Both teams have one of the top running backs in the league. Todd Gurley was fast out of the gate, but it’s been Ezekiel Elliott who has turned it on in the second half.
Leading the way: Gurley led the league in rushing yards for most of the season, but Elliott outpaced the defending NFL Offensive Player of the Year down the stretch to win the regular-season rushing title with 1,434 rushing yards. Gurley finished with 1,251 rushing yards despite sitting out the final two games because of knee inflammation and soreness. Gurley, who the led NFL with a league-best 21 touchdowns and is the centerpiece of a team that produces an average of 32.9 points per game, is expected to play Saturday.
Veteran backup C.J. Anderson, whom the team signed in Week 16, has proved dependable in two games, rushing for 299 yards in Gurley’s absence.
Like Gurley, Elliott is a multi-dimensional back. Along with averaging 95.6 rushing yards per game, he’s also caught 77 passes for 567 yards and three touchdowns. Controlling Elliott will be a challenge for a defense that’s struggled to slow the run. “He’s got the ability to go through you or go around you with speed,” McVay said. “He’s truly a complete back and you could see that a lot of what they do is predicated on just him getting a bunch of touches.”
These teams are no strangers when it comes to turning up the running game against each other.
This playoff game will feature two of the game's bests running backs. Did you know that the most yards the Cowboys have allowed to a RB is 248 from Eric Dickerson (playoff game 1985) and the most the Rams have allowed is 253 from DeMarco Murray (2011). pic.twitter.com/vWiNKQeG3V— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) January 7, 2019
Check out these six interesting tidbits of information about the Cowboys and Rams, including the battle of the star running backs.
Gurley, Elliott have been NFL’s top RBs since being drafted
There’s much debate about who the best running back in the NFL is, but if you look at the numbers, it’s between Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. Since they were drafted in 2015 and 2016, respectively, they lead the NFL in touches, rushing yards and yards from scrimmage. In the last four seasons, Gurley leads the league with 1,229 touches, 4,547 rushing yards and 6,430 total yards. Since 2016, Elliott tops all players with 1,003 touches, 4,048 rushing yards and 5,247 total yards despite missing eight total games in that span
The Battle of RBs in Los Angeles— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 7, 2019
Todd Gurley has the most touches, rush yards, and scrimmage yards since entering the NFL in 2015#LARams
Ezekiel Elliott has the most touches, rush yards, and scrimmage yards since entering the NFL in 2016#DallasCowboys
While a successful running attack has laid the groundwork for the Cowboys success, the Rams haven’t been hindered by opponents running well against them.
Even when teams have successful rushing attacks against the Rams, they rarely win. The Rams won 8-of-11 times when allowing 100+ rushing yards. The key to win will be to produce consistent offense, limit big plays defensively, get the Cowboys behind the chains in 2nd and 3rd-and-longs, and most importantly, be successful on both sides of the ball in the redzone. Completely stifling a good rushing attack is simply asking too much, but limiting big gains (both rushing and passing) is still essential to success on defense.
Stats are nice, but there’s so much more at stake here, and Zeke knows it. The Cowboys star running back has his eyes on the prize.
“I think we both go in with the same mindset – playoff football, it’s about the team. It’s not really about individuals. It’s about trying to go get that Super Bowl,” he said. “Yes, it’s going to be great facing off against him, but I’m not going to put too much emphasis on that.”
Elliott and Gurley have both racked up a lot of accolades in these early stages of their careers, but that’s not really the point. Whether they want to admit it or not, both the Rams’ and the Cowboys’ hopes of winning the Super Bowl hinge on their Pro Bowl running backs – both of whom serve as the focal point of their offenses.
“Both teams like to run the ball, obviously both offenses are better when they do run the ball successfully,” said Zack Martin. “It’s no surprise we’re going to try to run it and it’s not surprise they’re going to try to run it. It’s just whoever executes better.”
The base camp over on the Rams websites offer up three things to know, including how things could fall on the arms of these young quarterbacks.
3. Young guns:
Prescott will probably have to do even more against the Rams considering No. 1 WR Amari Cooper faces a tough assignment against CB Aqib Talib. Prescott may have to try and use the aggressiveness of Donald and Ndamukong Suh against them and exploit running lanes given the way those linemen look to get upfield quickly.
On the other side, Goff could quickly find the game on his right arm if Gurley struggles physically and/or has a hard time cracking the Dallas defensive wall.
How Jared Goff and Dak Prescott stack up over the past three years pic.twitter.com/Z67y4ogLPZ— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 8, 2019
Kris Richard is all too familiar with the Rams offense and K.D. provides a nice recap of their battles last season while Richard was with the Seahawks.
If anything can be taken away from the two meetings between McVay and Richard it’s that Richard’s teams have been able to force numerous turnovers by the high-powered attack. If the Cowboys’ offensive and special team’s braintrust is able to maintain possession and avoid giving the Rams short fields to work with, they have a chance at avoiding the onslaught.
The offense also has to do much more damage than the Seahawks’ offense did last year, scoring just 23 points combined in the two games. Wasting forced turnovers cannot happen for Dallas should they earn extra positions if they expect to win. Richard seemingly has the ability to construct a winning gameplan against McVay, but he can’t win the game by himself.
The decision to bring Kris Richard to this team is paying dividends as the evidence speaks for itself.
On the field, Richard has made changes to the cornerbacks’ techniques. They have been more aggressive at the line of scrimmage than in years past. He brought some pressure packages he used in Seattle that have been incorporated by coordinator Rod Marinelli. So trusting of Richard is Marinelli that he allowed Richard to call defenses.
Marinelli’s main component is the defensive front. Richard deals with the back seven defenders.“
One of the things that we try to do, very thoughtful about, is bring a coach in on the defensive side who kind of fit with the DNA of our defense, so he and Rod and our defensive staff, they really complement each other really well,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “I think they believe in the same things, have the same values of what they want our defense to be. I think that’s meshed really well for us. Then he’s brought other things -- some of the nuances and the details that he’s brought that maybe are different than what we’ve brought in the past have been positive additions. He’s a great teacher. He’s got great enthusiasm. Very knowledgeable. Very detailed.”
The Cowboys veteran safety explains how his coach has been locked in on getting the team ready for Saturday’s big game.
While the Cowboys’ front office and players want Richard to return to Dallas, Heath said he’s pulling for Richard, who has helped elevate Dallas’ defense this season. Richard, in his first season with the Cowboys after Seattle didn’t bring him back as defensive coordinator, brings a physical, disruptive style to the secondary and a visible passion to the sidelines.
”If that’s what he wants, then I want that for him,” Heath said of Richard as a head coach. “He’s going to be a great coach and whatever role he has on whatever team, he’s going to do a great job.”
What are the qualities that would make Richard a good head coach?
“As far as motivation and leadership, getting the mentality of a room right, that’s probably his best quality, to go along with how football smart he is,” Richard said. “Just the way he gets guys to play for him, just the presence he has, is really good.”
If you’re hanging on to hope that Dallas is able to retain Richard, this little factor could be what swings the pendulum in the Cowboys favor.
So, like... Kris Richard is most-def gone, right???
Jean-Jacques Taylor: I wouldn’t say that. He’s a terrific coach and tactician and you can’t deny his impact on the Cowboys’ defense. I’d hire him, but I’m not an NFL GM. The league seems like its turning over every rock to find and hire offensive guys, so I’m not sure he’ll get one of those spots this year. If he doesn’t, he’ll be at the top of the list next year. He’s going to be like Mike Zimmer to me. At some point, he’s going to get a job and the team that hires him will be thrilled.
The Cowboys are relatively healthy, but suffered some casualties to the wide receiver position last weekend against the Seahawks.
Cole Beasley’s status for the Dallas Cowboys’ Divisional Round clash with the Los Angeles Rams is up in the air. The wide receiver did not practice on Tuesday with an ankle injury. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that he was confident that both Beasley and injured wideout Tavon Austin will be available on Saturday. Beasley caught three balls for 28 yards in Dallas’ win over the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Round.
Also sitting out Cowboys practice on Tuesday were wideout Noah Brown (illness), defensive tackle Maliek Collins (illness/ankle), defensive lineman David Irving (ankle) and tight end Blake Jarwin (ankle). Austin was limited with a groin injury, as were defensive end Tyrone Crawford (neck), guard Zack Martin (knee), tackle Tyron Smith (neck), guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (ankle) and safety Darian Thompson (groin).
Doctor Jerry Jones provides his latest report on his ailing players.
Beasley suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter against Seattle and played the rest of the game at noticeably less than 100 percent. Austin, who was listed as questionable for the clash with the Hawks because of lingering groin problems, aggravated the injury Saturday night.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was cautious about Beasley’s outlook Sunday. “We’ll just see how he feels as the week goes on. He did get an ankle sprain in the game, was able to fight through it and be very effective for us throughout,” he told reporters. “But we’ll see how it feels. Seemed like he was doing a little bit better today and we’ll just see how he is day by day as the week goes on.”
Dallas also lost fellow receiver Allen Hurns to an ankle dislocation that required season-ending surgery in the victory over Seattle.
The injuries will test the depth of the Cowboys’ 23rd-ranked passing attack after quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 226 yards with one touchdown and one interception Saturday.
Jerry Jones is optimistic, however.
“I’m positive. Very positive about both,” he said. “That’s easy for me to say, but we’ll see. This is the equivalent of a Wednesday. Probably tentative today, but they’ll get some work in. Right now I’m pretty positive about both those guys playing in the game.”
Here is the latest practice report...
There will be a lot of good playoff games this weekend, but here are four reasons why this one might be the best one to watch.
4. Revenge factor involving both teams
After five seasons with the Rams, the team finally found a trade partner for Tavon Austin during last year’s NFL Draft after the Cowboys were willing to bring him on board, and all they had to give up was a sixth-round pick. As bad as it sounds, Austin was one of the biggest disappointments from Los Angeles during the 2017 season when seeing how he was basically the only player who failed to flourish playing under McVay’s offense. In fact, when the Rams did hire McVay, they felt confident enough in their head coach finally being the one who could get the best out of Austin, which unfortunately wasn’t the case at all. Once again, staying healthy has been a struggle for Austin during his first season in Dallas, but the speedy wideout was able to come through on special teams a few times, and almost even found the end zone.
Now that Austin gets to face his former team, the former first-round pick may not seem like that much of a threat, but this is the last player Los Angeles should sleep on since there’s nothing he would love more than to torch his former team.
Along with Austin, Wade Phillips knows a thing or two about the Cowboys since he was their head coach for almost four full seasons after they sent him packing in the middle of the 2010 season. Phillips may not feel as much betrayal as Austin, but both of these storylines could make the game a little more interesting for both parties.
It’s going to get a little nostalgic for some of us older fans when we see what uniforms these teams will be wearing on Saturday.
The Los Angeles Rams have been through a lot trying to win over their fans. Naturally, going 13-3 this season didn’t hurt the cause, but one of the ways they’ve tried is by eschewing their navy and gold uniforms from the St. Louis days for their blue and yellow ones.
It’s a throwback to their original time in Los Angeles, and it’s a good way to show that this team is serious about continuing the Rams’ history. With that in mind, the Rams are going to be wearing blue and yellow for Saturday’s divisional game against the Cowboys, something that they weren’t allowed to do in their playoff game last year.
The Cowboys will be wearing the jerseys they always wear. It’ll be like 1970s and 80s all over again on Saturday night.