“We’re for real.”
Dorance Armstrong’s two big plays and Micah Parsons on one leg – making the above, now justifiable claim – are enough to suffocate the defending Super Bowl champions in Dallas’ 22-10 victory. Our 10 Observations on another win from “Nobody’s Underdog” …
10. DOOMSDAY 4.0 – The Cowboys continued their defensive dominance Sunday afternoon in SoFi Stadium, becoming only the second team in franchise history – joining 1973 – to allow only five or fewer touchdowns through the first five games of the season and the first in 50 years to hold their first five opponents all under 20 points.
The Rams got their early touchdown on a superb one-hand catch-and-75-yard run by Cooper Kupp, who had a half-step on Cowboys’ cornerback Trevon Diggs. Other than that, however, it was nada for Rams’ quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was sacked five times (by Micah Parsons twice, Dorance Armstrong, Osa Odighizuwa and Jourdan Lewis) and intercepted once (by safety Malik Hooker).
Parsons, who played only on obvious passing plays in the second half because of a pulled groin, ended the game with a sack-strip of Stafford recovered by Sam Williams. Parsons is the first player in NFL history with 19 sacks in his first 21 games.
Said Parsons, “I told coach I couldn’t do a whole lot of running but I could rush. I just won’t be denied.”
He also said to assistant George Edwards, “If I’m alive, I can go.”
9. DORANCE THE DOMINATOR – Parsons. DeMarcus Lawrence. Diggs. Even Dan Quinn. Lots of Cowboys getting credit for the team’s best defensive start in 50 years. Kinda forgotten in the accolades is Armstrong – until Sunday.
The defensive lineman owned this one early, forcing his way through the middle of the Rams for a sack-strip and a blocked punt that resulted in a 9-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game. Lawrence scooped Stafford’s fumble for a 19-yard touchdown on the game’s third play. And on the Rams’ second possession he again burst through the middle to block a punt that set up the Cowboys’ offense at LA’s 20-yard line.
“DA” is the Jerry Jones Consolation Prize for the controversial decision to let Randy Gregory leave for Denver over a dispute in the wording of his contract.
Credit to all … especially Armstrong.
8. TIT FOR TAT – The Cowboys got the blocked punt by Armstrong, drawn up by a special-teams coach (John Fassel) that used to work for the Rams. LA answered by converting a fourth-down fake punt, drawn up by a special-teams coach (Joe DeCamillis) that used to work for the Cowboys.
On May 2, 2009, DeCamillis suffered fractured cervical vertebrae in his neck when the team’s practice facility tent collapsed during a thunderstorm at Valley Ranch.
7. GALLUP GIVETH – Receiver Michael Gallup dropped an easy third-down pass in the first half, forcing the Cowboys to punt. But he then set up Dallas’ field goal on the first possession of the second half with a falling, leaning, contorting, toe-tapping, 27-yard catch along the right sideline.
It was boom or bust for Gallup, who managed four catches for 44 yards. In Dallas’ 2020 opener against the Rams in SoFi, it was Gallup who was called for a controversial offensive pass-interference penalty in the final minute of a 20-17 loss.
6. TREVON TOASTED – Cowboys’ risk-reward cornerback Diggs makes his living undercutting routes and throws. He intercepted passes the previous two games – and 13 times over two seasons – with that savvy strategy. But against the Rams two perfect throws by Stafford burned Diggs to the tune of 129 yards and a touchdown.
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Diggs was in decent position, but just out of reach on a 54-yard completion to Tutu Atwell and the 75-yarder to Kupp.
5. 4 AND 1-DERFUL – Who’da thunk the Cowboys would be 4-1 with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and CeeDee Lamb combining for only … three total touchdowns?
That doesn’t mean that Zeke hasn’t contributed (or is being “disrespected”). This was “Dine & Dash” stuff here … with his sick-bay partner Tony Pollard providing the “Dash” on a long, darting, impressive TD run that made all the difference.
4. MARVELOUS MAHER – The Cowboys’ Brett Maher made three more field goals, improving to 13 of 14 this season with his only miss from 59 yards just before halftime against the New York Giants in Week 3. Maher is on pace to threaten the NFL record of 44 makes in a season, set in 2011 by David Akers of the San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile the Cowboys got a boost from the first miss of the season by the Rams’ Matt Gay, who pushed a 51-yarder wide right in the fourth quarter.
3. THREE AND … OUT? – Thanks to Armstrong, the Cowboys had a 9-0 lead despite running just three offensive plays.
2. SUPER COOPERS – Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush: 10 completions for 102 yards, 0 mistakes. Rams receiver Cooper Kupp: seven catches for 125 yards and a score.
Individual battle: Kupp.
Team war: Rush.
For what it’s worth, Kupp went 0 of 1 as a passer. The five-game totals for Rush as Dallas’ starter: 89 of 145 (61 percent) for 1,100 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception. Rush is now 5-0 all-time as a starter, including 4-0 this season. Shocking stat none of us predicted in 2022:
Through Week 5 in the NFL there are only two undefeated quarterbacks: Jalen Hurts and Rush.
That still doesn’t mean Dallas is benching Dak, who hopes to return this week from his thumb surgery. It does mean Dallas has a capable backup QB, something we weren’t sure about a month ago.
1. EAST BEAST SHOWDOWN – The NFC East is back. With a vengeance. The Giants are 4-1, with their only loss to the Cowboys. And the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday improved to 5-0. Pretty juicy early-season showdown next Sunday night in Philly between the undefeated Eagles and surging Cowboys.
Said Micah: “They have a really explosive offense, but we got a really explosive defense. We got to show it next week. It’ll be a true test.”
A true test to see who’s “for real” … again.
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