Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys: The key matchups
Written by News on 15/12/2019
Behold the clash of two sides in polar opposite form as the resurgent Los Angeles Rams meet the panicking Dallas Cowboys on the road.
Sean McVay’s Rams enter Week 15 looking for a third successive win after beating the Seattle Seahawks 28-12 to move within one game of the sixth seed Minnesota Vikings.
The Cowboys will meanwhile be out to snap a three-game losing streak to not only suppress disgruntled support but also fend off the Philadelphia Eagles at the top of the NFC East for another week.
We have examined some of the key matchups to look out for in what could potentially be a season-defining game for both sides…
Quaterback/running back tandems
While Rams quarterback Goff and running back Gurley have seemingly rediscovered the balanced workload that led them to the Super Bowl, their opposites Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have faced the main bulk of criticism towards the Cowboys’ uninspiring and disjointed offense of late.
Having gone three games without a passing touchdown, Goff has responded over the last two weeks with a combined 717 yards for four scores in wins over the Arizona Cardinals and the Seahawks. This has coincided with an increase in the production of Gurley, who has rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns in his last two outings.
McVay is beginning to restore the excitement and unpredictability that helped mould such an effective QB/RB tandem in 2018.
Dallas’ slump has seen Prescott throw just three touchdown passes in his last three games having previously registered three in three consecutive outings. The third-year play-caller’s completion rate dropped to a season-low 55.1 per cent in the 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears last time out, which perhaps stems from his year-high 49 pass attempts in each of his last two games.
That’s where Elliott comes in. The 24-year-old has not rushed for at least 100 yards in a game since the Week Nine win over the New York Giants.
While McVay is re-establishing the creativity to his running back’s contributions, Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore appears reluctant to balance his usage of Prescott and Elliott for the entirety of a game.
It’s the Rams’ duo that owns the momentum heading into this one.
Amari Cooper vs. Jalen Ramsey
The importance of Cooper has been heightened in recent weeks by the struggles Jason Garrett’s men have faced on offense.
Cooper has made the WR1 slot his own since being traded by the Oakland Raiders and currently leads the Cowboys with 70 catches for 1,054 yards and eight touchdowns at an average of 15.1 yards per reception this season.
Such has been his influence that he has earned the recognition of the man he looks set to match up against on Sunday in cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is not one to dish out praise on a regular basis.
Speaking to the media this week, Ramsey described him as “one of the most underrated receivers in the league.”
“What he’s been able to do since he got to Dallas, it’s elite,” he added.
Ramsey himself has made a significant impact following his arrival from the Jacksonville Jaguars in October – since which the Rams have gone 5-2.
He is still awaiting his first interception in LA, but the 25-year-old’s skills in coverage have been key in helping to wake up the Rams’ pass defense.
Tyler Higbee vs. Cowboys linebackers
It has been tight end Higbee’s time to rise as a star commodity within the Rams’ plethora of receiving weapons over the past fortnight.
The 2016 fourth-round pick made eight catches for 107 yards and one touchdown in the Week 13 win over the Cardinals, before making seven receptions for 116 yards against the Seahawks the following week.
His production partly came as a result of Gerald Everett’s absence through injury, with his fellow tight end looking doubtful to play against the Cowboys having missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Do not be surprised to see him play a prominent role again on Sunday, particularly with Robert Woods proving invaluable in moving the Rams down the field with over 90 yards receiving in each of his last four games – including 172 against the Cardinals.
Dallas have allowed the seventh most yards by tight ends in the league this season with 92, according to Pro Football Reference.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith could shoulder the main responsibility of containing Higbee after seeing positional team-mates Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch cast doubt over their availability by missing Wednesday’s practice.
Smith leads his team with 120 total tackles this season as well as producing 2.5 sacks, six pass defenses, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Watch our Sunday coverage live on Sky Sports Action from 5.30pm, with Rams at Cowboys set to kick off at 9.25pm and Bills at Steelers at 1.20am.
NFL RedZone is on Sky Sports Mix from 6pm.
(c) Sky Sports 2019: Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys: The key matchups