The Dallas Cowboys managed to blow an early lead against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. The 35-30 loss puts the Cowboys record at 2-2 on the season and they are decidedly not the same team they were in 2016. Not only from game-to-game, but from half-to-half you just don’t know what you will get from the Cowboys this season. They can look dominant then fall apart in the blink of an eye.
Here are your winners and losers from the game, outside of the fact that the whole Cowboys team lost.
First-half running game/Ezekiel Elliott: For one half of football, it looked like the 2016 Cowboys were back. Dallas was running the ball again, moving it up and down the field, and using a complementary passing game to put 24 points on the board. Ezekiel Elliott was a serious threat again, and even had a hand in the passing game out of the backfield. Alfred Morris pitched in with a huge 70-yard run. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.
First-half defense: If it wasn’t for special teams blunders (see below), the Cowboys defense could have only given up six points in the first half. They would hold the Rams offense under control for the most part, and the Cowboys should have gone into halftime with a much larger lead. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.
Dez Bryant - Although he and Dak Prescott still don’t seem to be entirely on the same page, Bryant provided the Cowboys with their only legitimate receiving threat in the game besides Elliott. He had five catches for 98 yards. Jason Witten was a non-factor and Cole Beasley’s disappearance from the offense is one of the season’s big mysteries.
Ryan Switzer/special teams - The Cowboys were dominating the game in the first half, but the Cowboys’ special teams helped keep the Rams in the game. They gave up a huge kickoff return that set the Rams up in FG position. The Cowboys defense held, but it was an easy three points. Then Ryan Switzer tried to play hero by catching a punt in heavy traffic. He fumbled deep in Dallas territory and the Rams went on to put seven points on the board. That was basically 10 points the Cowboys special teams gifted the Rams.
Coaches/second-half adjustments - The Cowboys got thoroughly out-played in the second half. The Rams went into the locker room and came back out looking like a different team. They started bullying the Cowboys and Dallas had no answers. Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli were out-coached by the Rams.
Linebackers - Without Sean Lee, the middle of the field was sieve. Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson and Justin Durant got beat repeatedly, both in the run game and the passing game. The Rams coaches cooked up all kinds of schemes to isolate receivers on the Cowboys linebackers and it was a disaster for Dallas. Bad angles, not getting off blocks, poor recognition of plays, terrible coverage - the Cowboys linebackers failed across the board.
Pass rush - As good as the Cowboys pass rush has been to start the year, they were that bad on Sunday. DeMarcus Lawrence had one sack, but in general Jared Goff had all day in the pocket. Goff has improved tremendously and with that much time, he had his way. Nobody looked good along the line in this game.
Dak Prescott - Dak did some amazing things in the game when escaping pressure and keeping plays alive. He threw three touchdowns and faced more pressure then he usually does. On the other hand, he’s just not as accurate with his passes this year as he was last year. There are other factors at play, but there are also plays when he has time in the pocket and is just missing receivers. He’s not playing up to his 2016 form.