LOS ANGELES (AP) – In his 13th NFL season, Andrew Whitworth was finally able to enjoy his first victory, if only for a minute or two.
After the burly left tackle briefly celebrated on the Coliseum turf with his wife and children on Saturday night, he hurried back to the Los Angeles Rams dressing room and reminded his teammates that they had completed only a third of their postseason work.
The 37-year-old Whitworth and the Rams both ended long-term play-off droughts with their 30-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys, and they realized the importance of their performance without being satisfied with it.
After expanding their second consecutive excellent season to the NFC champions competition, the Rams are determined to seize this opportunity to go even further.
"It's great, but you know what? I feel that this team has potential for more than that," Whitworth said. "It's a great feeling, and I'm glad I have it, but I was not trying to go to the playoffs to win a playoff game, I'm trying to win a Super Bowl, that's the only focus , and now we are a step closer. "
The Rams (14-3) took this step while following closely behind Whitworth. The entire attack line could not have created a better scenario for this breakthrough thanks to breaking the defense of the Cowboys for a playoff record of 273 yards.
Running Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott is tackled by linebacker Dante Fowler, top and corner back Aqib Talib of Los Angeles Rams during the second half in an NFL football game for Saturday, January 12, 2019 divisions in Los Angeles. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)
That is the most permissible in the & # 39; postseason & # 39; by the five-time Super Bowl-champion Cowboys, who played in their NFL-record 63rd postseason-game. Dallas even came from a round victory of a wildcard in which it largely closed the NFL-best rush attack of Seattle.
"I feel like we think we can play football with everyone," Whitworth said. "We were sure we started playing this game."
After ten years of disappointment over the playoffs in Cincinnati Bengals, Whitworth agreed to attend the Rams and a head coach four years younger than last season, believing that something remarkable could happen in Los Angeles. The way in which Whitworth and his linemen manipulated Dallas (11-7) in the row scrimmage was remarkable: the rams dominated on the ground from the opening to the 1-yard TD dive of CJ Anderson to a fourth and a goal with 7:16 play.
Anderson raced to 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley raced 115 more yards and another TD to send the second seeded Rams to the NFC championship game for the first time in 17 years.
"Big boys really played great in front," Anderson said. "Me and Todd just tried to choose the right places."
The long wrestling Rams had won only one postseason competition since their last trip to the Super Bowl in February 2002, but coach Sean McVay added his first win for playoffs to his spectacular two-week franchise win. Los Angeles is one victory away from another Super Bowl trip after McVay largely clung to the football basics of yesteryear, with its unlikely backward tandem and an offensive line determined to prove its superiority.
"It means a lot to this team," said 32-year-old McVay, the youngest coach in NFL history, to win a playoff game. "That's the special thing to be able to see guys who have success, talk about a man like Andrew Whitworth who has been playing for as long as he does, to see him play at the level he played tonight, and then to be able to first playoff to win with these guys, I know he cares so much about and loves these guys. "
Next weekend they will meet the winner of the other division playoff match in New Orleans between the top Saints and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys had not allowed two 100-yard riders in a playoff match since the merger between the NFL and the AFL. Los Angeles grabbed more yards than the Cowboys had allowed on the ground all season, a special shame for a proud, effective defense.
While Anderson and Gurley fell under the spell, NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott knew only 47 yards and a touchdown on 20 bears. All-Pro defense equipment Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh both had excellent matches, but the Cowboys blamed themselves for their inability to launch a consistent rush attack, especially against the run-defense of the Rams, which was spotty been.
"They dominated us in the front," Elliott said. "We have not received any movement."
Anderson joined the Rams last month as an emergency for Gurley, who injured his knee and missed the last two games. Anderson has a Super Bowl ring from Denver, but he was also released by the Broncos, Carolina and Oakland in the past nine months.
Anderson played three games for Los Angeles and he raced in all three to at least 100 yards.
Gurley and Anderson became the fourth group of teammates in NFL history who each ran 100 yards in a postseason & # 39; competition, while Dallas lost 200 yards with a playoff game for the first time since Eric Dickerson did the Rams in 1986.
Dak Prescott passed 266 yards and raced to a TD with 2:11 to play, but the Cowboys could not climb out after falling into a 23-7-hole mid-way through the third quarter.
The Cowboys have still not won a playoff game on the road in 26 years. After winning the NFC East and defeating Seattle last week, Dallas lost in the play-off rounds division for the sixth consecutive time and gained a shortage of his first trip to the NFC championship game since January 1996.
"It was a great season, all ups and downs at 3-5 and are counted," Prescott said. "The way we could come back here was inspiring, we had a good team and if you have faith in that team and lose it, we do it very much We're a young team We have a lot of guys with the right to make up here come back and go to the next round. "
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Running Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott is being tackled by Los Angeles Rams cornerback Aqib Talib during the first half in an NFL division game for football playoffs Saturday, January 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Los Angeles Rams runs back Todd Gurley scores past Dallas Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie in the first half in an NFL division football playoff game Saturday, January 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff comes under pressure from Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith in the first half in an NFL division game for football playoffs Saturday, January 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo / Mark J. Terrill)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott breaks away from Los Angeles Rams nose tackle Ndamukong Suh during the first half in an NFL division game football playoff Saturday, January 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper, left, scores past Los Angeles Rams strong safety John Johnson during the first half in an NFL division game football playoff Saturday, January 12, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)
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