Rams, Cowboys seek long-awaited postseason breakthroughs
LOS ANGELES (AP) — As if the pressure of playing for the Los Angeles Rams’ first playoff victory in 14 years wasn’t enough, Todd Gurley carries an extra imperative into the Coliseum on Saturday night.
“Basically, everybody I know hates the Cowboys,” the Rams’ All-Pro running back said. “They’ve been hitting me up all week, so I’ve got to try to take care of business for those guys.”
And then there’s Wade Phillips, the 71-year-old Los Angeles defensive coordinator who was fired as Dallas head coach in 2010 and replaced by his assistant, Jason Garrett. With a straight face, Phillips calls the divisional playoff showdown “a revenge game for me.”
The Cowboys (11-6) inspire strong feelings across the football world, but these Rams (13-3) are just joking around. Their ability to do so indicates they’re not feeling crushed by the extraordinary weight on both teams in this matchup under the Hollywood spotlight.
A trip to the NFC championship game is more than enough motivation for two franchises that haven’t been that close to a Super Bowl in many years.
“It’s a prime-time game in the playoffs,” Gurley said. “What better game would you want? Playoff game in LA versus America’s Team. It’s going to be a great matchup.”
Dallas has won three playoff games in 22 years, and it hasn’t won a road playoff game since January 1993. The Cowboys haven’t reached the NFC title game since the 1995 season, losing five straight times in the divisional round.
“Yeah, it would mean a lot,” Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott said. “And more than what it means for the past, but because of this group of guys that I’m going to do it with. Just simply how we’ve been able to persevere (through) all the adversity and everything that we’ve been through together, off the field, on the field. I just know we’ve got the right guys to do it.”
The Rams haven’t been in a conference championship game since the 2001-02 season, and they only ended a 12-year playoff drought last January with a home loss to Atlanta in the wild-card round. Coach Sean McVay’s incredible turnaround of his franchise has inspired a wave of copycat coaching hires across the NFL this month, but McVay knows it doesn’t mean much without his first playoff victory.
The matchup also showcases two of the best young quarterback-running back combinations in the league. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are the heart of a team that has won eight of its last nine games since trading for receiver Amari Cooper, capped by Dallas’ gritty victory over Seattle last week in the wild-card round.