The losing streak is finally over. All it took is for the defending NFC Champs to stroll into town with a two-game winning streak and their playoff lives at stake. In a game that almost had no meaning at all pertaining to playoff contention (at least mathematically), the Dallas Dallas Cowboys put together their best showing of the season, completely leveling the Los Angeles Rams 44-21.
For the moment, let’s all enjoy this win as we haven’t had many weeks to feel this happy. It was a good showing and here are ten thoughts on this convincing win over the Rams.
1. What happened with the coin toss?
For a while, fans were left feeling cheated as the FOX crew led us to believe that the Cowboys weren’t going to receive the second half kickoff. For weeks, we’ve been hoping the team wins the coin toss so they could defer and get to the ball to open the second half, and when it finally happens - they don’t get to receive the ball in the second half? What kind of Tom Cruise-witchcraft is that?
Well, confusion ensued. I don’t know the official rules of the coin toss etiquette, but apparently Dak Prescott didn’t verbalize himself in the correct manner. Maybe he didn’t enunciate his words appropriately. Maybe he didn’t say “pretty please.” Regardless, the officials had him choosing to kickoff, but also forfeiting their right to choose in the second half.
Apparently the people in New York got involved and got it squared away. You can clearly tell by the replay Prescott does in fact say he wants to defer, and the Cowboys rightfully got the ball to start the second half.
Certainly sounds like Dak Prescott says we want to defer to the second half pic.twitter.com/hFAkwMlwkD— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 15, 2019
2. Closing in on a record
I’m not going to lie there was a couple times early in the game when I thought the Cowboys had no business throwing the ball to Jason Witten. I don’t know what makes them think he’s a great option for short dump off passes to allow him to run after the catch. These are terrible ideas. Seriously, what is he going to do out in space?
But then there are other times where he is used to perfection. Prescott always knows where he is going to be and Witten somehow, unbeknownst to modern science, manages to get himself open at the most opportune times. Like this one, for example:
Witten needs one more touchdown reception to tie Dez Bryant from the all-time lead in Cowboys history.
3. Ezekiel Elliott is really good at football
You wouldn’t know it by his rushing totals, but running back Ezekiel Elliott has been running the ball really well lately. Even though the offense has fizzled, Elliott’s turned in some very impressive first half efforts in recent games. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to keep it going in the second half because the Cowboys start going away from the run after falling behind.
On Sunday, that wasn’t the case. Elliott again had a great first half, and he was back at it in the second half. Every defender that stood in his way was met with a punishing blow and it took more than an arm tackle by Aaron Donald to bring him down. It was an outstanding display of running by the Cowboys star running back. Elliott finished the game with 24 carries for 117 yards, and added another 43 yards on three receptions. He was spectacular.
4. Tony Pollard is not too shabby either
The Rams got punched in the mouth in the running game as the Cowboys rushed for 263 yards versus just 22 yards for LA. It was quite the contrast of what happened in the last two meetings between these teams as the Rams offense ran all over Dallas with a combined total of 456 scrimmage yards. But well, well, well, how the tables turn.
If it wasn’t Zeke running over them, it was the rookie Tony Pollard running around them. Pollard added 131 rushing yards on just 12 carries for an impressive 10.9 yards per carry. Of course, it was aided by a 44-yard touchdown run as well as my favorite run of the day...
Together, the dynamic duo of Zeke and TP had over 300 yards of offense and three touchdowns. That’s amazing.
5. The “What-Ever” Back
It has to feel fantastic to score a touchdown against your former team, but it has to feel even better when you can make two defenders run into each other and be wide open for an easy 59-yard stroll into the end zone. Tavon Austin had his best play of the season when he got loose in the secondary to give the Cowboys a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
Since coming to Dallas, he hasn’t come close to cashing the checks of the “web” back promises made by Stephen Jones, but it was nice to see the team try to get him involved in this game. In addition to his lone reception for a touchdown, Austin also had two rushing attempts, although they went for next to nothing (three total yards).
On the big touchdown, all the credit shouldn’t go to Austin. Prescott did a great job eluding the rush, and he was helped immensely when Blake Jarwin lead his defender right into the path of Austin’s man.
6. The 97-yard drive
The Cowboys entered the week with the worst starting field position in the NFL, so it was refreshing to see them drive down the field on a 14-play, 90 yard drive to take an early 7-0 lead. And when the Rams answered back with a nine-play, 75-yard drive to tie it up, the Cowboys responded quickly with a 75-yard drive of their own thanks to the big play by Austin. But what was most impressive was when the Rams couldn’t answer and pinned them deep on their own three-yard line. What happened next was pretty darn marvelous.
After Zeke gave them a little breathing room, the Rams were primed to get good field position as the Cowboys faced a third and short, but then Prescott hit Jarwin on a nice 20-yard gain. Some more punishing runs from Elliott combined with the nifty feet of Pollard and just like that the Cowboys are in Rams territory. Another 20-yard gain from Jarwin on a bootleg, and the Cowboys are inside the red zone. But after Elliott came up inches short on a third-down run, without hesitation Jason Garrett kept his offense on the field. Prescott took the QB sneak straight ahead for the first down. It was all Zeke from that point on as three straight runs right up the middle, eventually resulting in a touchdown.
It was the staple drive of the game with great play-calling and sheer determination by the offense. After that series, the Rams just seemed defeated.
7. Isn’t Sean Lee fantastic
Jason Witten wasn’t the only ageless veteran who showed up big in this game. With Leighton Vander Esch still out with a neck injury, the Cowboys turned to Sean Lee to step up, and boy did he!
The Rams had an opportunity to get a score in the final two minutes of the first half, but any chance of getting back in the game was washed away by the supreme athleticism of Sean Lee. You’re hearing me correctly - he was athletic.
The Cowboys linebacker has been criticized lately for doing his part in missing tackles, but on Sunday, he was the one causing missed tackles. Not only did Lee make a nice lunging catch, but he was relentless in trying to take the ball to the house. Ultimately, he didn’t quite get there, but after a spin move, cut back inside, and pushing as far as he could - the veteran linebacker returned the ball 26 yards inside the Rams 10-yard line setting up first and goal. The Cowboys punched it in a few plays later to take a commanding 28-7 lead in the game.
Lee had a great game overall and even added a sack on the a third-down play on the Rams opening possession of the second half. Such a stellar performance by the Cowboys veteran linebacker.
8. The entire defense was fantastic
It’s still stupefying that the Cowboys defense held the Rams to just 22 yards on the ground. Welcome back, Antwaun Woods! And it feels like in every single game Jourdan Lewis comes up big with a huge play. The third-year corner was all over the field against he Rams. Not only did he have a nice sack on a corner blitz, but he had a perfectly timed pass break up on a third-down play in the second half.
The Cowboys made a handful of big plays, which they typically do each week, but what was most impressive is they weren’t also giving up the chunk plays. They stayed disciplined as a unit and started staying back a little to prevent getting caught on those misdirection plays. The Rams wasted no time testing them as they ran a bootleg on their very first play of the game. After getting caught a few times early, the defense finally settled down and those same plays were no longer there for the Rams offense.
9. The field goal-maker
The Cowboys did this weird thing where whenever they weren’t able to score a touchdown, a person came on the field and kicked it through the uprights, awarding the team three points. This happened three different times in the game and it was fantastic!
What a nice debut for new kicker Kai Forbath. Sure, things didn’t start off great when he inexcusably kicked the opening kickoff out of bounds. And yes, he even did that again later for no good reason whatsoever, but that is a small price to pay for ensuring the team finishes off a drive with points. Forbath was 3/3 in field goals, including a 50-yarder. And he was a perfect 5/5 in extra points, something that didn’t come easy for him his last full season as a kicker.
10. Now, let’s do it again next week
While it was nice to put up a 40-burger on the Rams, the excitement of this win will mean absolutely nothing if the Cowboys can’t come up with a win on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles. Their divisional-rival has flirted with disaster, pulling out late game heroics to avoid being upset by the Giants last week and the Redskins on Sunday. And for that - they still have life.
But these teams will be playing for all the NFC East marbles next week, and that means the Cowboys have to string together a little consistency to keep this thing going. Can they pull it off? Who knows, but we have to be feeling a little better about things after how they played against the Rams.