FRISCO, Texas – You never expect it to end, until it does.
From July until tonight, we’ve been grinding to keep up with this team and its decision-making. It’s always kind of shocking when it finally comes to close – especially when it happens in the playoffs.
I’ll still have my tape review, and there’s plenty more to say about this team going forward. But for now, here are some of my quick reactions to this disappointing loss in Los Angeles.
· I feel like I let you guys down this week on my breakdown of the Rams’ offense. As much as I focused on Todd Gurley, I should have been paying more attention to C.J. Anderson. Gurley was good in the game -- but Anderson was better. Give Anderson credit for the way he attacked the Cowboys the entire night. He was a great example of how three and four yard runs turn into 8-10 yards later in the game. The Cowboys had no answer for this Rams offensive line, but they surely had no answer for a player I didn’t give much consideration as a difference maker.
· Aaron Donald ended up with two tackles in the game and drew a holding call on Connor Williams. But if you want a bright spot from the loss, I think you’d have to say what Williams was able to do to one of the best defensive players in the league was a real boost in the confidence department. Without studying the tape, I am willing to wager that this was Connor Williams’ finest effort of the season.
· The Cowboys have suffered some terrible defensive penalties this season, but I can’t imagine a more difficult one than Byron Jones getting called for hands to the face. That was a killer. Caraun Reid came up with a huge stop on Todd Gruley on a pass to the flat that put the Rams in a 3rd-and-long situation. Defensively, they finally got a little pressure on Jared Goff, which caused him to throw the ball short to Gerald Everett. The Cowboys thought they had gotten off the field, but Jones was sloppy with his technique, giving the Rams new life. They were later able to cash in for a Todd Gurley touchdown.
· I assume that referee John Parry was trying to protect Dak Prescott right before the half when he called Prescott in the grasp of Dante Fowler. Parry must have thought Fowler had control of Prescott, but the replay showed he was nowhere near control. Where I think Parry became confused is when La’el Collins had his arms around Prescott. Parry must have thought that was Fowler. Instead of letting Prescott finish the play, Parry’s whistle knocked the Cowboys out of field goal range and cost them a chance at some points before the half.
· You knew it wasn’t the Cowboys’ night when, the one time Jared Goff put the ball on the ground, there was no one in a white jersey nearby to pounce on it. The ball bounced off Robert Woods and C.J. Anderson before Goff alertly fell on the fumble. The next play, Greg Zuerlein knocked home a 44-yard field goal.
· I need to study the tape, but just some quick shots: it appeared that the Rams used Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds to chip on DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge instead of using their running backs. I’ve seen tight ends handle that job but never receivers. Really nice design by the Rams in order to keep Lawrence guessing on who was helping on him in pass protection.
· It was nice to see Michael Gallup finish the season on a high note. It’s funny how he’ll make some of the craziest, over-the-head receptions, and then let an easy one get the best of him. Gallup got better each week. His routes improved and he developed a better understanding of how to get off the line when defenders attempted to press him. There were times during the season where he struggled just to maintain his balance, but you started to notice far fewer of those situations. I see a player that’s only going to better just from the opportunities he received this season.
· It was no question disappointing that Ezekiel Elliott got stopped on that fourth down run with the offense attempting to go tie the game. What was more disappointing was that Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan had more than enough time to come up with a quality play due to the fact that it came after the end of the third quarter. Garrett, in his postgame press conference, said it was a play they felt good about with the double-team block at the point of attack, but I didn’t see that to be the case. Joe Looney tried to single-block Ndamukong Suh, but there appeared to be more blue jerseys in the hole than blockers on them.
· It appeared that Jeff Heath lost the ball on the critical third down run by Jared Goff. Heath never moved as Goff went around the corner on him. He has been playing down in the box all season, helping in the running game and reacting to plays, but that was one that caught him completely by surprise. Defensively, the Cowboys should have known that the Rams were going to run some type of run/pass option there. For Goff to get the first down on that carry was a fitting ending to the defense’s night.
· I am sure there is a logical explanation for why the Rams were able to have so much success with their quick counts. Goff did an exceptional job the entire night changing the way they snapped the ball. It likely had something to do with not giving the Cowboys’ defenders a pre-snap read of their formations. By getting to the line in a hurry, then snapping the ball, the defenders were unable to make the necessary adjustments to what they saw. The Rams took advantage of this on several plays for some sizeable gains.
· It might not mean much now in a losing effort. But I was told earlier in the week that there was no way Blake Jarwin was going to play in this game. All week, Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers took every single snap, with Cam Fleming getting some work as the extra tight end in the “13” personnel packages. Not only did Jarwin play, but he came up with a couple of pretty nice receptions which helped the offense move the ball. Jarwin willed himself to play in this game when he could have very easily sat it out. Jarwin might have gotten off to a slow start during the season, but like a lot of young players on this roster, he improved each week to the point that playing without him was going to be difficult.
· I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen with this coaching staff in the offseason. Change is always a possibility. Even teams that have some success will change their staff when other coaches become available. I believe Jason Garrett will make some changes to this staff. Garrett has already proven that he’s not afraid to make a change, like he did midseason with Paul Alexander and Marc Columbo. If I had to make a guess, it won’t be just one or two guys. I hear the rumblings in the building, so I will patiently wait -- but I have a feeling things will happen more sooner than later. Next Monday we head to the Senior Bowl where the majority of NFL coaches will be. It would not shock me one bit to hear of Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett meeting with prospective coaches -- so stay tuned.