The Dallas Cowboys opened up their season on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams. Although the Cowboys were favorites to win the game, things didn’t go according to plan.
The Cowboys lost by a score of 20-17. Even though the score may not indicate it, the Rams controlled the majority of the game. Here are five things we learned about the Cowboys in their week 1 matchup against the Rams.
The Cowboys Defense Needs Help
Although only giving up 20 points is a big accomplishment, Los Angeles owned the time of possession. The Rams’ time of possession was 35:38 compared to the Cowboys 24:22. With the Rams playing their no-huddle, fast-paced offense, there’s no reason for the Cowboys’ defense to be on the field for 59 percent of the game.
The Rams were also 9/17 on third-down conversions and had Malcolm Brown run for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
Although the Cowboys pass rush is supposed to be elite, they only had one sack against Jared Goff. Despite this, there is no reason to panic as Goff and the Rams love to get the ball out quickly, which makes it almost impossible to get any sacks.
With Leighton Vander-Esch on the IR (suffered a broken collarbone in week 1), who else will step up for this Cowboys defense?
As the Cowboys restructure contracts to free up cap space, is it time to sign Earl Thomas?
Ezekiel Elliott is Elite
The focus of the Cowboys offense is undoubtedly Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott had another fantastic game Sunday night against the tough front seven of the Rams. He had 22 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown. Elliott also contributed in the passing game as he had three catches for 31 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, Elliott had a game-high seven rushing first downs.
Although the Cowboys weren’t at full strength at the offensive line position with La’el Collins out, Elliott still had a productive game. He finished the game with 4.4 yards per carry (YPC) and showed everyone why he is a top running back in the league.
Mike McCarthy Takes Risks
In a critical fourth down in Rams territory at their 14-yard line, McCarthy chose to go for it on fourth-and-3 rather than take the three points. With 11:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were down by three points and a field goal would have tied it. However, McCarthy wanted to take the lead and not settle for a field goal.
McCarthy was asked about his decision after the game.
“I just felt really good about how we were moving the football,” said head coach Mike McCarthy.
This turned out to be the deciding factor in the game as the Cowboys did not get any more opportunities to score. Although this one didn’t go Dallas’ way, look for McCarthy to keep being aggressive late in games.
Cowboys Offense Struggled
A team that has many offensive superstars really struggled to move the ball on Sunday night. Dak Prescott’s performance wasn’t awful by any means as he finished with 266 yards and one touchdown. As mentioned earlier, Elliott had a fantastic game. Also, the receiver corps had a very solid game as Amari Cooper had 10 catches for 81 yards and rookie, Ceedee Lamb, had five catches for 59 yards in his NFL debut.
However, the Cowboys’ offense only scored two touchdowns and none in the second half. After half, the Cowboys had three punts and two turnover on downs with only one field goal coming late in the third quarter.
Dallas only gained 134 total yards in their six drives in the second half. The talent is there, but going 2-4 in the red zone is a bit of a problem.
After the game, Elliott was asked about the offensive struggles.
“We got to be better as an offensive unit. We got to covert those third downs and keeping the ball moving,” said Elliott. “It’s got to be mandatory when we get to the red zone we score touchdowns.”
The Cowboys will be without their starting tight end for the season, Blake Jarwin after he tore his ACL in the second quarter of Sunday’s game.
It’s Week 1 No Need to Panic
With no preseason and a very unusual training camp, teams were definitely going to be slow out of the gate. That was on full display for the Dallas Cowboys in week 1. Nevertheless, It’s a long season and the Cowboys are going to figure things out.
Furthermore, as history shows, teams don’t fare well with new coaches in week 1. In week 1 in 2020, new head coaches are 1-4 with Ron Rivera being the only new head coach to win. Last season, new head coaches were 1-7, with Matt LeFleur (head coach of the Green Bay Packers) being the only new head coach to be victorious in week 1.
Also, in the Dak Prescott era, in every season the Cowboys lost their season opener, they made the playoffs. On the other hand, every season that the Cowboys won their season opener, they missed the playoffs.
At the end of the day, there are 17 weeks to a season. Week 1 is just the beginning, teams are going to improve and understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Featured Image Courtesy of Getty Images
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