The Cowboys traveled to Los Angeles and were expecting to go up against the Rams’ innovative and creative offense, but instead they were hit in the mouth by a powerful two-headed monster of a rushing attack in a loss that ended their 2018 season.
The Dallas Cowboys were supposed to be the team with the physical offensive line and punishing running game. Instead, it was the Rams who played some old-school playoff football, smashing the Cowboys 30-22 in a divisional round playoff game. If you’re a fan who hated the Rams’ high-flying 54-51 win over the Chiefs in the regular season, maybe you loved Saturday night’s game. The Rams will host the NFC championship game next week if the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, or they’ll travel to New Orleans if the Saints win.
Todd Gurley still isn’t completely healthy, after missing the Rams’ final two games with a knee injury, but he was healthy enough to gain 115 yards on the ground. C.J. Anderson, cut by the Panthers and Raiders during the regular season, was a surprise with another huge game. He had 123 yards on the ground.
The Cowboys got beat at their own game in the playoff loss and a lot of the things that this team has had success doing - most notably running the ball and playing tough defense - fell apart early on. But the game also provoked a few thoughts, both about the game itself and the future for this Dallas team.
Is it possible that Jason Garrett is to the Cowboys what Tony Dungy was to the Buccaneers? Garrett does a great job of getting his team to buy into his message. He’s great during the week at keeping the team on task. His players play for him. They’ve never quit on him. But he hasn’t shown any reason to believe he can win enough in the playoffs to get the Cowboys another Super Bowl. Dungy did a great job in Tampa Bay. He built the team that eventually won a Super Bowl. But Jon Gruden provided what was missing.
While the loss to the Rams was more a culmination of everything going wrong for the Cowboys, it was yet another in a long list of games where the Dallas offense failed to live up to expectations, and that has cast even more doubt on the fate of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
The season is over. It is official. The Los Angeles Rams have defeated the Dallas Cowboys 30-22 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, advancing to the NFC Championship Game and knocking Dallas out for good. The Cowboys fought back in the second half, but they ultimately made too many first-half mistakes and their coaching lacked too much. Dallas fought valiantly. They just didn’t have enough to win.
And now, the entire city has found a scapegoat. Scott Linehan was utterly terrible in this game. His play-calling was bland and predictable as it has been all year. But unlike the rest of the season, the Dallas players were unable to bail him out with big plays. The entire nation saw what kind of offensive coordinator Linehan really is in this game, and the verdict came from all directions. He absolutely has to go. Fans called for his firing. Media called for his firing. Even a Hall of Fame player mocked the coaching job of the Dallas staff today, though he was a bit more holistic in his criticism. Buckle up Cowboys fans. Get ready to see a lot of people demand that Linehan be canned.
A big part of the Cowboys’ success throughout the 2018 season was due to their smothering defense, and particularly their ability to shut down the opposing team’s running games. However, that strength was absent on Saturday and it played a big role in the loss.
If Gurley wasn’t 100 percent Saturday, Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard don’t want to see what that looks like. He carried 16 times for 115 yards including a 35-yard touchdown in the second quarter that gave L.A. the lead for keeps. Anderson, a late-season addition, was far more than a worthy backup. He carried 23 times for 123 yards, consistently pounding the ball inside when Gurley wasn’t escaping containment to get outside.
The Rams, who made their first playoff appearance in 1945 and who used to blow teams up more recently as the “Greatest Show on Turf’’ in St. Louis, set a club playoff record with 459 total yards.
The Cowboys have plenty of time to ponder these numbers during a long offseason. Most of the disappointments this year came from an offense that couldn’t locate the goal line with a Geiger counter once it reached the red zone. The defense was the constant, ranking high in total yards, in points against and proving its worth once again last Saturday as it held Seattle in check.
Prior to the Cowboys’ playoff game even began, rumors began to circulate that Jerry Jones was planning on giving a contract extension to Jason Garrett. However, that apparently doesn’t mean that everyone else on Garrett’s staff is safe.
Worth watching: The likelihood of a coming #Cowboys extension for Jason Garrett doesn't necessary trickle down to the same for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.— mike fisher ✭ (@fishsports) January 12, 2019
The Cowboys lost in a frustrating way against the Rams in what realistically was a very winnable game, and this has prompted several knee-jerk reactions from fans everywhere. Yet, it’s important to keep in mind how bright the future looks for this Cowboys team as they enter their offseason.
Season grade: Above average. That the Cowboys made the playoffs for the first time after starting a season with a 3-5 record and won a playoff game is a positive, which means 2018 could have been viewed as an above-average season. They have one of the youngest teams in the league and a ton of cap space to keep their own players and/or add some players at key spots in free agency. The arrow is up for the future.
Former Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver Terrell Owens has never been one to shy away from controversial statements, and he didn’t change that up Saturday night after the playoff game was finished by calling for Jason Garrett’s head.
One of the more questionable moments in the Cowboys’ playoff game Saturday night came on a decision by the referees to rule that Dak Prescott was “in the grasp” of the defender and therefore sacked, despite it not looking like there was any defender who even had a hold of the quarterback.
The officials in tonight’s Cowboys-Rams game made their own avant-garde contribution to the NFL’s constantly expanding reality. Is a catch a catch if no one recovers what is later ruled a fumble? Did a play actually end on the one-inch line if it was originally ruled a touchdown? And now: can a quarterback be ruled down “in the grasp” of his own teammate?
That’s how Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked shortly before halftime tonight, which you can watch in the video at the top of this post. Prescott successfully evaded pressure and was briefly, protectively wrapped up by Dallas lineman La’el Collins. Despite the Rams barely getting a hand on Prescott, Collins hugging him led the officials to blow the play dead. Mike Pereira—the only TV rules expert who actually knows the rules—said that the “in the grasp” rule specifically cites an opponent, so the Cowboys were incorrectly pushed out of field goal range on third down. Dallas punted the next play and currently trails 20-7 at halftime.
Cowboys star receiver Amari Cooper and Rams cornerback Marcus Peters have a long history from their time playing against each other in the AFC West, and that showed Saturday night with a few spats between the two players. Even after the game, the two were still going at it.
Cooper shoved Peters a later point in the game. Then after the game ended, the two got physical again.
Cooper may have had 6 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown in the game, but Peters’ team won, so he probably claims the advantage. This kind of fighting behavior is part of what led the Chiefs to get rid of Peters.