Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys have no answer for Los Angeles Rams two-headed rushing attack

For a week, the Dallas Cowboys were asked about slowing down Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley.

The league’s third-leading rusher (despite missing the last two games with a knee injury) was an integral part of the Rams’ explosive offense that led the NFC in points and yards.

But it wasn’t only Gurley who torched the Cowboys’ rush defense. It was also C.J. Anderson, who helped the Rams beat Dallas, 30-23, Saturday night in the divisional playoff game at LA Memorial Coliseum. The Cowboys allowed a season-high 273 yards rushing. It was the most rushing yards the Cowboys allowed in their playoff history.

The previous high was 178 yards to the Colts in a 23-0 loss on Dec. 16. A week ago, Dallas held the NFL’s best-rushing team Seattle to just 73 total yards rushing.

“We didn’t play our ball defensively. I didn’t think that would happen,” Defensive end Tyrone Crawford said. “I don’t think they outmuscled us. It was a combination of things. Some things we just weren’t ready for on the field. Our coaches got us equipped for a lot of things and throughout the week our preparation was good and I thought we were going to come into this game better than we did.”

Gurley led the Rams with 80 yards on 10 carries, including a 35-yard scoring run that put Los Angeles up 20-7 with just over two minutes left in the half. Anderson, however, got the Rams’ offense going early, gashing the Cowboys for 78 first-half yards, including 33 yards in the first quarter. In fact, Anderson played such a prevalent roll early, it seemed as if Gurley’s injured knee wasn’t ready after all.

But he dispelled that notion when broke free up the middle and scored, nearly untouched on a 35-yard run late in the first half.

And after the Cowboys pulled to within 23-15 in the third quarter, Gurley and Anderson pounded their way through porous front four that had been so important to Dallas’ success this season. Gurley and Anderson finished with 116 and 123 yards, respectively. The Cowboys did not sack Jared Goff once and only pressured him once.

Conversely, Ezekiel Elliott was held to 47 yards on 20 carries, his second-fewest yards in a game this season. Dak Prescott only rushed twice, both in the second half, for three total yards, including a touchdown that pulled Dallas to within 30-22 with 2:11 remaining.

“They’re a good football team and they outplayed us,” Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said. “You have to give it up to those guys. Those are two good runners. They ran their butts off today.”

The last time the Cowboys allowed two rushers from one team to gain 100 or more yards in the same game was against the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, the final game played at Texas Stadium.

La’Ron McClain had 139 yards rushing and Willis McGahee had 108 yards rushing on Dec. 20, 2008.

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.