Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys - Week 1 recap
3 keys to win
1.) McVay's rebirth
This is up there in the top tier of the best games Sean McVay has had as the Rams' head coach. From the opening gameplan to the adjustments in the 2nd half to the cleanliness of play, this was a team that was clearly ready for Week 1 (a) after the most disruptive offseason and preseason ever and (b) capping off a day of football when that disruption clearly affected the quality of play across the league.
From 2014 on at the back half of the Jeff Fisher era, you could point to the roster and say, "This isn't the reason we're losing these games."
Sean McVay gave fuel to the idea that if the roster faces some spots on the timeline where it might not measure up to previous high marks that he can elevate the quality of play out of whoever he's got.
2.) 2nd half defense
If we're crediting the coaching (and we should), we also have to give credit to the defense in the second half against what will prove to be one of the better offenses in the NFL this year.
The Rams allowed just 3 points in the second half and were fantastic on 3rd downs. Credit all around, because it took every unit to step up. They did.
3.) Offensive 3rd down success
The Rams were nearly perfect on 3rd & 6 or less. They're not going to be anywhere near as successful throughout the year, because that was a masterclass in moving the chains.
5 key factors revisited (from game preview)
1.) The offensive line
This was exactly the kind of game the offensive line needed, because it showed both what we should expect and what is needed.
You shouldn't expect this to be a top 10 line. It's going to require systemic support (12 personnel, quick passing concepts, lateral motion, and more). But that's ok, because as we saw that can be enough. It's not just that the Rams won. It's that, had they been better in the red zone, they would have been up big time early and opened more of the playbook throughout the field.
Very bad line play helped limit the Rams to nine wins last year. Better play = ...
2.) K Sam Sloman
TBD! MOVING ON.
3.) The pass rush
Not great overall, but came up huge late with the sack from Leonard Floyd and a nice pressure from Jachai Polite to disrupt Dak on 3rd down. Will need to be better overall, but that's ok.
4.) The run game
Not great considering the volume, but a good game to implement a heavy workload and adjust moving forward. Malcolm Brown got 18 carries and Cam Akers took 14. That's going to pay dividends overall moving forward on a night where the ground game helped keep the chains moving.
5.) Fan Favorite Troy Hill
The secondary was fantastic all night, and Hill was a major reason why. Amari Cooper did most of his work underneath against a soft defensive middle (more on that this week), and rookie starlet CeeDee Lamb didn't go off. It was a very, very strong first Week 1 start for Hill.
BONUS.) 12 personnel
We saw quite a bit of it, though not a majority. The Rams dropped it in throughout and leaned on it late to try and close out the win. We even saw one snap to my recollection in 13
3 key matchups revisited (from game preview)
1.) Rams EDGE rusher TBD v. Cowboys RT Cameron Erving
Not only did this prove to be a key matchup, it was made even more key (keyer!) when Erving was surprisingly replaced by UDFA rookie OT Terence Steele. He didn't play well, but what is to be expected from an undrafted player in Week 1 of their rookie season? What a huge matchup this turned out to be.
2.) Rams CB Troy Hill v. Cowboys WR TBD
He was great all night, but we should also highlight CB Darious Williams who was fantastic as well.
3.) Rams safeties v. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott
I expected to see Taylor Rapp more, but I wonder if they were taking it easy on him coming into the season with a lingering knee issue. If not, the selection of Jordan Fuller was more down to his play, and wow did he ever step up. Fuller led the team in tackles and was great in coming downfield to support the linebackers. Johnson wasn't attacked much at the back as Cowboys QB Dak Prescott was wise not to try and test the strongest part of the Rams defense. He kept going at the middle for good reason, so it negated JJ3 a bit. Overall, a very good showing for this unit.
I kinda feel bad giving him a grade tonight because so much of what he did was predicated by McVay and expected pressure. He didn't really make any key mistakes overall, but the level of difficulty was extremely low. Good first game to get under his belt given the quality of opposition. That throw to Van Jefferson though bumps this from a B+ into A range.
Not a ton of room to work with, but Cam Akers didn't do anything with it either. I'd have put them in the C range for that, but Malcolm Brown really powered through some tackles for extra yardage that made a huge difference and was not at all attributable to the lin.
Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp were their usual fantastic selves, and Jefferson made that really nice grab. But Josh Reynolds might have contributed the play of the game on his 3rd down conversion. That catch opened the door for what would be the game-winning score.
A plus in run support and Higs made some nice plays. Lack of run blocking exceptionalism and Young Gerald's drop (don't do that again, man...) nearly brought this into C range.
It wasn't bad! It wasn't good, but it wasn't bad! And considering this was the Dallas Cowboys, this is a performance they can hand their hat on. If they play this well against lesser fronts, they're going to have a much better 2020 than 2019. Nice first outing overall.
TONS of good tape in pass and run defense. Aaron Donald continues to be the best of the best, but he had some teammates up front tonight doing work. Nice game.
Tempted to go D+, but this was really a tale of two halves. They were poor in the first half but really stepped up in the second. They're in a tough spot with SEVERE talent limitations, but the second half at least helped them get through this. They'll have better nights as the season goes on.
Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill and Darious Williams were fantastic. Sure, the late call was soft. Doesn't change the quality of their play over 60 minutes.
Considering how much Fuller played, this was a brilliant opening performance from this group. Really, really good night from the last line of defense.
It was only Week 1, but this was a playoff-caliber game. Really good football from both teams who should be expected to be in the mix in December as long as both stay healthy enough.
Not sure you can praise the Rams' defense more for their final 30 minutes. Dallas has a ton of firepower on offense and Mike McCarthy is going to blow some teams out with that side of the ball this year. That it didn't happen tonight is commendable beyond description.
Just a fantastic gameplan from Sean McVay early on too. Goff was dealing, the offense was spraying all over the place, and the Cowboys' defense looked completely out of sorts in the first half. Some stronger red zone execution, and that looks veeeeeeeeeeeeeeery different.
Great start to the season. Lots to work on, but much of it can get tweaked to go from good to great if it's sustained.