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Eatman: Cowboys Went 'Old School' on Rams


ARLINGTON, Texas – Everyone has a list of their favorite movies, even if it's just in their head. I actually have a physical list and I can promise you, Old School is near the top.

That's all I could think about in the second half of Sunday's out-of-nowhere performance by the Cowboys, who completely dominated the Rams in every fashion.

Who saw that? Not me, of course. I didn't see any way the Cowboys could win this game, based off how they had played all year, especially the last three weeks. But a blowout from start to finish?

Nope, didn't see that one. But who did? Even Michael Irvin, who never hides his allegiance to the Cowboys, picked the Rams Sunday morning on his pregame show.

So we're all stunned with the actual result. But how it got there is even more stunning, if you ask me.

As I stated at the top, they went old school to beat up the Rams.

And it was more than just a couple of grizzled veterans making plays we haven't seen in a while. The Cowboys as a team controlled the Rams the old-fashioned way … and it started up front.

If you ask any of the high school coaches that are still playing in their state playoff games, they'll probably have two primary goals for their team. Ask a college coach preparing for a bowl game, and he'll say the same thing.

And, of course, it's what most NFL coaches will spit out when you ask them about the game plan.

It's always two basic things:

Run the ball and stop the run.

Even for the most dynamic passing attacks in football, they still have to figure out a way to run the ball. All the play-action passes in the world don't work if you can't run it.

Think back to the playoff loss the Cowboys suffered in Los Angles last January and it was those two things that ended their season. The Cowboys couldn't run it and certainly couldn't stop it.

But the script was flipped on this day, with the Cowboys desperately needing to win to keep their NFC East hopes alive. While they actually could've afforded another loss and still had a shot to win the division, we all know how bad the Cowboys needed to "win a damn ballgame," as Jerry Jones has said for a couple of weeks now.

And to do that, they went old school. They didn't just turn back the clock on the Rams. They lifted it up and hit 'em with it.

Have to give the Cowboys' offensive line a ton of credit for what they did up front. I didn't hear Aaron Donald's name much at all, although he did finish with three tackles, including one for loss. But as far as making a big impact, it wasn't there.

The same goes for the entire D-line. The Rams got 12 tackles from Cory Littleton and 10 from Taylor Rapp. If the linebacker and safety are making most of the plays, that means the running backs are usually getting to the next level. And they certainly did that and more.

This was probably Ezekiel Elliott's best game of the year, no matter if he's had better stats. What he was able to do against that front, slithering inside and cutting outside and dragging defenders with him, it was as impressive as any game that I can remember. And he still had 160 all-purpose yards with two touchdowns.

And then throw in what Tony Pollard did and I think that was the exact blueprint for what the Cowboys envisioned when they drafted him back in April.

Those two backs were interchanged perfectly throughout the game, and it just kept the Rams off balance.

Now on the other side, the Cowboys apparently missed Antwaun Woods, who had been out with an MCL injury. He came back and immediately made an impact with a 3-yard loss on the Rams' first drive. I thought that play was huge to not only stop the early momentum, but it set the tone for a day in which Todd Gurley rushed for just 20 yards on 11 carries.

The Cowboys forced the Rams to be one dimensional as Jared Goff had to throw the ball 51 times. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott was just 15 of 23 for 212 yards, but he had two scores and no picks.

Old school.

And speaking of the old guys, how about Jason Witten's one-handed catch? It has become a running joke in the press box that he's not going to have a big play down the field or make anyone miss. But he shut everyone up when he snagged Dak's pass and got his feet in for a touchdown. It's kind of hard to say that was the Witten of old because he really hasn't made a ton of those plays. I called it one of the top two or three highlights of his career.

And let's go to the other side. Sean Lee wasn't even sure he could play Sunday when he drove to the stadium. But not only did he shrug off a pectoral and thigh injury, Lee was like a kid again. He picked off Goff's pass and wasn't to be denied, making people miss in the open field for an impressive 25-yard return that set up another score. He then came back with a sack and a tackle for loss that might have him flirting with Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Hey, let's not leave out some other "older" guys. Kai Forbath didn't have the best two kickoffs in the world, but if the 32-year-old can make all three field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder, and hit all the extra points, the Cowboys will take that. Of course, the kickoffs could be an issue down the line if the game is closer than it was on this day.

But all in all, the Cowboys just put it on the Rams, and did it the old-fashioned way.

As my media colleague Bryan Broaddus always loves to say, "The NFL is a strange lady."

Man, was she crazy today.