This Sunday against the 8-5 Los Angeles Rams, the Dallas Cowboys (6-7) will face the team that knocked them out of the divisional round of the playoffs last January in a 30-22 gashing led by their running game. In analyzing this 2019 team, it isn't much of a stretch to point to that playoff beatdown to the Rams as the starting point for all the problems that the Dallas Cowboys have been dealing with in the 2019 season.
Though the Rams got off to a really good start in the first half of the game, the Dallas Cowboys found a way to get stops and hold them to field goals on their first two possessions. The bend-don't break defense was bending a lot early on, but when the Rams got to the Cowboys half of the field, the defense was holding up and making life very difficult for Jared Goff and the passing game. While they held them to field goals, it was evident that the Dallas Cowboys defense had little answers for the Los Angeles Rams' rushing attack.
On the Cowboys first drive of the game, they were able to go seven plays for 71 yards culminating in an Amari Cooper 29 yard touchdown reception from Dak Prescott. With the way that opening drive went, it looked like the Cowboys offense was in really good shape against the eventual NFC representatives for the Super Bowl. However, much like what has happened in 2019, the offense stalled early in the game and couldn't find their rhythm until they were down by two scores.
Led by C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley, Los Angeles ran the ball a total of 24 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. The Cowboys couldn't find an answer for the Rams running game and they went into halftime trailing 20-7. Though the final score was 30-22, they fell short because of their inability to sustain any drives in the first half.
Unfortunately, that has become a familiar refrain for the Dallas Cowboys during the 2019 season. Dallas' has struggled out of the gate on both offense and defense, found themselves in a sizeable halftime hole, only to storm back in the third and fourth quarters to make the game close and the final score more respectable.
Week 15 provides an opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys to make right everything that has gone wrong on the football field since that disappointing performance last January. A win over the Rams could very well provide them with the momentum they need to go on a deep playoff run in January.
The Los Angeles Rams come to Arlington, Texas on the heels of an impressive 28-12 win over the Seattle Seahawks in week 14. Their offense was balanced and very productive and their defense made life difficult on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.
Though it seems like a long shot, a win over the Rams, who are playing good football once again, would be a huge boost for the Cowboys as the season draws to the close.
The Rams are averaging 147 rushing yards a game the last two weeks and 31 points per game. The Cowboys have struggled to defend the run and haven't been able to prevent the opposition from building early leads for much of this season. Run defense and points allowed in the first half have been a huge issue for the Cowboys all season. Against the Rams, they can't afford to let them build a lead and take the air out of the football.
As good as Dak Prescott has been, playing from big deficits hasn't worked out for the Dallas Cowboys. They've put up big numbers, but they haven't been able to complete the second half comebacks.
I wonder why.
You can't ask an offense to play from 10 or more down every week and expect to win football games. This week against one of the better teams in the NFC, the Cowboys have to be right on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football from the opening kickoff.
As bad as this season has been, this game has the opportunity to be the catalyst to a deep playoff run for the Dallas Cowboys. Even at 6-7, they have the inside track to the NFC East and if starting with the Rams game on Sunday, they're able to roll off three straight wins to end the season, their confidence would be soaring heading into the wild card round of the playoffs.
The talent has been there for this team all season, but they've struggled against the better teams on their schedule. Aside from Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys are looking healthy heading into this NFC tilt.
With only three games left in the regular season, the Los Angeles Rams are the only opponent that could make everything that's gone wrong suddenly go right. If the defense can figure out a way to stop the run, improve their tackling, and force some turnovers, and the offense find a way to sustain more drives that lead to points in the first half, the Dallas Cowboys will have an excellent shot at pulling out the victory.
There's no time, and no opponent, that could offer the confidence and momentum boost that this team sorely needs to get back to playing the football that led them to the playoffs in 2019. If they're ever going to get right in 2019, this is the week it has to happen. Otherwise, you might as well start looking to free agency and the NFL Draft.