NFC Playoff Recap: Divisional Weekend

This game really wasn’t as close as that score makes it seem…

Los Angeles Rams 30

Dallas Cowboys 22

If you were looking for the Cowboys to breeze into LaLaLand and bowl over the Rams, on the strength of their recent prowess, you haven’t been paying attention.  Sure, the Cowboys came alive at midseason after acquiring Amari Cooper, but the difference between the haves and the have-nots in the NFL has never been more apparent.  The top four point-scoring offenses in the NFL are the top four seeds in the playoffs, they’re also the teams advancing to the Conference Finals.  The Cowboys, even with their late season heroics, are not among that group…they were twenty-second in scoring offense this season.  You simply can’t beat any of these four teams with that kind of production.  But it wasn’t just the offensive mismatch that led to a Rams victory on Saturday.  The Cowboys much-ballyhooed defensive front was pushed around all night long by a Rams unit that knows how to run the rock.  Dallas allowed just seventy-three rushing yards against Seattle’s potent running attack in their Wildcard weekend win.  On Saturday, they allowed not one, but two different Los Angeles rushers to run for over one-hundred yards.  C.J. Anderson carried the heavy load, rushing for 123 yards on twenty-three carries with two TD’s.  Spoiler alert…Anderson is the second back on the Rams depth chart.  Their leading back Todd Gurley has been nursing a sore knee, so he only carried the ball sixteen times for 115 yards and a TD.  Dallas simply couldn’t stop the run.  In total, the favored Dallas front seven allowed a mind-boggling 273 yards on the ground.  That’s why Jared Goffand the Rams won the day, despite losing the individual QB stat-battle with Dak Prescott.

Dak played well, throwing for 266 yards and a touchdown. Because he had to. The Cowboys offensive line simply couldn’t open lanes for Ezekiel Elliot, and it showed.  

The cracks in the Dallas pavement were laid bare when the Rams defense, which wasn’t necessarily stellar against the run all season (allowing over 120 YPG) turned into a run-stopping juggernaut.  The NFL’s leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliot, couldn’t go anywhere.  He carried the rock twenty times for a paltry 47 yards, and Dak added only two very short scrambles to the tally.  That’s it.  Dallas was only able to produce fifty total yards on the ground, on the road, in the playoffs.  It wouldn’t be close to enough.

Los Angeles was my pick for the NFC champ this season, and their ability to slide the offense nimbly between run-heavy and pass-heavy is a huge reason for that.  But I think the biggest advantage they have is on the defensive side of the ball, where they haven’t put together their best game…yet.  At some point in the evolution of this team under head coach Sean McVay, that secondary will start creating more opportunities for Aaron Donald, and when that starts to happen, lookout.  Whether that happens next Sunday could well decide who heads to Atlanta.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out Tom’s other playoff reviews here

Image Source: USA Today

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