Cow­boys' run­ning game, de­fense strug­gles vs. Rams

El Dorado News-Times - - Morning Brew -

LOS AN­GE­LES (AP) — The Dal­las Cow­boys ad­vanced to the di­vi­sional round of the play­offs on the strength of their run­ning game and run de­fense. On Satur­day night, it proved to be their down­fall.

The Cow­boys al­lowed their most rush­ing yards in a post­sea­son game, while Ezekiel El­liott was held to 47 yards in a 30-22 loss to the Los An­ge­les Rams. It was the sixth straight loss in the di­vi­sional round for Dal­las, and it has not reached the NFC cham­pi­onship game since 1996.

"We did not do a good enough job de­fend­ing the run, ob­vi­ously," coach Ja­son Garrett said. "They were also com­mit­ted to stop­ping our run. They had a lot of peo­ple around the line of scrim­mage and that's what they were go­ing to do."

The epit­ome of the Cow­boys' ground game woes on both sides came in the fourth quar­ter.

Dal­las was down 23-15 and on the Rams 35 when El­liott was stopped for no gain on fourt­hand-1. Los An­ge­les then went on a 12-play, 65-yard touch­down drive where all but two plays were runs. The drive was capped off by a 1-yard score by C.J. An­der­son.

"They dom­i­nated us up front, we didn't get any move­ment," said El­liott about the fourth­down play.

Quar­ter­back Dak Prescott said that stop thwarted any mo­men­tum the Cow­boys had after be­ing down 23-7 mid­way through the third quar­ter.

"We didn't get it done on fourth down and that changed the game right there. We weren't able to ex­e­cute when we needed to and it hurt," he said. "Had we made it, we still would have a nice bal­ance run­ning and pass­ing and we wouldn't have had to drop back on ev­ery play."

Dal­las al­lowed only 73 yards in its wild-card round vic­tory over Seat­tle, who came in with the NFL's top-ranked rush­ing at­tack. The Cow­boys didn't have the same suc­cess against the league's No. 3 rush­ing team, sur­ren­der­ing 273 yards. The old mark was 269 against the Rams in 1986 as Eric Dick­er­son ran for 248 yards.

On Satur­day, it was two backs that gave the Cow­boys prob­lems as Todd Gur­ley (115) and An­der­son (123) av­er­aged 6.1 yards per carry. It marked the first time two run­ning backs have had 100-yard games against the Cow­boys in the post­sea­son, and the first time it has hap­pened to them in any game since Bal­ti­more in De­cem­ber 2008.

The Rams did it be­hind a dom­i­nant game from the of­fen­sive line, with left tackle An­drew Whit­worth lead­ing the way by win­ning his matchups when paired up against de­fen­sive ends DeMar­cus Lawrence and Randy Gre­gory.

"I don't think they out­mus­cled us, it was a com­bi­na­tion of things. We didn't get up­field as well as we usu­ally do," de­fen­sive end Ty­rone Craw­ford said.

The Cow­boys' run­ning game also strug­gled. El­liott av­er­aged just 2.4 yards on 20 car­ries. It marked the first time in three post­sea­son games that the third-year run­ning back was held un­der 100 yards.

Prescott had a rush­ing touch­down in the fourth quar­ter, but wasn't used on any de­signed runs un­til late in the game, when Dal­las was down by two scores. Prescott said he wasn't sur­prised about that while Garrett said most of the run­pass op­tion plays called re­sulted in hand­offs.

The Rams came in ranked 23rd in run de­fense dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, and had al­lowed 98 yards or more in 10 straight games. The 50 yards al­lowed marked a sea­son low and the sec­ond-fewest since for­mer Cow­boys coach Wade Phillips be­came de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in 2017.

"We played against a real good front," El­liott said. "You guys kept ask­ing me about stats and 5.1 yards per carry (al­lowed by the Rams) and I told you its play­off foot­ball and none of that (stuff) mat­ters any­more. They came out and played bet­ter than us tonight."

DROUGHTS CON­TINUE

The Cow­boys still haven't won a play­off game on the road in 26 years.

"It's been a great sea­son, all the ups and downs at 3-5 and be­ing counted out," Prescott said. "Just the way we were able to get back here was in­spir­ing. We had a good team, and when you feel con­fi­dent about that team and lose, it hurts. We're a young team. We have a lot of guys with the right makeup to get back here and get to the next round."

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