Rams add run defense to list of questions

ARLINGTON, Texas -- There was a time when Rams quarterback Sam Bradford would have been ecstatic to see running back DeMarco Murray rip off long gain after long gain on the field at AT&T Stadium.

That day has long since passed, however. For the second time in as many meetings in this place, Bradford and his Rams were on the receiving end of a monster performance from Murray, the Cowboys' starting running back.

The former Oklahoma teammates had many big days together, but Bradford has been nothing more than an innocent bystander to Murray’s two finest NFL performances, including a 175-yard, one-touchdown effort Sunday.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Bradford said. “I’m not really sure why he has to do it against us but he played really well today.”

In two games against the Rams, Murray has rushed for 428 yards on 51 carries, an average of nearly 8.4 yards per attempt. At that rate, if Murray could play the Rams on a weekly basis, he’d surpass Cowboys great Emmitt Smith’s rushing record in just under 82 games.

Murray is a fine back but he’s also a back who had rushed for just 111 yards in the first two weeks. He surpassed that total two carries into the third quarter of Sunday’s game.

That should be no surprise given the Texas-sized holes he had to run through for most of the day. Of Murray’s 175 rushing yards, only 26 came after contact. In other words, before the Rams even had a chance to put paws on Murray, he was already well past the line of scrimmage.

“I just think they did a lot of stuff where instead of us going up the field they had us sliding with them and I think they did a good job with that and hitting it up and getting to the second level really quickly,” defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. “He just found holes and we missed tackles. That’s a bad combination for the defense.”

To see Murray galloping so effortlessly through the Rams' defense came as a bit of a surprise given how the Rams defended the run in the first two weeks. Granted, Atlanta and Arizona don’t exactly have dominant run-blocking lines or Barry Sanders at running back, but those teams mustered a total of 122 yards and 2.9 yards per carry in the first two weeks.

Intent on getting Murray going after he came out of the gate slow in Dallas’ first two games, the Cowboys handed it to him early and often. With no signs of the Rams slowing him down, Dallas continued to feed Murray until he was full.

All told, Dallas ran the ball on 57.6 percent of its 59 offensive snaps, up from 27.1 percent in the first two games.

“We felt like they were going to try to establish the run,” defensive end Chris Long said. “Everything you hear and what they’re capable of, I mean they’re a good football team, don’t take that away from them but we sucked today.

“You put those two things together, you’ve got a good back, you’ve got a team that’s committed to running the football and you can’t get a stop and you can’t get them in third-and-long, they’re not going to throw the ball so you have to stop the run. We didn’t do that so that’s the result right there.”

Entering the game, the run defense seemed to be at least one area the Rams could hang their hat on. Leaving Dallas on Sunday night, it’s just another question to add to an ever-expanding list.