The Rams took the ball and ran with it...literally.
Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson rushed for over 200 yards and the Los Angeles Rams advanced to the NFC Championship game by defeating the Dallas Cowboys, 30-22, on Saturday night at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
Los Angeles rushed for a record-breaking 273 yards and three touchdowns, and their much-maligned rush defense held Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot to just 47 yards on the ground.
"That's a big-time win for us, and the key was being able to hold them to 50 yards [rushing] and to rush for 273 ourselves," said Rams head coach Sean McVay, who became the youngest head coach in NFL history to win a playoff game at the age of 32.
Ironically, the Rams rushing attack was formed completely by chance and circumstance. After a victory over the Detroit Lions on Dec. 2, the Rams backup running back Malcolm Brown underwent season-ending surgery for a broken collarbone.
Two weeks later, Gurley left a home loss against the Philadelphia Eagles with a knee injury and did not play again during the regular season.
That left the door open for free agent running back C.J. Anderson, who the Rams were forced to sign in order to have enough ball carriers on the roster. The move turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as Anderson rushed for nearly 300 yards in the final two games of the regular season.
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With Gurley healthy for the postseason, the Rams now have a two-headed monster in the backfield that was unleashed upon the Dallas defense on Saturday night.
Gurley returned from his knee injury and bolstered the Rams rushing attack with 115 yards and a touchdown, but it was his backup, Anderson, that stole the show in the NFC Divisional match with 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Gurley and Anderson became just the fourth duo in NFL playoff history to both rush for over 100 yards in the same game for the same team.
"It's scary," said Anderson of his two-headed attack with Gurley. "We've got two different styles, and we can keep teams off balance. ... Playing on the field with Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, I'm just trying to make my statement and make my stamp in this game, too."
Early on it felt like the Rams were leaving points on the field as they had to settle for field goals on their opening two possessions. After the Rams took an early 3-0 lead, the Cowboys answered right back with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to Amari Cooper.
After the Rams defense got Prescott and the Dallas offense off the field on the following drive, Anderson capped off a nine-play, 76-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run up the gut to give Los Angeles a 13-7 lead.
One drive later, it was Gurley's turn, as the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, gashed the Cowboys defense and ran untouched for a 35-yard score to give Los Angeles a 20-7 lead entering halftime.
The Cowboys kicked off their comeback with a 44-yard pass from Prescott to Michael Gallup that placed the ball on the Rams two-yard line. Two plays later, Elliot rushed up the middle for the touchdown and after a two-point conversion, Dallas trailed by just eight points.
The Rams were forced to punt on their next possession, giving Dallas an opportuity to tie the game, but the defense stopped Elliot on fourth-and-one inside L.A. territory and the Rams took over on downs.
"They dominated us up front and we didn't get any movement," said Elliot of coming up short on fourth down. "They beat us up front and we didn't get any movement, that's it."
The Cowboys loss became the Rams gain, as Anderson finished off a 12-play, 65-yard touchdown drive, with a one-yard run up the middle on fourth and goal.
"We always talk about attacking success, never fearing failure," McVay said of his decision to go for the touchdown on 4th-and-goal, rather than kick an easy field goal to make it a two-score game. "We wanted to come out here and try to play fearless tonight."
Dallas went down the field and scored on a quarterback keeper from Prescott, but the Cowboys rally fell short in the house of the Rams.
Prescott finished with 266 yards with a touchdown and one rushing touchdown.
Jared Goff had 186 yards and no touchdowns, but his seven-yard scamper with two minutes remaining on third down, helped seal the victory for the Rams.
"Feels great, just running the ball the way we did," said Goff after his first career playoff victory. "Two 100-yard rushers, that's rare, and it starts with those five guys up front."
Rams dominated the time of possession, holding on to the football for more than 36 minutes, compared to just 23 minutes for the Cowboys.
"They're a physical football team," said Cowboys head coach Jason of the Rams. "There is a little bit of a misperception of how the Rams play offensive football with the run. They do an outstanding job."
The Cowboys held the NFL's best rushing team in the Seattle Seahawks to just 73 yards rushing last week, but allowed over 200 yards rushing for the first time since former Ram, Eric Dickerson, rushed for over 200 yards against them in 1986.
The Cowboys postseason woes continue as they havent won a playoff game on the road in over 26 years. The last time Dallas played in the NFC Championship game was 1996.
The Rams 273 yards on the ground was a franchise record for a playoff game, and the victory was the team's first in 14 years, and next Sunday will be their first appearance in the NFC Championship Game since 2002.
The victory marked the first postseason win for veteran Rams' players Andrew Whitworth and Ndamukong Suh.
"I came here for a reason," said Suh of his first taste of playoff triumph. "Now we just have to go out there and execute. We do that, and we'll be succesful."
The Cowboys season comes to an end as the Los Angeles Rams will await the winner of the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints game on Sunday.
If the Eagles win, the Rams will host Philadelphia next Sunday in Los Angeles.
If the Saints win, the Rams will travel to New Orleans in a rematch from Week 9.