Rams show they belong as title contender • Chiefs KO Colts
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 February 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 November 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 December 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.
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.
Chiefs 31, Colts 13
This wasn’t just a playoff win, it was an exorcism.
Decades of frustration, one loss seemingly more agonizing than the next. Nail-biters and blowouts alike, losses on the road and ones in front of their long-suffering and loyal fans. For 25 years now, Kansas City has come up empty, its season cut short before the AFC Championship – a game that ends with the winner hoisting a trophy named for longtime Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt.
So, yes, this one was special, a victory that was so much more than that. For only the second time in the last 12 tries, the Chiefs are winners in the postseason. For the first time since Joe Montana and Marcus Allen were repping the red and gold, Kansas City will play for the AFC title. At home, no less. “Couldn’t be more excited,” Clark Hunt, Lamar’s son and current CEO of the Chiefs, said after the comfortable victory over Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon. “It’s been a long time coming.”
If you’re a Chiefs fan, it’s understandable if you’ve felt bad karma befell your team along the way. Even Montana couldn’t bring this team a Super Bowl. Couldn’t even get the Chiefs there.
And when Kansas City does seem to finally have a breakthrough team, they run into the Colts. Always the Colts. All week long, the talk has been about that debacle in the 2013 wildcard game, when Kansas City blew a 28-point second-half lead as Andrew Luck staged a comeback for the ages.
But the Chiefs have something special in Patrick Mahomes. And he represents the NFL’s future, not Kansas City’s horrific past.
Mahomes has been defying expectations all season, playing with a maturity beyond his years. This game was no different. He finished 27-of-41 for 278 yards. He also ran for a 4-yard score late in the second half – a huge play given Mahomes had appeared to tweak his right knee two drives earlier.
Chants of “M-V-P” echoed throughout Arrowhead as the game wore on and giddy fans realized their agony was about to end. When the final whistle sounded, fireworks exploded above the stadium, and it was as if the entire city exhaled.
“We wanted to light up the city. We didn’t want to take memory lane,” defensive end Chris Jones said. “We want to keep it going. I told the team, ‘Get used to this feeling.’”
The drought is over, the despair has lifted. After so many years, the Chiefs’ luck has finally turned. (USA Today/TNS)