‘Rams House’ becomes ‘Cowboys House’ during embarrassing loss

“Whose House?”

“Cowboys!”

That was their answer. That’s what they were screaming. That is how a building full of Dallas Cowboys fans sounded Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium, and it was embarrassing.

The defending Super Bowl champions have not only lost their mojo, but they also handed their trademark chant to crazed outsiders, and it was humiliating.

Even without their $40-million quarterback, the Cowboys marched into Inglewood, knocked the Rams flat on their yellow pants, celebrated with thousands of jeering blue jerseys, and it was mortifying.

The Cowboys won, 22-10, and although this may not be the precise low point of coach Sean McVay’s six-year tenure here, it ranks with the rank.

They have a losing record (2-3) this deep into the season for the first time under McVay. They are deadly dull for the first time under McVay. They seem completely clueless for the first time under McVay.

“There wasn’t much to write home about … there was nothing to write home about,” McVay said.

Yet if one still insists on writing home about this afternoon, the missive can be accomplished in one word.

Help!

The Rams just lost to a Cowboy team led not by quarterback Dak Prescott, but by a waiver-wire backup named Cooper Rush, and they did so in front of a stadium full of visiting fans roaring at their every misguided move.

The Rams lost a fumble that turned into a Cowboys touchdown. They had a punt blocked that eventually became a Cowboys field goal. They gave up a 57-yard touchdown run through future Hall of Fame defenders. They botched a possession that had been kept alive with a bold fake punt. They botched a possession that started on the Cowboys’ 29-yard line. They missed a fourth-quarter field goal that would have kept them within striking distance.

The Cowboys’ Israel Mukuamu celebrates after the Rams’ Matt Gay missed a field goal in the fourth quarter.

(Wally Scalidge/Los Angeles Times)

They couldn’t run (38 yards), they couldn’t protect (five sacks) and they couldn’t score (one touchdown in their last nine quarters).

Combined with last week’s weak effort against the San Francisco 49ers, this is the first time a McVay Rams team has endured consecutive games of fewer than 20 points.

As the baseball playoffs begin down the street, it is fair to wonder about the location of McVay’s fastball. Because right now, he’s apparently lost it.

“It’s not good enough right now,” McVay said of the recent results. “I’ll never pretend that it is.”

No need to pretend. Even if it seemed as if virtually every Rams season ticket holder sold their tickets to Cowboys fans, they were surely watching from home, and were surely as disgusted as the trudging, downcast Rams.

The game began with a Matthew Stafford fumble that was returned 19 yards for a touchdown by DeMarcus Lawrence.

The game ended with a Stafford interception at the goal line, Malik Hooker rolling on the ground in celebration, Stafford laying motionless on the ground in defeat, and seemingly all of Inglewood standing and cheering.

They were bookends of pain that sandwiched an afternoon of hurt.

“This is some adversity we’re facing right now,” McVay said.

On a day when the Cowboys gained just 239 total yards and Rush completed just 10 passes for 102 yards, the adversity was mostly a Rams creation.

Their response to that early Cowboys scoop-and-score? The Rams’ ensuing possession ended with Dorance Armstrong flying through the line again to block Riley Dixon’s punt, leading to Brett Maher’s 33-yard field goal to make it 9-0.

For the Rams, it was a day when seemingly nobody blocked anybody. It doesn’t help that they are missing three starters on the offensive line, but that doesn’t explain the complete lack of engagement.

“Sometimes you get one guy, two guys not doing the job correctly, it’s tough to get things going,” tight end Tyler Higbee said.

One, two… 10, 11… at this point, who’s counting?

The Rams appeared to be on the verge of reaching the end zone on their third drive after a beautiful 54-yard pass that Stafford dropped into the arms of Tutu Atwell for the former second-round draft pick’s first career catch. But Cam Akers was stuffed and Stafford was stymied and the Rams’ drive stalled, leading to a 29-yard field goal by Matt Gay.

“We’ve got to be able to run the football efficiently … then when we don’t run the football efficiently, we’re having trouble protecting,” McVay said. “I love Matthew Stafford, he is competing and doing everything in his power for this team. He needs some help. We’ve got to be able to help him.”

The Rams rebounded from the missed touchdown opportunity several possessions later when Kupp reached out and grabbed a Stafford pass over the middle and ran through the defense to complete a 75-yard touchdown pass. At that point, early in the second quarter, the Rams actually led, 10-9.

But the euphoria didn’t last as the Cowboys scored three plays later on a 57-yard touchdown run by Tony Pollard that featured three missed tackles and several huge holes.

The game never really felt close again. Every offensive series seemingly ended with a failed pass to Cooper Kupp. Every defensive series was filled with missed tackles and pressures that failed even to rattle Rush. And, as with seemingly every Rams game this season, the ending was punctuated with a question.

What happened to this team?

One can talk about Super Bowl hangovers, but the Rams should have long since sweated that out by now, no? One can talk about missing pieces, but they still have two of the league’s best offensive and defensive players, yes?

What they are lacking, it seems, is individual commitment to the culture of selflessness and sacrifice that just nine months ago led this team to a championship. Maybe it’s because of the distractions that come with being a champion in Hollywood, but it seems that not everyone is focused on the job. McVay implied as much in his postgame interview, and vowed to get it fixed.

“This is a challenging time right now, but I can assure you one thing,” he said, “we’re going to keep swinging. We’re going to keep fighting.”

It’s going to be an uphill slog. Andrew Whitworth is not coming out of retirement. Van Jefferson won’t be back from his knee surgery for at least a couple of weeks. And does anybody think Odell Beckham Jr., once he’s healthy, is going to come back to this mess?

All this, and, besides their divisional schedule, the Rams still must play at Tampa Bay, at Kansas City, and at Green Bay, as well as playing the Chargers in a “road” game at SoFi.

“It’s not a good movie right now, it’s not something we’re accustomed to,” McVay said. “But the story isn’t written yet.”

The Rams can only hope it gets better. Much better. Like, now.

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