In Week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley injured his ankle early on.
He played through the injury logging 68 of the Rams’ 80 offensive snaps (85%), though his outputs were dramatically reduced on a night when the Rams’ offense was cranking. QB Jared Goff threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns on 49 attempts compared to Gurley’s mere 12 carries. The NFL’s non-QB touchdown leader didn’t see the end zone that night.
The day after the game, Rams Head Coach Sean McVay said:
He got his ankle rolled up on. I thought he still continued to compete and do a great job, but it did limit him a little, but I think that’s why you saw (RB) Malcolm (Brown) in there...He got banged up a little bit and there was a lot of instances where they were playing some defensive structures where they basically were daring you to throw it. I think a lot of that is a result of the respect that they have for Todd and for our running game. But, he did get rolled up on, on the far sideline – his ankle a little bit. He pushed through, but that definitely was a little something that bothered him for sure.
He’ll be fine. It wasn’t anything that’s going to like prevent him from not playing or anything like that, but you could just see – and he’s so tough, he’s not going to say anything – but it bothered him a little bit. We got Malcolm in there and then kind of the flow of the game. I know we’re accustomed to seeing him get more opportunities and that’s something that I’ve got to continue to make sure that I’m always doing a good job of. But if the runs aren’t there and some of those things, we’ve got to find ways to get him touches in the pass game. He had a couple plays that were big – the screen got us going on one of the drives and then we tried to get it to him again and we got a hold (penalty) that called it back. But, that did limit him a little bit then he kind of settled in and I think it felt okay as the game progressed.
I think you want to make sure that you’re playing your guys if they feel good. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Malcolm Brown as well. If he comes in, we really continue to operate as if Todd’s in the game and that’s a result of the confidence that we have in Malcolm. But, if Todd could go, we certainly want him in there, but you never want to have a guy playing if there’s something where he’s not feeling like he’s capable of playing at the level that he feels like can contribute to our team.”
Two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears, Rams fans were left screaming as the Rams’ offense was completely snuffed out by the Bears’ defense while Gurley was largely an afterthought. Goff threw for just 180 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions while Gurley was handed the ball just 11 times.
McVay spoke afterward on Gurley’s limited usage:
Really, it was a result – we didn’t have a lot of plays. Didn’t really get any sort of continuity, any sort of rhythm going on any of our drives. Even when we were able to sustain the long drive and kick the field goal, really, you’re kind of fighting back-and-forth between getting into some second-and-longs where you’re usually accustomed to throwing it. So, they did some different things defensively. Certainly, I would have some decisions back and make sure that you try to be more cognizant of that based on what they were doing. That’s something that you try to look at yourself as a coach and be better, but mainly it was a result of doing some different things that we felt like we had a better chance throwing the football. Then, you kind of get behind the sticks if you’re not efficient on those early downs when you do throw it. That kind of limits your options and opportunities, but those are things that I have to be better for.
No, you have specific approaches that you’d like to be able to carry out, specific to what’s it going to take for you to win the game as a team – putting all three phases together. For us offensively, we felt like, certainly when the ball is in Todd’s hands, good things happen. That’s something that, in hindsight I certainly wish I would’ve made a lot of different selections yesterday and those are things that I have to learn from too as well. You do have specific approaches and then in a lot of instances, it’s predicated on, ‘All right, what has that defense done in certain down-and-distances, certain situations and then what do we feel like is the best way to attack them based on our preparation through the week and then being able to adapt and adjust within the framework of the game. I would say that’s where, really, I didn’t feel like I did a good enough job for us – is being able to adapt and adjust within the framework of the way that game was playing out. Those are things that, certainly, I expect to be better for moving forward.
And this last weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles, Gurley injured his knee. RB Malcolm Brown, whom the Rams turned to against the Chiefs as the subject of McVay’s aforementioned praise, was unavailable having injured his clavicle against the Detroit Lions leaving him out for the remainder of the season.
Again, the disparity was overwhelming. Goff threw the ball 53 times; Gurley had just 12 carries.
Again, McVay was forced to allude to how much Gurley’s knee changed their approach:
Yeah, [the injury affected playcalling] a lot. It affected it. Also, some of our early down efficiency, when we did run it, affected it a lot. So, that was tough. To be able to get any sort of continuity going. Then, you put yourself behind the eight ball when you go down 30-13 and really, you kind of get yourself in a one-dimensional game.
Since injuring his knee on Sunday, Gurley missed practice on Wednesday. And yesterday. And is expected to sit out again today.
The wild card playoffs begin in two weeks, and the Rams’ best offensive weapon’s knee is in such a worrisome state that the training staff isn’t even willing to let him test it in practice.
Consider that against the Chiefs and Eagles, Gurley suffered injuries mid-game that altered the course of McVay’s in-game strategy. Against the Bears just two weeks removed from coming out of the bye, Gurley was apparently healthy and still wasn’t employed with much regularity.
So how much is a Gurley at less than 100% going to be used in the last two weeks against the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers with the playoffs looming? How much sincerity is he going to be used with?
And asking those questions toward the more important timeframe, how available will Gurley be in the playoffs? And how comfortable will McVay be in gameplanning around his availability?
We don’t have much more than questions to go off of at this point, largely because the answers we’ve gotten this week have been so milquetoast.
McVay conveniently happened to have not yet spoken to Sports Medicine and Performance Senior Director Reggie Scott before press availability yesterday so he didn’t have much of an update. Gurley himself was his usual concise self:
Yeah, I think I’ll be fine, man. Just taking it day-by-day recovering, resting, trying to feel better.
I’m not going to go out there and jeopardize my future as well, so it works both ways – me communicating with Reggie, coaching staff, everyone and all of us being on the same page. I’m not going to tell those guys I’m fine when I’m not and go out there and could risk something else. So, it’s a two-way street. That’s why we communicate with each other – me, coach, Reggie, (Director of Strength Training and Performance) Ted (Rath), everybody – we all have a great relationship and that’s just how it works. Just keep trying to get better every day with rehab and all that stuff. But, like I said man, just trying to get better every day. Plan to go on Sunday and we’ll just see from there.
The Rams’ signing of C.J. Anderson should indicate how sincerely concerned they are about the state of affairs at running back. For much of the season, the Rams had just Gurley and Brown as the active running backs on gameday. With Brown gone and reserve RB Justin Davis also ailing, the Rams clearly weren’t comfortable with just Gurley and rookie reserve RB John Kelly as the sole options. That lack of comfort in and of itself is telling.
But it only tells us something about the current preparation. Not future execution.
And perhaps that’s the real concern.
The Rams’ 2018 season was always going to come down to their performance in the playoffs. And with just weeks to go before that referendum begins, their best offensive weapon isn’t 100%. He may not be close. And just how much that changes things starts this week.
And that’s where Gurley’s focus is. For now.
I’m here to play ball. I’m not worried about January to the fifth. We’re on December 20th. We play a game Sunday. Playoffs are going to take care of itself.