As great as it feels to watch our Dallas Cowboys win a football game, it’s equally disheartening when we watch them fall apart. What started out to be a fun game to watch, turned into frustration when the offense suddenly stopped working and the defense gradually allowed the lead to erode away. The aftermath left fans with a disappointing 35-30 defeat as we watched the Cowboys fall to 2-2 on the year. The Rams offense has been really good this year and didn’t miss a beat against this sometimes-suspect Cowboys defense.
That leaves us with a lot to think about this week, but here are 10 thoughts on Sunday’s game.
1. Tale of two halves for the offense
The Cowboys offense played well in the first half, scoring on all four of their possessions.
FOX graphic shows the Cowboys first four drives:— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 1, 2017
- Field Goal
is that good
But after scoring 24 points in the first half, the Cowboys would only score once in the second half when Dak Prescott hooked up with James Hanna for a 28-yard touchdown pass. It was the first touchdown of Hanna’s career and would be the last score of the game for the Cowboys.
It’s frustrating for two reasons. First, it’s clear this defense has problems and relies heavily on the strong play of the offense. And second, the offense at times isn’t up for the task.
2. Heavy dose of Zeke early
Ezekiel Elliott started this game like a man on a mission. It was almost like there was no tomorrow. He would finish the game with 21 carries for 85 yards and 54 yards receiving. He would also score two touchdowns on the day. Zeke would show some nice table manners after he got fed on a screen pass.
It was great times.
But when you fill up on treats too early, it doesn’t leave much room for much else. The Cowboys running attack disappeared in the second half.
Ezekiel Elliott ripped off 16-yard run on 1st carry of 2nd half, giving him 15 carries for 72 yds. Had 6 carries for 13 yds rest of way.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) October 1, 2017
3. No answer for Gurley
With no Sean Lee in the game, it was no secret that the Cowboys defense had their hands full when it came to stopping Rams running back Todd Gurley. He’s been a big part of the Rams success this season and was recently named the Offensive Player of the Month for September. Gurley started the new month right where he left off as he had 23 carries for 121 yards and added 94 yards receiving on seven catches. With over 200 yards of total yards, that’s just too much Gurley to handle.
No play hurt more than his 53-yard catch over the middle of the field. It was a complete breakdown for the defense. The coverage was terrible, the tackling angles were harrowing. The Cowboys definitely missed having Sean Lee on the field.
4. Not so special, special teams
The Cowboys took an eight point lead into halftime, but it should have been more than that. Ten of the Rams first half points came off of special teams mistakes from the Cowboys. After Dallas scored its first touchdown of the game to give them a 10-3 lead, the warm fuzziness didn’t last long when Rams kickoff returner, Pharoh Cooper, took the ball 66 yards to the Cowboys 35-yard line. Fortunately, Anthony Brown was able to skate around a block on a bubble screen to tackle Tavon Austin on third down, forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal.
But the defense wasn’t so lucky the next time around. The fearless Ryan Switzer muffed a punt and gave the Rams the ball at the Cowboys 18-yard line. Five plays later, the Rams would score a touchdown.
The Cowboys' special teams are on the hook for 10 of the Rams' 13 points with the fumbled punt by Ryan Switzer... https://t.co/0pQWQJynvx— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) October 1, 2017
5. Huge escape by Dak
If the Cowboys would have won this game, people would be talking about the great escape of Prescott. At the time, it was a big play in the game. Instead of getting sacked on third down and having to give the ball back to the Rams, Dak managed to stay on his feet and find Dez Bryant in the middle of the field. The drive would continue and the Cowboys would score a touchdown six plays later.
His Houdini-like escape looked awfully familiar for Cowboys fans.
Whatever happens here, I think it's worth reiterating that Dak took a blindside hit from a first-team All-Pro and was like "nah."— David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 1, 2017
6. No pressure on Goff
Technically speaking, DeMarcus Lawrence sack streak is still alive as he was credited with a sack when he brushed by Jared Goff, causing him to lose control of the ball. It was a nice play and resulted in an 11-yard loss.
But that was all she wrote when it came to putting pressing on the quarterback. There has been a narrative going around that the offensive lines that the Cowboys have faced thus far has had a lot to do with their pass rushing success. The Rams group would serve as the first legitimate test for the defensive line. If that is the case, the Cowboys didn’t pass the test.
Goff had too much time in the pocket and it allowed him to make some nice throws to convert third down plays.
The good news is David Irving comes back now, but we were hoping he’d be coming back to a pass rushing group that was a little more charged up than what we have seen in previous seasons.
7. Limited impact from Jaylon and Taco
Part of being a good fan that is in tune with their team is being honest with yourself. I wouldn’t be abiding by that if I didn’t acknowledge that Jaylon Smith and Taco Charlton were ineffective out there. Smith finished with 10 tackles so it’s not like he was just out there whiffing, but he struggled getting in a position to make a stop. Small gains turned into larger gains because Smith was slow chasing down the ball carrier. He had trouble shedding blockers and by the time he could get separation, the ball carrier had breezed by him. He ran with heavy feet and any time he contacted an opposing player, he was never in a position to square up and stop him in his tracks. The momentum of the runner always took Smith three extra yards to bring him down.
And he was a complete liability in coverage. Multiple times he was found trying to cover Cooper Kupp. Are you kidding me?
According to Pro Football Focus, Jaylon Smith was targeted 7 times on defense and gave up six catches for 68 yards.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 2, 2017
There were times when the Cowboys defense got the Rams behind the chains, but would allow them to get a big chunk of it back with good runs.
And whenever Charlton was in, he was completely outmatched. He was never able to gain any traction against the Rams left tackle. He would attempt his spin move, come up empty, and that was pretty much the end of what he had to give on the play.
That last Taco Charlton rush saw #97 finish with his back to Goff and arms wide doing nothing. Woof.— Laurie Horesh (@LaurieHoresh) October 1, 2017
The Cowboys first-round pick has been under a lot of heat due to his lack of production thus far and after this game - it’s only going to get worse. It’s still nothing to get too worked up about, but from what we’ve seen thus far, he hasn’t given fans much to be happy about.
8. Dak misfiring to Dez
Everyone will be talking about the crucial drops that Terrance Williams had. Most notably, was the failed two-point conversion that hit TDub right in the chest. While that incompletion was the most costly, there were several pass attempts to Dez Bryant that came up empty.
The Cowboys have made it clear that they want to use their playmakers more and that means more targets for Dez. Prescott would look for Dez 13 times against the Rams, but only five of them were caught. Bryant did have 98 yards receiving, but there were many times that Prescott was just off with his throws.
It’s easy to forget that these two don’t have the years of chemistry that Dez had with Tony Romo, but at times this year, the second-year quarterback has struggled connecting with his star receiver. Bryant did had a drop that went right through his hands so it wasn’t all on Prescott.
These two need to get more on the same page, especially if Bryant is going to keep getting double-digit targets.
9. Losing the turnover differential will get you every time
We are going to look back on this game and point to a lot of different reasons that caused the Cowboys to lose. When the offense scores over 30 points, you would expect them to win. When the ground attack has 189 yards, averaging seven yards a carry, that looks like a nice recipe for a Cowboys win. But if you can’t take care of the ball and can’t find ways to take it away, it’s really hard to win football games.
The Cowboys had two turnovers - the muffed punt by Switzer and the Prescott interception when he got hit as he was throwing the ball. What made matters worse is that the Cowboys had opportunities to take the ball away themselves, but came up empty.
On the Lawrence phantom sack, the ball was right there for the taking, but they Rams were able to fall on it. Then, Anthony Brown had a chance to pick off a pass in the fourth quarter when Goff just floated a duck down the sideline, but Brown wasn’t able to hang on. Either one of these turnovers would have given the Cowboys the ball in Rams territory, which would have added some much needed points.
10. We had an ALF sighting
Nobody really is going to care much about a player who had just two carries and plays sparingly. But when Alfred Morris burst through the hole for 70 yards, it not only set up a touchdown for Zeke, but it also gave fans a little breathing room should the team be without Elliott for an extended amount of time.
With news expected to be coming shortly regarding whether or not Elliott’s six-game suspension injunction will stand, having a good insurance policy like Morris is a plus.
Make no mistake about it, Morris is no Elliott. The dive-for-the-pylon athletic playmaking ability of Zeke is not replaceable. But Morris still knows how to get skinny and find those creases. The Cowboys running game is not in shambles if Zeke is not available.
What stood out to you in this game?