ARLINGTON - With Jason Garrett's job on the line, and their NFC East lead in the balance, the Dallas Cowboys faced what we might call an "emotional must-win'' against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon.
Led by a dominating defensive performance, and the running game of Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys rose to the occasion, defeating the Rams 44-21 at AT&T Stadium.
"I just know that I’m buoyed by the fact that they’re going to get this shot of inspiration, shot of confidence in what their hard work can do when it pays off,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I think everybody has soul-searched, as you should be. You saw a lot of pride out there ... Hopefully we’ll see that as we go forward into our really second season here.”
You also saw a great deal of emotion, some of it fueled by soul-searching, some from a Saturday night speech from coach Jason Garrett on "teamwork,'' some because old-timers like Jason Witten (with an early one-handed TD catch) and Sean Lee (with a "Defensive Player of the Week''-level effort) were celebrated.
From the opening coin toss, though, it looked like things were trending in another embarrassing direction for the Cowboys after Dak Prescott and the Dallas captains seemingly made a huge mistake that would have resulted in the Rams receiving the ball to open both the first and second halves.
The Cowboys quickly erased any fears of ineptitude, however, holding the Rams to a punt on their first possession, and following it up with a score on their first chance of the game. As it turned out, Prescott did say "defer" when the Cowboys won the toss and the error was corrected at halftime. Dallas received the second-half kickoff.
The Dallas defense held the Rams to just 289 yards of offense, much of which came in garbage time in the fourth quarter, and harassed Jared Goff all day long. They were also able to stifle the Rams running game, holding Todd Gurley to just 20 yards on 11 carries. Among the leaders: Sean Lee, with a sack and an interception.
"This,'' said DeMarcus Lawrence, "is the team we know we can be."
Offensively, the Cowboys got back to their winning ways as well, accumulating 475 yards from scrimmage on just 68 plays, with Elliott and Tony Pollard combining for 258 yards on 36 carries for the game.
Amid injury concerns with his hands, Dak Prescott also completed 15 of 23 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
New kicker Kai Forbath also made an impact, going 5-for-5 on extra points and 3-for-3 on field goals.
Following their win over the Rams, Dallas can now cement the NFC East division title and a playoff spot with a win in Philadelphia over the Eagles next Sunday.
“That’s just what the doctor ordered to get you out of whatever (funk) you’re in,'' said Jones, celebrating this one while looking forward to the next. "This one was richly deserved and came along at a good time for us.”