The Los Angeles Rams are now only one step away from their first NFL Super Bowl since 2002 after beating the Dallas Cowboys 30-22.
Running backs Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson each rushed for more than 100 yards as the Rams reached the NFC championship game on Saturday.
Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was in attendance at the LA Memorial Coliseum, where the Rams won a playoff game for the first time in 14 years.
The Rams will play the winner of Sunday's New Orleans Saints-Philadelphia Eagles game next week – hosting the clash if the Eagles win or travelling to New Orleans if the Saints prevail.
Los Angeles thoroughly dominated the line of scrimmage on offense, which should please head coach Sean McVay. Yet they let the Cowboys hang around until the end, and that has to concern him. Things do not get easier as the postseason continues.
Here are three takeaways from the Rams' win.
Rams' offensive line deserves more credit
The Rams gouged the Cowboys for 5.7 yards per rush, with starter Gurley carrying the ball 16 times for 115 yards, including this nice 35-yard burst into the end zone.
But when Gurley was out, the Rams did not miss a beat. Backup Anderson, a late-season pickup, rushed 22 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns. This from a player who was cut by two different teams (the Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders) this season.
Credit the Rams' offensive line for the team's huge night. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, a first-team All-Pro last season, and left guard Rodger Saffold (second-team All-Pro) anchor the left side. Along with center John Sullivan, guard Austin Blythe and tackle Rob Havenstein, these guys are not household names like Gurley, Jared Goff, Aaron Donald and the team's other stars. But they are a key to the Rams' offensive success.
Goff must play better if Rams are to win Super Bowl
Goff did not have a good game against the Cowboys. The Rams' third-year quarterback completed 15 of his 28 passes for 186 yards and a quarterback rating of 74.4. He had a few nice throws, but some of those incompletions were ugly, way off target. It almost looked like he was aiming the ball, and as any quarterback or pitcher can tell you, when you do that, your control suffers.
So why was Goff aiming his passes? Possibly because he lacked confidence and was playing not to lose, rather than to win. That is a common trait in a young player. It is worth remembering Goff is still a young quarterback (24), and that greater confidence often comes with age (unless your name is Patrick Mahomes). Really, when current QB stars such as Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees were Goff's age, they were either sitting on the bench or tossing more INTs than TDs.
Goff benefits from a great offensive line, talented skill players and a great offensive scheme. But at some point — maybe next week in the NFC championship game — running Gurley will not be enough; the Rams will need to rely on Goff to make big plays down the field. Is he ready for that? Goff, more than any other Ram, will determine the team's fate this postseason.
Cooper, Gallup will be dynamic duo for Cowboys in 2019
Ezekiel Elliott is the beast of the Cowboys offense. Feed him and he will wear down the opposition. Dak Prescott is the charismatic and popular leader.
But the Dallas offense was incomplete before the addition of wide receiver Amari Cooper in late October in a trade with the Raiders. Cooper scored the first touchdown of the game for the Cowboys, on a 29-yard pass from Prescott, outrunning four defenders to the end zone.
Yet the big receiving star for the Cowboys was not Cooper, but rookie Michael Gallup, who hauled in six passes for 119 yards. The third-round pick out of Colorado State was a role player in the Dallas offense this year, with 33 catches for 507 yards and two touchdowns. But as Gallup showed against the Rams, he can be a great complement to Cooper. And with Cole Beasley working the inside routes, the Cowboys receiving corps, a real question mark the first half of the season, will be a big asset for coach Jason Garrett heading into 2019.
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