LOS ANGELES (AP) – As if the pressure to play for the first Los Angeles Rams playoff victory in 14 years was not enough, Todd Gurley will carry an additional imperative at the Coliseum on Saturday night.
"Basically, everyone I know hates the Cowboys," said the Rams' running back. "They beat me all week, so I have to try to keep these guys busy."
And then there's Wade Phillips, the 71-year-old defensive coordinator from Los Angeles who was sacked from his Dallas head coaching position in 2010 and replaced by his assistant, Jason Garrett. With an impassive face, Phillips calls the playoff showdown "a game of revenge for me."
The Cowboys (11-6) inspire strong feelings throughout the world of football, but these Rams (13-3) are just joking. Their ability to do so indicates that they do not feel overwhelmed by the extraordinary weight of the two teams in this match under the spotlight of Hollywood.
A trip to the NFC Championship game is enough motivation for two franchises that have not been so close to a Super Bowl for many years.
"It's a playoff game in prime time," said Gurley. "What better game would you like? Playoff in LA against the US team. It will be a good match. "
Dallas has won three play-offs in 22 years and has not won a playoff game since January 1993. The Cowboys have not reached the NFC title since 1995, losing five in a row in the division.
"Yeah, that would mean a lot," Dallas quarterback Dak Dallas said. "And more than that means for the past, but because of this group of guys I'm going to do it with. Simply simply how we were able to persevere (through) all the events and all that we went through together, off the field, on the field. I just know we have the right guys to do it. "
The Rams have not played in a conference league since the 2001-2002 season, and they ended only a drought that lasted 12 years in the playoffs in January with a home defeat against Atlanta at of the wild game. Coach Sean McVay's incredible turnaround in coaching has inspired a wave of imitating coaches hired into the NFL this month, but McVay knows it does not mean much without his first playoff win.
The match also features two of the league's best young quarterback combinations. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are at the heart of a team that has won eight of its last nine games since trading against receiver Amari Cooper, crowned by Dallas' win over Seattle last week in the wild game.
Jared Goff and Gurley make this possible for the Rams, who broke an 11-1 record with an almost unstoppable offense. The losses suffered by the Bears and Eagles in December raised questions about their line of defense and offensive defense, but the McVay team is rested and determined to participate in the Super Bowl.
"I think confidence has been won," said McVay. "We have a lot of respect for the Dallas Cowboys, but we expect to win this game. We know that it will take a lot of effort, but we adopt the spirit and the mentality that we expect to win. I think our players have earned that trust every day. We must then prove it. "
Here are other things to look out for at the ninth round of the playoffs of these NFC pillars – the most important in the history of the NFL – but their first since January 1986 in Anaheim:
The showdown will be a showcase for the two best defensemen of the NFL, provided that Gurley's brittle knee is good. Gurley has not played since December 16, but McVay seems certain to have his offensive centerpiece at full strength. Gurley finished third in the NFL race behind Elliott, who won his second title in three years. Gurley was reluctant to say if he would be limited, but his replacement, C.J. Anderson, had played two colossal games in his absence.
Dallas catcher Cole Beasley and tight back Blake Jarwin have not been training all week with ankle injuries. Beasley was limping badly against Seattle. Jarwin, who had three touchdowns in the regular season final against the New York Giants, had more playing time due to an injury that ended the season for Geoff Swaim. Goalkeeper Xavier Su'a-Filo resumed training after sitting against the Seahawks, injured his ankle. If the UCLA product is able to play, Dallas will have to choose between him and rookie Connor Williams at the left guard post.
Goff will be tested by the Dallas defense, which has one of the best collections of linebackers and back of the NFL. Production and efficiency of the Pro Bowl quarterback fell in December when opponents increasingly refused to bite McVay's maneuvers. The Dallas defense also has enough talented passers to put pressure on. Goff realizes that he will be judged on his ability to meet the challenge. "Winning is the most important statistic and it's no different in series," he said.
SOME QB HATE
Speaking of Goff, the defensive back of the Cowboys, DeMarcus Lawrence, had a little fun when asked his impressions of his compatriot, the Pro Bowler: "It's a quarter. I do not like quarterbacks. Lawrence recorded a second consecutive double-digit season with 10 ½, but finished well behind NFL leader, Los Angeles MVP Aaron Donald (20 ½).
After the Falcons' defeat last January, the Rams strengthened their defense with three leading veterans of the playoffs. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh hopes to win his first playoff victory after a 0-3 defeat with Detroit and Miami, while cornerback Marcus Peters will attempt to win his first game for the title of the conference after losing his last three playoff games with Kansas City. Cornerback Aqib Talib won a Super Bowl ring with Denver and feels a similar vibration in the Rams' locker room. "Everyone knows it, so I do not have to tell them," Talib said. "If you want (your team) to be popular and get your name, play some games in the playoffs."
Schuyler Dixon, a professional football writer, contributed to this report.
More NFL AP: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL