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Ten thoughts on the Cowboys 20-17 loss to the Rams, including Mike McCarthy’s questionable call

Well, that is certainly not how Cowboys fans wanted the season to begin.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After what felt like the longest wait ever, we finally got to watch some Dallas Cowboys football. The beautiful sound of Carrie Underwood’s intro, the soothing voices of Al Michaels and Cris Collingsworth, and the majestic view of a the Los Angeles Rams’ new SoFi Stadium all served as reminders that something great was about to happen. Football is back, and for that we are grateful.

Of course, it didn’t start out like we hoped as the Cowboys lost a close one, 20-17, to start the season with a 0-1 record. It had some good moments as well as some not so good moments, but here are ten thoughts on the season opener.

1. Freebie yards

It’s never good to start with a penalty before the first play from scrimmage even takes place, but that’s what the Cowboys did. The defense was a little antsy as their defensive ends kept jumping offsides. Three times in the first half they got called for a neutral zone infraction. It was mentioned in the broadcast that the crowd noise (lack thereof) might’ve made the defense more susceptible in biting on the hard counts. Whatever the reason, the Cowboys edge rushers just couldn’t help themselves.

2. The Rams offense is good

People forget just how good this Rams offense is. Finishing with a 9-7 record after going to the Super Bowl will do that, but let’s not disregard the fact that they finished with the second-most points in the NFL in 2018. They dealt with an offensive line shuffle last season, and Sean McVay experimented with some different things, but this unit can move the ball. In the first half, they gassed the Cowboys defense in the tune out 256 yards and had nearly a 2-to-1 advantage in the time of possession.

Things slowed down a bit in the second half, but when everything was said and done, the Rams out gained the Cowboys 422 to 380 yards.

3. Under fire

Dak Prescott was sacked three times, but he was under pressure quite a bit. The absence of La’el Collins definitely had an effect as the team resorted to starting undrafted free agent Terence Steele. The Rams made sure to take advantage as the young tackle was challenged all night.

And it wasn’t just the right tackle spot that was a problem as the offensive line had their share of difficulties. I hear that Aaron Donald fella is pretty good at football.

The offensive line will be something to continue to monitor as swing tackle Cam Fleming suffered an injury during a field goal attempt. The Cowboys are running a little short at the tackle position.

4. Chido Pick

The Cowboys did manage to win the turnover battle 1-to-0, for whatever that’s worth. When the defense was able to get the Rams behind the chains, the pass rush was effective. A hurry by Aldon Smith forced Goff’s throw to come out a little wobbly, and it ended up right in the chest of Chidobe Awuzie.

5. Questionable decision

It would be easy to be too hard on Mike McCarthy in his first game ever, especially for his gumption to go after the win, but his decision to go for it early in the fourth quarter was a head-scratcher. The Cowboys had a chance to tie with a field goal, but for some reason McCarthy chose to go for it in effort to keep the drive alive and jump ahead. And it appeared the coaching staff had already made it’s mind up before the third down play as they tried to sneak in a running play, with the full intention of going for it if they came up short. The ensuing fourth down play also came up short and the Cowboys came away with nothing.

Everyone cheers if the Cowboys convert there and you have to admire new head coach Mike McCarthy’s aggressiveness, but this showed a complete lack of situation awareness. The Cowboys defense had tightened up, making two straight stops, and the Rams offense never crossed midfield on their final four possessions. It was odd that McCarthy took such a risk, and ultimately it proved costly.

6. Final chance to win it!

Things looked bleak when the Cowboys had to punt the ball away with five minutes left in the game after Amari Cooper couldn’t hang on to a pass that was originally ruled a fumble (really?). The defense was at risk of having the clock run out on them as the Rams had three straight positive running plays. The Cowboys buckled down and were able to get off the field setting up one final chance to get the win. What else can we ask for, right?

7. Costly pass interference call

The Cowboys offense had one final shot to comeback, and it looked like they were going to do just that when Prescott hit Michael Gallup on a big 47-yard pass play that would’ve set them up 1st-and-10 inside the Rams 20-yard line. Unfortunately, Gallup got called for offensive pass interference for pushing off on Rams corner Jalen Ramsey.

8. Losing Jarwin

To add insult to injury, the Cowboys offense suffered a huge blow when Blake Jarwin left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury. As it turns out, it’s terrible news.

The young tight end was entering the season as the team’s no. 1 tight end with big expectations in the passing game. But just like that, Jarwin’s season comes to an end. Backup tight end Dalton Schultz had a good training camp, but just how effective can he be taking on a larger role?

9. Losing Leighton

Before Jarwin went down, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was seen walking into the x-ray room. He never returned and later was found to have a broken collarbone. The team is putting him on injured reserve. It’s a tough break for LVE as the Cowboys young linebacker missed seven games last year with a neck injury, so fans were already on pins and needles hoping his healthy held up. The Rams churned off 153 rushing yards, so not having Vander Esch around hurt. The team is already without Sean Lee, who started the season on IR.

10. The Eagles lost to the Washington team

It’s never good to finish the week with a loss, but at least the Cowboys didn’t lose to the Washington Football Team. That’s exactly what the Philadelphia Eagles did as they squandered a 17-0 lead. The win by Washington equals the same win total they had after 10 games last season.