Cowboys vs. Rams final score: L.A. defense carves up Dallas, questionable fourth-down call dooms Mike McCarthy

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.

Turning point

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:

What's next

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.

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And the Rams will get the win after Jalen Ramsey draws offensive pass interference on Michael Gallup on a play that would have put the Cowboys in position to take a couple shots at the end zone before kicking a relatively easy field goal. But the Rams moved the ball pretty much at will all night, and that's the real difference in the game.

September 14, 2020, 3:18 AM
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That's a pretty bad call. But if you're the Cowboys, you can't let the game come down to that call.

September 14, 2020, 3:16 AM
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... and it's coming back.

September 14, 2020, 3:15 AM
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WHAT A THROW

September 14, 2020, 3:14 AM
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Two drops now for Dalton Schultz, who came in for Blake Jarwin after Jarwin injured his knee. The Cowboys led the NFL in drop rate last season.

September 14, 2020, 3:14 AM
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And Leonard Floyd gets the sack while working on Dallas' undrafted free-agent right tackle, who is filling in for La'el Collins.

September 14, 2020, 3:12 AM
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Dallas went 1-6 in one-possession games last year after going 9-3 the year before. Let's see what kind of start they get off to this time.

September 14, 2020, 3:09 AM
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@dallascowboys via Twitter
September 14, 2020, 3:08 AM
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Malcolm Brown quietly having a great night as the Rams' RB1. Now up to 74 yards and two TDs on 16 carries. Has had a bunch of key first-down conversions as well.

September 14, 2020, 3:05 AM
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The Cowboys signed two defensive tackles from the worst run defense in 2019 (the Panthers). Gerald McCoy got injured and then cut, and Dontari Poe has been dominated all night tonight.

September 14, 2020, 3:04 AM
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Jalen Ramsey showing Amari Cooper who's boss on the outside, laying a hard hit on No. 19 after a quick catch. Unclear if Cooper actually gained possession of the football; the bang-bang nature of the pass made it look incomplete. Either way, it's a big missed opportunity on third down. Cowboys are going to be forced to punt with just over five minutes to play, down three.

September 14, 2020, 3:01 AM
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This looks like it's going to be overturned and an incomplete pass, but that's still a terrific play from Jalen Ramsey. That should have been an easy first down for Cooper, but Ramsey popped him and knocked the ball out.

September 14, 2020, 3:01 AM
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@RamsNFL via Twitter
September 14, 2020, 3:00 AM
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@dallascowboys via Twitter
September 14, 2020, 2:59 AM
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Aldon Smith is among the Cowboys' leading tacklers tonight, and he's also gotten more noticeable pocket pressure than both DeMarcus Lawrence and Everson Griffen. Can't overstate his impact. He's basically been the anchor of that unit.

September 14, 2020, 2:57 AM
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The Cowboys pass rush gets its first sack of the night... and it's Aldon Smith. In his first game back in five years, he has played really, really well.

September 14, 2020, 2:55 AM
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@dallascowboys via Twitter
September 14, 2020, 2:53 AM
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Sean McVay is putting on a clinic against Mike Nolan. Were it not for a missed field goal and a missed penalty, this game wouldn't be within three points.

September 14, 2020, 2:52 AM
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