Rams vs. Cowboys: A look at how the teams match up
When Rams have the ball
The Rams’ offense appears to be back — though not in the way it mostly dominated opponents in 2017 and 2018. Coach Sean McVay has once again made star running back Todd Gurley the focal point, but as of late he has utilized two tight ends and personnel packages that have caused major fluctuations in snaps played by members of the receiving corps. Whether he sticks with that format against the Cowboys remains to be seen. Gurley carried 23 times for 79 yards and a touchdown, and caught four passes for 34 yards last week in a 28-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. For the second game in a row, quarterback Jared Goff benefited from Gurley’s presence, using play-action passes to receiver Robert Woods and tight end Tyler Higbee with repeated success. The offensive line, regarded as a patchwork four weeks ago, has developed into a reliable unit. Right tackle Rob Havenstein is recovered from a knee injury but McVay seems reluctant to replace rookie Bobby Evans at that spot. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is the father-in-law of Rams’ linebackers coach Joe Barry. Former Rams edge rusher Robert Quinn has 9½ sacks and end DeMarcus Lawrence has five sacks for a Cowboys defense that ranks ninth in the NFL. The Cowboys, however, are tied for last in the league with only two interceptions.
The Rams are a winning team with Todd Gurley running the ball, so why did Sean McVay hesitate so long to use him this season? Will it cost them a playoff berth?
When Cowboys have the ball
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is in the midst of a salary drive. The fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft is completing 66% of his passes, 24 for touchdowns, with 11 interceptions. Prescott, who is earning a little more than $2 million this season, has passed for a league-leading 4,122 yards. He also has rushed for three touchdowns. Prescott directs one of the NFL’s most productive offenses under first-year coordinator Kellen Moore. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has rushed for 1,071 yards and nine touchdowns. Receiver Amari Cooper has a team-best 70 receptions for 1,054 yards and eight touchdowns. Receiver Michael Gallup and tight end Jason Witten have combined for six touchdowns. Since getting run over and picked apart in a 45-6 rout by the Baltimore Ravens, the Rams’ defense played well in a 34-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals and in the 28-12 victory over the Seahawks. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey has not intercepted a pass in seven games with the Rams, but his ability to essentially shut down one side of the field has enabled the unit and other players to prosper. Aaron Donald has 11 sacks and edge rusher Dante Fowler nine for a defense that ranks seventh in the NFL in yards allowed and 11th in scoring defense.
Rams will need to handle the Dallas Cowboys’ playmakers to continue their push for a playoff spot.
When they kick
The last time Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein played in AT&T Stadium, he kicked seven field goals in a 35-30 victory. Rookie Nsimba Webster made his NFL debut as a punt returner last Sunday against the Seahawks. Rookie Darrell Henderson returns kickoffs. The Cowboys released kicker Brett Maher last week and signed UCLA product Kai Forbath. Former Rams receiver Tavon Austin has averaged 4.8 yards per punt return.
Gary Klein’s prediction
The Rams are playing with confidence after defeating the Seahawks — and there is no question that McVay is in charge. The Cowboys can match the Rams’ talent but they have not performed for coach Jason Garrett. Owner-general manager Jerry Jones has not been happy — and he won’t be Sunday.
RAMS 30, COWBOYS 27
Go beyond the scoreboard
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