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Fans second guessing McCarthy's decision-making in Cowboys loss

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Ezekiel Elliott during the first half. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Mike McCarthy's first big decision in his debut as Dallas Cowboys coach is going to be second guessed for awhile.

Instead of going for the tying field goal on the road against the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter, McCarthy elected to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Rams 11. Dak Prescott threw a short pass to CeeDee Lamb on a crossing route, but the first-round pick was stopped a yard short on a nice open-field tackle by Rams rookie Jordan Fuller, forcing a turnover on downs.

That was Dallas' last, best scoring chance as it dropped a 20-17 decision in the opening game at Los Angeles' palatial SoFi Stadium.

"I think it was a good play call. I think we had a chance of getting a first down," said running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had 127 total yards and two touchdowns. "We ended up coming up short, and that's just one of those plays in the game where you've got to convert. That cost us the game."

Lamb finished with five receptions for 59 yards in his NFL debut. He said he was originally at the marker and had enough for the first down but had to come back for the ball.

"That's definitely one of the plays I wish I had back, but live and learn. It's not really a rookie mistake, but it's definitely a mistake from a rookie," he said.

McCarthy defended the decision that he and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore made, saying there was still plenty of time left and that he was trying to create more momentum. Instead, it ended up being a backbreaker.

"Analytics gives you good structure and it would tell you to go for it. But you have to look at the variables and trust your players," he said. "I want our offensive guys to play wide open. Clearly we were in field goal range and it was three-point game. The conservative play is to kick the field goal, but I felt good about how we were moving."

Prescott, who was 25 of 39 for 266 yards and a touchdown, said the fact McCarthy was aggressive in Week 1 should give the unit confidence the remainder of the season in key situations despite not converting on Sunday. Dallas hosts Atlanta next Sunday.

"That's one of the good things you can take out of it. He is going to put it in our hands and make plays. You have to appreciate that. We have to play better," he said.

Dallas got the ball two more times. On the final drive, Prescott appeared to make a 47-yard connection to Michael Gallup to the Rams' 19, but it was called back due to offensive pass interference.

McCarthy didn't agree with the decision, saying Gallup and Rams' cornerback Jalen Ramsey were both hand fighting up the left sideline.

"I was surprised there was a call either way. Obviously I'm very disappointed in the call, especially that late. You don't see that at a critical part of the game," McCarthy said.

Dallas' defense allowed 422 yards, but linebacker Aldon Smith got a sack in his first game since November 2015. Smith didn't play the past four seasons due to suspensions and off-field issues. He was credited with 11 tackles, which tied fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith for the team high.

Smith's sack came during on third down during the fourth quarter and caused the Rams to punt.

"I was excited. I didn't know I got the sack right away because the way they were getting the ball out sometimes, you might get back and hit the quarterback and the ball will be gone," he said.

Rams open SoFi Stadium in style with 20-17 win over Cowboys

By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams opened SoFi Stadium with a 20-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Malcolm Brown rushed for a career-high 79 yards and two touchdowns, Jared Goff passed for 275 yards and Robert Woods had six catches for 105 yards to help the Rams improve to 4-0 in season openers under coach Sean McVay. Los Angeles also spoiled the debut of Mike McCarthy, Dallas' first new head coach in a decade. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown and caught another scoring pass.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams ran through their tunnel and into empty SoFi Stadium for the very first time amid sparkling fireworks, flashing lights and the prerecorded cheers of fans watching from home.

So this isn't the Hollywood ending that anybody pictured on a landmark night for professional football's return to Los Angeles.

The Rams will still take plenty of sweet memories from this inaugural game.

Malcolm Brown rushed for a career-high 79 yards and two touchdowns, Jared Goff passed for 275 yards and Los Angeles beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-17 on Sunday night.

"It was a special day," said Goff, who went 20 for 31. "It's not the way you'd imagine it, but I think we'll look back on this a long time from now and realize the importance of it, but it was really cool to go out there and get a win and play really well."

Robert Woods had six catches for 105 yards as the Rams improved to 4-0 in season openers under coach Sean McVay and spoiled the debut of Mike McCarthy, Dallas' first new head coach in a decade.

"To be at this stadium for the first time and break it in with a win, that's what you work for, that's what you practice for," said Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who had the first sack in stadium history.

Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown and caught another scoring pass, but the Cowboys began a season of high expectations by losing three starters to injury in the first half and then failing to mount a late comeback in a scoreless fourth quarter for both teams.

"We needed to find a way to win it, and we didn't get it done," McCarthy said. "I thought we did a real good job getting ready. We are playing a team that has experience. You can see how efficient they are on offense in their fourth year. Our defense played a lot of snaps."

Dak Prescott passed for 266 yards and a touchdown, but Dallas managed three points on its six drives in the second half.

Dallas managed only 15 net yards on its final 10 plays of the game. Michael Gallup made a long catch that would have put the Cowboys in field goal range with 21 seconds left, but was called for offensive pass interference for contact with Jalen Ramsey.

"It was a huge chance," Prescott said. "We had a big two-minute drive at the end of the half. We were still able to move and get some progress, but we didn't get it done. But it is Game 1."

The opening of Rams owner Stan Kroenke's $5 billion stadium project was a historic night for the Los Angeles area, albeit one that should have been much more festive. The coronavirus pandemic prevented Rams fans from christening the palatial stadium, which is scheduled to host next season's Super Bowl, the 2023 college football championship game and the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"You realize how much you appreciate the crowd," McVay said. "I thought I guys did a great job bringing their own energy. I was really pleased with the energy we had from our sideline, but when that's the only thing you're hearing, it is eerie. What a cool thing to be able to get a win for Mr. Kroenke tonight, (but) I think I'll remember the silence."

THE OPENER

The Rams got the ball first in their new home, and Goff hit Woods with a short pass that turned into a 20-yard gain on the building's first play from scrimmage. The 75-yard opening drive ended with Brown's 1-yard plunge for the stadium's first touchdown.

"It's exciting to do that," Brown said. "I feel like I may live forever, know what I'm saying?"

BIG PLAY

While the Cowboys vehemently disagreed with the pass interference call on Gallup, Ramsey felt equally strongly.

"If they hadn't have called that, I would have been really upset," Ramsey said. "That was clear as day, in my opinion."

BIG STOP

After calling a conservative play on third down, McCarthy curiously went for it on fourth and 3 from the Los Angeles 11 with about 12 minutes to play. Rams rookie safety Jordan Fuller made a superb tackle on fellow rookie CeeDee Lamb before the marker.

"I realize it was a three-point game, but there was time left but we were playing well," McCarthy said. "My mindset was trying to create more momentum."

DEBUTS

Lamb had five catches for 59 yards in the first-round pick's first NFL appearance.

Van Jefferson's first career reception was a beautiful 31-yard grab in the second quarter, but it was the promising Rams rookie's only catch.

Cam Akers rushed for 39 yards on 14 carries in the Rams second-round pick's NFL debut.

Rookie kicker Samuel Sloman put his first career field goal attempt off the left upright from 29 yards out, but he recovered to hit two field goals for the Rams.

INJURIES

The Cowboys lost starting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to a collarbone injury in the first quarter. Right tackle Cam Erving and tight end Blake Jarwin both didn't return from knee injuries in the second quarter.

Rams tight end Gerald Everett injured his back in the second half.

UP NEXT

Cowboys: Host the Atlanta Falcons in their home opener on Sunday.

Rams: Visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday to begin four road games in five weeks.


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