Rams, Cowboys both looking to move forward
The Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys enter their Week 4 contest with matching records and a similar objective: show the flashes of success so far this season are actually a trend.
But a winning trend would mean different things for the two organizations as the 2017 campaign settles in for the long haul and Los Angeles visits Dallas.
The Rams lost 11 of their last 12 games a year ago, so their 2-1 start under first-year coach Sean McVay already feels like a move in the right direction.
Another positive for Los Angeles has been the quarterback play of 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff. He threw seven interceptions to just five touchdowns while starting the final seven games last season but is flipping the script the last three weeks as he enters Sunday's game with 817 passing yards and five TDs to one interception.
"Really pleased with Jared tonight," McVay said after the Rams' 41-39 victory over San Francisco on Thursday. "I thought he made great decisions with the football. I thought Jared managed the game extremely well, distributed to his playmakers, gave guys a chance down the field -- you look at Sammy (Watkins) and Robert (Woods) coming away with over 100 (yards) apiece. And, really, those are the kinds of things we expect from him."
However, Goff will face new challenges this week in Dallas. For starters, receivers Watkins and Tavon Austin are in the concussion protocol and their availability for Sunday is unknown.
And then there's the Dallas defense, spearheaded by NFL sacks leader DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys made life miserable for Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the season-opener in Dallas.
"They're an excellent defense," said McVay, who was the Redskins offensive coordinator the last three seasons. "(Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod) Marinelli has those guys playing really hard. Just being in that division the last couple of years, a lot of respect for them."
One variable factor will be the availability of Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee, who suffered a hamstring injury versus Arizona on Monday night. Lee was listed as questionable on Wednesday.
While the Rams hope to keep breathing new life into the organization, Dallas is attempting to find the same rhythm it used to win 11 straight through the heart of the 2016 season.
The Broncos thumped the Cowboys in Week 2, but Dallas recovered from a slow start against the Cardinals and edged Arizona 28-17 on Monday.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott passed for two touchdowns and ran for another to lead the charge.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett said his team didn't get rattled after the Cardinals controlled the early stages of the Monday night game.
"The big thing you have to do in that situation is just kind of stay locked in on what you need to do individually, what your job is on your play," Garrett said. "If everybody does that, you're going to start executing ball plays on both sides, and we were able to do that."
The Cowboys are still sweating whether or not star running back Ezekiel Elliott will have to serve a six-game suspension this season, but Prescott's play against the Cardinals gave Cowboys fans hope their team can stay on track either way.
Elliott will be available on Sunday and it could be a big show at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys offense clicked at times versus the Giants, Broncos and Cardinals, and each of those opponents appear to be stronger on defense than the Rams.
Los Angeles surrendered 421 yards of total offense against San Francisco. Even so, McVay looked at the glass as half full after the victory.
"The one thing that we were most proud of is that in crunch time, when you have to be your best, Troy Hill makes a huge play on the two-point to stop them," McVay said. "Aaron (Donald) finishes off the game with a sack to close it out. They were their best when they had to be."
Updated September 27, 2017