The Dallas Cowboys 2018 season came to an end Saturday night after losing to the Los Angeles Rams 30-22 in the divisional round of the playoffs. This is the fourth straight division playoff game the team has lost dating back to the 2007 season. It was a good run for Dallas, who finished the regular season strong to take down the NFC East, but they were no match for the Sean McVay’s Rams. Here are 10 thoughts on this tough loss.
1. Run over
In a game that many expected to be a battle of the running game, nobody expected the Rams to just run wild over the Cowboys defense. Dallas finished the season as a top five run defense, only allowing an average of 94.6 yards per game. The Rams finished with 273 rushing yards which is a new playoff record, eclipsing the 269 yards the Rams gained against the Cowboys the last time these teams faced on in the playoffs during the 1985 season.
While most of the damage was done by Eric Dickerson’s 248 yards last time, the Rams used a two-headed monster of Todd Gurley (115 yards) and late-season signing C.J. Anderson (123 yards) this time around. Cowboys fans might remember Anderson from last year when he churned out 118 yards with Denver in that 42-17 blowout against the Broncos.
Whether it’s next week or after the Super Bowl, C.J. Anderson is a free agent as soon as the Rams’ season is over.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) January 13, 2019
Cowboys should sign him, if for no other reason than they don’t have to play him anymore.
2. Defense couldn’t get a stop
Last week the Cowboys defense only allowed one Seattle drive over six plays and half of all their possessions ended in a three-and-out. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t come close to doing that against one of the league’s top offenses. The Rams had a total of nine drives in the game and only one of them was less than six plays. Three of them were 11 plays or more. Only once did the Rams punt and they held the ball for over 36 minutes in the game. The Rams compiled 459 yards of total offense, which is the second-worst defensive outing of the year for the Cowboys, trailing the Week 5 Houston game by only three yards.
The Cowboys defense just couldn’t get off the field. They looked worn down and it was made worse when the Cowboys offense couldn’t move the ball and allow them a chance to catch their breath. In a game where the Cowboys didn’t commit many penalties (four for 26 yards) and never turned the ball over, it was frustrating to watch the Rams offense grind the game away.
3. The great wall of Los Angeles
We’ll just go ahead and assume all the Rams offensive linemen are Pro Bowlers because they were flat-out incredible on Saturday night. The Cowboys defensive line had been creating so much disruption down the stretch that many of us expected them to cause problems in the trenches against the Rams.
The offensive line for the Rams played phenomenal both in the running game and in pass protection. The parted open running lanes like the red sea, allowing two different running backs to have over 100 yards rushing. Not only that, but Goff wasn’t ever in any type of trouble. He wasn’t sacked only once.
The Rams offensive line neutralized the Cowboys pass rush tonight— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 13, 2019
Jared Goff was only pressured once on his 28 dropbacks, per @NextGenStats
His pressure rate of 3.4 pct was the 2nd-lowest in a game for any QB this season (min. 20 dropbacks)
4. Air it out, would ya?
In a game where the Cowboys offense knew it had to play well to stay with a high scoring Rams team, they just didn’t have it in them to move the ball. While the Cowboys bread and butter is a stout rushing attack, it just wasn’t working in this game. Ezekiel Elliott only had 47 yards on 20 carries (2.3 ypc).
While the running game wasn’t there, the Rams defense didn’t show much ability to stop the Cowboys passing attack. Dak Prescott was 20 for 32 with 266 yards for an 8.3 yards per attempt. The Rams secondary looked soft and it was baffling as to why the Cowboys offense didn’t try to attack them more. All three of their scoring drives were aided by big plays in the passing game, but for some reason the offense didn’t start attacking until it was too little, too late.
The Rams are a good team and losing to them is nothing to hold your head down about, but you want to at least feel like they left it all out there. It just feels like they could’ve done more in the passing game and Scott Linehan will have some explaining to do.
5. Should’ve been a touchdown for Gallup
Prescott had a great play scrambling to his left to hit Michael Gallup for a big 44-yard passing play late in the third quarter. Gallup was called down at the two-yard line and for some reason the Rams decided to challenge the call. Gallup clearly caught the ball. In fact, if anything, the ball came loose as he was sliding on the ground and he didn’t regain control until he had crossed into the end zone. It should have been a touchdown. Making it even worse was that the referees spotted the ball at the two-yard line. At the very least it should’ve been placed inside the one.
Dak gets out of the pocket and drops a perfect ball to Michael Gallup.pic.twitter.com/zMjxm6vlpM— Sporting News (@sportingnews) January 13, 2019
It’s moot as the Cowboys scored anyway, but it cost them extra time of the clock. Gallup had his best game of his young career. He finished with six catches for 119 yards and one robbed touchdown. The young receiver continued to make strides as the season progressed and you have to be excited about a future consisting of him and Amari Cooper.
6. Costly penalty by Byron
The Cowboys defense had all kinds of trouble getting off the field on third down. That’s why it was especially frustrating when the Rams got a fresh set of downs thanks to an illegal hands to the face by Byron Jones. The defense appeared to make their first third-down stop of the night when Jared Goff missed Gerald Everett on a 3rd-and-14 play late in the second quarter. The Cowboys were down 13-7 and the stop would’ve given them a shot to retake the lead.
But thanks to the penalty, the Rams had new life and two plays later they found the end zone when Todd Gurley took off for a 35-yard touchdown. That was unfortunate as the Cowboys could’ve really used that stop.
7. First career sack for La’el
It’s odd that the only sack of the game wasn’t even a sack at all. The Cowboys were at the Rams 36-yard line facing a 3rd-and-7 when Prescott was ruled in the grasp after getting tangled up with Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins. Dak was dancing around and got turned around and wondered right into Collins, but the whistle-happy referees mistakenly thought Prescott was in the grasp. There’s no official word yet whether Collins will get credit for his first ever career sack.
Dak had escaped and would’ve been able to keep the play alive if the refs didn’t blow it dead. Maybe it wouldn’t have amounted to anything, but even if Dak throws the ball away, the Cowboys could’ve had a shot to attempt a long field goal.
8. Aggressive Garrett
While the offense spun it’s wheels in the muddy soil of the L.A. Coliseum, at least their head coach had his foot on the gas. On the team’s first offensive possession, they faced a 4th-and-1 at midfield. The Cowboys head coach understood what he was up against and intended to fight fire with fire as he sent an early message that he was going to be aggressive. The Cowboys were able to convert the fourth-down play on a Zeke run and got bonus yards when Rams corner Marcus Peters was flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. On the very next play, Prescott hit Cooper for a 29-yard touchdown pass to give the Cowboys the early lead.
Garrett also opted to go for two after the Cowboys scored their second touchdown of the and the score was at 23-13. Rather than taking the extra point, Garrett wanted to try to make it a one score game right then and there. It was a good decision that worked out.
9. Coming up short on fourth-down
After the Rams went up 23-7, it was looking rather bleak, but the Cowboys put together a nice nine-play, 75-yards touchdown drive, capped off with a two-point conversion from Amari Cooper. And when the defense held the Rams offense to just 23 yards on five plays on their ensuing drive, suddenly hope was starting to creep in again.
The Cowboys offense started off moving the ball well. Prescott hit Gallup for 15 yards and then Beasley for another 15 yards a couple plays later. Dak even had a nice completion to Noah Brown for 13 yards on a big 3rd-and-14 play as the third quarter came to an end.
The Cowboys needed to convert on 4th-and-1 to keep the momentum, but that was stymied when the Rams defense stuffed Elliott short of the first-down marker. It was a back-breaking play for Dallas that was compounded when the Rams chewed up half the fourth quarter with a 12-play, 65-yard touchdown drive.
10. Time to pull for the Saints
The Cowboys are out of the playoffs so the idea of hosting the NFC Championship at AT&T stadium is over. Had the Cowboys won, it would’ve raised the question of whether or not we wanted the Philadelphia Eagles to upset the New Orleans Saints so the Cowboys could host the game next week. That’s no longer an issue.
Being bounced from the playoffs is disappointing, but it would add insult to injury if the Eagles somehow advanced. It’s time to root for Saints and hope for a shootout between New Orleans and LA the following week.