The conference finals are set with the Patriots, Chiefs and Rams moving on.
LOS ANGELES — Late in his 13th National Football League season, Andrew Whitworth finally got to savour his first playoff victory, albeit only for a minute or two.
After the burly left tackle briefly celebrated on the Coliseum turf with his wife and children Saturday night, he rushed back to the Los Angeles Rams’ lockerroom and reminded his teammates they’ve only completed a third of their post-season work.
The 37-year-old Whitworth and the Rams both ended lengthy playoff droughts with their 30-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys, and they realized the importance of their achievement without being satisfied by it.
After extending their outstanding season to the NFC championship game, the Rams are determined to seize this chance to go even farther.
“It’s great, but you know what? I feel like this team has potential for more than that,” Whitworth said. “It’s a great feeling, and I’m happy to have it, but I didn’t try to get to the playoffs to just win a playoff game. I’m trying to win a Super Bowl. That’s the only focus, and now we’re one step closer.”
The Rams (14-3) took this step while following right behind Whitworth. The entire offensive line couldn’t have drawn up a sweeter scenario for this breakthrough win after they punctured the Cowboys’ defence for a franchise playoff-record 273 yards rushing.
That’s the most ever allowed in the post-season by the five-time Super Bowl champion Cowboys, who were playing in their NFLrecord 63rd post-season game. Dallas was even coming off a wild-card round victory in which it largely shut down Seattle’s NFL-best rushing attack.
“I feel like we think we can run the football on anybody,” Whitworth said.
“We were confident coming into this game that we could do it.”
After a decade of playoff disappointment with the Cincinnati Bengals, Whitworth agreed to join the Rams and a head coach five years younger than him last season because he believed something remarkable could happen in Los Angeles. The way Whitworth and his linemen manhandled Dallas (11-7) at the line of scrimmage was remarkable indeed: The Rams dominated on the ground from the opening drive to C.J. Anderson’s one-yard TD plunge on 4th-and-goal with 7:16 to play.