DeMarcus Lawrence returned a fumble 19 yards for a touchdown on the Rams’ opening drive, and Cooper Rush remained unbeaten as the Dallas Cowboys' fill-in starter despite passing for just 102 yards in a 22-10 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday.
Tony Pollard made an outstanding 57-yard TD run for the Cowboys, who are off to a 4-1 start for the second consecutive season after racking up four consecutive wins without injured QB Dak Prescott.
Dorance Armstrong forced the fumble returned by Lawrence and later blocked a punt during a huge first quarter for Dallas, which got 86 yards rushing from Pollard and 78 more from Ezekiel Elliott. With Rush going 10 for 16, the running game and the Cowboys' impressive defense took charge in yet another strong game.
Cooper Kupp made a 75-yard touchdown reception for the Rams (2-3), who fell below .500 for only the second time in coach Sean McVay's six seasons while getting shut out in the second half.
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With three missing starters, the offensive line for the defending Super Bowl champions struggled to provide any support for the Rams' inert running game or for Matthew Stafford, who passed for 308 yards and was sacked five times.
Kupp's brilliant catch-and-run is the only touchdown scored by the Rams in their past nine quarters of play, including back-to-back losses to San Francisco and Dallas.
Malik Hooker made a clinching interception with 3:29 to play in a rematch of the first regular-season game in the history of SoFi Stadium, the multibillion-dollar football palace built by Rams owner Stan Kroenke and championed by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Los Angeles beat Dallas 20-17 in that fan-free encounter to open the 2020 season.
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Dallas got off to an auspicious start on the third play from scrimmage when Stafford fumbled while getting dropped by Armstrong under enormous pressure. Lawrence scooped it and scored the second touchdown of his nine-year career.
Los Angeles' second drive ended with Armstrong running unimpeded up the middle and blocking Riley Dixon's punt, although Dallas only managed an ensuing field goal.
The Rams settled down from the early chaos and even took the lead in the second quarter when Kupp caught a short pass one-handed and ran the final 71 yards on the longest play in the remarkable career of last season's NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
But Pollard put the Cowboys back ahead 92 seconds later, breaking a handful of tackles on the second-longest run of his career.
Jalen Ramsey got the first sack of his seven-year NFL career in the third quarter when the Cowboys left him unblocked on a blitz. The Rams' All-Pro defensive back never had a sack in his first 95 regular-season games and nine playoff contests.
The Cowboys missed the extra point on Lawrence's touchdown because new long snapper Matt Overton hit holder Bryan Anger in the head with the football while Anger was looking elsewhere. Overton, who was on the Rams' practice squad last month, is replacing Jake McQuaide, who spent a decade with the Rams before leaving in 2021.
Cowboys: TE Dalton Schultz injured his knee in the first half. ... OL Jason Peters was inactive with a chest injury that's likely to sideline him for several weeks. ... McQuaide is out for the year with a torn triceps muscle.
Rams: LG David Edwards left the game in the fourth quarter for a concussion evaluation after colliding with Lawrence. Edwards missed last week's game in the concussion protocol. ... S Taylor Rapp sat out with injured ribs. ... DB David Long (groin) missed his third straight game, and rookie DB Cobie Durant (hamstring) missed his second straight.
Cowboys: At Eagles on Sunday night.
Rams: Host Panthers on Sunday.