Pay Attention to This: Cowboys- Rams Preview

Jason Garrett: He's 3-0 against the Rams, and the Cowboys have outscored the Rams 99-45. The 34-31 road win over the Rams in 2014 was one of the most significant since Garrett became the head coach. The Cowboys trailed 21-0 with six minutes left in the first half, but didn’t abandon the run game and rallied to win.

Key Matchup: St. Louis Running back Todd Gurley v. Middle linebacker Jaylon Smith: Gurley has only six 100-yard games in his NFL career, but one occurred in his last game, a win over San Francisco.

He has only 11 games with 20 carries or more, but he also accomplished that against the 49ers with 28 carries. If Gurley gets rolling against a Cowboys’ defense that struggled to stop the run against Denver in Week 2, then the Cowboys will have problems.

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Smith, who leads the team with 30 tackles, must be more of a force against the run. Too many of Smith’s tackles, though, have come four or five yards downfield. The Cowboys need more impact plays from him.

X Factor: Justin Durant played only three snaps in the first two games, but he played 32 snaps last week against Arizona as the Cowboys used more of a 3-2-6 defense.

Durant said it was good to get a chance to play and get into a rhythm before he’s expected to see considerable playing time against the Cardinals because there’s a good chance Sean Lee, who didn’t practice this week, won’t play. If he does play, Lee could be limited. He’ll likely be a game-time decision.

The weakside linebacker is one of the most important positions in the defense because it’s designed to let the player run to the ball without having to fight through a lot of blocks.

Key Stat: The Cowboys rank 24th in the NFL in 1st down rushing at 3.89 per carry, which is below the league average is 4.04. When Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing last year, the Cowboys averaged 5.27 yards per carry on first down, nearly a yard more than the league average.

If the Cowboys can’t control first down, then Dak Prescott will face a lot of second- and third-down, which is not conducive to winning football.

Cowboys Game Plan: Dallas will make a concerted effort for Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff to beat them. They don’t want Todd Gurley controlling the game and gashing them. If they can keep him to about 15 carries, it means they’re controlling the game.

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