FRISCO, Texas – It's the Rams, dude.
Yep, those Rams who duded the Cowboys in last year's playoffs, 30-22, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum littered heavily with Cowboys fans.
Here is what is remembered most, at least from my memory.
That the Rams ran for 273 yards, four yards more than their very own Cowboys playoff opponent's record of 269 set after the 1985 season.
That two highly debatable second-quarter calls with the Cowboys trying to scramble back into the game set the tone for the remainder of the game.
First, on a third-and-14 from the Rams 45 with 4:13 left in the half and the Rams only up 13-7, the Cowboys appeared to have finally stopped a Rams drive, quarterback Jared Goff under pressure throwing incomplete to the right, Rams punting.
But oh no, the official 25 yards down field throws his flag further than Goff's pass attempt on the other side of the field: Illegal use of hands on Cowboys corner Byron Jones, on the opposite side of the field. And when you look at the replay, Jones had chucked wide receiver Brandin Cooks with one hand in the chest, and when Cooks tried to swipe Jones' hand off, he send it upward, Jones grazing the side of Cooks' helmet.
Five yards, hands to the face, first down Rams at midfield. Two plays later, Todd Gurley goes 35 yards for a touchdown. Now 20-7 Rams.
Then on the Cowboys' ensuing possession, they had driven to the Rams 36, third-and-7 with 52 seconds remaining in the half. Dak Prescott was under pressure, trying to maneuver out of harm's way, backing up and into the arms of his right tackle La'el Collins, who was trying to pull him out to safety, allowing Dak to take off again.
But the whistle blows. Head referee John Parry, looking right at the play, ruled the play dead, that Rams defensive end Dante Fowler sacked Dak for an eight-yard loss. So not only denying Dak the opportunity to either get the ball downfield, or throw it away, the eight-yard loss denying the Cowboys a field-goal opportunity, having to punt.
Afterward, answering questions from the official pool reporter, when asked about the play, twice at that, Parry says he saw "in the grasp." Seriously.
Now I get it, the Rams did take a 30-15 lead with 7:16 left to play, but the Rams were gifted that Gurley touchdown and then the Cowboys, at the very least, denied an opportunity for a Brett Maher 53-yard field-goal attempt.
Ended up losing by eight. Do the potential math.
My first of this week's many shots.
- Stop The Run: These Rams opened up a can of worms on this Cowboys defense in that playoff game, rushing for 273 yards behind 123 yards and two touchdowns from C.J. Anderson just off his couch and 115 and a touchdown from Gurley. That in a season only six teams rushed for more than 100 yards against the Cowboys defense finishing fifth overall against the run. Well, that can remains open, since so far in 13 games this season, 10 teams have rushed for at least 100 yards against the Cowboys, including in the past seven consecutive games – five of those losses – Minnesota going for a season-high against the Cowboys 153 and the Bears this past game 151. Oh, and guess what? In these past two games Gurley has combined for 174 yards rushing on 42 carries and a touchdown in each game, his 42 carries the most in consecutive games this season.
- Kicking Around: And the nomadic kicking journey of Kai Forbath brings him right back to where he began his NFL career. With the Cowboys. You've heard of relievers and closers in baseball. Well, Forbath seems to be the football equivalent. The former Lou Groza Award winner in 2009 at UCLA spent his 2011 rookie season on the Cowboys' Non-Football Injury list (quad injury) before getting released the following April. Then the Redskins signed him for Game 6 of 2012, and kept him the entire 2014 season. He kicked one game for Washington in 2015, was released and then signed by the Saints in Game 10 for the remainder of the season. Released again, he was picked up by Minnesota in Game 10 of the 2016 season, and remained there through 2017 before getting released for 2018 fifth-round pick Daniel Carlson. Well, here comes Jacksonville, signing Forbath for the final three games that season. And now, in 2019, Game 12 for New England, and Game 14 for the Cowboys. Says Forbath of showing up somewhere new during a season, "I'm used to this. Everywhere I've been I've taken over for someone who's been cut."
- Shoulder/Shoulder: Now you know you've got problems when your name appears on the official NFL practice report and under injury next to your name is shoulder/shoulder. Welcome to Jeff Heath's life, labrum tears in both shoulders keeping him out of three of the past four games – had to leave late in the New England game in the one he did play – and getting in only 32 and then 10 snaps in the two games before that. Heath has practiced on a limited basis this week, but knows he will eventually need both shoulders repaired in the offseason. Guy is a trooper, still trying to play using braces on both shoulders to limit his range of arm motion. The Cowboys have lost five of these past six games with Heath either out or limited. Just sayin'.
- More Chunks: In the first 10 games of the season the Cowboys' offense produced 47 pass plays of at least 20 yards, or nearly five a game. Sixteen of those came in two games against Minnesota (24 points) and Detroit (35 points). But during this three-game losing streak, only 10, just a pinch over three a game, and four of those came in catch-up scramble time in the fourth quarter against the Bears. How important are these chunk plays? Well, on during possessions including 44 of those 20-plus-yard passing plays the Cowboys either scored a touchdown or kicked a field goal. On the other 13, five ended up in possessions ending either on downs or the game, three on punts, three on interceptions, one fumble and one missed field goal.
- Small Shots: The Cowboys will be playing the Rams for the 35th time on Sunday, and the only teams they've played more times from outside the NFC East are San Francisco (36) and Green Bay (36). And when it comes to postseason, the nine against the Rams is the most, the first back in 1973 . . . Said Zeke of his third 1,000-yard rushing season (1,071) in four years, "1,000 yards to me is the expectation . . . I expect myself to rush for 1,000 yards every season." . . . As for Forbath's career stats, he has made 85.8 percent of his 141 field-goal attempts (121) and 93 percent of his 185 extra-point attempts (173). And good thing is, on those money kicks between 30 and 49 yards, he's converted 87 percent (75 of 86) . . . The Cowboys (6-7) remain one of five teams ranked in the top 10 in total offense and total defense, joining Baltimore (11-2), San Francisco (11-2), Rams (8-5) and Chargers (5-8).
Once again yards not, either way, not measuring up to points or wins. That's how you are staring at 6-7.