The con­fer­ence fi­nals are set with the Pa­tri­ots, Chiefs and Rams mov­ing on.

Waterloo Region Record - - Sports - GREG BEACHAM

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.

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