Posted on October 1, 2017, by Travis Pulver
One of the more intriguing teams of the 2017 season has been the Los Angeles Rams. Heading into Week Four’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, they were 2-1 with two 40+ point performances by their offense. Those 40+ point games came against two of the worst teams in the NFL (Indianapolis and San Francisco) so fans have been unsure how proud they should be.
Todd Gurley, however, had no doubts. After the Rams beat the 49ers on Thursday Night Football in Week Three, he called his shot.
“Like I said, we’re taking it game by game and just focusing on the future right now, man. Next week, we’ve got Dallas. We’ve got a little break. So we’re gonna whoop up on your ‘Boys,” Gurley said after the game (NFL).
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You could make an argument that he was right and wrong. He led the way for the Rams on the ground with 23 carries for 121 yards and added another 94 yards and a touchdown in the passing game. The touchdown reception (he had seven catches) was the game-winner, a 53-yard catch and run late in the third quarter.
“Me being able to step up takes a lot of stress off everybody, and we obviously have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things, just being able to have diversity on offense,” Gurley said after the game (KWWL).
His touchdown gave the Rams a 26-24 lead, and they never looked back. Greg Zuerlein tacked on three fourth-quarter field goal to make the final score 35-30.
So, on a personal level, he was absolutely right. But the Rams, as a team, certainly didn’t ‘whoop up on your ‘Boys.’
Both teams got off to slow starts in the first quarter. But once the Dallas offense got rolling in the second quarter—well, it rolled with three touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliot had two touchdowns, one receiving and one rushing, and accounted for 97 total yards on offense in the first half for the Cowboys.
It was a familiar formula. Lean on the run game with Elliot and supplement it with an efficient passing game. While the formula worked, the game went according to plan for the Cowboys. But in the second half, it didn’t work so well.
Dallas ran just 16 plays on their first four possessions of the second half and had only two first downs to show for it. This meant the defense was on the field an awful lot to start the second half. Much like last year’s group, the Dallas defense can’t handle being on the field for long periods of time.
The Rams first four possessions of the second half were a three and out, an eight-play drive that yielded a field goal, a four-play drive that produced a touchdown (thanks to Gurley’s 53-yard catch and run), and an 11-play drive that ended with another field goal.
“The margin is so small in this league,” tight end Jason Witten said (ESPN). “You have leads like that, you’ve got a chance to put them away, and we couldn’t do it.”
Playing without linebacker Sean Lee certainly hurt the Dallas defense, but the unit as a whole is not good enough to stay on the field as long as it did in the second half. While the Rams deserve plenty of credit for stopping the Dallas offense in the third quarter, the Cowboys made several costly mistakes as well.
Namely, they can’t seem to remember what works. Yes, more success on deep throws would be great. But when you win games with the run game and working the short to intermediate passing game, why bother with the deep ball? It’s a mistake.
If they want to win the close games like this one ended up being, they can’t make those mistakes. Last year, they didn’t make as many and didn’t lose those close games. This year, or least on Sunday, they did—and they lost.
Dallas is in store for another challenging game next week with the Green Bay Packers coming to town (4:25 PM ET kickoff). The Rams will try to keep the good times rolling against a division foe, the Seattle Seahawks (4:05 PM ET kickoff).