The Los Angeles Rams play the Arizona Cardinals in a matchup that’ll decide who gets the misfortunate of being demoted to the NFC West basement in the early going. While fans are focused squarely on LA (hopefully) taking care of business on Sunday, it’s always fun to reflect upon past matchups in the series.
Both divisional foes have played in some pretty memorable games over the years. Perhaps none more memorable than Todd Gurley’s first career start which came against the Cardinals during Week 4 of the 2015 season.
Gurley made his NFL debut the week before in a 12-6 loss to the Steelers. The Georgia product made a poor first impression on fans in St. Louis as he rushed for nine yards on six carries. Against the Cardinals who were 3-0 heading into the game, it was more of the same for Gurley as he had just two rushing yards in the first half.
As the age-old adage goes, it’s not how you start but rather how you finish. Man, did Gurley finish strong as he ripped off 144 yards after halftime to help the Rams upset unbeaten Arizona on the road. Gurley put the team on his back as St. Louis left the desert with a shocking victory.
Todd Gurley had his breakout performance as a rookie against Arizona. It was evident that TG was a generational talent as a rookie with this 146 yard performance pic.twitter.com/9gQndwL9uu— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) October 12, 2023
Unfortunately for the Rams, that win over the Cardinals was one of their few highlights of a mediocre 7-9 campaign, also called the Jeff Fisher special. Arizona would rebound to finish with a 13-3 record which was second in the conference behind the 15-1 Carolina Panthers. The Cardinals made it all the way to the NFC Championship where they collapsed in every sense of the word against league MVP Cam Newton. At least the Rams will always have that win.
Gurley refused to slow down as he continued his hot start by rushing for at least 125 yards in his next three games against the Packers, Browns and 49ers. He even set a league mark with 566 yards, the highest rushing total in the first four starts of a player’s career.
Todd Gurley's 566 rush yards in his first 4 starts are the most since the 1970 merger. (via ELIAS) pic.twitter.com/RdWaKZnDz4— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 2, 2015
This stat from those four starts is absolutely absurd so I’ll leave it here for a moment while I pick my jaw back off the floor:
“The 71-yarder [against the 49ers] gave Gurley a run of 45 or more yards for the fourth time in as many weeks and his sixth carry of 20-plus yards on the season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, if you took the sum of Gurley’s longest runs (52, 55, 48, 71) in his first four starts, he would have as many or more yards than 19 other rookie running backs do this season with 226.” per Nick Wagoner of ESPN
Gurley was named Offensive Rookie of the Year after finishing the 2015 season with 1,106 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns. He was special even before Sean McVay catapulted him to All-Pro status from 2017-18. Prime Todd Gurley was truly a sight to behold. Who knows whether LA will ever see that level of elite production from their running backs again.
Could Kyren Williams become the next Rams running back to have a breakout game against the Cardinals? It’s very possible given Williams has rushed for over 50 yards in four of LA’s first five games. Williams even had a 103-yard outing versus the Colts. Arizona this season has allowed 124.2 rushing yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns. If Williams is ready to have a vintage Gurley moment, playing the Cardinals is a hell of a time to have it.