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Rams' foursome knows the secrets to a Super Bowl run

Rams' foursome knows the secrets to a Super Bowl run
Rams cornerback Aqib Talib breaks up a pass intended for Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald during a game Dec. 23. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

They were signed for their skill sets, not necessarily for their Super Bowl experience.

But as the Rams gear up for an NFC divisional playoff game, they can turn to four players who were part of teams that made a Super Bowl run.

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Cornerback Aqib Talib and running back C.J. Anderson did it twice with the Denver Broncos. Cornerback Sam Shields did it with the Green Bay Packers, and receiver Brandin Cooks with the New England Patriots.

All said eliminating mistakes was the key to advancing through the playoffs to the Super Bowl.

“That’s how you get there,” Talib said.

Anderson added another element: “The football gods must be on your side,” he said.

That wasn’t the case for the Rams last season in their first playoff appearance since 2004. In a wild-card-game defeat to the Atlanta Falcons, an Atlanta punt bounced off the foot of the Rams’ Blake Countess and the Falcons recovered. Former Rams kick returner Pharoh Cooper also fumbled a kickoff.

The Rams know they must avoid those types of miscues in a divisional-round game Jan. 12 at the Coliseum.

The Rams are seeded second in the NFC playoffs behind the New Orleans Saints and will play the highest-seeded team remaining after this weekend’s wild-card games. The fourth-seeded Dallas Cowboys beat the fifth-seeded Seattle Seahawks on Saturday, and the third-seeded Chicago Bears play host to the sixth-seeded Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

The Rams need wins in the divisional-round game and the NFC championship game to advance to the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 in Atlanta.

Shields was a Green Bay Packers rookie in 2010, when the team won three playoff games on the road and defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

“When you get to the playoffs, the fewer mistakes, the better you are,” said Shields, who intercepted two passes and forced a fumble in the NFC championship game against the Bears. “It’s everybody being on the same page, no mistakes and putting your game to another notch.”

Talib, an 11th-year veteran, and Anderson, a sixth-year pro, played on Broncos teams that advanced to the Super Bowl in the 2013 and 2015 seasons.

In 2013, the Broncos suffered a rout by the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Two years later, with Wade Phillips — now Rams defensive coordinator — overseeing a dominant defense, they defeated the Carolina Panthers.

Intensity changes in the playoffs, said Talib, who made five tackles and broke up two passes in the Broncos’ Super Bowl victory.

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“Football, period, cranks up,” he said, adding that it doesn’t matter “if it’s your first time or second time. … Everything’s going to go a little bit faster, and your margin of error’s got to be that much better.”

Anderson played on Broncos special teams in 2013 and got a couple carries in the Super Bowl. In 2015, he started in the Super Bowl and rushed for 90 yards and one touchdown in 23 carries.

“It’s the same game you’ve been playing all year,” he said of the playoffs. “It’s just a little bit picked up, and hopefully there’s a lot of juice left in everybody to make a run.”

Cooks, a fifth-year pro, went to the Super Bowl last season with the New England Patriots.

He had a combined nine receptions for 132 yards in playoff victories over the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

He had one catch for 23 yards in the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles but suffered a concussion on that early second-quarter gain and was sidelined for the rest of the game in the Patriots loss.

Eliminating mental errors, penalties and other mistakes is paramount for making a playoff run, Cooks said.

“You’ve just got to focus,” he said, “and do the little things right.”

Talib, Anderson, Shields and Cooks will continue to lead by example. But they also are available for advice if less-experienced teammates seek them out.

“All I can do is offer my experience as much as I can,” Anderson said. “But just looking at it, I think they’re fine.

“I think they’re hungry. I think we’re ready, for sure.”

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