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Rams putting playoff experience to use during bye week

By DAN GREENSPAN

Associated Press

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) There is a difference of opinion among the Los Angeles Rams about the importance of playoff experience.

Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold believes it is valuable, seeing the Rams put lessons from their wild-card round loss to Atlanta last season to work this week during their first-round bye. Cornerback Aqib Talib, who won a Super Bowl with Denver in 2016, dismissed the concept. And running back C.J. Anderson sits in the middle, the biggest takeaway from his postseason track record having to do as much with finances as football.

"Right now everybody in the league is making the same check so it's all about team," Anderson said Wednesday.

No matter the perspective, the second-seeded Rams are determined to make the most of this week before hosting Chicago, Dallas or Seattle in the NFC divisional round Jan. 12.

Back at work after taking off New Year's Day, coach Sean McVay said the focus would be directed internally on improving fundamentals and technique. McVay compared it to the second phase of voluntary offseason workouts with "a lot of individual work," he said. There will also be competitive drills between the starting offense and defense.

Talib said those periods would be valuable going into the playoffs, where attention to detail becomes even more important.

"It's the playoffs, man, so it don't matter if it's your first time, second time," Talib said. "It don't really matter. Everything is going to go a little faster and your margin of error got to be that much better."

The Rams learned as much in their 26-13 loss to the Falcons at home, turning the ball over twice on special teams leading to 10 points for the visitors.

Los Angeles was making its first playoff appearance since the 2004 season, and most of the team was playing in the postseason for the first time, including quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The early and abrupt exit taught the Rams the importance of maintaining offense balance and avoiding self-inflicted mistakes.

"I just think guys are just a little bit more mature about the playoffs," Saffold said. "Now we got even more veterans on our team, guys with a lot of experience, some with playoff experience, so I think this team is more than ready."

For Anderson, having contributed in vastly different ways for two Broncos teams that went to the Super Bowl gives him a perspective he wants to communicate to his new team. Anderson was an undrafted rookie playing special teams when Denver reached Super Bowl 48, losing to the Seahawks. He was the starting running back two years later, rushing for 90 yards and one touchdown in the 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50.

Anderson is preparing for contrasting roles with the Rams in the playoffs. After signing with Los Angeles as a free agent on Dec. 18, Anderson rushed for 299 yards and two touchdowns in the final two games of the regular season when Gurley did not play because of soreness in his knee. With Gurley recovering and on track to play, McVay said, Anderson would be just as comfortable backing him up.

"I'm here to do what the team want me to do," Anderson said. "If Todd comes back and I'm carrying it eight times, I'm going to make sure them eight opportunities is the best eight. And if he doesn't come back for whatever reason and I got to carry the load, then that's just something I got to do."

It was in 2013 getting his first taste of the playoffs that Anderson realized he was getting paid the same amount of money as quarterback Peyton Manning. It served to teach Anderson that everyone has to contribute in the postseason because "when the opportunity presents itself, the opportunity doesn't care who makes it. If you're in a position to make it, make it happen," he said.

Anderson is ready to share his message, but he seems to think it was already imparted to the Rams by Atlanta in that playoff loss.

"All I can do is offer my experience as much as I can, but just looking at them, I think they are fine," Anderson said. "I think they are hungry. I think we're ready for sure."

NOTES: S Lamarcus Joyner (ankle) is "making good progress," McVay said. McVay did not know if Joyner or Gurley would participate in on-field workouts this week. . Denver has requested permission to interview quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, McVay said. Taylor is also scheduled to meet with Arizona and Cincinnati this week.

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Updated January 2, 2019

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