LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams weren’t fitting themselves for Super Bowl rings Saturday after a 30-22 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. But after the NFC divisional playoff game, there’s reason to believe the Rams could be headed for the big game — and that blue, white and gold confetti might be raining down inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 3 at the conclusion of Super Bowl LIII.
First things first: In the NFC Championship Game, the Rams will be facing either the Philadelphia Eagles or the New Orleans Saints, both superior to the Dallas team that went down at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night. What bodes well for the Rams, however, is how they beat the Cowboys.
It was with brute force.
Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson became the first Rams tandem (and only the fourth in NFL history) to rush for more than 100 yards apiece in a playoff game, and they did so against a team that has given up rushing yards sparingly. The Cowboys ranked fifth in rushing defense during the regular season, allowing an average of 94.6 yards per game. On Saturday night, the Rams rushed for 273 yards.
“It’s a big-time deal,’’ Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Almost as big: the Rams held Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys to a measly 50 yards on the ground as a team.
Make no mistake, the Rams’ offense is among the most potent and sophisticated in the NFL. But against the Cowboys, the entire team showed but more smash than flash.
Looking fresh after missing the Rams’ last two games with inflammation in his left knee, Gurley ran for 115 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and almost as important was Anderson’s performance.
When the Rams lost to the New Orleans Saints 45-35 on Nov. 14, Anderson was still stuck on the Carolina Panthers’ bench. Since then, he was released by the Panthers, signed by the Oakland Raiders and released again. On Dec. 18, the Rams added Anderson in a transformative move.
With Gurley sidelined for the Rams’ last two games of the season, Anderson rushed for 167 yards in a victory over the Arizona Cardinals and 132 yards in a victory over the San Francisco 49ers. It was no fluke.
On Saturday night, Anderson rushed for a game-high 123 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
“I’m just trying to bring a physical game, a physical presence,’’ he said
He was the Monster Truck to Gurley’s Maserati, with Gurley looking especially fast on a 35-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
“The Red Sea parted and I just ran,’’ Gurley said, praising the Rams’ offensive line for opening holes through which him to dart.
The Rams’ defensive line was almost as impressive, with Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott managing just 47 yards on 20 carries.
Critics can find reason for complaints:
On their first two possessions, the Rams drove to the Cowboys’ 7- and 5-yard line but had to settle for field goals.
At times the Rams secondary looked shaky against Dak Prescott, who is far as dangerous as Eagles quarterback Nick Foles or Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Quarterback Jared Goff completed only 15 of 28 passes for a pedestrian 186 yards.
If the Rams’ schedule allows for it, Goff said, he planned to watch the Eagles and Saints play Sunday. Despite the Rams’ flaws, there’s now reason to believe neither can keep this Los Angeles team from Atlanta.