Takeaways from the Rams’ second preseason game against the Cowboys

HONOLULU, Hawaii — On the road for their second straight preseason game, the Rams fell to the Cowboys 14-10 Saturday evening. The vast majority of Los Angeles’ starters didn’t make the trip, so those in reserve roles saw heavy action in a good showing for the Hawaiians in attendance.

Here are five instant takeaways from the exhibition matchup at Aloha Stadium.

The Rams take on the Dallas Cowboys in Honolulu, Hawaii!

1) COSTLY DEFENSIVE PENALTIES ON GAME-DEFINING DRIVE

Flags against the Rams for a late hit, defensive pass interference and roughing the passer accounted for 34 of the Cowboys’ 72 yards on their go-ahead scoring drive late in the third quarter, with quarterback Cooper Rush connecting with wide receiver Devin Smith from eight yards out for the touchdown.

On a larger scale, the mistakes contributed to 18 total penalties for Los Angeles, six more than it had in its preseason opener at Oakland last weekend.

2) OFFENSE LOOKS SHARPER

Backup quarterback Blake Bortles adjusted well from his first game as a Ram, completing 7 of 11 passes for 62 yards and one touchdown against the Cowboys. Brandon Allen took over for Bortles at the beginning of the first offensive series in the second quarter.

Even when the execution didn’t look as smooth, the Rams adapted mostly well. Allen recovered a botched snap and hit wide receiver Nsimba Webster for a 16-yard gain on 3rd and 6 to keep a late first half drive alive.

Wide receiver Mike Thomas also had a nice showing. After dropping a pass from Bortles on the Rams' first scoring drive, who overcame a drop by catching his next two passes from Bortles to help set up that scoring opportunity. He finished with two receptions for 23 yards in the loss.

3) DARRELL HENDERSON MORE INVOLVED

Rams coach Sean McVay said the plan was to increase running back Darrell Henderson’s touches, and true to his word he kept Henderson quite busy Saturday evening.

Henderson got the start and rushed six times for 16 yards, both team-highs. He also led all Rams in receiving with six receptions on six targets for 38 yards. While his carries matched what he got in the preseason opener at Oakland, he had five more receptions and targets in the passing game.

Los Angeles got pinned inside the five late in the first half but his carries on that series helped them out of it. His longest reception was a 26-yard gain via Bortles on L.A.'s first offensive series.

4) JOJO NATSON CHIPS IN ON OFFENSE

Los Angeles' primary return specialist, JoJo Natson caught two passes on two targets for 12 yards and secured the Rams’ lone touchdown of the game.

On special teams, he muffed a punt on a fair catch attempt that was recovered by Dallas at Los Angeles’ 32-yard line, but a missed 52-yard field goal attempt by Cowboys kicker Brett Maher effectively prevented any harm from coming out of it. 

In fairness, it was an atypical mistake by Natson, who lost only two fumbles during the 2018 regular season.

5) NATREZ PATRICK SHINES

Signed by the Rams as an undrafted free agent in May, Natrez Patrick was a bright spot at outside linebacker against the Cowboys.

He combined with linebacker Micah Kiser for a sack early in the first quarter, then drew a holding call later that same quarter on the Cowboys’ third offensive series. Patrick also added three total tackles and one quarterback hit.

6) SPECIAL TEAMS CONTRIBUTIONS

Johnny Hekker’s coffin corner punt that set up Dallas at its own 3 should be noted, even though the Cowboys still marched all the way downfield and scored. Greg Zuerlein’s 29-yard field goal attempt gave the Rams the lead with 3:45 left in the second quarter. Special teams also contributed to Maher’s missed field goal. Zuerlein uncharacteristically missed a 56-yarder toward the end of the first half, but it was an otherwise solid day for this unit.

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