DeMarco Murray and the Dallas Cowboys rushing attack has been stuck in neutral for some time, but the St. Louis Rams know all too well the kind of big numbers the third-year running back is capable of putting up.
The last time the Rams played the Cowboys in the regular season (Oct. 23, 2011), Murray rushed for a franchise-record 253 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown run in a 34-7 Dallas win.
"He rushed for almost 300, if I am not mistaken," Rams defensive end Robert Quinn said. "It was ridiculous. It wasn't a fun day, of course. We've made a lot of improvement since coach (Jeff) Fisher has gotten here. We need to shut down any kind of performance like that."
Murray has run for 111 yards on 32 carries -- an average of 3.5 yards per carry -- so far this season as the Cowboys are tied for 26th in the NFL in rushing offense. He had 12 carries for 25 yards last week in a 17-16 loss to Kansas City.
"It was DeMarco Murray's coming out party, it seemed like," Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said of his last encounter with the Cowboys. "We're a whole different ballclub now. We still have a lot of respect for what they do on offense, and Murray has kind of been their bell cow since that game.
"I know exactly what he is, and I can tell the guys in the linebacker's room what he brings to the table. He's a hard runner. He runs behind his pads well. He can be very explosive."
Like the Cowboys, the Rams, who rank 25th in rushing offense, are trying to get their running game untracked.
Daryl Richardson has rushed for 98 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per carry over the first two games.
"We didn't have a chance to do much of it because we got behind," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said of running the ball.
The Rams fell behind 21-0 last week against the Falcons. They trailed 24-3 against the Arizona Cardinals before rallying in the fourth quarter for a 27-24 win in Week 1.
"We have to find a way to start faster," Laurinaitis said. "That's all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams. We have to get out there and go because when we've kind of turned it on the second half of games, it's been pretty good.
"That inconsistency -- if we don't fix it -- at the end of the year isn't a winning record, and that's what we are shooting for."
The Rams have gone to the no-huddle offense with great success after falling behind.
"I like it," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. "I think we had success last week with it. Obviously, we were down. They were playing a pretty soft zone (coverage), so it was easy to get a lot of completions.
"I think it put them on their heels a little bit. Any time you go fast, it just forces them to think quicker than they're normally having to."
Bradford wants to get tight end Jared Cook involved in the offense again. Cook had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals, but was limited to one catch for 10 yards by the Falcons.
"Just because people want to double him or focus on him, we've still got to find a way to get him the ball and allow him to create plays because he's too good of a player not to get his touches during a game," Bradford said.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is 2-0 against the Rams. He's thrown for 505 yards with five touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 112.1 against them.
The Rams' defense has produced six sacks, including four by Quinn, in the first two games.
"Every once in a while you might get a lay-up or an easy one, but there is so much that has to go right with a sack, and with a quarterback like Tony Romo, you have to get him down to the ground," Quinn said. "He can easily as he's falling throw it out and it doesn't count for a sack."
Like the Falcons, the Cowboys have a big-play receiver (Dez Bryant) and a perennial Pro Bowler at tight end (Jason Witten).
The Rams also must deal with the almost carnival-like atmosphere at AT&T Stadium, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' $1.15 billion palatial palace.
"It can be distracting if you let it be," Laurinaitis said. "You have to focus on football. If you get there and you're gazing up at the screen and looking at the suites and all the stuff around, then you are taking your mind off of football. A lot of these guys have played in some pretty sweet stadiums in college, but nothing is like Cowboys stadium. Jerry World is compared to none."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.