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Don't Forget These 5: Crucial Penalty on Jones


LOS ANGELES– Everything gets amplified in the playoffs. The plays early in the game aren't forgotten and certainly the ones in the second half are all crucial.

So finding a handful of plays that can get overlooked can be a challenge. But even in this 30-22 loss for the Cowboys, there were some moments that could've changed the outcome:

Negative pass to Austin – All eyes were on the former Rams' first-round pick Tavon Austin to make a big play against his former team. But the first time he touched the ball, it was a minus-2-yard reception. More importantly, it was a play that started a negative spiral for the offense. The Cowboys had scored on their previous possession and had just picked up a 20-yard completion to tight end Dalton Schultz. After a first-down run by Ezekiel Elliott of just 3 yards, the Cowboys looked to pop a big play on a quick screen to Austin. But he was swarmed for a 2-yard loss. On third down, the Cowboys threw an incomplete pass and that began a streak of four straight series without points.

Illegal hands penalty on Jones – This one might have been the biggest play of the game. The Rams had yet to be stopped at all, but the Cowboys appeared to get them off the field on a third-and-long incomplete pass. However, at the line of scrimmage, Byron Jones was flagged for illegal hands to the face when he quickly put his hand on Robert Woods' face mask. The penalty gave the Rams an automatic first down and they were in the end zone just two plays later.

Second-down miss to Gallup – While everyone is still talking about the key third-down play before halftime when the officials ruled that Dak Prescott had been sacked and whistled the play dead before he was on the ground, it was the second-down play that was even bigger. Prescott had Michael Gallup open over the middle of the field on a second-and-7 from the Rams' 36-yard line. It might've been enough for a first down and perhaps much more. But instead, the pass was behind Gallup, who didn't stop in time to make the catch. Prescott was then ruled down on a sack on the next play and the Cowboys eventually had to punt.

Cooks extends drive after halftime – The Cowboys couldn't do anything with their first possession of the third quarter, but with the Rams up 20-7, the defense had a shot to get off the field again. On a third-and-4 from the Los Angeles 32-yard line, Jared Goff found Brandin Cooks for a 21-yard gain down the left sideline. Instead of getting the ball back with a chance to cut into a 13-point lead, the Cowboys watched the Rams drive down for another field goal to go up 23-7.

Brown's catch ruled short – Noah Brown had just one catch on the night, and for a moment it appeared to be a clutch reception for a first down. But while Brown caught the ball at the first-down sticks, his momentum took him backward and the ball was spotted a full yard short of the markers. After the end of the third quarter and the teams flipped the field, Elliott was stuffed for no gain on a key fourth-down rush with the Cowboys down by eight.