A hell of a game on Sunday night. SoFi Stadium was impressive. Both teams showed up to play. The players gave it all they had. This is the Cowboys vs Rams Review. Time to crank up the Sports Van and rip some high speed takes.
Cowboys vs Rams Review
As previously stated, it was a hell of a game that was (mostly) well played by both sides. However, you can break down how each side handled key matchups and get a better feel for where these two teams are going in 2020.
Basic Game Formula
1 Aaron Donald > (Lawrence + Smith + Griffen)
Any argument? I didn't think so. There were mitigating factors of course. Key were the injuries to the Cowboys offensive line which got worse once the game started when they lost Cameron Erving putting rookie Terence Steele at RT which is where (amazingly) Aaron Donald immediately showed up. Everyone can do that math. Donald's impact was 60 minutes long. He is a beast and the best defensive linemen in the NFL. His singular impact was more than the Cowboys' three players combined.
Cowboys Offensive Line vs Rams Front 7
It wasn't just Aaron Donald the Cowboys had problems with. Michael Brockers and his line mates made plays when they had to the entire game. Elliott had 96 yards, 1 TD and a 4.4 average. He was "solid" but not spectacular. Prescott was 25/39 for 266 yards and 1 TD. Another "solid" performance. So the Rams got just what the needed from their defense which was to hold the Dallas offense to a "solid" outing as it would take something a bit more to win this contest. Cowboys "splash plays" were in the 12-18 yard category on the whole. Not nearly at the level the Rams delivered.
Cowboys Passing Game vs Rams DB's
Amari Cooper had 10 receptions on 14 targets while Jalen Ramsey was draped all over him. CeeDee Lamb went 5 of 6 targets, Gallup only 3 receptions on 5 targets and he got called for offensive PI on the biggest play of the game and ya, the two players had been physical all game long, and NOW was the time the ref threw a flag as the two players were hand fighting the entire route. A "solid" outing for the receivers as well but missed opportunities abounded.
The Rams McVay created the right game plan. He knew the Dallas pass rush was going to be a problem and he devised a flowing game plan relying on play action and quick passing routes underneath the coverage. Goff was getting rid of the ball faster than I have ever seen him do it and was able to keep the Rams in the game as a result. The 'Boys did manage to start getting to him which is how they came back and made a game of it. McVay kept running the game plan and Goff got better at it. Defensively they put Jalen Ramsey on Cooper and hoped for the best. It worked as none of the other receivers were able to deliver splash plays that made a difference.
On the other side of the field, McCarthy was "solid" but was outcoached in his game planning and his game-day execution. McCarthy's plan to use "help" on the right side for Erving went out the window with Erving who the coach should have known was at risk as he was rushed back from injury to start in the place of Collins. There was no "adjustment" made in the offensive scheme once he went down other than to suffer through it. McCarthy could have moved the pocket, shortened up routes, rolled out, ran more play-action, or switched to a power running game over the left side where Connor Williams and Tyron Smith were displaying great chemistry and physicality. Instead, he did ... nothing.
Wasn't one of the primary reasons Garrett was fired was ineffective game day responsiveness? Hmmmmm ...
11:47 left in the game with 4th and 3 from the LA 11 and the score DAL 17 LAR 20 McCarthy decides to put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands instead of tie the game. He decides to "go for it" which is what Jason Garrett was derided for not doing much of his head coaching career. It was the wrong call.
Possible Outcomes on 4th Down Attempt
- Convert a TD and the other team still has plenty of time on the clock
- Make the 1st and you may still have to settle for the FG
- Don't make the 1st and the other team has the lead and their FULL playbook as they don't need to score, just grind.
There are more "negative" results for this decision than good ones. And the worst thing of all is his defense had just stopped the Rams three consecutive times and had momentum! Tie the game and then let your defense pin their ears back as Goff would be throwing more with the team needing to score. McCarthy threw all of that away as the Rams stopped the play, regained momentum then used their full playbook to deliver a long drive.
Aren't bad game day decisions what Garrett got fired for? Hmmm ...
The bottom line - when the Time of Possession is Cowboys 24:22 Rams 35:38 and you have Ezekiel Elliott in your backfield, you just got outcoached.
Rear View Mirror
I get the disadvantage McCarthy and his coaches have vs teams that did not turn over their coaching staff this past offseason. Lack of time with the players greatly hampers how much scheme you can instill and how much familiarity you have with the individual pieces. The NFL doesn't care. The NFL will chew you up and spit you out no matter how many good excuses you have. The Cowboys talent level is there. This is an excellent group of players. Aldon Smith was reborn and the offense has the tools only needing some offensive line health to be virtually unstoppable. Just like last season, the thing that seems to be missing is a solid game day coach.
Game one loss is 100% on McCarthy. Honeymoon is over Green Bay Boy. Time to quit polishing that Super Bowl ring and deliver.
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on Twitter: Steven Van Over