Whitworth’s line helps Rams take down Dallas
Late in his 13th NFL season, Andrew Whitworth finally got to savor 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’ locker room and reminded his teammates they’ve only completed a third of their postseason 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 second straight 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’ defense for a franchise playoff-record 273 yards rushing.
That’s the most ever allowed in the postseason by the five-time Super Bowl champion Cowboys, who were playing in their NFL-record 63rd postseason game. Dallas was even coming off a wildcard 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 four 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 1-yard TD plunge on fourth-and-goal with 7:16 to play.
Anderson rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley ran for 115 more yards and another TD to send the second-seeded Rams to the NFC championship game for the first time in 17 years.
“Big boys played really great up front,” Anderson said. “Me and Todd just tried to pick the right spots.”
The long-struggling Rams had won only one postseason game since their last trip to the Super Bowl in February 2002, but coach Sean McVay has added his first playoff victory to his spectacular two-season franchise turnaround. Los Angeles is one win away from another Super Bowl trip after McVay largely stuck to old-time football basics with his unlikely running back tandem and an offensive line determined to assert its superiority.
“It means a lot for this team,” said the 32-yearold McVay, the youngest coach in NFL history to win a playoff game. “That’s what’s special about it is to be able to see guys that have success, talking about a guy like Andrew Whitworth that’s been playing as long as he has. To see him play at the level that he played at tonight, and then to be able to get his first playoff win with these guys, I know he cares so much about and loves these guys.”
Rams running back Todd Gurley, left, celebrates with tackle Andrew Whitworth after scoring in Saturday’s second quarter.