Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 8/27/12

The roller coaster that is the St. Louis Rams' preseason continued Saturday night, hitting another dip after losing 20-19 to the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium.

Although the game was close on the scoreboard, the Cowboys were firmly in control throughout, despite starters Demarcus Ware, Miles Austin, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant all missing the game. The Rams again flashed their young talent and promise, showing a new sense of urgency under head coach Jeff Fisher's new regime, but made too many mistakes to overcome.


Quarterback Tony Romo efficiently led the Cowboys' offense down the field throughout the first quarter. Romo started the first drive with short passes into the dead zones of the Rams' defense before opening up the attack vertically. Romo converted two third-down passes to move the chains en route to throwing for 198 yards in the first quarter. Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree worked well to find these zones, catching five passes for 75 yards, along with undrafted free agent Cole Beasley who gained 40 yards on three catches.

The obvious star of the game, however, was relatively-unknown receiver Dwayne Harris. Harris earned both of the Cowboys' touchdowns on spectacular catch-and-runs from Romo. On the second play of the Cowboys' second drive, Romo loaded up and fired a 61-yard pass down the middle of the field, hitting Harris in stride for the score. The following possession, Harris caught a crossing pattern near the left sideline and cut upfield, splitting two defenders and diving past the pylon to put Dallas up 17-3 with 34 seconds left in the period, this time from 38 yards out.

The Rams' linebacking corps and secondary continued to struggle with coverage and tackling, and rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins was the posterchild of that inconsistent effort. Jenkins showed his inexperience on the two Harris touchdown receptions, the first of which saw him peeking into the backfield and assuming he had help over the top, and the second a result of a half-hearted shoulder tackle attempt that missed (him and Craig Dahl were the defenders Harris evaded en route to the end zone).

Safeties Dahl and Quintin Mikell also had difficulty in coverage, finding themselves matched up in man coverage with smaller, quicker targets in the slot such as Beasley and running back Felix Jones out of the backfield.

Although the final results were discouraging, the defensive effort and intensity remained high and consistent with earlier preseason performances. Dahl and first-round pick Michael Brockers rocked receivers and running backs with forceful hits, and the tackles that were made saw many Rams rallying to the ball. Defensive end Robert Quinn led the Rams' pass rush, which regularly got pressure on Romo and batted down passes but found more success with less mobile backup Cowboys quarterbacks Kyle Orton and Stephen McGee.

Rams' linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was an example of that success. The newly-acquried linebacker salvaged the defense's first-half performance with a free shot of Orton at the 11:37 mark of the second quarter, blitzing up the middle to force a fumble. The subsequent fumble recovery shifted the momentum of the game and allowed rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein to put St. Louis on the scoreboard. Dunbar got consistent pressure in the backfield all night and registered three tackles. Quinn also reached Orton late in the second quarter for a sack.

Dallas running back Demarco Murray found his way to the edge often, gaining 42 yards on seven touches. Jones, surprisingly, had similar success between the tackles with 34 yards on six carries. Sean Lee anchored the Cowboys' defensive well with five tackles and a sack.

Daryl Richardson was the star of the game for the Rams, rushing for 51 yards on 10 carries. Richardson powered the offense into the red zone that dominated most of the second quarter, gaining 31 yards, but dropped a pass in the end zone as St. Louis stalled near the goal line and turned the ball over on downs. The rookie back also rushed well in the third quarter, evading defenders and knocking defensive lineman backwards despite his 5’10”, 190-pound frame.

Isaiah Pead looked ineffective in the backfield, as with much of the preseason. Pead may not be accustomed to the smaller holes or quicker play progression of a pro-style offense, but still made a mark in the receiving and return game, amassing 57 total yards on 14 touches. However, Richardson's consistent rushing performances have brought more attention to the encouraging effort of the Rams' offensive line.

Former Green Bay Packers' center Scott Wells got his first taste of game action since arriving to St. Louis, working from the starting lineup and providing a push up front in the run game. The pocket never really developed for quarterbacks Sam Bradford or Kellen Clemens, who in turn didn't look comfortable setting up to throw. The running game continued to show promise, and another 1,000+ yard rushing season should be on the horizon for starter Steven Jackson.

Second-year receiver Austin Pettis also had a rough game for the Rams, dropping a back-shoulder fade in the end zone among other passes, but caught a touchdown from Clemens on a play-action pass with 12:50 left in the fourth quarter. If St. Louis had any plans of winning the game at this point, they were dashed by Zuerlein's backup, fellow rookie Garrett Lindholm, who banged the extra point off the right upright to keep the score at 20-12.

Austin Davis continued to show promise in his third game as a pro. Entering the game after an eye injury to Clemens, Davis did nothing but make plays on the last drive of the game, scrambling for 11 yards and completing four of his five pass attempts for 53 yards. The rookie quarterback led the offense to the 4-yard line, where running back Chase Reynolds punched it in to close the gap to 20-18 with 2:10 remaining in the game. However, the Rams opted to allow Lindholm to kick the extra point, either to avoid a possible overtime or get another look at the defense.

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