LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay felt the pressure. So did quarterback Jared Goff. Despite producing back-to-back division titles for the first time in nearly four decades, both coach and quarterback knew the results that matter most are those produced in the playoffs.
Last season, they fell flat in a wild-card loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
On Saturday, in front of a boisterous, sold-out and star-studded crowd at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, McVay executed a masterful game plan in a 30-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys in their NFC divisional-round game.
"You look forward to these moments all year," Goff said after the game. "Getting a chance to play in a game like this and play well and come out on top is always what you dream about."
The Rams now await the winner of the divisional-round matchup Sunday between the NFC's top-seeded New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles before they make their first appearance in an NFC Championship Game since 2001.
The playoff victory Saturday was a first for the 32-year-old McVay, who became the youngest head coach in NFL history to win a playoff game, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
"It means a lot for this team," McVay said. "That's kind of what's special about it, is to be able to see guys have that success and then be a part of it and be able to share it with them."
Against the Cowboys, Goff returned to the efficient and effective form he displayed in the first 11 weeks before he hit a late-season slump. In his first playoff win, the third-year quarterback completed 15 of 28 passes for 186 yards. He also rushed for a crucial first down late in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
"Jared Goff showed his athleticism tonight," McVay said, chuckling. "That was a big-time deal to be able to convert with his legs."
McVay has recently been in the spotlight as teams around the NFL fill head-coaching vacancies in an obvious attempt to replicate the explosive offense, and overnight success, the Rams' coach has produced in two seasons.
But what won the game was McVay's savvy in nearly abandoning his signature, high-flying offense and instead relying heavily on the run against a Cowboys defense that last week decisively shut down the NFL's top rushing team in the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams piled up 273 yards rushing Saturday.
After spending the final two games of the regular season sidelined because of inflammation and soreness in his left knee, Todd Gurley appeared fresh and fast. Gurley rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown.
"Feels good," Gurley said about the win and his knee. "But this ain't s---. We still got one more. Keep winning. We gotta keep winning."
Veteran backup C.J. Anderson, whom the Rams signed on Dec. 18 to provide depth to an injury-struck position group, continued his late-season dominance. Anderson rushed for a combined 299 yards in the final two games of the regular season, then provided a perfect complement to Gurley, pounding the ball Saturday to pick up 123 yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys.
"He's been running his tail off and doing everything right," Goff said. "I think the last few weeks without Todd, he showed what he could do. And this week, having both of them, that's special. It gives you a real dual threat of different backs."
On Sunday, the Rams will watch the Saints-Eagles divisional-round game, knowing whichever team they face has defeated them before. Drew Brees and the Saints dealt the Rams their first loss of the season in Week 9 when the Rams could not overcome a 21-point deficit. And then the Eagles, in Week 15 behind Nick Foles, handed the Rams their second straight loss. L.A. fell to the Bears in Week 14.
The Rams proved Saturday that the Super Bowl-or-bust talk that was sparked by a series of offseason trades and acquisitions, along with big-time paydays for Gurley and Aaron Donald, wasn't just hype. They have what it takes to win in the playoffs.
But now, the pressure mounts again, as they're one win away from their season-long goal of a Super Bowl appearance.
"We're going to enjoy it," Goff said. "Enjoy the moment, prepare our ass off and do everything we can."