Five Takeaways: Rams 35-30 Victory over the Cowboys

Los Angeles improved its record to 3-1 with Sunday's 35-30 win in Dallas. Head coach Sean McVay's squad has continued to show improvement, particularly on offense. Here are five takeaways from the contest.

1) Gurley continues to pace Rams offense

Running back Todd Gurley finished off a stellar first quarter of the 2017 season by recording 215 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in Sunday's victory.

Gurley led the Rams in both rushing and receiving, picking up 121 yards on 23 carries and 94 yards on seven receptions. He became just the third player in NFL history to post at least 575 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns through four games, joining Jim Brown — who did it twice — and Emmit Smith.

Is that sort of what defensive coordinator Wade Phillips recently termed a "baseball stat," where a few numbers are plucked out to make something else sound impressive? Yes. But when a player is in that kind of company and his team is 3-1, there's something to be said for it.

September's NFC Offensive Player of the Month picked up right where he left off, and will likely continue to be the focal point of Los Angeles' offense going forward.

2) Zuerlein is 'Mr. Automatic'

Speaking of rare accomplishments, kicker Greg Zuerlein successfully converted all seven of his field goal attempts, setting a new single-game franchise record. Zuerlein accounted for 23 points in all, as he also sent two extra point attempts through the uprights.

After the game, McVay called Zuerlein "Mr. Automatic," as he's now hit 18 consecutive field goals dating back to last season.

"He won the game today," McVay said Sunday. "You can't play any better than what he is doing right now and I thought he was a huge factor in why we were able to come away with the win today."

Quarterback Jared Goff noted how having Zuerlein be so consistent on field goals in some ways changes his approach once the offense reaches a certain spot in opponent territory. Zuerlein has gone 7-of-7 on field goals from 40 to 49 yards, and is 1-of-1 on his sole field goal attempt of at least 50 yards.

"He's absolute nails," Goff said of Zuerlein. "For the most part, you get inside the 30, the first thing I think about it, 'I've got points. I've got points. Don't be careless with it — I've got points.' Greg's absolute nails.

"You go 7-of-7, we win the game," Goff added. "We don't without him."

3) Has the defense turned a corner?

The Rams' defense has been one of the weaker aspects of the team in 2017, but if the unit can replicate its second-half performance from Sunday, then L.A. will be in good shape.
Dallas scored on its first four drives on Sunday, first getting a field goal before scoring three touchdowns in the second quarter. The club dominated time of possession in the first half 18:00 to 12:00, amassing 24 points, 287 yards, and 133 yards rushing.

That changed in the second half, as the Rams' defense allowed just six points and made big plays when needed to keep the team ahead. The Cowboys punted on each of their three third-quarter possessions, and linebacker Mark Barron intercepted Dak Prescott on early in the fourth quarter.

McVay gave plenty of credit to Phillips and the rest of the defensive staff for making necessary adjustments at halftime to put L.A. in position to win. The visitors allowed only six points after the break, which allowed Los Angeles to control the clock 10:06 to 4:54 in the fourth quarter.

"You have to go back to the first half. We couldn't get off the field," cornerback Trumaine Johnson said. "We couldn't get three and out to save our lives. We came in after the first half, fixed the mistakes and went out there and played our ball."

4) Pass protection kept Dallas' rushers quiet

After being taken down for 26 sacks his rookie year, Goff has been kept upright this season. He's been sacked four times, which works out to just 3.31 percent of his dropbacks — a number No. 4 in the NFL.

L.A. went against the league's sack leader on Sunday in DeMarcus Lawrence, and while he did record a sack, he certainly did not have the type of game-wrecking performance he put up against the Cardinals in Week 3. According to to the press box stats, Lawrence had four total tackles — one for loss — with a sack/fumble that came early in the third quarter.

In all, Dallas recorded just six quarterback hits on Goff's 37 dropbacks.

5) D-line changes appeared to work well

When he spoke to the media last Thursday, Phillips mentioned the staff was beginning to move defensive lineman Michael Brockers around on the defensive line, and that he felt it would help the unit. That turned out to be the case, as Brockers lined up at 3-4 defensive end with Tanzel Smart taking nose tackle to begin Sunday's game.

Brockers finished with three total tackles — one for loss — with a sack, two quarterback hits, and two passes defensed. He also was key in applying pressure to Prescott on the quarterback's fourth-quarter interception.

The sixth-year defensive lineman out of LSU has enjoyed a nice beginning to the season, and should only get better as the season continues.

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