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Cowboys Hash Marks: LA opener one to forget as Dallas comes up with a dud

Some of the questions facing the Dallas Cowboys ahead of the 2020 season were left unanswered after a season-debuting loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, right, is tackled by Los Angeles Rams defensive end Michael Brockers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong )

The Dallas Cowboys opened their 61st season with a 20-17 clunker as the Los Angeles Rams christened their new building, SoFi Stadium, with a win on Sunday Night Football. 

The play of the game involved the officials blowing it. 

Receiver Michael Gallup was called for offensive pass interference after catching a 47-yard pass down to the Rams' 19-yard line. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey sold a push-off, and Gallup was tagged with the 10-yard penalty that doomed Dallas' comeback effort.

The Cowboys shouldn't have even let it get to a point where a bad call could help decide the game. 

Here are four areas where Dallas slipped up in Los Angeles:

1. Pass blocking was a problem — The Rams harassed quarterback Dak Prescott with three sacks and seven quarterback hits. 

Guess where four of those hits came from? Defensive tackle Aaron Donald. 

The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year had VIP passes to the Cowboys' backfield and had private sessions with Prescott. 

Part of the offensive line's problem is that they are taking a step back going from All-Pro Travis Frederick to Joe Looney at center, but the right side featured Terence Steele, an undrafted free agent, starting at tackle. 

The Rams' pass rush was able to affect Prescott enough to keep him from making big plays downfield, even though he completed 25 of 39 passing for 266 yards and a touchdown.

2. Pass rush was a problem — While Prescott was having to dodge Donald and the Rams' front seven all evening, Jared Goff took just one sack and three quarterback hits the entire game. 

The former 2016 No. 1 overall pick threw one interception, but he was efficient enough to move the Rams' offense. 

Aldon Smith, who hadn't played a game since Nov. 15, 2015, recorded the Cowboys' lone sack and two quarterback hits. Linebacker Joe Thomas had the other. With a pass rush that was unable to get into the Rams' backfield, Goff was able to take advantage of Dallas' youthful and under-talented secondary.

RELATED: Single-game Cowboys tickets go on sale Monday

3. Third downs were a teamwide issue — The Cowboys' offense was 3-for-12 on third down, which is always a problem.

However, one's own inability to sustain a drive is exacerbated by your own problems in getting the opposition off the field. 

Los Angeles was 9-for-17 on third down, over 50% efficiency. The Rams were able to sustain long drives and keep the Cowboys off the field. 

As a result, Dallas' offense never truly controlled the tempo of the game; they were reacting to the Rams' pace.

4. It's still "preseason" — One of the secrets of the NFL for the past decade is that the first couple weeks of the regular season are still a preseason period. Bill Belichick allegedly uses September to tinker with different packages to see what works for later in the year. 

With the lack of offseason programs and preseason games, the first few weeks of the NFL season are going to behave like preseason games. 

Coaches finally have substantive film to look at other than practice tape. Players were actually able to hit, collide, and take each other to the ground. Football is truly back. 

The problem is, the results count. 

Nonetheless, the results from Week 1 aren't indicative of what's going to happen in 2020, with very rare exceptions. 

Are the Kansas City Chiefs going to run it back? Probably. 

Are the Carolina Panthers on pace to earn the No. 1 overall pick? Possibly. 

Are the Jacksonville Jaguars going to win the AFC South? Maybe not. 

Are the Cowboys doomed? Don't bet on it. 

And with an extra playoff team added per conference, starting 0-1 isn't as anxiety-inducing as it used to be.

Do you think the Cowboys will be able to overcome their issues from Week 1 in the upcoming weeks? Share your thoughts with Mark Lane on Twitter @therealmarklane.