The Los Angeles Rams upset the Dallas Cowboys 35-30 on Saturday, October 1. It wasn’t a flawless game by the Rams, especially on defense, but second half adjustments were key in the victory. The Rams deserve a lot of praise to come into Dallas and leave with a win.
1. The game ball goes to coaching
What a difference in how adjustments were handled this year as opposed to the Fisher regime. Both sides of the ball composed themselves despite struggles early on. Head coach Sean McVay abandoned nothing, kept his composure, and displayed faith in his offensive scheme. The Rams faced a 17-6 deficit at one point, but he still fed the ball to running back Todd Gurley, and that proved to be effective. McVay threw in a few creative plays, but he still stuck with his routine offense.
Wade Phillips had to make plenty of defensive adjustments. The defense continued its struggles from the San Francisco game, but Phillips adjusted the pass rush and coverage in the second half. His decisions stifled the Cowboys offense and gave the Rams a chance to win the game.
There is still work to do. Despite all of the adjustments, the Rams allowed 440 total yards. They get a slight pass considering they competed against an elite offense, but the defense cannot continue to allow this many yards if the Rams are to make a serious playoff run.
2. Turnovers were the difference maker
Considering the close calls by both teams, it’s amazing that there were only two turnovers the entire game. The key turnover proved to be linebacker Mark Barron’s interception late in the fourth quarter. This game was ridiculously close, so there was no room for error by either team. Those two costly turnovers proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Cowboys.
3. Plenty of targets for Jared Goff
It was a quiet game for Goff’s top two targets from the 49ers game. Wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods were limited to 17 yards each. It didn’t matter much since Goff found other targets. Cooper Kupp returned after a quiet game last week with five receptions for 60 yards and one touchdown. Tight end Tyler Higbee made his presence felt as well. Perhaps the most important combination remains Goff to Gurley. The star running back’s improved role in the passing game brings back memories of the Greatest Show on Turf years. That’s a good thing.
4. Gurley is the best RB in the NFL
Gurley leads the league in rushing/receiving touchdowns with seven. He’s also second in rushing yards (362) and leads the NFL in all-purpose yards with 596. Looking past the numbers, Gurley has become an indispensable part of the Rams’ offense. I’m not sure if the Rams would be 3-1 this season without Gurley. Part of it has to do with the improvement of the offensive line and the more creative offensive scheme, but most of it is Gurley’s confidence. Last year, Gurley appeared to be going through the motions, but this season he has become a scrapper. He fights for every single yard, and has become the elite bruiser back that many believed he’d become.
5. Defense surrenders too many big plays on the ground
Don’t get me wrong, the defense played well in the second half, but they still gave up far too many big plays on the ground. Cowboys running back Alfred Morris would have been a non-factor in the game had the Rams not allowed the 70-yard run. The most frustrating aspect to the defense is its lack of attention to details. For example, linebacker Alec Ogletree could have prevented an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown had he done more than just attempt to push him out of bounds. It doesn’t matter if the Cowboys were driving or not, the next play could have been a turnover. It wasn’t just Ogletree either. Other Rams struggled as well. Phillips must demand 100 percent effort if the Rams want to continue their modest winning streak.
6. Don’t forget about “Legatron”
It’s difficult not to appreciate someone as consistent as punter Johnny Hekker, but there is another special teamer that has had an impressive season so far. Greg Zuerlein leads the league with most field goals made and attempted. The once-maligned kicker boasts a perfect 14 of 14 mark on field goals thus far in 2017. This is great news for the Rams, because his confidence appears to be back after having a disappointing season in 2015. He improved in 2016, and now appears to be on track for a breakout season. Zuerlein deserves credit for turning his career around.