The Los Angeles Rams lost 22-10 on Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys to fall to 2-3. It’s the worst start through five games in the Sean McVay era and the first time he’s been under .500 after Week 1. With back-to-back losses, the Rams’ issues seem to be snow-balling. The offense was shutout in the second half as the defense technically held the Cowboys to just 15 points.
In a game with such a low margin of error, it’s going to be decided by just a handful of plays. That was the case here against the Cowboys. A few plays go the other way or the Rams don't make an early mistake and it might have ended differently. Here are three plays that changed the game.
(13:27 - 1st QTR), 3rd-and-1 from LAR 34
You could argue that the Rams should have ran the ball here on third-and-1. However, in a short-yardage situation, that’s what the Cowboys could be expecting. The Rams go with a play-action fake and Dallas defense doesn’t bite at all.
With the blocking up front, Matthew Stafford doesn’t stand a chance. Dorance Armstrong comes in pretty much untouched by David Edwards and forces a fumble. Coming around on the right side, Demarcus Lawrence is able to pick up the loose ball and score a touchdown.
In a game such as this in which it’s going to be a defensive slugfest, this kind of mistake is almost impossible to come back from. A defensive touchdown can make all of the difference and it happened on the very first possession.
Again, you can argue that McVay should have gone with a conservative approach and ran the ball, but going play-action wasn’t a bad call. The Rams began immediately behind the eight ball after just three plays.
(7:59 - 2nd QTR), 1st-and-10 from DAL 43
Cowboys answer right back. Tony Pollard with the 57-yard TD run pic.twitter.com/EoICcW7nxO— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) October 9, 2022
For the most part, the Rams defense played a very good game. They held Cooper Rush to 102 yards passing. Taking away the 57-yard touchdown run, they held the Cowboys to just 3.8 yards per carry.
However, it’s the explosive plays that will hurt you the most.
Very reminiscent of the Jeff Wilson touchdown on Monday night, Tony Pollard broke through to the second level and two missed tackles in the secondary led to a touchdown. The play was perfectly blocked, but missed tackles by Terrell Burgess and Nick Scott did the Rams no favors. When you play a two-high shell like the Rams often do, your players on the backend need to be able to tackle.
The Rams offense had been struggling to move the ball and Cooper Kupp just scored on a 75-yard catch and run. This play by Kupp gave the Rams the lead after going down 9-0. The Pollard touchdown came on the very next Cowboys possession and took away all of that momentum.
Following the Pollard touchdown, the Rams lost 15 points in win probability according to ESPN Stats and Information. They went from having a 65.8 percent chance to win to the game essentially being a coin flip at 50.8 percent.
The defense played very well for the most part, but it was their one mistake that was very costly.
(00:30 - 3rd QTR), 1st-and-10 from DAL 29
Trailing 19-10, the Rams defense forced a three-and-out and after a nice return by Brandon Powell, the offense took over with good field position. The Rams needed a spark and that’s exactly what McVay looked for.
The offense has ran a tunnel screen to Kupp very frequently over the last few weeks. On this play, Stafford threw to Kupp behind the line of scrimmage and then had Cam Akers run a wheel-route on the opposite side.
Kupp under-threw Akers who was well-covered. However, if the Rams are able to make this play, it would have put the offense in the red zone with a good chance to come away with six points heading into the fourth quarter.
Instead, Ben Skowronek was called for holding on the next play. Two plays later, Matt Gay missed his first field goal of the season as his 51-yard attempt went wide right. The Rams had a good chance here with good field position to make this a one-score game. Instead, Dallas remained up by nine points.