It's thumbs down for Rams, Matthew Stafford after blowout loss to Cowboys

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford wears a bandage after injuring his thumb against Dallas.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford wears a bandage after injuring his thumb against Dallas. (Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Broken.

That could be the state of Rams’ quarterback Matthew Stafford’s right thumb.

Fractured.

That’s what the Rams offense, defense and special teams did during a Dallas Cowboys onslaught on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.

Beyond repair.

That will be the status of the Rams’ rapidly dwindling playoff hopes if Stafford is sidelined for any length of time.

The Rams’ 43-20 defeat before 93,448 was a bad loss that dropped their record to 3-5.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford wears a bandage on his throwing hand after injuring his thumb against the Cowboys
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford wears a bandage on his throwing hand after injuring his thumb against the Cowboys (Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

But the potential ramifications are far worse.

Stafford, 35, was already playing through a hip injury he suffered during a Week 4 victory at Indianapolis.

On Sunday, just before halftime, his right thumb hit the helmet of a defender on an ill-fated two-point conversion pass. He led the Rams on a scoring drive to start the third quarter, but aggravated the injury when he caught a two-point conversion pass and came down hard on the turf.

Stafford left the sideline for tests in the locker room and returned with his right hand taped. But he was replaced by Brett Rypien as the Rams suffered their worst defeat of the season.

Stafford was not made available to reporters after the game.

But nonverbal communication told the story: He required assistance to zip his travel bag.

Coach Sean McVay said he did not have enough information to make a definitive statement about the condition of Stafford’s thumb.

“Do they have an idea?” McVay said of the team’s medical personnel. “I think they have an idea, but it’s nothing for certain, so I don’t want to speak out of turn.”

Read more: Rams' 43-20 road loss to the Dallas Cowboys by the numbers

Neither did Rams players when asked what it would mean to move ahead without Stafford.

“I don’t really want to think about it right now,” receiver Cooper Kupp said, adding, “That would obviously be a very difficult thing if that’s the reality of what this is.”

Here’s the reality: The Rams have been a middling team — and without Stafford they could challenge to be even worse than last season’s record-setting Super Bowl hangover team.

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, and the potential loss of Stafford probably only solidified the Rams plan to stand pat heading into next Sunday’s game at Green Bay, their final game before an off week.

The Texas-raised Stafford was aiming for better homecoming in his first game at AT&T Stadium since he led the Rams to a Super Bowl at the end of the 2021 season.

The 15th-year pro appeared to be on his way when the Rams kicked a first-quarter field goal.

Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) beats Rams double-coverage for a reception.
Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) beats Rams double-coverage for a reception. He finished with career highs in catches (12) and yards receiving (158). (Associated Press)

But then, like a perfectly barbecued Texas rack of ribs falling off the bone, the Rams melted.

McVay and his players have talked all season about playing a full game of elusive “complementary football,” in which the offense, defense and special teams all play well.

During a span that lasted most of the first half, all three units played in unison: They were equally poor as the Cowboys ran off 26 unanswered points.

“Things just kind of got out of hand quickly,” McVay said in an understatement.

On a day that the Cowboys inducted Hall of Fame edge rusher DeMarcus Ware into their Ring of Honor, McVay could wring virtually nothing out of his players to stop the Cowboys.

The lead rapidly grew larger than the humongous screen that hangs over the field at AT&T Stadium; larger than the 535,000-acre Texas ranch Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased in 2016.

Read more: Rams takeaways: Extent of Matthew Stafford's thumb injury could crumble season

The rout began when the Cowboys kicked a field goal for a 10-3 lead with 43 seconds left in the first quarter. Then Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown.

The Cowboys blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety. KaVontae Turpin returned a free kick 56 yards to set up Dak Prescott’s first touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb. They connected for another near the end of the second quarter.

“Something happened, something happened, something happened — so quick,” offensive lineman Joe Noteboom said, recounting the chain of events.

Said receiver Puka Nacua: “Kind of just a downhill effect.”

The Rams ended the Cowboys’ run when Royce Freeman scored on a short touchdown run with four seconds left in the first half.

Stafford might have had visions of 2011, when as a third-year pro he led the Detroit Lions back from a 27-3 third-quarter deficit to beat the Cowboys, 34-30.

He couldn't even finish the game, however.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) slides in front of Rams linebackers Christian Rozeboom (56) and Ernest Jones (53).
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) slides in front of Rams linebackers Christian Rozeboom (56) and Ernest Jones (53). Prescott passed for 304 yards and ran for another 19. (Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

“With what he means to this football team and how many different things that we still kind of had in our back pocket that you end up losing — when you lose him it was tough to overcome,” McVay said.

Prescott finished with 304 yards passing and four touchdown passes.

“A good humbling day for us,” McVay said.

The Rams are getting accustomed to it when they travel to play the Cowboys. The last time they played here, in 2019, they got blitzed in a 44-21 defeat.

Now they must recover, with or without Stafford.

“Tough? Heck, yeah,” McVay said. “I feel for him more than anybody, like if, in fact, it’s an injury that’s going to leave him out. ... Hopefully, he’s going to be OK.

“If not, we’ll figure out what the next move is for us.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.