Cowboys vs Rams film review: Standouts, notes, and observations

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 10: Dak Prescott /

The Dallas Cowboys fell to the L.A. Rams on Sunday afternoon. After reviewing the game, here’s who and what stood out…

Once again, the Dallas Cowboys turned in a signature Jekyll and Hyde performance. The first half of the game went swimmingly as the Cowboys put together one of their best –ever halves of football. Unfortunately for them things swung differently in the second half.

  • Dallas’ rushing game got off to a great start. Ezekiel Elliott had 56 yards and Alfred Morris had that spectacular 70-yard run. But poor blocking and lack of commitment from the coaching staff led to an impotent rushing attack in the second stanza. The Cowboys only collected 25 more yards on just seven attempts. And we wonder why they lost.
  • The Dallas Cowboys’ offense had 440 yards of total offense. That, combined with their 30 points should be enough to win most football games but when the defense gives up 412 yards themselves, it’s really anyone’s game. Throw in the -2 turnover differential and you can understand how this loss happened. Considering the Cowboys held the Rams to six field goals, this game had the potential to be so much worse.
  • The NFL’s leading pass-rusher may be DeMarcus Lawrence but he struggled making any impact on Sunday. With the exception of his 11-yard strip sack, “Tank” was a non-factor most of the afternoon. The rest of the defensive line was even worse. Rod Marinelli couldn’t even generate a rush using his traditional stunts and other games.
  • I’ve been critical of the Dallas pass-rush for quite a while. Even with the amazing early-season success by Lawrence, I remain skeptical of them all when they have to face a better-than-average opponent. Sunday’s affair did little to alleviate that concern. The Cowboys have to find a way to hurry the passer against challenging opponents, or this season will end the same way last season ended. Remember, awesome sack totals from the Giants and Cardinals do nothing to help you when you face good teams like the Falcons or Packers.
  • The offensive line is still struggling to regain 2016 form. Some blame it on the new personnel but everyone on the line has uncharacteristically failed in their assignments. Even the incomparable Zack Martin.
  • The linebacker corps all stunk. Every single one. Despite the gaudy tackle numbers, I’ve been a little critical of Jaylon Smith and here’s why: I call it the Keith Brooking mirage. Brooking, once considered one of the NFL’s best MIKEs, often led his Falcons team in tackles. But far too often those tackles came after unnecessary gains. He waited for the tackle rather than went to the tackle. Smith is far too aggressive to run the risk of permanently falling into this, but all tackles are not created equal and Jaylon is allowing too many yards before he ends the play. I’ll watch the coaches film to confirm but it seems to be the case again this week.
  • What’s frustrating from a film-watcher is that Cole Beasley is open so dang often, yet he’s targeted so infrequently. This season, opponents are making a concentrated effort to double “Bease” and that’s clearly deterring Dak Prescott from throwing his way. Still, Beasley is a matchup nightmare for defenses and Dallas needs to find a way to get him the ball. When the All-22 film becomes available I’ll focus on this a little more, but for now I’m fairly confident there were more missed opportunities with No. 11.
  • Noah Brown and Dez Byrant are two of the most physically imposing receivers in the NFL. Why don’t the Cowboys run a dozen plays out of “trips” and hit Cole Beasley or Ryan Switzer behind these fellas?
  • On Sunday the Cowboys unsuccessfully threw a receiver screen to Brice Butler. This clearly doesn’t play to Butler’s strengths as a better downfield threat. Again, if the big break-tackle guys like Dez and Noah aren’t getting the ball, then it should be the shifty and elusive guys like Switzer and Beasley running behind them. Terrance Williams and Brice Butler really don’t fit this part of the game.

Love Dallas sports? Apply here and join the team!

I’m gonna go ahead and preemptively throw this out there for next week – the Green Bay Packers have no idea how to defend a pass catching RB. I just watched the All-22 where they struggled against the Bengals, and Cincinnati repeatedly abused them by throwing to their halfback, Joe Mixon (who compares favorably to Zeke).  The Cowboys started toying with Zeke as pass-catcher on Sunday and they’d be wise to make that a big part of their game plan when they face Green Bay.

More from Sports Dallas Fort-Worth

  • Don’t underplay the performance of Anthony Brown. He may get beat for a highlight play every other week but the kid is progressing. He breaks up 3rd down passes every single week and plays smart and instinctively. He crashes, much like Jourdan Lewis, and doesn’t fear mistakes. He, Awuzie, and Lewis will redefine the Dallas secondary this next decade.
  • Xavier Woods is starting to look like the real deal at safety. It also helps that Jeff Heath looks so bad at safety. I’d be shocked if we didn’t see an increased workload for the rookie sixth-rounder.
  • The Dallas Cowboys historically love passing out the “11” personnel group but when they push every receiving target to one side, it’s also extremely beneficial to the Dallas run game. This seems to open up lanes and force opponents to neglect the short-side of the field.
  • The Cowboys didn’t always succeed in their stack release formations. Some of it is more than rubs, coverage, and leverage. It often comes down to communication, which is the number one thing I argue about in the Romo-to-Prescott handoff.

Next: Is Orlando Scandrick helping or hurting the Cowboys?

It’s not breaking news to report how coaching adjustments have plagued the Garrett administration over the years. Opponents all-too-often adjust at halftime while the Dallas Cowboys stand pat and subsequently get outsmarted. This was clearly the case again on Sunday when the Cowboys dominated the game early and gave it away late.