LOS ANGELES – This was a game for the big muscles, a game that they started winning in the iron-pumping room and on the video screens.
As Bill Parcells once told the Giants’ linemen before a game-winning drive, “This is why you lift them weights!”
The Rams already knew..
Center John Sullivan, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, left guard Roger Saffold, right guard Austin Blythe, right tackle Rob Havenstein and tight end Tyler Higbee deserved a game ball sliced up six ways. It would have resembled a Dallas defense that came into the Coliseum with confidence and momentum and left with a 30-22 loss and an Excedrin headache.
“The biggest thing that hurt us was no takeaways,” Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said in the Coliseum tunnel, “but it’s hard to get ’em in a game like that. We don’t have any excuses. We didn’t get off the blocks. We didn’t play physically. When something like that happens, nobody plays well.”
For the first time, the Rams rolled to 459 yards in a playoff game, this one a Divisional Playoff win that was the franchise’s first in the Coliseum since Dec. 31, 1979 (Rams 30, Vikings 14), and one that will thrust L.A. into the NFC Championship Game Sunday, probably in New Orleans but maybe against Philadelphia right here.
It was also the first time the Rams had two backs who gained 100 or more yards in the same postseason game. Todd Gurley went 115 in 16 cracks, C.J. Anderson 123 in 23. The average rush was 6.43 for those two and 5.7 overall.
A normal-sized fellow named Jared Goff also played a part. On third-and-seven, with Dallas holding only one time out, Goff sent out two catchers to the right, rolled, saw the sticks and started digging. His 11-yard run made sure Rayne Dakota Prescott, the Cowboys quarterback, would never get the ball again, although Dak might have trouble recognizing it. The Cowboys only had it for 23 minutes and 47 seconds.
“When Jared goes out on the pass play and tucks it and runs it and gets the first down, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that,” Sullivan said, grinning.
Rams Win! LA outlasts the Cowboys 30-22. Sean McVay becomes the youngest HC in NFL history with a playoff win.
— NFL News (@NFLFBGAMETIME) January 13, 2019
Dallas had given up only 4.5 yards per rush for the season and had not given anybody 200 yards rushing in any game. The Rams had 273.
“There were tips and tells during the week, just things that we saw,” Sullivan said. “We felt like we’d be able to run effectively. We thought Todd and C.J. would be able to complement each other. All week, Todd was fresh, he looked amazing. So there were no surprises there.
“Their styles are different and they help each other. They have a great feel for what we’re doing, and how to fit into our double-teams up front.”
As one would expect, the Rams’ big folks enjoyed the scenario immensely. Do you really want to spend the night protecting the pass, giving up ground in the face of guys like Demarcus Lawrence and Jaylen Smith? Or would you rather capitalize on the fact that you’re bigger, you’re stronger and you already know the plan?
“It’s a dream game for any offensive line,” Blythe said. “And they put in a great game plan for us and we executed it. That’s usually what it comes down to.”
Running is also the best pass protection scheme. Goff probably could have played a doubleheader. Dallas did not have anything close to a sack and was given credit for one quarterback hit. But the Gurley-Anderson stampede meshed perfectly for the play-action game that kept springing open receivers, or helped Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods sprint around the edges on fly-sweeps.
“We felt after the first couple of series that we were beginning to wear them down,” Sullivan said.
Sure. The Rams had 11 snaps on their first drive, 16 on their next, nine on their next. They had 12 in the fourth quarter, when Anderson gave the Rams a 15-point lead with his second touchdown. They never once went 3-and-out, and the Rams’ defense made Dallas do that twice.
“We’ve done that all year,” Sullivan said. “It limits our exposure to known pass-rush scenarios, limits our dropbacks. It sets up our play-action, and then the defense kept giving us the ball back. It was complementary football, a great team win.”
And how to quantify the week of rest that the Rams earned with their division title, and how much that helped?
“Maybe you could do it if you used some Next Gen stats,” Sullivan said. “But it was huge. It helps you mentally and physically, probably 50/50, but the big thing is that it gives you the free pass. Instead of needing four wins to win the Super Bowl, you only need three. I don’t know, it seems a lot more doable.”
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