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Rams-Cowboys: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Vol. 5

Sean McVay gets his first appearance on the list while others stay the same

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

For two weeks in a row the Los Angeles Rams were beaten embarrassingly, this week falling to the Dallas Cowboys 22-10. For the second time this season, Los Angeles has fallen under the .500 mark and confidence in the team is at a low point just a season removed from a Super Bowl win. It is still early in the season but the 2022 season is eerily representative of the 2019 season that saw the Rams miss the playoffs following their Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots just a year before.

The good news? Everyone else in the NFC West seems to be losing too, except for the San Francisco 49ers who pulled ahead by a game after their destruction over the Carolina Panthers. If LA is unable to put together a string of wins by November it could also mean losing out on the chance to get Odell Beckham Jr. back on the roster—which is something that the team desperately needs.

This is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Vol. 5.

The Good

Aaron Donald

It has been a slow start to the season for number 99 and the rest of the Rams’ pass rush, but against the Cowboys, Donald notched two more sacks for his resume. The three-time defensive player of the year is proving that he can still be dominant in the league after flirting with the idea of retirement just months before the start of the season. Unfortunately for him the rest of his squad are not taking advantage of their one-on-one matchups. LA finished with three sacks—the third coming from Jalen Ramsey.

Tutu Atwell makes his first NFL catch... finally

The rapport with Atwell and Stafford has been non-existent leading up to Week 5’s matchup with Atwell’s fit in the offense questionable at best. He was a healthy scratch Week 4 against the San Francisco 49ers but made a reappearance on Sunday. After missing him on his first attempt, Stafford finally dropped a deep ball beautifully in the awaiting arms of Atwell for a 54-yard gain. The completion set up a much needed field goal to keep LA’s hopes of winning alive. Sure, it was one catch, but if by some miracle the offensive line can find its footing Atwell could be a huge threat going forward. It also begs the question why McVay did not call his name again during this game...

Cooper Kupp

Kupp currently leads the league with receptions with 49, is second in yards with 527, and tied for second in touchdowns with four—is it crazy to think Kupp might have a chance to repeat as the triple crown winner? It would be an understatement to say that the Rams offense runs through Kupp because Kupp is the offense. That could be problematic if teams find a way to shut down the Super Bowl MVP, but as of now no one has been able to. This season’s success relies heavily on the shoulders of number 10.

The Bad

Run defense

Rush threw 10 completions for 102 yards and zero touchdowns—mostly because the duo of Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard proved to be lethal. The two combined for 164 yards on the ground with 57-yards of it coming from Pollard’s impressive touchdown run. For the second week in-a-row LA’s defenders have had trouble with tackling and paired with bad gap integrity the unit has been susceptible to big gains. It will not matter who the other team’s quarterback is going forward if they cannot find a way to stop the run.

Sean McVay’s stock

Is McVay in a hot seat after losing in embarrassing fashion once again? Absolutely not, but the recent ineptitude of his offense lowers his credibility as the boy genius that won a Super Bowl back in February. The offense that has taken the field the last two weeks is more indicative of Jeff Fisher, and even then, at least Fisher attempted to run the ball. This is not the high-octane, awe-inspiring offense that we have grown to love the last five years. Honestly, I’m not sure what to call it—one thing is for sure though, McVay needs to find a way to help Stafford. The offensive line certainly is not.

Cam Akers

It is easy to put the blame on the offensive line when it comes to Akers ineffective rushing this season, but it could just be that he is not the same after tearing his Achilles just a year prior. He ended the game with 13 carries for just 33 yards, finishing with an average of 2.5-yards per carry and was dragged down behind the line-of-scrimmage four times. 13 of his 33 yards came on one play. It appeared for the first time this season that McVay attempted to feature one back the entire game with Darrell Henderson finishing with zero carries—I would argue he chose the wrong back to experiment with.

It is time to see what Henderson can do as the featured RB, who even without a single carry, found a way to be effective with four catches that went for 30 yards.

Special Teams

The only reason the Special Teams unit does not find its way to “The Ugly” category is because of Riley Dixon’s gutsy fourth down conversion in his own territory. The play could have been the momentum shift that was desperately needed but the offense did not capitalize on the special team’s efforts and Dixon ended up punting it anyways.

The rest was pretty bad. Dixon’s first punt of the game saw a free rusher come down the middle of the line and blow up the play before it even had a chance to materialize. Dallas recovered the blocked kick and had terrific field position—they very nearly were up 13 points before their offense even needed to take a snap.

Couple that with Matt Gay’s missed 51-yard field goal while the game was still on the line and you have a unit that very nearly earned my “Ugly” rating.

The Ugly

Allen Robinson

Regardless how many times McVay says he needs to get Robinson more involved in the offense the ball seems to never come his way. LA’s biggest free-agent signing hauled in three of his five targets for 12 yards—to put that in perspective Jake Gervase, the special-teamer, tied Robinson’s yardage output with his single reception. Maybe it’s because Stafford has no time to throw. Maybe it’s because Kupp demands most of the attention. Or maybe it’s just that Robinson does not get much separation.

Regardless of what it is something needs to change fast. This offense has become one-dimensional and predictable with little involvement from other receivers. It is still early in the season, but I’m not convinced Robinson was an upgrade over Robert Woods.

Offensive Line

Injuries? Sure. No Andrew Whitworth? Understood. The list of excuses for the line’s atrocious play could fill this page up but at some point someone needs to make a block. Stafford was again running for his life most of the game but was sacked five times by the end of regulation. It is hard to put any blame on LA’s quarterback for his turnovers when the defense is in the backfield seconds after the snap. The worst of it came on the Ram’s first drive of the game when Dorance Armstrong Jr. came flying through the line and forced the ball out of Stafford’s hands that was then scooped up and taken to the house for six.

Some blame also needs to be put on McVay’s play calling, however. LA only ran the ball 15 times and gave up on their backs early in the game. Without the rushing threat, the Cowboys defensive line pinned their ear backs and predictably rushed Stafford without remorse.

(1:04) “We’ve got to be able to run the football efficiently and when we do not run the football efficiently we’re having trouble protecting and being able to hold up and then you can’t give yourself a chance to let things develop. I love Matthew Stafford, he is competing and doing everything in his power for this team. He needs some help. We got to be able to help him”

Los Angeles has not found its identity on offense and they will need to quick if they have any hopes of competing in the playoffs this year. After another terrible outing from the offense it will be interesting to see what changes McVay makes by next week. Already he has utilized Ben Skowronek as a fullback to help create space in the run game, what will he have in his bag of tricks next week to help his line out?

What would you add or change to this list? Let me know in the comment below and let’s discuss!