Rams’ smash and flash
Peter: NFC’s LA team looks like legit contender
LOS ANGELES — The Rams weren’t fitting themselves for Super Bowl rings after a 30-22 victory over the Cowboys.
But after Saturday’s 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 in 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 the Saints, superior to the Dallas team that went down at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Saints ousted the defending champion Eagles 20-14 Sunday. 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 had 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 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 Saints 45
35 on Nov. 14, Anderson was still stuck on the Panthers’ bench. Since then, he was released by Carolina, signed by the 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 Cardinals and 132 yards in a victory over the 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 which he was able to dart through.
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 the Rams’ first two possessions, they drove to the Cowboys’ 7- and 5yard line but had to settle for field goals.
❚ At times the Rams’ secondary looked shaky against Dak Prescott, who is far less dangerous than Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
❚ Rams quarterback Jared Goff completed only 15 of 28 passes for a pedestrian 186 yards.
Despite the Rams’ flaws, there’s no reason to believe any of them can keep this Los Angeles team from Atlanta.
Running backs Todd Gurley (30) and C.J. Anderson (35) celebrates after Gurley’s TD against the Cowboys. Anderson had two of his own TD runs as both combined for 238 rushing yards.