LOS ANGELES — Two doinks, and then a bunch of pings for Dallas defensive lineman Antwaun Woods.
As soon as the Chicago Bears’ field-goal attempt hit the goal post (twice) and fell short, and the world learned that the Dallas Cowboys would be coming west to play the Rams in the playoffs, it started.
“As soon as the Eagles won and the clock said zero, I looked at my phone and I had about 50 requests for tickets,” Woods told reporters in Dallas this week. “Unfortunately, some will get the ‘no’ answer, but it’s all love. It’s all good.”
Saturday’s game marked a homecoming for Woods, as well as Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith. Both grew up in Southern California — Woods in South Los Angeles, Smith in the Riverside area — and played at USC, but their paths back to the Coliseum were quite different.
Woods, a product of Taft High in Woodland Hills, took a winding road. He went undrafted in 2016 and then signed with Tennessee but played only one game in two seasons before the Titans released him and he signed with Dallas last May.
Smith, a product of Rancho Verde High in Moreno Valley, was the No. 9 overall draft pick by the Cowboys in 2011 and has been a full-time starter since his rookie season. Last month, Smith was named to the Pro Bowl for a sixth consecutive season.
Ultimately, it was an unhappy homecoming. Woods finished with four tackles, but the Rams ran for 273 yards on Dallas’ defensive front. Smith played the full game at left tackle but the Cowboys rushed for only 50 yards.
“It’s always great to go home,” Smith told the Cowboys’ website before the game, “but I try not to think about it too much. I feel like it will more kick in for me after the game, when I have all the family there.”
As Woods noted, he also had plenty of support at the Coliseum, after a regular season of shocking success. Admittedly out of shape after the Cowboys signed him, Woods reshaped his body and impressed enough to earn a starting job at the start of this season.
Woods finished the regular season with 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks and had three tackles in his playoff debut last week, when the Cowboys beat Seattle.
“It’s the same thing when you’re in the playoffs,” Woods said. “Every team got a quarterback and every team got a good running game, but it’s about what you do on game day.”
Smith already has been back to the Coliseum once, when Dallas played the Rams in the 2016 preseason, but Woods hadn’t played there since Nov. 28, 2015, when USC beat UCLA.
“I thought that was the last time I would ever play in the Coliseum,” Woods said in an interview on the Cowboys’ website. “The fact that I get this opportunity to play a big playoff game in L.A., in the Coliseum, it’s pretty great.”
The Rams appeared to come out of the game clean, in terms of injuries. Starting cornerback Aqib Talib briefly left the game to be evaluated for a possible concussion, but returned.
KEEP IT DRY
The Coliseum area was hit with heavy rain Friday night and into Saturday morning, but the field was covered until the early afternoon. The field appeared to be in good condition, other than a couple spots that appeared to get compromised by water. A crew treated those areas with a large air dryer and rakes before the game. No issues were apparent during the game, other than some mud in the sideline areas.
Dallas fans were “expected to take over the Coliseum” on Saturday, according to a video voiceover by a team employee on the Cowboys’ website. That’s subjective, but as expected, a large number of Dallas fans filled the seats and even started a loud “Let’s Go Cowboys” chant 90 minutes before kickoff.
“Cowboy Nation travels great, so I know they’ll be there,” Dallas cornerback Anthony Brown said before the game. “I know they’re going to show up. We’re ready. We’re looking forward to it.”
It’s nothing new to the Rams, who are accustomed to playing in a city with a lot of transplanted fans. They’ve played games over the past two seasons — particularly against Green Bay and Philadelphia — with large percentages of visiting fans, and they seemed unbothered by Dallas support.
“The environment was great,” Rams defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh said after the game. “We appreciate all our fans. Hopefully we get another home game here soon. … They did a tremendous job. They were nice and loud and we appreciated that. A lot of fun.”
Jan. 12 is becoming quite a day for the Rams. In 2016, the Rams’ relocation from St. Louis to Los Angeles was approved. In 2017, the Rams hired Sean McVay. On Saturday, the Rams won their first playoff game since 2004.
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