The Dallas Cowboys head to Los Angeles Sunday with a three-game winning streak behind a backup quarterback and a top-ten defense. While the Rams are coming off a disappointing 24-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. America’s game of the week is shaping up to be a tough battle that will go down to the wire.
Dallas has been one of the biggest surprises of the NFL season because they are 3-0 with backup quarterback Cooper Rush starting in place of the injured Dak Prescott. While the offense hasn’t been spectacular, they are protected by the football better than any other team in the NFL. Their offensive line has been banged up on the left side, but players like Tyler Smith and Jason Peters have helped hold it together.
The Cowboys’ defense has proved to be a top-ten defense in the league thanks in part to the front seven with Demarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons playing well. Trevon Diggs highlighted the secondary with his two interceptions, but Donovan Wilson’s play shouldn’t be ignored as he has been laying out some big hits over the last few weeks. The only weakness of this defense is their rush defense as they rank 26th against the run.
This team’s strong start has given them confidence that they can compete with any team regardless of who their quarterback is. One concern is that many experts see this as this being their first big test of the season. Los Angeles will be their benchmark to see how good this football team is truly. From what Cowboys fans have seen so far, they seem to be up for the task.
Know The Enemy: Los Angeles Rams
It’s been an up-and-down season for the Los Angeles Rams in just four games so far in the NFL year. They started the season by getting blown out by the Buffalo Bills 31-10. In the next two weeks, the Rams defeated the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals but were close games. San Francisco played spoiler with their blowout win against the Rams on Monday night.
Matthew Stafford has put up good yards but leads the NFL with six interceptions through four games. The running game has been non-existent averaging 68.5 yards per game which are ranked 30th in the NFL. One bright spot in the offense has been Cooper Kupp who leads the lead in receptions (42), is fifth in receiving yards (402), and tied for second in receiving touchdowns (3). As for the offensive line, they are not been able to open up many running lanes and have allowed 16 sacks which are tied for second in the NFL heading into week five.
The defense has key players on defense that are considered the best at their positions including defensive lineman Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Los Angeles is ranked sixth in the NFL against the run allowing just about 92 yards per game. While they are strong against the run, their pass defense has taken a dip this season as they are middle of the pack in every pass defensive statistic.
Dallas Cowboys Injury Report
There are two players that have already been ruled out for the game on the injury report against the Rams which is quarterback Dak Prescott and offensive lineman Jason Peters. It was no surprise to many that Prescott would not play in the game as he probably needs one more week to recover from the thumb injury. Peters came up with a chest injury that left him doubtful for the game which will hurt the depth of the offensive line which has already been an issue early in the season.
A few players have shown up as questionable for the game. CeeDee Lamb and Tony Pollard came up as questionable which could be huge losses for the Rams as Lamb is their top receiver and Pollard can do so much in the running and passing game. Jourdan Lewis has had limited time in practice this week with a groin injury, but losing him would hurt as they need to be at full strength against the Rams’ passing game.
Offensive Storyline: Cowboys Establishing The Run
It has already been established that the Rams are good against the run which is a disadvantage for the Cowboys as they will need to lean on the running backs. Tony Pollard showed up in the injury report as questionable due to an illness which would be a major blow to the backfield if he can’t play. Pollard’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and run on the outside makes him a fun weapon on offense.
That would mean that the Cowboys leading rusher Ezekiel Elliot would be the lead back. While Elliot should have no problems handling the load, the Cowboys’ offense is more successful with shared carries with their backs. Dallas’ alternative at running back would be Rico Dowdle which would result in him getting a few carries, but Elliot getting more carries in the game.
It’s important for the Cowboys to get the running game going to help Cooper Rush out who already doesn’t have a receiving core that is 100 percent. Rush is not in a position right now where he can carry the team by himself and needs his running backs to create big plays. With Pollard, not 100 percent himself, it could present an opportunity for Elliot to have a big game in the most important contest of the season.
Defensive Storyline: Trevon Diggs Versus Cooper Kupp
There are a lot of highlights to this defense as they have proved time and time again how good they are against the pass thanks to their secondary. Their front seven has also been stellar when rushing the quarterback as they are top five in sacks and scoring defense.
This is key as Sunday fans will see one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL face off against one of the best receivers in the league. Kupp has had an odd history with the Cowboys as in three games against Dallas, he has recorded 61, 41, and 40 yards. Those numbers were against Cowboys secondaries that were not as deep or strong as the 2022 Dallas Cowboys secondary.
Trevon Diggs has not had the chance to face off against Kupp yet this season but has already shown that he has significantly improved in coverage. In four games, Diggs has just allowed 14 catches for 157 yards and one touchdown. Those stats alone should show that Diggs has become an elite shutdown corner who should have a good, competitive matchup against Kupp.
One thing that should be certain in Sunday’s showdown is Dallas is going to pressure Stafford early and often throughout the game. Dallas’ defense gets to the quarterback better than most teams in the NFL which should lead to a long day for Stafford. That pressure could lead to mistakes being made and players like Diggs making the Rams pay.
The question points toward the offense and what Rush can do to help his offense put points on the board. While the offense has been able to increase their points each game this season, Rush has to have his best game of the season and might need more than 25 points to make it a comfortable win for them. With the Rams’ tough front seven, it might be an up-and-down game for Rush and the offense.
Something that can’t be ignored though is Rush’s ability to come up big in the fourth quarter when he needs to score. Fans saw it in the Bengals, Giants, and Washington games this season. It could come down to a big Rush completion to Lamb or Noah Brown to set up kicker Brett Maher for a game-winning field goal. If the Cowboys stay within three points with two minutes left in the game, Dallas has a great chance of pulling off a big road win.