In the first Sunday Night Football game of the 2020 NFL season, the Los Angeles Rams opened up their new stadium with a 20-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys. The Rams got pretty much whatever they wanted offensively for much of the evening, with their score limited to 20 only by virtue of a missed field goal and a missed roughing the passer penalty on a play that resulted in a Jared Goff interception. The Cowboys offense looked electric in the first half but slowed down after halftime, scoring only three points. They had a chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, but elected to go for it on fourth-and-3 rather than kick a game-tying field goal.
On a last-ditch drive in the final minute, Dak Prescott found Michael Gallup streaking down the sideline for a monster gain that would have put the Cowboys firmly within field goal range, but the play was called back due to a controversial offensive pass interference call. Two incompletions later, the Rams had their win.
The first NFL Sunday of the 2020 season is in the books and there's a lot to go over. John Breech and Ryan Wilson join host Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to break it all down; listen in the player below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Here are some of our takeaways from Sunday night's affair:
Why the Rams won
Boy oh boy, did Sean McVay have the perfect script for his offense. That's where you have to start, because Jared Goff's history of skittish slumps seemed ominous coming into a potential shootout with the high-powered Cowboys. Instead, the QB was darn near flawless, operating with ease in an up-tempo, play-action-heavy attack (the one INT should've been wiped out by a roughing-the-passer call), aided by a rock-solid outing from lead back Malcolm Brown, who ran with authority. L.A. was too often forced to settle for field-goal tries, but the team also moved at will for most of the night. On the other side of the ball, big plays from top guys like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey proved more than enough to neuter Dallas' weaponry, which never quite broke loose.
Why the Cowboys lost
Losing middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to injury early in the game didn't help, but the issues were bigger and wider, starting with the fact the Cowboys couldn't ever seem to prevent positive Rams yardage. Whether it was Malcolm Brown up the middle, Robert Woods on screens or anything in between, Dallas had no answers for McVay's efficient group. (Aldon Smith, in a really good performance leading the pass rush, was maybe the lone exception.) Offensively, you can't even begin to blame Dak Prescott, who was razor-sharp for most of the night. You can and should, however, blame Mike McCarthy for getting sheepish on some crucial calls, including during a second-half red-zone trip that saw the 'Boys go conservative despite Dak's aerial momentum.
Five minutes left in the game. Cowboys down by three, with a chance to really reverse their fortunes after three straight failed Rams drives -- a pick and two punts. Then come two short plays to Elliott and the third-down play that unofficially sealed the Rams' win, a Jalen Ramsey breakup of a would-be first-down catch by Amari Cooper. Ramsey's physicality really showed on the play, which was initially ruled a forced fumble, and prompted a three-and-out for Dallas, allowing L.A. to burn another few minutes off the clock and inch closer to victory.
Play of the game
In a game devoid of big-play touchdowns, this one has to go to Ramsey, who basically lifted Cooper up and tossed him aside while securing the Rams' season-opening win:
The Cowboys (0-1) will go home to AT&T Stadium for a showdown with the Atlanta Falcons (0-1), who fell to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1. The Rams (1-0), meanwhile, will travel to Philadelphia for a matchup with the Eagles (0-1), who lost a stunner to the Washington Football Team in their opener.