The 2020 NFL season is finally upon us, and the Cowboys will start their season on the road against the Los Angeles Rams. Both teams are looking to rebound after missing the postseason last year, but only one of these two teams can emerge with a win to start the year.
But what does history tell us about these two? The Cowboys and Rams aren’t exactly rivals, as they haven’t faced each other enough to count as such, but there is some recent history that has brought these two teams into conflict much more frequently. The Cowboys and Rams have played 26 regular season contests together and met each other in the playoffs nine times.
In those regular season games, Dallas has a 14-12 record but they are 4-5 against the Rams in the postseason. As a matter of fact, the last time the Cowboys played a playoff game was in Los Angeles; the Rams won that game by a score of 30-22 and Dallas dumped Scott Linehan for Kellen Moore as a result. To repay the Rams for this, the Cowboys thumped the Rams to the tune of a 44-21 beat-down in the final month of the 2019 season.
Overall, the Cowboys hold a narrow lead over the Rams in their head-to-head matchups with a record of 18-17. Despite not meeting very often, ten of their 35 total games have come in the last century. Oddly enough, their most consistent matchup period during that stretch came when the two teams met three consecutive seasons from 2006-2008. The Rams’ head coach all three of those years? Scott Linehan. Naturally, the Rams won two of those three games.
As for new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, he’s faced the Rams seven times in his 13 seasons with the Packers. Boasting a record of 5-2 against them, McCarthy’s two losses happened to be the first and last times he coached against them. In 2006, McCarthy’s Packers lost by a field goal to the Rams; in 2018, McCarthy’s Packers were 3-2-1 coming out of the bye against Sean McVay’s 7-0 Rams team and Green Bay ultimately lost by two points. His five wins over the franchise - during which he faced off against three different head coaches - saw a combined point differential of 147-64.
In short, McCarthy has a history of dominance over the Rams, and his two losses were within a field goal of yielding a different outcome. What this means for the Cowboys is unclear, but Sunday night offers a really good chance for McCarthy to notch another convincing win against the team.
The first ever meeting between the Cowboys and Rams came in 1960, Dallas’ inaugural season. If you’re familiar enough with Cowboys history, you already know how this one went. By a score of 38-13, the Rams beat the Cowboys, who went winless on the year. However, Dallas got revenge the next time they met with a 27-17 victory in 1962. Not only was it the Cowboys’ first win of the season, but it was the fifth win in franchise history.
The richest history between these two franchises, what was almost a rivalry, was when Tom Landry’s teams in the 70’s and early 80’s met the Rams eight times in the postseason. The Rams, first led by head coach Chuck Knox and later his former defensive coordinator Ray Malavasi, won four of those playoff matchups.
In recent years, Jason Garrett’s Cowboys were 3-0 against Jeff Fisher’s Rams, but 1-2 against McVay, including that fateful playoff loss that was really the beginning of the end for the Garrett regime.
Now, thanks in part to the Rams and that playoff game, Dallas has one of the hottest young offensive coordinators working with an experienced head coach who’s beaten the Rams time and time again. That doesn’t do anything to give the Cowboys an advantage, but it’s a fun narrative to keep in mind.
What’s more pertinent to a Cowboys victory, though, is the familiar staff McCarthy has put together. Special teams coordinator John Fassel, and his assistant Matt Daniels, came over from the Rams this offseason, as did running backs coach Skip Peete. Fassel, who’s been with the Rams the past eight seasons and spent three games as the interim head coach prior to McVay’s hiring, also brought kicker Greg Zuerlein from Los Angeles in free agency.
Perhaps that potential inside knowledge of the Rams’ schemes will help Dallas further expand the distance between the Cowboys and the Rams in their all-time record against each other. Either way, starting 1-0 is the primary objective.