For the first time since 2001, the Los Angeles Rams (known then as the St. Louis Rams) will be playing in the NFC Conference Championship and despite QB Jared Goff’s solid performance in his first playoff win against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night, his steady play was not the highlight of the night. The two main factors behind the decisive victory was Los Angeles’s ability to run the ball on offense and being able to stop this season’s league leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliot, on defense.
It was a night that saw the Cowboys defense, once touted as one of the strongest units in the league, decimated by the lightening and thunder combination of star RB Todd Gurley, coming back from a knee injury that had sidelined him for the last two weeks of the season, and RB C.J. Anderson, who has been carrying the load during his absence. This one-two punch is proving to be one of the biggest stories for the Rams since their late season acquisition of Anderson and his impactful role as the backup running back in this high-tempo offense. After an up and down rollercoaster of a season for Anderson, who persevered after being released by three different teams, the veteran back has found a home in L.A. where he is dominating the competition.
Jobless just a few weeks ago, Anderson amassed a combined 299 rushing yards in 43 attempts with an additional two rushing touchdowns while starting the last two games of the Rams season. However, this past Saturday night was perhaps his best performance as he ran right through the Cowboys defense, averaging 5.3 rushing yards per carry in his 23 attempts running with the ball. He also rushed for two of the Rams 3 touchdowns on the night. Meanwhile, in his first game back since Week 15, RB Todd Gurley’s highlight of the night was his long TD run late in the second quarter. In total, the Rams rushed for 273 yards compared to the Cowboys meager sum of only 50 yards as the Rams front four were also zeroed in on this year’s league leading rushing RB, Ezekiel Elliot.
Strong Defense came up clutch for the Rams after a season where I had once thought that it was their greater weakness heading into the playoffs. I guess when you have DT Ndamukong Suh and DT Aaron Donald guarding the middle there’s no excuse for allowing any running back – not even Ezekiel Elliot – to break through your interior line.
Now as the Rams set their sights on playing in the NFC Championship Game, perhaps it will be their explosive run game that will prevail during their postseason run so long as they remain healthy. Todd Gurley will get another week to rest his body before traveling to the Mercedes Superdome to face the New Orleans Saints. But if you ask me, his knee held up just fine last night and if he and Anderson have another night like Saturday, then watch out New Orleans. The Rams are coming.