Cow­boys exit play­offs, have no an­swer for Rams’ ground game

Star-Telegram (Sunday) - - Sports - BY CLARENCE E. HILL JR. [email protected]­gram.com

It was an all too fa­mil­iar end­ing for the Dal­las Cow­boys Satur­day night at the Los An­ge­les Coli­seum.

For the 23rd straight year, the Cow­boys sea­son ended with­out a trip to the NFC ti­tle game, with a fourth loss in as many at­tempts to the NFC Di­vi­sional play­offs.

Shock­ingly, the 30-22 sea­so­nend­ing loss to the Los An­ge­les Rams wasn’t about not hav­ing enough fire­power to keep up with one of the top-ranked of­fenses, it was an in­abil­ity to stop the run.

The Rams used the Cow­boys’ own for­mula to ad­vance to next Sun­day’s NFC Ti­tle game against the ei­ther the New Or­leans Saints or the Philadel­phia Ea­gles.

C.J. An­der­son had 23 car­ries for 123 yards. Todd Gur­ley had 16 car­ries for 113, Ezekiel El­liott had 47 yards on 20 car­ries for the Cow­boys.

And Rams ran out the clock when line­backer Sean Lee couldn’t stop quar­ter­back Jared Goff on a scram­ble to get the ball back to the of­fense.

It’s the first time in post­sea­son his­tory that two backs topped 100 yards in the same game. The last time it hap­pened against the Cow­boys was the fi­nal game at Texas Sta­dium in 2008 by Bal­ti­more’s Leron Mc­Clain and Wil­lis McGa­hee.

The Cow­boys head home pon­der­ing their fu­ture. Five thoughts form the game:


Things couldn’t have started bet­ter for quar­ter­back Dak Prescott.

He had it all cook­ing on the open­ing driv­ing, com­plet­ing three of three passes for 48

yards, in­clud­ing a 29-yard touch­down pass to Amari Cooper.

Cooper, play­ing in the slot, caught a cross­ing route in stride and raced to the end zone.

How­ever, Prescott and the Cow­boys pass­ing floun­dered for the next two quar­ters as the Rams stopped the run and dared him to beat them.

Prescott com­pleted five of his next 12 passes through drive of the third quar­ter and nearly threw pick six, if not for a drop by line­backer Sam­son Ekuban.

The Cow­boys were down 23-7 Prescott seem­ingly came alive again with passes of 27 and 44 yards to re­ceiver Michael Gallup.

The sec­ond one gave the Cow­boys down at the 2. El­liott scored on a two­yard run and then Prescott hit Cooper for a two-point con­ver­sion to make the score 23-15.

Prescott brought the Cow­boys back down the field twice.

The first one ended on a 4th and 1 stop of run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott, which the Rams turned into a score and 30-15.

Prescott then con­verted on a 4th and 1 run on the en­su­ing drive.

And scored on a 1-yard run to nar­row the score to 30-22 but the Cow­boys couldn’t get a fi­nal stop.

Prescott com­pleted 20 of 32 passes for 266 yards with one touch­down through air and one on the ground.

But in the end, time ran out on him and the Cow­boys.


The Rams game plan was sim­ple. Stop Cow­boys run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott at all costs.

A Rams run de­fense that came into the game giv­ing up al­most 5 yards a carry, mak­ing it seem­ingly the tar­get of the Cow­boys game plan, proved to be an im­pen­e­tra­ble force for El­liott.

El­liott had four car­ries for eight yards in the first quar­ter. He had five for 32 in the sec­ond, largely be­cause of two runs for 12 and 15 yards. But out­side of that, he was in­ef­fec­tive. And an in­ef­fec­tive El­liott wrecks the whole phi­los­o­phy of the Cow­boys of­fense, putting too much pres­sure and re­spon­si­bil­ity on quar­ter­back Dak Prescott.

El­liott did have a 1-yard score in the third quar­ter.

The turn­ing point in the game came on the first play of the fourth quar­ter when a surg­ing Cow­boys team, down 23-15, shun­ning a pos­si­ble for field goal and went for it on fourth and 1 on Rams 35.

El­liott had con­verted two fourth downs ear­lier in the game. But this time he was stuffed by the Rams.

No for­mula for the Cow­boys win­ning had El­liott rush­ing 20 times for 47 yards in the game.

That wasn’t good enough.


The Cow­boys went into the game know­ing they needed to stop Rams run­ning back Todd Gur­ley on the ground.

But it was backup C.J. An­der­son, split­ting time with Gur­ley, who gashed the Cow­boys de­fense early. One week af­ter giv­ing up just 73 yards on the ground the Seat­tle Sea­hawks, the Rams had 70 yards on the ground in the first quar­ter and then gained an­other 100 in the sec­ond quar­ter. An­der­son had 78 in the first half, in­clud­ing a 1-yard touch­down run and then Gur­ley got go­ing, rac­ing 35 yards up the mid­dle to give the Rams a 20-7 lead at half­time.

C.J. An­der­son fin­ished with 23 car­ries for 123 yards. Todd Gur­ley had 16 car­ries for 113.

The Cow­boys de­fen­sive line and lineback­ers showed lit­tle re­sis­tance up front.

And an in­abil­ity to stop the run al­lowed quar­ter­back Jared Goff to pick his spots in the pass­ing game. It didn’t help the Cow­boys pass rush was an even big­ger no show than the run de­fense.

The Cow­boys stopped the Rams just twice time through the first three quar­ters, a missed field goal and a punt, be­fore the fi­nal kneel down at the end of the game.


In an ex­am­ple of how big this game was, Cow­boys coach Ja­son Gar­rett shunned his nor­mally con­ser­va­tive style with some swash­buck­ling gam­bles.

Gar­rett set the tone early on the open­ing drive of the game by go­ing for it on 4th-and-1 from the Rams 49.

Run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott rushed for five yards. A 15-yard per­sonal foul penalty was added on, courtesy of cor­ner­back Mar­cus Peters. Prescott then hit Cooper for the 29-yard score.

With the Cow­boys trail­ing 23-7 in the third quar­ter, Gar­rett went with El­liott again on 4th-and-1 from the Rams 41. Prescott ran the op­tion and pitched El­liott for five yards.

El­liott fin­ished the drive with a 1-yard score.

And then Gar­rett went for two points. A pass from Prescott to Cooper made it 23-15 and a onescore game.

But Gar­rett may have gone to the well once too many early in the fourth quar­ter. The Cow­boys had the mo­men­tum af­ter fi­nally get­ting a stop on de­fense. On 4th-and-1 at the Rams 35, El­liott ran into a brick wall.

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Scott Line­han could have been a lit­tle more cre­ative than a hand­off up the mid­dle to El­liott against a Rams de­fense ex­pect­ing an El­liott run.

A Rams touch­down on the en­su­ing drive made the score 30-15.

An­other fourth and 1 was con­verted by Prescott on the en­su­ing drive and pass in­ter­fer­ence in the end zone with 2:43 left but it was too lit­tle too late.


The day af­ter is all too fa­mil­iar for the Cow­boys af­ter the di­vi­sional play­offs. For the fourth time since Cow­boys last reached in the NFC ti­tle game and last won a Su­per Bowl in 1995, their sea­son ended in the di­vi­sional play­off.

Just like in 1996, 2007 and 2014, the Cow­boys couldn’t get over the di­vi­sional play­off hump and now will head home to clean out their lock­ers on Sun­day pon­der­ing the fu­ture.

Should they feel good about what they ac­com­plished in 2018, ral­ly­ing from 3-5 and be­ing left for dead to win the NFC East and a wild­card play­off game?

Can they build for fu­ture off this sea­son? Or do changes still need to be made, es­pe­cially with of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Scott Line­han.

MAX FAULKNER [email protected]­gram.com

Rams run­ning back C.J. An­der­son (35) scores a sec­ond-quar­ter touch­down in front of Cow­boys strong safety Jeff Heath (38) on Satur­day night in the NFL Di­vi­sional Round at Los An­ge­les Me­mo­rial Coli­seum.

MAX FAULKNER [email protected]­gram.com

Cow­boys wide re­ceiver Michael Gallup (13) makes a catch at the 2-yard line in front of Los An­ge­les Rams free safety Lamar­cus Joyner (20) dur­ing the third quar­ter Satur­day night.

MAX FAULKNER [email protected]­gram.com

Cow­boys wide re­ceiver Amari Cooper (19) is con­grat­u­lated by of­fen­sive guard Con­nor Wil­liams (52) and of­fen­sive tackle La’el Collins (71) on his first-quar­ter touch­down.

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