A pounding running attack, an efficient passing game and a bend but don't break defense – this was the type of Cowboys football we've come to expect.
Too bad it only lasted a half.
Unfortunately, there are two halves in a football game and over the final two quarters, the Cowboys just had no answer for the Los Angeles Rams, losing 35-30 in front of 91,869 fans.
In the first half, the Cowboys put up 287 yards of total offense to the Rams' 131, and they owned the time of possession 18:00 to 12:00, having earned points on each of their four drives. The team racked up 133 rushing yards in the two quarters, which was more than Dallas had gained for an entire game coming into this matchup.
But things completely changed after the break. Over the third and fourth quarters, the Cowboys totaled only 153 yards of offense, including just 56 on the ground. After picking up 14 first downs in the first half, they managed eight in the second.
On the other side of the ball, with All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee unable to play due to a hamstring injury, the Cowboys were gashed by Rams running back Todd Gurley. He finished with 215 yards from scrimmage, of which 152 came in the second half. Los Angeles had 131 yards of total offense and 10 first downs through two quarters, but picked up 281 yards and 14 first downs after the half to come away with the win.
But again, midway through the second quarter, the Cowboys looked like they had the game well in hand. They began the afternoon with a 34-yard field goal courtesy of Dan Bailey on their opening drive, the first time this season that Dallas has put up points on its first possession.
After Los Angeles matched them with a 49-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein, the Cowboys then went on an extended 15-play, 81-yard march that saw Ezekiel Elliott rush five times for 21 yards. He capped off the series by hauling in a swing pass to the left side and taking it the final 10 yards with a dive into the end zone.
That was the first of Elliott's two scores in the half, as after the Dallas defense limited the Rams to another field goal, a 44 yarder, the Cowboys came right back and put another seven points on the board. This time it was Alfred Morris doing the heavy lifting. The backup running back broke through the line for a career-long 70-yard gain down to the Los Angeles 5-yard line.
Two plays and one Rams penalty later and Elliott was across the goal line again, the home team up, 17-6, and seemingly cruising.
And when the Dallas defense then forced the game's first punt, the Cowboys were on the doorstep of opening up an insurmountable lead. Instead, rookie Ryan Switzer made the ill-advised decision to try to return the kick from his own 17-yard line, only to muff the punt, which Los Angeles recovered.
That led to a quick Jared Goff completion to receiver Cooper Kupp in the end zone, which narrowed the score to 17-13, the first sign of what would become a definite momentum change.
But Prescott wasn't ready to give in. On the Cowboys' next possession, he took control. Keeping his feet and avoiding the rush on one of the nicer spin moves you'll see, he found Dez Bryant wide open in the middle of the field for an 18-yard completion. That was soon followed by another swing pass to Elliott, this one going for a big 31-yard gain before the drive was wrapped up with a dart to Brice Butler in the back left corner of the end zone.
With the Rams sneaking in another 44-yard field goal with four seconds remaining in the half, the Cowboys went into the break with a 24-16 advantage. Through the first two quarters of play, Prescott had completed 11-of-15 passes for 155 yards and a 145.8 passer rating. The offense was rolling.
The second half, though, was a different story as Prescott went 9-for-21 for 97 yards. For all their firepower in the first half, the Cowboys couldn't get anything going in the third quarter as all three of their possessions ended in a Chris Jones' punt. Even worse, the Rams offense found its stride.
After punting on their first series after the break, the visitors added to their point total on their next three drives. Another two field goals sandwiched a touchdown that saw Goff slip a pass to Gurley going down the right seam, the running back then cutting down the middle of the field untouched for the 53-yard score.
Los Angeles was suddenly up, 29-24, early in the fourth quarter and showing no signs of slowing down.
And things looked even worse when on third-and-9 at his own 22-yard line, Prescott dropped back to pass and was hit by defensive tackle Michael Brockers, the ball popping loose and into the arms of linebacker Mark Barron. The Cowboys defense held, but the Rams' Zuerlein was good from 43 yards to make the score 32-24.
Just when all seemed lost, though, the Dallas offense finally found its legs. Starting at its own 25-yard line, the Cowboys needed just five plays to travel the 75 yards to the end zone. The score came when Prescott found a wide-open James Hanna, who rumbled in for the 28-yard touchdown, his first career score.
But the Cowboys were unable to convert the two-point conversion, leaving them still trailing, 32-31, and then they couldn't slow down the Los Angeles offense.
After the kickoff, the Rams took over at their own 17-yard line with 7:08 left in the game and marched down to the Cowboys' 14-yard line in 12 plays, finishing with another Zuerlein field goal to pad their lead, 35-30. But in doing so, they also ticked 5:16 off the clock and forced Dallas to use all three of its timeouts.
Now the Cowboys had one last shot, taking over at their own 25-yard line with 1:55 left in the game. Ten plays later, it was over. After picking up a pair of first downs and crossing into enemy territory, on fourth-and-10 at the Rams' 48-yard line, Prescott's dump-off to Elliott was just inches short of the marker, Los Angeles taking over on downs.
With the loss, the Cowboys dropped to 2-2 on the season. They'll be back at home next weekend, hosting the Green Bay Packers at 3:25 p.m. on Sunday.