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What we learned: Los Angeles Rams vs Dallas Cowboys

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What happened in the divisional round, and how will that translate to the Rams matchup with the Saints?

Divisional Round - Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Rams have established a grizzled and wintery offensive identity-the bowling ball and the Cadillac. A one-two punch out of the backfield made possible by a well rested offensive line that seems to be playing with a chip on their shoulder. All this raises the floor for Jared Goff, who can bask in all the delights that an effective play action provides. So how will this all look against the New Orleans Saints with a trip to the Super Bowl in the balance?

When Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen catches up on the most recent Rams’ tape he’s likely to get one of those giant AM/PM buckets of coffee and will try to figure out a way to limit the Rams ground attack. If they don’t, the Rams could make the Saints mighty uncomfortable by winning the time of possession battle on Sunday. If the Saints come out of the gate overcommitted to limiting the run, then is this the game where the Rams revert to their famed air attack? If so, the Saints could be vulnerable-they were 29th in passing yards allowed this season. Perhaps things get reversed this week and the Rams will look to set up the run with the pass.

According to a recent Ringer article, the Rams had reads on the Dallas Cowboys’ pass rush, and whether or not to expect stunts that the Cowboys rely on to create pressure. According to guard Austin Blythe the Rams were able to predict what was coming with a 90% degree of certainty. This advantage made one of the league’s best lines virtually invincible. But how will they look without a week of rest and perhaps a bit less intel on what the Saints’ intend to do with their pass rush? If the line is able to match its recent success, the Rams have a terrific shot at appearing the Super Bowl.

Defensively, the Rams did the unexpected and ethered Ezekiel Elliott and the normally strong Dallas running game. After a less than remarkable regular season, Ndamukong Suh appeared to shift into another gear and was the dominant run stopper that the Rams had hoped for when they signed him. In fact, the whole front seven was very solid, with the only real breakdowns in the secondary. So what will the Rams be able to do to slow the Michael Thomas/Drew Brees connection? Despite Marcus Peters’ gumbo wars with Sean Peyton, it seems likely that the more physical Aqib Talib may get tapped to guard Thomas on Sunday. But how will the Rams pass rush be able to bother Brees, who gets the ball out extremely fast? Perhaps Talib will be able to jam up Thomas just enough to avoid some of those 8-15 yard lasers that the Saints seem to connect on at will. In their last five games the Saints have only broke 30 points once. Their Week 17 performance was bit of a throw-away, but if the Rams defense can avoid breakdowns they may be able to keep the scoreboard somewhat manageable.