Rams assistant head and linebacker coach Joe Barry celebrates a play by cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium.  Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams opened SoFi Stadium in Southern California Sunday night. In what was a heck of a battle between conference rivals, the Rams beat the Cowboys by the score of 20-17.

A lot happened on the field in Los Angeles. From a horrible coaching decision by new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy to a questionable call late in the game, this matchup was not without controversy.

Those two aspects are among winners and losers from the Rams’ narrow victory over the Cowboys.

Winner: Ezekiel Elliott , running back, Dallas Cowboys 

Elliott put up a solid 66 yards and two touchdowns on 11 touches in the first half alone. This is an indication of just how much of a difference maker he can be in the Cowboys’ offense, both through the air and on the ground.

Despite the Cowboys falling behind again early in the third quarter, offensive coordinator Kellen Moore decided to keep riding the Pro Bowl running back. Elliott put up 127 total yards on 25 touches, leading an otherwise pedestrian performance from the Dallas offense in Week 1.

Loser: Cooper Kupp, wide receiver, Los Angeles Rams

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With Kupp fresh off inking a massive contract extension with the Rams earlier this weekend, he was expected to have a huge game against a suspect Cowboys secondary. The former Eastern Washington standout was coming off a 2019 campaign that saw him record 94 receptions and 10 touchdowns.

He just did not have it against Dallas Sunday evening. Kupp, 27, caught all of four passes for 40 yards in a questionable overall performance. Los Angeles needs him to step up after Brandin Cooks was traded for salary reasons during the offseason. If Week 1 is any indication, he might not be up to the task.

Winner: Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Los Angeles Rams

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Donald is an absolute force, the single-most dominating defensive player of his generation. However we want to define what Donald has brought to the mix since being selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year still has it at 29. An injury-plagued Cowboys offensive line found that out first-hand Sunday evening.

Donald recorded a whopping four quarterback hits to go with one tackle for loss and another sack. He was consistently in Dak Prescott’s face throughout the game, especially when it mattered the most. Los Angeles will need much more of this from its best player if the Rams want to rebound from a down 2019 season.

Loser: Mike McCarthy, head coach, Dallas Cowboys

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Down 20-17 early in the fourth quarter, Dallas was facing a fourth-and-three from the Rams’ 11-yard line. The obvious choice would have been to call on former Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein for the game-tying field goal. Instead, McCarthy decided to be bold in his debut as the Cowboys’ head coach.

It backfired in a way we have not seen in a while. Dak Prescott connected with CeeDee Lamb on a pass short of the yard-to-gain marker, leading to a turnover on downs. After Dallas was unable to get into field-goal range in its final possession, this decision ended up being the difference in the game. Just disastrous stuff from Mr. McCarthy here.

Winner: Robert Woods, wide receiver, Los Angeles Rams

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With Kupp struggling to do much in this game, the Rams needed another receiver to step up. Woods did that early on with some big catches on Los Angeles’ game-opening 75-yard touchdown drive. After struggling through the middle part of the game, the former USC standout picked it up big-time when the Rams needed it the most in the second half.

Woods is one of those underrated possession receivers who can help a quarterback such as Jared Goff move the sticks. At nearly every turn, that’s what we saw Sunday night against the Cowboys.

Loser: NFL officiating 

For the most part, officiating was good on Sunday. We really can’t say that about the crew on hand a SoFi Stadium. More than anything, it was a weak offensive pass-interference call on Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup against Jalen Ramsey that stood out.

With Dallas down 20-17 late in the fourth quarter and attempting to get into field-goal range, Prescott hit Gallup down the left hash for a huge gain inside Los Angeles’ 20-yard line. Unfortunately for Dallas, Ramsey sold a pass-interference call.

Did Gallup extend his arms? Did the contact enable him to make the catch? It really doesn’t look like that happened. The end result was a penalty against Dallas and pretty much any hope of a comeback being snuffed out.

Winner: Aldon Smith, defensive end, Dallas Cowboys

One of the best edge pass rushers during his time with the San Francisco 49ers, Smith had not suited up for a game before Sunday night since all the way back in 2015. The story is by now well-known. Numerous off-field incidents led to the demise of a once-promising career for the former top-10 pick from Missouri.

Now 30 years old, Smith was out there in Los Angeles looking like his old self. That included former All-Pro forcing a Goff interception in the third quarter.

With Dallas in need of a stop in the final quarter, Smith came through with a huge third-down sack of Goff to stop a drive. Talk about making a major statement in your first action in nearly five years.

This article first appeared on Sportsnaut and was syndicated with permission.

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