas City. The Eagles are at Denver. The Redskins are at Oakland.

“We can’t be a roller coaster,” Ware said. “We’ve got to be consistent. It’s going to take heart and hard work to do what we want to do.”

Even if it is ridiculously early in the season, things are shaping up in the Cowboys’ favor.

Yet even owner and general manager Jerry Jones, the king of optimism, did not take the bait, sounding more like the process-oriented Garrett.

“I think that before we start putting the dirt on the coffin, figuratively speaking, I think we better wait and see some more games played,” Jones said. “This division could turn out to be as strong as horseradish. It’s early and these teams are evolving.”