Mandatory Credit: Photo by Louis Lopez/CSM/Shutterstock (13452434bm) Inglewood, CA.Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott #21 runs in action in the fourth quarter during the NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys at the SOFI Stadium in Inglewood, California..The Dallas Cowboys defeat the Los Angeles Rams 22-10.Mandatory Photo Credit: Louis Lopez/Cal Sport Media NFL Cowboys vs Rams, Inglewood, USA – 09 Oct 2022
The Cowboys were committed to the running game on Sunday.
They used running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in a way that kept the Rams’ defense off balance all afternoon.
“These two backs, as far as keeping things going and staying in the flow of your offense, that is a tremendous asset for us offensively,” head coach Mike McCarthy said.
Of the 50 offensive snaps by the Cowboys in the game, 30 were runs that totaled 164 of the 266 total yards gained in the win.
“You look at last week (against Washington) we committed to. (the run), but it wasn’t very efficient,” Elliott said. “So, it was a hell of a way for the offense to respond this week, flip that around. … We were able to control the game. We just have to keep getting better.”
Elliott was the hammer, continually pounding the inside of the Rams’ defense. Like a battering ram, Elliott bounced and blasted his way to 78 yards on 22 bruising carries.
“I thought Zeke was outstanding,” McCarthy said. “Just the physicality that he ran with (on Sunday).”
Elliott finished with a long of just 12 yards, but he continually made defenders pay for trying to tackle him.
The Cowboys countered with Pollard, who battled an illness all week, for the home run.
“Have to give a lot of credit to Tony,” McCarthy said. “Tony had the stomach virus on Friday and Saturday and was under the weather.”
Despite the illness, Pollard didn’t miss a beat.
With the Cowboys committed to running between the tackles, Pollard was able to use his shiftiness for the explosive runs they needed to make the offense roll. He finished with 86 yards on just eight carries, with a long of 57 yards for the Cowboys only offensive touchdown of the game.
“The O-line did their job, and they opened up a big lane for me,” Pollard said about his big TD run. “I exploded through it, broke a couple arm tackles. I had receivers downfield blocking for me, and we made it into the end zone.”
“With Tony and Zeke, having those guys healthy and being in there, you want to get those guys opportunities,” said offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. “We worked a lot through training camp on those opportunities, and the ways these games have gone, they have provided us with opportunities to get those touches. Last week we got a bunch of carries but didn’t get the explosives. This week we kind of got a couple of the explosives. Those kind of shift games.”
Despite a big day on Sunday, yards have been hard to come by for the running game this season. Elliott has just 227 yards on 59 carries this season, while Pollard has chipped in with 162 yards on 36 carries.
The Cowboys will need more of the running game they put forward against the Rams as they get into the heart of the schedule.
Growing pains for rookie tackle
Offensive tackle Tyler Smith had a rough first half against the Rams but was back to clean play in the second half on Sunday.
Smith, who played every offensive snap, was matched up most of the day across from Rams defensive ends A’Shawn Robinson and All-Pro Aaron Donald, so it is hard to blame the rookie for any mistakes he made.
“It was an education for sure, going against somebody like that,” Smith said about his battle with Donald on Sunday. “He is a great competitor. I didn’t do all the things I wanted to do, but I definitely learned from everything. He is just a great player. I can’t say it enough; he is a great player.”
Smith, who has played 311 snaps this season, committed two holding penalties in the first half.
“Tyler had a difficult matchup out there,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. “They did a really good job of scheming us up.”
Smith quickly learned from his mistakes and played a clean second half.
“There is a lot of poise things you can learn from,” Smith said. “You have to keep your poise in the NFL. Not every snap is going to go your way. You may fail once or twice, but you gotta keep your poise throughout the game and understand that the next snap is all that matters.
Through five games this season, Smith has committed three holding penalties and two false starts while facing two of the NFL’s better pass rushes in Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Rams.
He has allowed three of the nine sacks the Cowboys have given up this season.
Sack total rises
The Cowboys added five more sacks in their win over the Rams on Sunday to their team total of 15 sacks through the first four games.
That puts this 2022 version of the Doomsday Defense second in the league through five weeks, trailing only the 21 sacks recorded by San Francisco through the end of their 37-15 win over Carolina last Sunday afternoon.
“We are for real,” linebacker Micah Parsons said. “Just like the year before, I don’t care what people had preseason. I don’t care what people have said about us. … We are going to keep proving this every week.”
Defensive end Dorance Armstrong got to Los Angeles quarterback Matthew Stafford on the Rams third offensive snap, knocking the ball free while recording the sack.
“We want to start fast and control the tempo,” Armstrong said. “I just want to be as dominant as I can, always make plays, and know that we were the better D-line (in the game).”
Parsons pulled down two more sacks, upping his total on the season to a half dozen. Defensive tackle Osi Odighizuwa and safety Jourdan Lewis earned the other sacks.
With six sacks through five games, Parsons is tied for the league lead with San Francisco’s Nick Bosa and New England’s Matthew Judon.
Parsons, Schultz limp out of SoFi
The Cowboys had two starters get banged up in their win over the Rams.
Linebacker Micah Parsons injured his groin in the first quarter but was able to play through it for the rest of the first half.
“This is a rare competitor,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said about Parsons. “It would take a hell of a lot to keep him out. So, if there’s a way, he’ll find it. He is just so driven in that space. … Him saying that I may not be able to do some of the things that I can normally do, but I know I can do these things well. Once he said that, I knew we were going to get him for a part of this half or a part of the game, and we would feature him in those ways. And he delivered like he normally does. I didn’t find it out yesterday, but I do know in my heart that this is a rare competitor that is just always up for the challenge.”
In the second half, with the Cowboys holding the lead, Parsons mainly played in passing situations where he could rush the quarterback as his primary responsibility.
“When Micah had the tight groin, we limited some of his snaps in the second half,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “The ones he did play on, he was impactful.”
Parsons played 46 of a possible 64 snaps in the game, finishing with five tackles and a forced fumble.
“There is nothing I wouldn’t do to get out there on that field,” Parsons said. “
While Parsons was fighting through an injury, the same was happening on the offense with Dalton Schultz.
The Cowboys starting tight end, who missed the Week 3 win over the Giants with a sore left knee, hurt the same knee in the win over the Rams.
Schultz banged knees with a Rams defender in the second quarter and limped off the field. He did return to block on a few plays in the second half but finished only playing 10 snaps in the win.
Both Parsons and Schultz could be added this week to an injury list that still includes quarterback Dak Prescott, with the possibility of all three playing this week in Philadelphia.
“If I’m alive, I can go,” Parsons said after the win over the Rams.
Cowboys improve record vs. Rams
With the win over the Rams on Sunday, the Cowboys improved to 19-18 all-time against the team that has called Los Angeles and St. Louis its home at different times.
By moving over .500 against the Rams, it leaves just five teams that the Cowboys have an all-time tied or losing record against – Las Vegas/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (6-7), Cleveland Browns (14-18), Denver Broncos (5-9), Green Bay Packers (17-20) and the Baltimore Ravens (1-5).
Now in their 63rd season, the Cowboys have 542 wins in 952 games. They are 243 wins behind Green Bay and Chicago for the most wins all-time with 785.