The last time the Rams and Cowboys faced one another in the postseason, Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson torched Dallas for 248 yards on the ground in a 20-0 shutout victory.
That was back on Jan. 4, 1986 — and Dickerson’s 248 yards remain a single-game NFL playoff rushing record. The man who also set the NFL’s single-season rushing record the year before had rushing touchdowns of 55 and 40 yards. The Los Angeles defense put together a stifling performance as well, picking off quarterback Danny White three times en route to the shutout.
This week, therams.com caught up with Dickerson to chat about his memories from that record-setting day, plus his thoughts on the Divisional round matchup between the Rams and Cowboys this Saturday.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
therams.com: What do you remember most about setting the NFL postseason record for yards rushing when you beat the Cowboys 20-0?
Eric Dickerson: First I remember that I was excited we were playing Dallas. I think the year before we had beaten them in Dallas. Going to SMU and playing in Dallas in college, the Cowboys in Dallas were big. But I was excited about playing the Cowboys because I hated the Cowboys. And so I was looking forward to it.
One of the main reasons I was looking forward to it was because the late Cowboys head coach Tom Landry said that they thought that Rams head coach John Robinson made a wrong choice in drafting me because I ran too high, I wasn’t going to last long — I didn’t look that fast. And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to give it to you.’ And that’s when I’d been in the league for a while, so I was going to do it for sure.
And they played the ‘Flex’ defense. And the flex was such an easy defense for me to run against, because the two interior linemen played off the ball. They engaged our guards after the ball was snapped to get a read. And for me, that was perfect because I knew how fast I was. By the time our linemen got to them, I would be by them.
And I just wanted to have a great game and I did. I didn’t think I was going to have 248 yards. But I’ll say this here: every cut was the right cut. Every play was the right play. I think the last touchdown I scored, I think was on the right side, on their sideline, going toward our tunnel. I forgot the play they called. But I think said after the play, after we got up the sideline, “I knew as soon as we called that play, it was a touchdown.” I could tell, they didn’t want to tackle me. Those guys didn’t want to tackle.
therams.com: Was that the most memorable play? Are there any other plays that stand out?
Dickerson: I have two memorable plays from that game. The first play coming out the half, I had a 55-yard touchdown. Man, that was jus big for me because I used to want to show them just how fast I was, so they could see how fast I was — personally.
I think someone was chasing me. It was the first play right out of the half, and I went right up the gut. I think the play was iso-right — it was like a quick draw play.
And another play I had was where I was running and I just made some cuts. It was on our sideline. And I made a cut against Randy White and I stiff-armed him to the ground. And I was like, “Oh yeah, this is one of those days.”
therams.com: With the Rams and Cowboys being two storied franchises, do you feel like there’s something special about when they get together — especially the postseason?
Dickerson: I do. I really believe it. You know, the Cowboys have always been in Dallas the whole time. The Rams haven’t been in L.A. the whole time — but most definitely. I think it’s just always something about them. The Cowboys — you’ve got to say it, even though I don’t like them — they’re iconic. You know? They’re supposedly “America’s team” — not my team, “America’s team.” And the Los Angeles Rams are synonymous with them just being the Rams themselves — just being in Los Angeles, Hollywood. Our uniforms with the horns, the Cowboys with the star representing, pretty much, the state of Texas. So, most definitely, I think it’s really an iconic game for both areas — Dallas and Los Angeles.
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therams.com: For this game in particular, how much are you looking forward to seeing the RBs matchup between Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley?
Dickerson: Oh, very much so. I hope Todd is 100 percent. That’s how football is, sometimes you don’t get to be 100 percent — you don’t get the luxury of being 100 percent. But Todd, to me, is the premier back in the league. So is ‘Zeke.’ You know, I would take either guy. Let’s just say that. I’m happy to have who we have — most definitely, 100 percent. But I would take either guy. I think both guys are great backs. And I wouldn’t say in their first year, because you never know what’s going to happen, because it’s all about the long run. But these guys seem like they’re maybe going to have a long career. They’ve been doing it for the last couple years. So I’m looking forward to watching both players, and seeing both teams.
therams.com: What’s one thing you think the Rams are going to have to do to beat Dallas on Saturday?
Dickerson: Run the football. The Rams have to run the football and cannot abandon the run. I think that’s the most important thing. It’s like, football these days, you just want to throw the ball. If you fall behind, you say, ‘Oh, I’m gonna throw the ball.’ You don’t have to because the run sets up everything else. And I’ve got to say that Dallas does a really good job with that. They did a good job last week with not abandoning the run, sticking with the run. It’s not pretty at first. It’s not popular. But the run sets up so many other things — it really does. It brings up the play-action — it really becomes play-action. If you’re not running the football, and you drop in play-action, the other team cay say, “We know you’re not really going to run the ball. It’s really a fake, so we’re not even going to bite on it.” But I think that’s the most important thing.
But I think the second-most important thing — maybe even the first-most important thing, I think they’re right there hand-in-hand — is just shutting down ‘Zeke,’ stopping their running game. Do not let him beat you. I can say this, when we played the Chicago Bears the following week after beating the Dallas Cowboys, and I had friends who played for the Bears, and those guys told me, “Eric, in our meetings they said, '29 is not going to beat us. We don’t care who else it is, but 29 is not going to beat us.’ And that has to be our mindset, that '21' is not going to beat us. If Dak Prescott beats us, OK. But not Zeke.