The Cowboys returned from their bye week with a vengeance, dominating the Rams to the tune of a 43-20 final score. This game got out of hand pretty early on, but these five plays were crucial in opening up such a large lead.
Illegal contact saves Cowboys opening drive
It’s hard to believe now, but this game started off miserably for the Cowboys. Dak Prescott was sacked on the opening play, and that was followed up with a run for four yards. Looking at third down with 11 yards to go, Prescott got sacked again.
However, a flag had been thrown in the secondary. Quentin Lake had been called for illegal contact early on in the play, a call that generated some debate from the broadcast crew. Either way, though, the penalty resulted in an automatic first down.
That proved to be crucial for the Cowboys. Those first three plays had been about as terrible a start to the game as possible, but the penalty gave them a second chance. They certainly did not waste that chance, either, but it was close to a three-and-out to start this one.
CeeDee Lamb’s yards after catch erase sack
The Cowboys weren’t out of the clear yet. They had been given new life with the illegal contact penalty, but on the very next play Prescott was sacked again, this time by Aaron Donald. Three sacks in four plays, and the Cowboys were looking at second and 17.
Prescott dropped back and quickly hit CeeDee Lamb on a quick curl route in the middle of the field, and the receiver did the rest. Lamb shook his defender right away and then turned on the jets, running through traffic to pick up exactly 17 yards and a first down.
After the sack on first down, it felt like this was going to be a long day for the offense, and having to pick up 17 yards felt impossible. But Lamb did it in just one play, and suddenly the floodgates opened for him and the rest of this offense, as Dallas scored a touchdown a few plays later.
DaRon Bland’s pick six opens things up
The Cowboys were forced to settle for a long field goal on their second drive, extending the lead 10-3. The Dallas defense had struggled on their first drive before tightening up near the endzone, but they knew they could do better.
Better came on the first play of the Rams’ next drive, when DaRon Bland did what DaRon Bland does best:
This marked Bland’s third pick six of the year, the most in a year for any Cowboy and the most by any NFL player since 2019. More than that, though, it very quickly put the Cowboys up 17-3 and marked the beginning of the “this is getting ugly” phase for the Rams.
Blocked punt results in a safety
The Rams were eager to get back on the field after the pick six and stabilize things. That never happened, as their first down play went for a loss of three yards and Matthew Stafford was sacked two plays later on a third and short. Just like that, the Rams were about to punt.
Then things got worse, as Sam Williams blocked the punt and watched it bounce out of the back of the endzone for a safety.
In the blink of an eye, the Cowboys were up by two more points and about to get the ball back. This was a disastrous turn of events for the Rams, and there was no end in sight.
KaVontae Turpin’s big return sets up easy touchdown
On that point, the Cowboys continued to put the pressure on. Following the safety, KaVontae Turpin fielded the punt and cut up the field before showing off his insane speed.
HUGE KaVontae Turpin returnpic.twitter.com/Dk6UoRmhRI— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) October 29, 2023
Turpin’s return went for a total of 63 yards and set the Cowboys offense up at the Los Angeles 13-yard line. It took exactly two plays for Prescott to find Lamb wide open in the endzone for a touchdown, upping the score to 26-3. With the way the offense was moving things in this game, they probably could’ve scored even without the big return, but Turpin certainly made things way easier for them.
In the span of eight successive plays, the Cowboys scored a total of 16 points and boosted their win probability by a total of 15 percentage points. The game was effectively over at this point despite the second quarter having just started. It’s plays like these that will give a team a win so early on in the day, and the Cowboys had an avalanche of those types of plays on Sunday.