The Los Angeles Rams beat the Dallas Cowboys 30-22 on Saturday night, and got a mostly unexpected contribution from running back C.J. Anderson. He finished the game with 123 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
The help from Anderson was a surprise for three reasons: 1) Todd Gurley exists and was healthy (coming into the game) and 2) Anderson hasn’t even been on the roster for a month and 3) I don’t think most of us realized he was looking more like a fullback than a running back nowadays as a rather plump back.
Anderson’s first half helped the Rams get ahead of the Cowboys, and they never looked back.
Neither team got off to a particularly hot start in this game, but Anderson helped the Rams establish the run, and eventually take a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
One of his more impressive runs was this bruiser on second-and-one from the Cowboys’ 43-yard line that went for 15 yards:
Anderson helped the Rams get up to the Cowboys’ nine-yard line after another 11-yard gain, but the Rams settled for a field goal.
On the Rams’ next drive, Anderson had the following 14-yard run, and would punch it in for a touchdown on the next play to give Los Angeles a 13-6 lead.
The Rams took a 20-7 lead into halftime, and never lost it. Anderson’s last touchdown made it a 30-15 game with just over seven minutes to go in the game:
Anderson also had the game-clinching first down with under two minutes to go to give the Rams the win.
It was a helpful contribution from a veteran back with limited experience on the roster. It was even more valuable as it became clear that Gurley wasn’t 100 percent throughout the game:
A trainer is taking one of those rollers and using it on Gurley’s right leg.
— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@SandoESPN) January 13, 2019
Against a Cowboys team that’s usually good against the run (they were 5th this year) it was an impressive game by Anderson. Just last week, they held the Seahawks to 73 yards last week, and Anderson had eclipsed that before the first half was even over.
While you might not have expected this coming into the game, perhaps it shouldn’t be TOO surprising.
Anderson signed with the Rams on December 18, allowing him to play the Rams’ final two games in Weeks 16 and 17.
In Week 16, Anderson had 167 yards on the ground and a touchdown. In Week 17, he nearly did the same with 132 yards and a touchdown. Those games came against the Cardinals and 49ers respectively, which aren’t exactly daunting opponents, but those are solid numbers against anybody.
Prior to signing with the Rams, Anderson had gotten very limited carries with the Panthers before being waived on November 12. It was quite the turn for Anderson, who was coming off of a 2017 season in which he rushed for over 1,000 yards with the Broncos.
However, he’s made up for it in just three games with the Rams.
Who knows if he’ll do anything like this again in the postseason. But at the very least, he’ll be a nice threat to have in place of Gurley.
The Rams could get a bunch, or nothing out of Anderson from here on out, and we wouldn’t be surprised either way if it meant they were out next week or won the Super Bowl.
The advantage in having Anderson in the backfield is the mere threat. He’s not Gurley, but teams know that he’s capable of doing damage on the ground. That’s enough to at least make teams respect the run, even when the Rams might have full intentions on throwing the football with Anderson in the game.
But for at least one weekend, Anderson was the unexpected star for a half that got the Rams out to a lead they wouldn’t lose.