INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With a pair of the league's most dangerous defenses on the field at SoFi Stadium, scoring was expected to be at a premium for both the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams. And such was indeed the case as the offense seemed to come in either rare big chunks or hardly at all.
But behind a gritty performance by Micah Parsons, who nursed a groin injury throughout the second half, it was the Dallas defense that got the better of the defending NFL champs. Having allowed only 10 points for the second straight weekend, and yet to surrender more than 19 for the season, the Cowboys came away with a 22-10 victory.
Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles offense totaled 323 yards of offense, but 129 of those yards, or 40 percent, came courtesy of two big plays. In general, the Dallas defense swarmed the Rams quarterback for much of the day, sacking him five times, and held Los Angeles to only 38 yards rushing.
The Cinderella story that is quarterback Cooper Rush's starting run continued, the backup extending his team record by now winning his first five career NFL starts. Not that it was overly impressive, as Rush and the Cowboys offense had its hands full against the Aaron Donald-led Rams defense. Dallas totaled just 239 yards of offense with Rush posting only 102 passing yards.
The Cowboys defense, and in particular Dorance Armstrong, showed their might right out of the gate. On the Rams' opening possession, Stafford dropped back to pass on third-and-1 at his own 34-yard line, only to have the defensive end explode through the line and strip-sack the quarterback. DeMarcus Lawrence scooped up the bouncing ball and rumbled untouched 19 yards to the end zone to give Dallas the early lead.
Lawrence's score was the first by the defense this season as well as the first by the unit since DeMarcus also crossed the goal line on an interception return last year on Dec. 26 vs. Washington.
But loss of long-snapper Jake McQuaide last week, out for the season with a torn triceps, may have been in play when a botched snap led to a missed extra point.
Armstrong was just getting warmed up, though. When Los Angeles was forced to punt from the Dallas 46-yard line, he burst by his blocker again, not only smothering the punt but also recovering the block and returning it to the Rams' 20.
The Cowboys offense couldn't make much progress, but this time the snap and hold was clean, allowing Brett Maher to split the uprights from 33 yards out. Dallas jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but perhaps valuable points were left on the field.
Especially when the Rams came right back and completed a 54-yard bomb down to the Cowboys' 11-yard line. But the defense held, Los Angeles settling for a 29-yard field goal.
Bit by the big gain again were the Cowboys and this time it went for a touchdown. On third-and-2 at their own 25-yard line, the Rams saw all-everything receiver Cooper Kupp streak across the middle on a slant, reach out to haul in a Stafford offering in stride, split the Dallas defense and outrun everyone for the 75-yard score. Add on the extra point and the home side had the lead for the first time, 10-9.
In need of a big play of their own, the Cowboys got just that from Tony Pollard. The running back, who had battled an illness earlier in the week, took the handoff from his own 43-yard line and broke through the line before dancing to the right and cutting back to the left, carrying the ball the full 57 yards to pay dirt. The score was the second longest of Pollard's career, and his third this season of at least 45 yards.
The Cowboys survived a successful fake punt by the Rams late in the second quarter and kept Stafford and company from adding to their total. With that, Dallas headed into the break with a 16-10 advantage.
A big concern for the Cowboys going into the second half was the sight of linebacker Micah Parsons limping both into and out of the locker room. Usually on the field for practically every snap, his pass-rushing duties were limited somewhat, although he became a bigger factor as the game went along.
But it would be the Dallas offense to get things going in the third frame, as the unit took the kickoff and traveled deep into enemy territory. The big blow was a beautiful, toe-dragging sideline catch by Michael Gallup, who moved the chains on third down with a 26-yard gain to the Rams' 42. That resulted in a 40-yard field goal by Maher, upping the lead to a two-possession game.
A "Lionbacker" if ever there was one, Parsons sure enough recorded his fifth sack of the season, forcing a Rams punt.
After Dallas had to punt out of its own end zone, a short, high boot by Bryan Anger was returned 14 yards to the Cowboys' 29-yard line, setting the Rams up with great field position. But as the clock ticked into the final quarter, the Dallas defense again did its job, eventually forcing the Rams to try a 51-yard field goal. Kicker Matt Gay's try then sailed just wide right to keep his team's deficit at nine.
With the teams trading punts, the Cowboys finally got set up with good field position, starting on their own 48-yard line after a 12-yard KaVontae Turpin return. This time around, Dallas turned to its ground game, starting the drive with seven straight rushes before a 11-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb got them to the Los Angeles 17-yard line. That's when Maher came out for another field goal attempt, this one good from 36 yards to increase the tally to 22-10.
The Rams certainly weren't ready to go away and helped by a couple of Cowboys penalties were able to reach the Dallas 16-yard line. But another sack of Stafford, this time by Osa Odighizuwa, was followed by pressure causing the quarterback to throw high to his intended target. So, instead of connecting with wideout Allen Robinson, the pass was corralled by safety Malik Hooker, the Cowboys taking over possession at their own 4-yard line.
But was Parsons done yet? No, he was not. The Cowboys' star put a cap on the day with a strip-sack of Stafford on the Rams' final possession, rookie Sam Williams recovering to seal the win.
With the victory, the Cowboys are now 4-1 and headed to a showdown at the rival Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday.