The NFL’s return to LA started off with a bang, as Dallas’ Lucky Whitehead returned the opening kickoff 101-yards for a touchdown. He made two defenders miss, found the crease, and took it to the house.
Case Keenum and the Rams start at the 40-yard line after Pharoh Cooper’s nice return. With Todd Gurely inactive, Benny Cunningham gets the start and runs average. After an illegal procedure penalty, the Rams go three-and-out.
Dak Prescott, the rookie quarterback from Mississippi St. gets the start for Dallas, and has an impressive first drive, including two backside shoulder fades to Dez Bryant that leads a touchdown. Even with Zeke Elliot out, the Cowboys make it work with Alfred Morris.
Cowboys lead Rams 14-0, 6:09 left in the first quarter
The Rams get the ball and drive down the field with help from a 20-yard swing pass to Benny Cunningham, and cap it off with a 14-yard run from Cunningham. He broke four tackles and made two Cowboys miss.
On the next Cowboys drive, Darius Jackson comes in to run the ball. The sixth round pick from Eastern Michigan has much to prove to this organization in order to make the team. With the stellar blocking from the offensive line, Jackson carries the ball four times for 20-yards. Even with Jackson’s impressive running, it is Dak Prescott who hits Terrance Williams on a go-route for a 32-yard touchdown. Williams ran a sweet route that featured a double move, inside and then back up. Prescott threw a perfect pass, falling right in Williams’ hands.
Cowboys lead Rams 21-7, 13:28 left in the second quarter
After two three-and-outs, Jared Goff, the number one overall pick, makes his debut. However, his first drive went nothing like Dak Prescott’s. Goff gets hit hard on a blitz by line backer Derek Akkune, forcing Goff to throw it away, right into the Cowboys’ hands. Mark Nzeocha snatches the ball for Dallas, fumbles it, and retains possession.
The next Cowboys drive, after the pick, did not go accordingly, however highlighted Prescott’s vision. After two penalties, a sack, and a horribly called screen play to Devin Street, it was third and 26. Prescott drops back, sees the lane, and rushes for 14-yards to get Dallas back in field goal range. Dan Bailey hits a 44-yard field goal to give Dallas a 24-7 lead late in the second.
Goff’s second drive goes better, but he overthrows Brian Quick on a deep route, which was double covered, and goes down for a sack on a crucial third down when they were in field goal range.
Halftime: Cowboys 24, Rams 7
The second half was a completely different story. Even with a fair mixture of second and third stringers, the Rams created a spark, and out came a flame. The Rams score on their first drive of the half, led by former Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion. Mannion’s play was not outrageously impressive, but he has heart, and he has read ability. He could’ve just played average but he played good, good enough to make it 24-21 with 7:07 left in the fourth, with two touchdown passes and one interception.
The Cowboys could not get anything done on offense with third string Jameil Showers. While Showers didn’t play terrible, he could not convert when necessary, throwing no touchdown passes and scoring no points in the second half. While Showers was playing flat, Mannion kept getting hotter and hotter, ultimately leading the Rams to a game winning touchdown pass to Aaron Green. The Cowboys would get a chance to score, but would come up short on a crucial fourth and one at the 50-yard line.
Players to Watch
One of the receivers to score on a Mannion pass was wide receiver Nelson Spruce. Spruce is a wide receiver from Colorado who went undrafted in 2016. With being an ASU fan, I watch more PAC-12 football than the rest, and this guy is special. He came from a lowly Colorado squad, and broke the all-time PAC-12 receptions. Even when the Sun Devils were destroying the Buffaloes, this guy would still have ten receptions for 100-120 yards. It seems as though nothing has changed since going pro, catching six balls for 51-yards, catching three in a row.
This guy played spectacular. Being a Cowboy’s fan, I get why everyone hates us. We see one mildly good thing happen and think we’re winning the Super Bowl, but this guy is different. He has a substantial amount of talent and athletic ability. He went up against some outstanding defenses in the SEC, so it doesn’t surprise me he played well. What does surprise me is his timing and arm strength. After his performance tonight, it’s safe to say Dallas has found their back-up.
Players on the fence
Keenum didn’t play bad but he didn’t play well either. He’s the veteran of the three quarterbacks, and he didn’t look any better than Mannion or even Goff. Personally I think Mannion played the best, and his victory shows that. If Keenum doesn’t start making some plays, he could see himself becoming the back-up.
The biggest thing I saw from this game was typical Dallas losing in typical Dallas fashion. Even if it’s only preseason, it’s still beyond frustrating. There is a big difference between some Dallas second stringers and third stringers. The first and second stringers played great, showing consistent hands, execution, and read ability on both sides of the ball. The third stringers looked flat. There were no major mistakes, but they kept giving up yards and eventual scores. The offense has minimal problems, mostly revolving around Alfred Morris’ average running, but that should be solved when Ezekiel Elliot recovers from his hamstring injury.
The Rams’ offense needs receiver talent, as the only reliable targets I saw were Brian Quick and Nelson Spruce. It’s unclear if Dallas’ offense is that good, or if the Rams’ defense is that bad. Either way, the Rams’ defense didn’t look very good. Their coverage was poor, along with their secondary speed. However, their offensive play with Mannion was crisp, and it won them the game.
It is too early to tell how good or bad either of these teams are, but with a few more games, the answer will be clear.