C.J. Anderson, Todd Gurley double trouble for Cowboys in playoff loss

LOS ANGELES — The high-flying Los Angeles Rams kept the ball firmly on the ground, and they ran straight past the Dallas Cowboys for a breakthrough playoff victory.

Vallejo native C.J. Anderson rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley ran for 115 more yards and another TD in the Rams’ first postseason win in 14 years, 30-22 over the Cowboys in the divisional round Saturday night.

From the opening drive until the final first down, Gurley and Anderson methodically punished the Cowboys’ normally sturdy run defense and sent the second-seeded Rams to the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 17 years.

Los Angeles racked up a franchise playoff-record 273 yards rushing. That’s also the most ever allowed in the postseason by the Cowboys, who were playing in their NFL-record 63rd postseason game.

“Feels great, just running the ball the way we did,” quarterback Jared Goff said after his first career playoff victory. “Two 100-yard rushers, that’s rare, and it starts with those five guys up front.”

The long-struggling Rams had won only one postseason game since their last trip to the Super Bowl in February 2002, but 32-year-old head coach Sean McVay has added his first playoff victory to his spectacular two-season franchise turnaround.

“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,” McVay said.

Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a TD and Amari Cooper caught an early TD pass for the Cowboys (11-7), who still haven’t won a playoff game on the road in 26 years. After winning the NFC East and beating Seattle last week, Dallas lost in the divisional playoff round for the sixth consecutive time and fell short of making its first trip to the NFC Championship Game since January 1996.

Next weekend, the Rams will face the winner of the other divisional playoff game in New Orleans between the top-seeded Saints and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

The Rams are one win from another Super Bowl trip after McVay’s inventive offense largely stuck to old-time football basics behind their unlikely running back tandem and an offensive line determined to assert its superiority.

The Rams proved it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 7:16 to play. McVay called a simple run, and Anderson bulled in behind his blockers for Los Angeles’ final points.

“We always talk about attacking success, never fearing failure,” McVay said of his reasoning on the call. “We wanted to come out here and try to play fearless tonight.”

Dak Prescott passed for 266 yards and rushed for a TD with 2:11 to play, but the Cowboys couldn’t climb out after falling into a 23-7 hole midway through the third quarter. Elliott managed just 47 yards on 20 carries as Dallas lost for just the second time in its last 10 games.

Goff passed for 186 yards and spent much of the night handing off, but the gangly quarterback improbably scrambled 11 yards for a first down with 1:51 to play, essentially wrapping up his breakthrough win.

It was also the first postseason victory for the anchor of that line, 37-year-old left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.

Gurley and Anderson became the fourth set of teammates in NFL history to rush for 100 yards apiece in a postseason game, an improbable development just a few weeks ago.

Gurley is the Rams’ offensive centerpiece and one of the NFL’s elite running backs, but Anderson is a well-traveled back playing only his third game with the Rams after signing last month when Gurley was struggling with a knee injury.

“It’s scary,” Anderson said of his partnership 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.”

Greg Beacham is an Associated Press writer.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/C-J-Anderson-Todd-Gurley-double-trouble-for-13529839.php.

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