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Rams at Cowboys now a ‘must win’ game, after LA’s disappointing loss to Pittsburgh

Los Angeles risks falling far in the NFC standings with another loss, a stark contrast from last week’s optimism

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

The Los Angeles Rams lost a close game to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, in what felt like a repeat of previous losses this season. All four defeats thus far have pretty much gone the same way, starting with an inconsistent first half of offense, gaining the lead through the middle of the game, and giving it away in the end.

I understand there was a controversial call when it seemed relatively clear that the Rams had stopped the Steelers on a crucial 4th down late, however LA still would have had to go down the field and score just to tie it, which at that point in the game, they we’re struggling move the ball on offense and would have been no guarantee. I refuse to blame the refs solely for the loss, and if anything, kicker Brett Maher’s missed field goals and extra point, which essentially accounted for a loss of seven points, were much more to blame (it also happens to be the exact amount that the Rams lost by). Maher was released by the team Tuesday morning, most likely based on his struggles in the game.

By all accounts the Steelers are not a bad team, but they certainly do not have the feel of one of the top teams in the AFC. This loss now forces the Rams to head to a tough 4-2 Dallas team, under .500, and on the outside looking in on the current NFC playoff picture.

It’s a tough pill to swallow considering that if they had won in Pittsburgh, a game they led in the third quarter 17-10, they would be 4-3, have the 7th seed in the NFC, and with San Francisco’s second consecutive loss Monday night, be only one game back in the NFC west.

Now given the loss, that all looks much different. The Rams are in a three way tie with the Vikings, Commanders and Saints at 3-4, outside of the playoffs, under .500, and one game back from the Bucs, who currently hold the 7th seed, led by Rams former QB Baker Mayfield. They also fall another game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, who picked up a win against the division rival Arizona Cardinals.

Since 1990, only nine teams have made the playoffs after going 3-5, something LA risks with a loss at Dallas this weekend, making this game feel much more like a “must win” than it would have if the team was 4-3. In a scenario where the Rams happen to lose to Dallas this week, a 4-4 record in a wide open NFC would be more manageable than potentially now going down two games under in the win-loss category at 3-5.

4-4, and getting even again, is now a needed consolidation prize dependent on a victory.

It’s not all bad for Los Angeles though, while the Rams lost to Dallas last year during an injury filled 2022 season, they are 2-2 in the last four contests, with LA picking up the biggest win out of the four, a 2019 playoff victory that saw RB C.J. Anderson, who was newly added to the Rams roster, basically come in off his couch and have a two touchdown, 123 yard game for LA on route to their first Super Bowl appearance under head coach Sean McVay.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This time around, the Cowboys defense will be without their star cornerback Trevon Diggs, who was placed on IR early in the season, as well as their starting middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who was also placed on IR just last week. LA’s Kevin Dotson and Rob Havenstein had good games on the offensive line against the Steelers according to PFF, however left tackle Alaric Jackson struggled. Blocking will need to be excellent on Sunday to keep Dallas’ All-pro linebacker Micah Parsons off of QB Matthew Stafford if the Rams hope to walk out of AT&T Stadium with a win.