It was not the beginning to the season we hoped for as the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Los Angeles Rams 20-17 in the first ever game played at SoFi Stadium, the shiny new home court for the Rams and the Chargers. LA had too much offense, particularly early, and the Cowboys defense was not able to slow them, while the Dallas offense simply was not able to sustain enough.
But it may have come down to the kicking game. There was a missed 53 yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein in the first half that would come back to haunt them. And then, on the first drive of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys got to the Rams 11 yard line after a three yard Ezekiel Elliott carry on 3rd and six, and went for it. Dak Prescott completed a pass to CeeDee Lamb, but his route was too shallow and he was taken down just short of the sticks. Had the Cowboys sent Zuerlein out for that point-blank kick, they would almost certainly have tied the game in the fourth quarter. Instead, they were never again able to get close enough for even a long FG attempt to tie the game. A last ditch attempt as time was running out looked like it was going to do at least that, but an offensive pass interference penalty on Michael Gallup wiped out a big gain and put the Cowboys in a hole they couldn’t escape.
There was a surprise before the first snap of the game, as it was announced that Terence Steele would be the starting right tackle instead of Cameron Erving. Then Erving, along with Leighton Vander Esch and Blake Jarwin, would leave the game with injuries, so from a personnel stance, this was not a great beginning to the season. We don’t have final word, but early indications on both Vander Esch and Jarwin are not at all encouraging.
The game got off to a rough start as well as DeMarcus Lawrence was offsides on the very first snap. The Cowboys would have some issues with penalties all night, although things actually began to even out as the night went on. However, the Rams took the opening drive straight down the field and capped it with a Malcolm Brown touchdown run. They had Mike Nolan’s defense on its heels with tempo and play calling.
Dallas came out and got near midfield before stalling and punting the ball back. It looked like it was going to get out of hand fast as the Rams seemed to face little resistance in getting to the red zone. The defense finally stiffened, and a missed field goal by Samuel Sloman kept it a one score game.
The Cowboys got a drive together with that boost to their morale, capping an 80 yard drive with a nifty TD pass to Elliott from 19 yards out.
Los Angeles would be held to field goals on their next two possessions, but Dallas did nothing in between, the drive that Zuerlein missed on. However, with just under two minutes left in the half, they put together their best drive of the night, moving swiftly down the field until Prescott took it himself down to the one. Zeke was stopped just short of the goal line on his first attempt, but the second shot, with Antwaun Woods leading the way as a fullback, wound up with seven points.
It led to a rather surprising 14-13 halftime lead for the Cowboys.
However, the Rams would have one quick touchdown drive in the third quarter, and the Cowboys could only answer with Zuerlein’s lone successful field goal. The Cowboys were terrible in one score games last year, and haven’t broken that chain yet.
The pass rush was not as effective as we had convinced ourselves it would be, although it did begin to get to Jared Goff a bit as the game went on. However, Aldon Smith seemed to be the best defender the Cowboys had all night, with the only sack of Goff. And Chidobe Awuzie came up with the lone interception of the game on a ball that was tipped and fluttered right to him. It was not enough, though, as the Rams defense kept Prescott off balance at times.
Lamb had a strong debut, with 59 yards on five receptions as well as a nice 20 yard punt return. The trio of him, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup seems promising, as they combined for almost 200 yards receiving as Prescott spread the ball around. The loss of Jarwin, however, deprives the offense of a much needed weapon. Dalton Schultz did get one reception, to move the chains, in relief. But tight end suddenly is a position of some conern.
Elliott quietly was the most effective player on offense, tallying 96 yards and a touchdown running to go with 31 yards receiving and the only other touchdown scored by the Cowboys. Tony Pollard had his moments, but not many as the Cowboys had to focus more on the downfield passing game when they were playing from behind down the stretch.
Trysten Hill also appeared to have a good night. He had four tackles, which led all defensive linemen, and was penetrating more than any defensive tackle, at least as I saw it.
Still, the defense just was not able to shut down Goff and Sean McVay’s offense, and there were just enough miscues when Dallas had the ball to keep them from winning. Perhaps the lack of preparation really hurt the Cowboys. Maybe the revamped staff just needs a little more time. The injuries certainly don’t help, so expect some roster churn coming once we find out how serious the injuries are. As mentioned early word is not encouraging.
But the Cowboys were in it until the very end, and may have been hurt by a bit of a shaky call on the offensive pass interfernce that killed a long catch and run. Now we are going to find out just how good Mike McCarthy and his staff are.
It was just one game. And at least we didn’t lose to the Washington Football team by blowing a 17 point lead.