=== Murray, Cowboys visit Chargers ===
 
 (Sports Network) - Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray had his breakout
 performance of the season and took pressure off quarterback Tony Romo. Murray
 will try to establish a running theme when the NFC East-leading Cowboys visit
 the San Diego Chargers Sunday afternoon.
 
 Murray averaged 55.5 yards over the first two games of the season and busted
 out for 175 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in Sunday's 31-7 demolition of
 the St. Louis Rams. Murray had 20 carries in a Week 1 win over the New York
 Giants and it appears the Cowboys are in good hands when they feed him the
 ball regularly.
 
 "If you give DeMarco holes, he can make great cuts and can take it all the
 way," Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said. "He's a complete back, and so it was
 fun to see him break out a little bit."
 
 Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said after Sunday's game that establishing
 the run was important because the line was able to get physical up front with
 the Rams and set the tone early. The ground attack, plus an efficient
 performance from Romo, allowed the Cowboys to take over the sloppy NFC East,
 which has two 0-3 teams in New York and Washington and 1-2 Philadelphia.
 
 Dallas, which has led the entire way in two of the first three games of the
 season, allowed Romo to do just enough to pick apart the Rams. Romo was sacked
 only once and completed 17-of-24 passes for 210 yards and three TDs.
 
 "We're as strong as we've been on the interior of our offensive line in about
 three years," Garrett said. "We've made some personnel moves to help make that
 happen. We've been healthier and I think that's helped make that happen. We're
 just a stronger team. I think you see that in our running game and you use
 that in our pass protection and that's been a real positive. So hopefully we
 can build on some of the things we did."
 
 The Cowboys are facing a Chargers squad that has given up the second-most
 yards in the NFL at 470.7 ypg and can earn a commanding lead in the division
 by taking advantage of every opportunity. That would mean giving the ball to
 Murray, who faces a San Diego run defense that allows 130 ypg this season.
 Murray racked up 37 yards on his first four carries against the Rams.
 
 "I just think in general we need to run the ball better, and he's the guy
 running it," Garrett said. "I think everybody needed that kind of game ...
 offensive linemen needed that kind of game, our offense in general ... and
 obviously he's the beneficiary of it as the guy with the ball in his hand."
 
 San Diego's running game could use a boost because Ryan Mathews hasn't been
 getting the job done with a team-leading 164 yards on the season. That's less
 than what Murray ran for last week. Mathews, a lightning rod for injuries, had
 58 yards on 16 carries and still hasn't found the end zone running the ball.
 
 It's been a topsy-turvy season for the Chargers. They blew a significant lead
 to Houston in Week 1, then handed Philadelphia a loss on its home turf and
 dropped another heartbreaker Sunday versus Tennessee. Titans receiver Justin
 Hunter caught a 34-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left for a 20-17 win
 over the Chargers, whose three games have been decided by three points.
 
 Penalties hurt San Diego on Sunday, as it was flagged 11 times for 116 yards.
 
 "There were a lot of good things and that's what we stressed to the team,"
 Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. "We have to build off the good things,
 but really clean-up the mistakes as soon as possible. There are a lot of
 little details of things we are doing offensively, defensively and on special
 teams."
 
 Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has been impressive the past two weeks with
 a QB rating no less than 112.5. Rivers, who shredded the Eagles for 419 yards
 and three TDs, threw for 184 yards with a touchdown on 20-of-24 passing versus
 the Titans. The reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week had seven touchdown
 passes through the first two weeks.
 
 "The game kind of goes through spurts," Rivers explained. "They (Titans) were
 playing a lot of two-deep coverages or man underneath. I don't know how many
 total plays we had, but it didn't feel like we had the ball as much as we did
 last week. And we had some short fields."
 
 Rivers was the subject of controversy in the second quarter, when he was
 whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct when he argued an offensive pass
 interference call on wide receiver Keenan Allen. The penalty erased a five-
 yard TD catch by Eddie Royal and the play would have made it 14-3.
 
 "I have not seen the replay. I'm not sure if it was the right call or not,"
 Rivers told the San Diego Union Tribune. "Obviously, that's what I was so
 upset about. That was a big play. It was a big play in the game. It was a
 touchdown, and it gets called back."
 
 For how porous the defense has been, San Diego cannot afford to give away
 points. That will cost them down the road if it continues. Rivers, though, has
 shined throughout the last three weeks and has completed 70-of-100 attempts
 (70 percent) for 798 yards, eight touchdowns, one interception and a rating of
 116.2. Among starting QBs, Rivers is second in completion percentage,
 touchdowns and passer rating.
 
 Whether that translates into a win over the Cowboys is a mystery.
 
 Dallas leads the all-time series with San Diego, 6-3, and the two teams
 haven't met since a 20-17 win by the Chargers on Dec. 13, 2009. Rivers threw
 for 272 yards with a touchdown, while Romo passed for 249 yards and two
 scores. The Chargers have won two of the past three in this series.
 
 WHAT TO WATCH FOR
 
 The Cowboys defense racked up six sacks against the Rams and will try to get
 in Rivers' face Sunday. Rivers has been sacked five times this season and went
 down just twice versus Tennessee behind a solid offensive line.
 
 Dallas will try to bust that line and held the Rams to 232 total yards,
 including 35 rushing. All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware and linebacker Justin
 Durant each had six tackles Sunday, but Ware also posted two sacks to pass
 Harvey Martin as the team's all-time sacks leader.
 
 "He's one of the best that ever did it. He's the best, in my opinion," Cowboys
 defensive end Jason Hatcher said. "It's a privilege to play alongside a guy
 like that, a future Hall of Famer. He's just a great teammate. He loves his
 teammates. It couldn't happen to a better guy."
 
 Expect Ware's role to expand even further with the recent injury to defensive
 end Anthony Spencer, who may need microfracture surgery on his left knee.
 Spencer underwent knee surgery at the end of July and missed the Cowboys'
 season opener against the Giants. He returned in Week 2 against Kansas City
 and just missed Week 3's win against St. Louis.
 
 "It's a real setback," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told 105.3 'The Fan' in
 Dallas on Tuesday morning.
 
 The Cowboys made some moves across the defensive line by signing former Colts
 defensive tackle Drake Nevis and waiving Jerome Long. Nevis was released at
 the end of training camp and was claimed off waivers by the Chargers, who then
 released him.
 
 So far this season the Chargers have been able to keep Rivers' jersey clean.
 They have turned away three decent pass rushes over the first three weeks,
 which has led to the re-emergence of Antonio Gates (228 yards, TD) and the
 breakout of Eddie Royal (148 yards, 5 TD). The Chargers will have to keep
 airing it out until Mathews proves he can help move the chains and give San
 Diego some options other than passing the ball.
 
 OVERALL ANALYSIS
 
 The Cowboys can grab a stranglehold on the NFC East with a win Sunday and that
 will come via another strong outing by Murray. It appears Murray has found his
 groove and nobody is more appreciative than Romo, who is hoping this lasts so
 he doesn't have to carry the team. Wide receiver Dez Bryant said his ailing
 back is getting better and should be "100 percent" by Sunday. Bryant has to
 like what he sees from San Diego's weak pass defense and will contribute
 immediately. Rivers will still get his numbers, but it won't be enough.
 
 
 Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cowboys 24, Chargers 17
 
 09/27 09:54:27 ET

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