The situation called for a likely pass.
Third down. Seven yards to go. Clock stopped at the two-minute warning.
Quarterback Jared Goff took the snap from under center, faked to running back C.J. Anderson on his left, then started rolling right. But veteran Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee had tight end Tyler Higbee well covered in the flat.
But with the Cowboys playing man-to-man, there was one clear option for the third-year QB out of Cal:
So the 24-year-old signal-caller did what he doesn't often do and pulled the ball down. He took off. And while it initially looked like he might go out of bounds short of the sticks, Goff hit the "B" button for a spin move off of Higbee — who had turned into a blocker by then. But the time the QB went down, he had the first down and stays in bounds to force Dallas to use its second timeout.
"First of all, wanted to stay in bounds, wanted to try to pick up the first down," Goff said. "If I didn't have the opportunity to I was going to get down and try to use some clock. They got depth and I felt a lane and Tyler blocked it in there and just kind of spun inside and got down."
"Jared Goff showed his athleticism tonight," head coach Sean McVay said with a tongue-in-cheek tone during his postgame press conference.
Goff's final passing numbers won't necessarily blow you away — 15-of-28 for 186 yards. But when the team rushes for 273 yards in a playoff victory, that's efficient. Goff didn't turn the ball over, and he helped the Rams stay on track finish 5-of-11 on third down, 2-of-2 on fourth down, and reach 30 first downs.
"[J]ust running the ball the way we did — two 100-yard rushers. It's rare and it starts up front with those five guys up front," Goff said postgame. "Whenever you run the ball like that, it takes a lot of pressure off the passing game and allows us to control the clock."
But it's not like Goff didn't make throws. In fact, the quarterback got the offense really humming on a key go-ahead drive in the second quarter, connecting with wide receiver Brandin Cooks, wide receiver Robert Woods, and tight end Tyler Higbee on there consecutive plays for 20, 16, and 11 yards, respectively. Those plays helped open up running lanes, and running backs Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson took advantage — with Anderson capping the drive on a one-yard touchdown.
That was the Rams' third drive, and they ended up scoring on their first four — playing well off of the defense forcing punts. Goff connected with Brandin Cooks on a 15-yard pass to move the ball from midfield to the Dallas 35. Then Gurley showed why he's one of the best back's in the league, using his speed to blow away the Cowboys on a 35-yard touchdown.
"Our defense was playing well," Goff said. "They were getting stops and then we were moving the ball on offense. Finding completions and running the ball well and just moving the ball down the field. Finishing drives with points is always good, even if it was a field goal those first two times. Just getting on the board, getting points, getting into a rhythm is always good."
And as Goff mentioned, the offensive line was certainly a part of that. The Cowboys registered just one single quarterback hit, and really didn't come close to a sack.
"Yeah, that's what I was saying in the locker room a minute ago," Goff said. "I was trying to think of a moment when I got hit — maybe once when I threw it. No sacks and then the way we ran the ball — when those guys are doing that up front, you've got a chance. They've been our catalyst all year, and continue to be, and are playing well right now."
So Goff has his first playoff win, and while the quarterback said he was more comfortable in the playoff atmosphere and environment, it wasn't just because he played against Atlanta in the postseason last year.
"I feel more comfortable because of having another year of football," Goff said. "That game was a year ago and it was 20 games into my career, rather than 36 or 37, whatever it is now. Just getting experience, getting experience in big moments, big games helps. Felt really comfortable though. Definitely more comfortable than last year."
Now the Rams will play in the NFC Championship Game. And even though reaching the Super Bowl is something tangible, Goff said he and the Rams can't think too much about that — no matter who they play next Sunday at noon pacific.
"This was a big game and next week will be a big game as well," Goff said. "Honestly, for us, it's just another game. It's a big game. We're in the final four. Like you said, one win away from the Super Bowl. We're going to enjoy it, enjoy the moment, prepare our [tails] off and do everything we can."