Dak Prescott, Cowboys Fall to Rams in Opener Despite Ezekiel Elliott’s 2 TDs

Los Angeles Rams running back Malcolm Brown (34) celebrates his rushing touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Rams won SoFi Stadium’s debut as the hosts defeated the Dallas Cowboys 20-17 on Sunday.

Rams running back Malcolm Brown gained 110 scrimmage yards and scored two touchdowns, and wide receiver Robert Woods led L.A. pass-catchers with six receptions and 105 yards.

Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott amassed 127 total yards and two touchdowns. Amari Cooper caught 10 passes for 81 yards.

Dallas lost linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (fractured clavicle), offensive tackle Cam Erving (potential left MCL sprain) and tight end Blake Jarwin (potential torn ACL) midgame due to injury.

Notable Performances

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott: 25-of-39, 266 passing yards, 1 TD; 3 carries, 30 rushing yards

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott: 22 carries, 96 rushing yards, 1 TD; 3 receptions, 31 receiving yards, 1 TD

Cowboys WR Amari Cooper: 10 receptions, 81 receiving yards

Rams QB Jared Goff: 20-of-31, 275 passing yards, 1 INT; 4 carries, 15 rushing yards

Rams RB Malcolm Brown: 18 carries, 79 rushing yards, 2 TD; 3 receptions, 31 receiving yards

Rams WR Robert Woods: 6 receptions, 105 receiving yards

Rams Don’t Miss a Beat With Brown Leading Rushing Attack

The Rams released former franchise running back Todd Gurley, who the team inked to a four-year, $60 million extension in 2018, in the offseason. Instead, they turned to veteran Malcolm Brown and second-round rookie Cam Akers to lead the way.

Day one without Gurley was a success as Brown finished with 18 carries for 79 yards and a pair of scores in addition to three receptions for 31 yards. Akers wasn’t as efficient with 14 carries for 39 yards, but the run game ultimately helped propel the Rams to a win.

Much credit goes to the Rams offensive line, who expertly paved the way for Brown all night and protected Goff well enough that he fell victim to just three quarterback hits with one sack.

Ex-Pittsburgh Steelers safety and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark shouted out the O-line:

Ryan Clark @Realrclark25

The Rams offensive line is playing much better than they did last year and it’s showing in the run game, & Goff’s play.

Rams and Pac-12 Network play-by-play announcer J.B. Long did as well:

J.B. Long @JB_Long

Rams don’t punt in the first half, but settle for 3 FG attempts and miss one of them.

End up trailing 14-13, and the Cowboys will receive the 3Q kick.

Interesting to see Fuller playing for Rapp in the back end. Terrific start for the offensive line. Dak very sharp.

Brown capped off the Rams’ opening drive by powering through the line for a one-yard run to put the Rams up 6-0:

NFL @NFL

First TD in the new stadium ✅ #RamsHouse

📺: #DALvsLAR on NBC
📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/ynDmpGSOcL https://t.co/DOUQlDlpJp

He then continued the trend of scoring touchdowns on the Rams’ opening drives in halves by running around the edge, evading a tackler and crossing the goal line for six to put L.A. up 19-14 in the third:

NFL @NFL

Malcolm Brown scores his second TD to put the @RamsNFL on top. #RamsHouse

📺: #DALvsLAR on NBC
📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/ynDmpGSOcL https://t.co/pB0zNvpQvY

Brown would appear to be the No. 1 option in the Rams’ backfield based on Sunday’s snap and touch distribution figures, Ian Hartitz of Pro Football Focus:

Ian Hartitz @Ihartitz

Rams RB usage (PFF)

Malcolm Brown: 61% snaps, 18-79-2 rushing, 3-31-0 receiving
Cam Akers: 34%, 13-49-0, 1-4-0
Darrell Henderson: 6%, 3-6-0 rushing

Next Gen Stats showcased just how well Brown did also:

Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats

#Rams Running Back Breakdown (vs DAL)

Malcolm Brown (43 snaps)
➤ 79 rush yards (+6 RYOE), 50% Over Expected

Cam Akers (24 snaps)
➤ 39 rush yards (-23 RYOE), 7% Over Expected

#DALvsLAR | #RamsHouse https://t.co/i32zz73V8K

Whether that continues throughout 2020 remains to be seen, but the bottom line is the Rams offense didn’t miss a beat with Brown carrying the load against the Cowboys.

Cowboys Experience the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There were a couple of massive silver linings in the Cowboys’ 20-17 loss: Elliott was tremendous, and the offensive line was too.

Elliott somehow evaded four Rams tacklers in his vicinity on one play with this 19-yard catch-and-run for a score:

Dallas Cowboys @dallascowboys

FEED ME 🍽 @EzekielElliott #DALvsLAR https://t.co/uI1CZKgujJ

Next Gen Stats showed the degree of difficulty on the run: 

Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats

Ezekiel Elliott (19-yard receiving TD)

Actual Yards After Catch: 21
Expected YAC: 12
YAC Over Expected: +9

Elliott had a 14.6% chance of scoring a TD and a 98.9% chance of gaining a first down according to our updated Expected YAC model.

#DALvsLAR | Powered by @awscloud https://t.co/BwIfqXUqxu

Before the half ended, Elliott scored his second touchdown from one yard out to tie the game at 13:

Dallas Cowboys @dallascowboys

FEED ME x 2 🍽 @EzekielElliott

#DALvsLAR | #DallasCowboys https://t.co/s3pyPFL30l

Jon Machota of The Athletic summed up Elliott’s performance rather well: 

Jon Machota @jonmachota

Ezekiel Elliott, still very good at football

Elliott played well enough to win, but the fourth quarter left a lot to be desired for the Cowboys.

Down 20-17, they faced a 4th-and-3 from the L.A. 11-yard line and decided to go for it instead of kicking a game-tying field goal. A completed pass from quarterback Dak Prescott to wideout CeeDee Lamb was one yard short.

Regardless of whether the issue was failing to kick the field goal, poor play-calling or bad execution, Dallas came up empty-handed.

Still, Dallas had one last chance to tie or win the game with a late drive, and it seemed as though the team would accomplish that feat following a Prescott completion to Michael Gallup for 47 yards to the Rams’ 19-yard line with under a minute left.

However, Gallup was called for a push-off on Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and a 1st-and-10 inside the Rams’ red zone became a 3rd-and-20 at the Cowboys’ 24-yard line. It was all over from there.

Regardless of whether one thinks Gallup pushed off or the Rams got away with one, Dallas ended up losing a winnable game.

The problem is that the Rams game will unfortunately have far worse ramifications for the season as Jarwin appears done for the year and Vander Esch will potentially head onto the injured reserve list.

The two young and talented stars figured to play pivotal roles, but Dallas will now have to look elsewhere for answers with 15 games remaining.

It’s an unfortunate series of circumstances for a tight end who was finally getting his chance to shine as the team’s unquestioned No. 1 player at the position, as well as for a linebacker who looked like he would be a perennial Pro Bowler with an incredible 2018 season before injuries set him back in 2019.

Hopefully the rehab process goes smoothly for the pair, and that they are able to return as quickly as possible, but a game that started with so much promise has now ended in gloom for a Cowboys team that dropped its first game of the Mike McCarthy era.

What’s Next?

Both teams will play on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The Cowboys will host the Atlanta Falcons, and the Rams will visit the Philadelphia Eagles.

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