Anderson, Gurley Lead Way For Rams in Divisional Game Versus Cowboys
If you thought that running back C.J. Anderson would be waived by the Carolina Panthers, picked up by another team, released a short time later and then end up playing a crucial role for a Super Bowl Contender, you must also know the winning numbers for the lottery. The veteran running back has been a force in the Los Angeles Rams backfield since Week 16 against the Arizona Cardinals and played a pivotal role against the Cowboys on Saturday. Anderson, along with lead running back Todd Gurley, paved the way for Los Angeles to earn a 30-22 victory over Dallas at home and get the Rams to their first NFC Championship Game since 2001.
It was slow going for the LA offense as a pair of long drives stalled out in the red zone of the Cowboys and resulted in two short field goals by kicker Greg Zuerlein. Sandwich those field goals between a 29-yard touchdown pass by Dak Prescott to Amari Cooper after a huge first down run by Ezekiel Elliott on fourth-and-one and the Cowboys were getting the ball back up 7-6 in the early part of the second quarter. But Dallas would stall on offense for the remainder of the first half and that is when the duo of Anderson and Gurley began to heat up. A quick four-minute drive led by some big chunk yardage via passes from Goff, ended in a one-yard touchdown run by Anderson to put Los Angeles in front 13-7. On the next drive, Gurley would score the touchdown when he broke free for a 35-yard touchdown run to increase the Rams lead to 13 points. But they were not finished trying to score as the offense got the ball back with 35 seconds left in the half and Goff put together a drive that got Greg Zuerlein into field goal range with a second remaining. The veteran kicker missed the 63-yard field goal attempt, but the Rams still had control of the game heading into the locker room.
Despite trailing by two scores, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' offense still gave themselves a chance to win this game in the second half. Despite going three and out to start the half, the Dallas defense held the Rams to a field goal which kept it a two-score game. Prescott would respond by driving the Cowboys down the field 75 yards on nine plays with the biggest play of the drive being his 44-yard pass to receiver Michael Gallup that got Dallas down to the two-yard line of the Rams. Elliott would run it in on second down and Amari Cooper would make the grab on the two-point conversion to cut the Los Angeles lead to 23-15. The Cowboys would then step it up on defense and force the Rams to punt, giving their offense a chance to chip away at the deficit some more. The drive started out with promise as Prescott connected with Gallup and Cole Beasley for a pair of 15 yard gains which each came on second down plays. In Rams' territory, the drive would stall out as a four-yard loss by Elliott, incomplete pass by Prescott, and 13-yard catch by Noah Brown brought Dallas to a fourth-and-one situation at the Los Angeles 35-yard line. Head coach Jason Garrett let them go for it, similar to earlier in the game when a fourth-and-one was converted by Elliott and led to an eventual touchdown by the Cowboys. But this time there would be none of that as Elliott was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and Dallas turned the ball over on downs.
Like most of the night, the defense could not shut down the Rams' offense and a lengthy seven-minute drive ended when Sean McVay kept the offense on the field for a fourth-and-one from the Dallas one-yard line and C.J. Anderson found his way to the end zone for the touchdown. It was Anderson's second rushing touchdown on a night where the veteran back rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. It put Los Angeles in front by 15 points which would be all they needed. Despite Prescott answering with a touchdown drive of his own to pull within eight points, it would be up to the Cowboys to hold the Rams' offense and give them a chance to tie it up. The defense forced Los Angeles into a 3rd-and-7 situation, but great blocking allowed Jared Goff to run for a huge first down and all but ice the game. However, Dallas still had a chance to get the ball back if they could make a stop on the next set of downs. But C.J. Anderson quickly ended all hopes of that happening as he ran for six yards on 2nd-and-5 to put the game away for the Rams. With the win, Los Angeles awaited the winner of the Eagles-Saints game on Sunday to decide who and where they would play next week. Meanwhile, Dallas was headed home again as Jason Garrett's head coaching career continues despite just two playoff wins in 10 seasons with the team.
Rams 30, Cowboys 22
Questions or comments? Email [email protected] and follow @mtvhottakes on Facebook to know when new stories are posted.