Set to play on their own field for the first time in four weeks, the Dallas Cowboys are as healthy as they have been all season ahead of a meeting with the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
The Cowboys earned a 20-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 16 then went into their bye week savoring their ability to regroup and recover, one week after they were blown out on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.
Dallas (4-2) had just two home games over the first six contests of the season, both wins, and emerged in solid shape with twice as many victories as defeats this season. Now the Cowboys begin a stretch where five of their next seven games are at home.
“We broke down the season into trimesters … and obviously it flips here in the next six games. We want to take advantage of it,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “More games are lost in September than are won. Now, your productivity, your continuity, your consistency really has to take a big step here in this second trimester.”
Every member of the Dallas roster was a practice participant Wednesday in at least some capacity. That included running backs coach Jeff Blasko, whose undisclosed medical leave of absence that began just before the season opener kept him away until the bye week.
After throwing three interceptions against the 49ers, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed 70 percent of his passes (21 of 30) against the Chargers and threw for a season-best 272 yards with a touchdown and no picks.
The Cowboys’ elite defense also avenged itself against the Chargers. In a sign of just how good that defense has been, the 17 points allowed are the most the unit has given up in a victory.
Dallas is third in the NFL with 177.0 passing yards allowed per game and fifth in total yards (288.7).
The Rams (3-4) head into Week 8 still in search of an identity. Not much was expected of a team in something of a rebuilding mode (outside of its core stars in defensive tackle Aaron Donald, quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp).
But a 3-3 start led to a role as favorites over the Pittsburgh Steelers at home last week, only to fall 24-17 when Los Angeles blew a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead. The Rams gained just 20 yards of total offense in the final period with none of it in the air on four attempts.
When it appeared the Rams got the fourth-down stop they needed with just over two minutes remaining, an apparent poor spot gave the Steelers a first down. Out of timeouts, the Rams were unable to challenge and Pittsburgh ran out the clock.
“The NFL is very challenging (and) to get wins on a consistent basis is really difficult,” said Rams head coach Sean McVay, who became a father for the first time Wednesday. “But we’ve got to figure out how to do it at a more consistent clip, because I think we can, and I trust that we will.”
It won’t get any easier for the offense with the remainder of the Rams’ schedule dotted with matchups against stout defenses in the Cowboys, 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints.
While Stafford and Kupp work to regain their timing, rookie wideout Puka Nacua has managed to lead the NFL with 58 receptions. The Rams also have shown an ability to run the ball, regardless of who is in the backfield.
Running back Kyren Williams delivered before an ankle injury, with Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson Jr. combining for 127 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown Sunday. The Rams averaged 157.0 yards on the ground over the past two games.
On Tuesday, the Rams released kicker Brett Maher, who missed two field goals and an extra point against the Steelers. They signed former University of Arizona kicker Lucas Havrisik, a Los Angeles-area native.