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Cowboys grind out fourth win in a row over Rams, 22-10

It wasn’t pretty, but we are hardly used to pretty football this season. Those Ws are awfully nice-looking, though.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Pollard busted a big one.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Neither the Dallas Cowboys nor the Los Angeles Rams could muster much offense, but the Cowboys got help from their defense and special teams to manage another needed if unspectacular win, 22-10.

If there was a theme to this game, it was an inability on both sides to sustain offensive drives through most of the game. As a result, two really big scoring plays by Dallas wound up being enough to carry the day in a game that saw a ton brief possessions and punts. And on a day when the passing game was just not working for the Cowboys, they leaned on both their running backs in the fourth quarter to keep the chains moving and keep the ball out of the hands of the Rams. With the Dallas defense only having a couple of breakdowns all game, it was enough to get them to the win in a low scoring and at times rather unexciting game. For the second week in a row, the Cowboys would see things sealed by a late interception. And it was also more evidence of why Dak Prescott will take the starting job back as his fill-in only managed 102 yards through the air. It was still a win, the fourth in a row for a team that looked to be dead in the water after the first game when Prescott was injured. They now go into the next game with the Philadelphia Eagles having a chance to tie the division leaders with another win.

The Cowboys managed to take a 16-10 lead into halftime, but it should have been a bigger lead. Things could not have gotten off to a much better start when Dorance Armstrong came right up the middle on the third play of the game to get a strip sack of Matthew Stafford, which DeMarcus Lawrence promptly scooped up and took to the end zone. However, there was a shadow on the score as a miscommunication with new long snapper Matt Overton led to the extra point failing after the snap came before Bryan Anger was ready.

On the second Rams possession, the defense stiffened at midfield. Then Armstrong showed up again, blocking the punt and returning it to the Rams’ 20. It set the offense up for easy points, but Cooper Rush was wide on a third down throw to Dalton Schultz, and the Cowboys had to settle for a short field goal from Brett Maher.

Los Angeles had not done much offensively to that point, but they found a big play on their next possession when Stafford found Tutu Atwell for 54 yards all the way to the Dallas 11. The defense held them out of the end zone and they also had to settle for three.

Then the force known as Aaron Donald showed up. He beat Tyler Smith and sacked Rush on third down and the ball came loose. Smith alertly fell on the ball, but it forced a Cowboys punt.

L.A. and Dallas would each punt again after that, then Cooper Kupp embarrassed Diggs again. Coming out of the slot, he got a step on Diggs and went untouched 75 yards for the touchdown and a one-point lead.

The two big plays were really all that the Rams offense had mustered to that point, but the Cowboys needed to answer. CeeDee Lamb had a nice 16-yard reception to get things started, but Tony Pollard came up with his own big play. He went up the middle, shrugged off a Donald arm tackle, and shrugged off two more defenders on the way to a 57-yard score. That put Dallas back on top by six with a little over half the second quarter to play.

Not much else developed the rest of the first half other than a fake punt that kept a Rams drive alive, but they were unable to get close enough to attempt a field goal, although it did look for a moment that Sean McVay might have wanted to. He did not get a time out called before the punt, however, and the six-point margin still stood at halftime.

It was good to have a lead, but the comparative impotence of the Dallas offense was not great. They only ran 21 plays in the entire first half. Rush just attempted eight throws, completing five for only 49 yards. Aided by the long Pollard TD, the running game added 106, but this was still unimpressive.

For a change, the Cowboys got the ball to start the second half after winning the toss and deferring at the beginning. They would put together their best drive of the day, going 53 yards on 13 plays. Michael Gallup showed he is definitely back with another one of those toe-tapping completions on the sideline, this one for 26 yards on a third and 15 play. The drive still came up short, but a 40-yard Maher field goal pushed the margin back to two scores, 19-10.

One concern developed as Micah Parsons was seen limping and then riding a bike. It was an unwelcome sight, but he got back on the field and came up with a sack of Stafford to help force a punt. It was a good one, however, pinning Dallas at their own four. They almost got a first down, but a holding call on rookie Peyton Hendershot brought it back. Then Anger had his second bad punt in as many weeks, setting L.A. up at the Dallas 29-yard line. It looked certain to lead to points, but just as the referees took it away from the Cowboys, they pushed the Rams back with their own holding call. Matt Gay missed a 51-yard field goal wide right and the lead stayed the same.

What the Cowboys needed was a drive and hopefully points, but Lamb was unable to hang onto a ball that would have given them a first down. The resulting punt had L.A. at their 10-yard line.

The defense would force another punt, and this set Dallas up at their own 48-yard line. They would go to the run to get it into field goal range, where Maher would push the lead to 12 points with only five and a half minutes left to play. The Rams would have had to come up with two rapid scoring drives that they had not been able to muster except for the big Kupp play. But they got some help from a roughing-the-passer play against Dante Fowler, they got quickly into the red zone. A holding call drawn by Parsons pushed them back, although it was clear Parsons was fighting pain to be on the field. Osa Odighizuwa sacked Stafford to set up third and 13, and the pressure on the ensuing play led to a Malik Hooker interception on the Dallas four-yard line that effectively sealed the game with less than three and a half minutes left on the clock. Then Parsons absolutely slammed the door shut with the second strip sack of the day, part of a five sack performance by the defense that is carrying this team.

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