LA Rams versus Dallas Cowboys: Matchups to watch revisited – Turf Show Times


The Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys NFC Divisional round game ended in thrilling fashion with the game coming down to a one score game.

Although that turned out to be true, the game simply wasn’t that close at any point outside of the first quarter. The Rams thoroughly dominated offensively routinely driving down the field succeeding with everything they wanted to do. It wasn’t a shutdown defensive performance, but it was still very good sans a blunder or two in pass coverage.

Let’s revisit the matchups to watch:

CB Nickell Robey-Coleman vs WR Cole Beasley

Last week’s matchup to watch:

Ironically enough, both of these players are the most dependable in respect to their teams’ position groups. Nickell Robey-Coleman has proven to be the Rams’ most consistent corner as he routinely places himself in good positions to make plays with good coverage and pass breakups. Luckily for the Rams, he’ll cover the Cowboys’ third down weapon in Cole Beasley who finished 2018 with 65 receptions for 672 yards receiving and three touchdowns. It’s clear QB Dak Prescott values and targets Beasley in most clutch/third down situations, so it’ll be key for NRC to lock up Beasley and force Prescott elsewhere on key down-and-distances. One thing to note is that Beasley hasn’t practiced this week due to an ankle injury, though I’d expect him to play as he’s simply too important to the offense.

Cole Beasley was clearly hampered as he wasn’t even a part of the gameplan for the Cowboys, so much so that he only had one reception for 15 yards. Nickell Robey-Coleman was quiet (a good quiet) all game with his only blunder coming in coverage on the converted two point conversion. All in all, another great game for NRC.

WR Robert Woods vs CB Chidobe Awuzie

Last week’s matchup to watch:

It simply doesn’t get more reliable than Robert Woods, which is why he’ll be a key on Saturday night. Woods had over 61 yards receiving in 14 games this season, ensuring that he’ll remain involved in every gameplan the Rams devise. This week he’s likely to draw a lot of Chidobe Awuzie in coverage as the Cowboys like to have CB Byron Jones cover #1 receivers (which Woods could be considered), though I anticipate a Jones versus Brandin Cooks matchup. Awuzie is a solid corner who’s capable of making many plays in a game, though he can certainly be beat and tends to become quite grabby. I expect the strengths in Woods’ game to help expose Awuzie a bit.

No Rams receiver was given a ton of opportunities to make big plays, and ironically, that was probably ideal. The ground game was abusive so the offense simply didn’t need to pass the ball much at all, though Robert Woods did still lead the receivers with six receptions for 69 yards. Woods continues to be an important factor in the offense as his hands and route running ability create an easy target on third downs.

DT Aaron Donald vs OG’s Connor Williams/Xavier Su’a-Filo

Last week’s matchup to watch:

Oh. Yes. At this point, I no longer have any words to describe how dominant Aaron Donald is. And even with that being the case, one of the most dominant performances I’ve ever seen from a player was Donald in last year’s playoff game versus the Atlanta Falcons. Donald lived in the backfield in that game, affecting nearly every play of the first half. This week, he’ll have two ends of the spectrum to oppose. One side is the LG position manned by either rookie Connor Williams or veteran Xavier Su’a-Filo, neither of which are good. The other is RG Zach Martin who is the Aaron Donald of offensive lineman. I’m sure Donald will be moved around and get a fair share of both sides, though it’s an incredibly appealing matchup to let 99 wreck the game against two bad left guards.

Aaron Donald had a decent game, but nothing near his standards. Off the top of my head, Donald had two tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one holding call drawn, and a few more pressures/hits. This should excite Rams fans because the defense is clearly playing much better football recently and Donald had one of his more quiet games on the season.

RT Rob Havenstein vs DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Last week’s matchup to watch:

Rob Havenstein is one of the best tackles in the league, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best defensive ends in the league. I envision both guys winning plenty of reps, though QB Jared Goff will need to be well aware of where #90 is lined up as Lawrence has a fantastic pass-rushing prowess that produces a lot of sacks.

Dominated. Big Rob Havenstein needs to receive a standing ovation for his performance yesterday as he completely neutralized DeMarcus Lawrence. Not only Hav, but the entire offensive line was dominant. They paved massive holes consistently for both running backs (C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley) and kept QB Jared Goff 100% clean and untouched. Brilliant performance for the OL and Aaron Kromer.

QB Jared Goff vs MLB Jaylon Smith

Last week’s matchup to watch:

After a rough stretch from weeks 14 and 15, Jared Goff bounced back nicely in the final two games of the regular season. Now, Goff has a chance to make his mark as one of the truly “elite quarterbacks” in the league if he can perform to his best ability on Saturday night. That won’t be an easy task as the Cowboys have a terrific defense with a star player on all three levels of their defense, with Jaylon Smith being that guy on the second level. Smith is the leader of that defense, and the mind games between Goff and Smith are going to be very interesting to watch. As an ascending player with unprecedented closing speed, the Rams would be wise to use Smith’s aggression and speed against him.

Saturday night was pretty much all you could ask for from Jared Goff. With the offensive line and running game dominating, he simply wasn’t asked to do much, but when he got a chance he was decisive and accurate with the ball. Goff’s marquee play probably came on the 3rd-and-7 with two minutes left in a game where he scrambled for a first down and effectively ended the game. Look for Jared to be more comfortable moving forward after notching his first playoff win.

Rams’ front-seven vs RB Ezekiel Elliott

Last week’s matchup to watch:

Obviously this is a matchup the entirety of the Cowboys fans and franchise will feel good about, but it’s time for the Rams’ front-seven to step up and earn their way to the next round. I’m not saying they need to completely shut down Ezekiel Elliott — partly because that’s nearly impossible to do — but they need to limit his gains and ensure he never has a chance to break contain and rip off a huge run. This would be a fantastic week for NT Ndamukong Suh and DT Michael Brockers to wreak havoc, along their superstar talent in Aaron Donald. OLB’s Dante Fowler Jr and Samson Ebukam need to remain sound in containing the edge, as the latter has struggled badly with doing so this year.

The NFL rushing champ had 20 carries for 47 yards, that’s an average of 2.4 yards-per-carry. The defensive line (and front-seven) was absolutely dominant. The DL was strong at the point of attack, the inside linebacker duo of Cory Littleton and Mark Barron were active in chasing down ball carriers and wrapping up, and OLB’s Dante Fowler Jr and Samson Ebukam were fantastic in containing the edge’s and funneling runs back inside. Brilliant performance for a unit that’s largely been a liability.

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