(KSDK Sports) -- Whenever a team loses in the NFL, fingers are often pointed at the quarterback and/or the offensive play-calling.
That was certainly the case following the Rams' 31-24 loss to the Falcons Sunday, especially after the Rams scored three second-half touchdowns in a hurry-up offense because they were behind by three touchdowns.
While the focus was on quarterback Sam Bradford supposedly using too many checkdowns in the first half or coordinator Brian Schottenheimer allegedly conservative play-calls, overlooked in the analysis was that the Rams' field position was poor in the first half and it averaged the 16-yard line as the drive start for the game.
In addition, focus somehow avoided the defense, which wasn't able to stop the Falcons twice in the fourth quarter after the lead had been cut to one touchdown.
Also, the Rams forced no takeaways against Atlanta after having two in the win over the Cardinals. In 18 games with Jeff Fisher as head coach, the Rams are 0-7-1 in games where they don't force a takeaway and 8-2 when they do.
Sunday in Dallas, the Rams will need to force turnovers and have better results in pass defense than they have so far this season.
In two games, while the Rams do have six sacks, they have also allowed opposing quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Ryan to complete 71.1 percent of their passes and compile a combined passer rating of 107.6.
Ryan continually found open receivers Sunday, especially wide receiver Julio Jones, even with Roddy White playing sparingly and doing little because of a high ankle sprain.
In the second half, the Falcons had four possessions where they gained a total of 27 yards on 14 plays when the Rams mounted their comeback. However, on a touchdown drive after the Rams cut the lead to 24-17, Ryan was 8-for-8 for 74 yards. After the Rams cut the lead again to seven points at 31-24, they weren't able to get the ball back.
With a 94.6 passer rating after two games and 72.5 percent completion percentage, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo could have a field day throwing to Dez Bryant (13-163), Miles Austin (13-103) and tight end Jason Witten (11-82).
Third down could be crucial. Last season, the Rams' defense was strong on third down, allowing only a 37.6 percent conversion rate (13th in the NFL). In two games this season, it is at 51.9 percent (14-for-27), which is tied for last in the league. However, the Cowboys rank 29th in the NFL having converted just 30.8 percent (8-for-26) so far this season.
As Fisher said when asked about the pass defense, "Could be better. We had breakdowns. We could be better on third down. We did some good things, but we've got to get better."
Added linebacker James Laurinaitis, noting that good passing teams are going to get their yards, "We have to get takeaways and get off the field on third down."
Howard Balzer will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2013 season. Howard hosts PrimeTime Monday-Friday from 6-8 pm on CBS Sports 920, and Pro Football Sunday pre- and post-game shows on 590 the Man. He is also a host on SiriusXM NFL radio and one of 44 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.