When Matthew Stafford was traded to the Los Angeles Rams from the Detroit Lions, one of the primary narratives was that the former number one overall pick never had any help. That was especially the case in the run game which can significantly help take pressure off of a quarterback. When Stafford was in Detroit, he had just one 1,000 yard rusher and only 11 times did a running back rush for over 100 yards in a game.
The Rams haven’t necessarily had a successful running game since acquiring Stafford, but were still able to win the Super Bowl in his first season. That is until this year when Kyren Williams has been doing things that no other running back that has played with Stafford has been able to do.
Last Sunday against the Washington Commanders, Kyren Williams had his fifth 100-yard game this season. By rushing for 114 and 152 yards in back-to-back weeks, Williams became the first running back in Matthew Stafford’s career to rush for consecutive 100-yard games.
Coming into this season, a running back had rushed for 100 yards in a game in which Stafford was the quarterback 13 times. That’s now up to 18, meaning that Williams has 27.8 percent of the 100 yard games for a running back with Stafford.
These are some of the important plays made by Kyren Williams. Robinson misses his chip, leaving Williams 1-on-1 with the edge player.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) December 20, 2023
Fights for every yard. Rams offense stays ahead of the chains. pic.twitter.com/rOsK5xqXyj
Prior to this season, no single running back had more than three 100-yard games with Stafford. That player was Reggie Bush who is also the only running back with Stafford to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Not only does Williams have the most 100-yard games in a single season with Stafford at quarterback with five, but it’s also the most 100-yard games for a running back in Stafford’s career. With 53 yards on Thursday against the New Orleans Saints, Williams will have the most yards in a single season for a running back with Stafford.
What Kyren Williams is doing this season is even more impressive when you get into the deeper analytics. Williams is averaging a positive 0.1 EPA per rush and 0.51 rushing yards over expected per attempt. Prior to this season, Stafford had never played with a running back with a positive EPA and the highest RYOE per attempt was 0.17 which was Bush in 2013. Williams has been the best running back that Stafford has played with and it’s not even close.
Probably the most impressive run of the day for Kyren Williams. Nothing immediately available. Always keeps his legs moving, looking for a hole to pop through. Breaks a big one.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) December 14, 2023
Really good blocks by Dotson and Shelton. pic.twitter.com/GDhOja6unH
Rushing doesn’t equate to winning, but it is worth noting that Stafford 16-2 with a 100-yard rusher. One of those losses came last week against the Ravens and then the other was a 44-41 loss in overtime to the Tennessee Titans — a game that Stafford didn’t finish due to injury.
A good running game can help take pressure off of a quarterback. Throughout his career, Stafford has needed to feel like he had to be the one to make a play in the passing game. That’s changed this year, especially in games with Williams at running back. The Rams quarterback has gone three consecutive games without throwing an interception. That adds up to 118 straight throws without an interception. That’s one of the longest streaks of his career during a single season and best since at least 2017 when he went four consecutive games without throwing the defense. That was a stretch of 173 straight passes.
Prior to the game against the Cleveland Browns, Stafford said this in regards to how Kyren Williams helps him and the offense execute better,
“Yeah, I think it helps our whole team, not just me...It obviously gives our coordinator and coach confidence to call those plays and we’re getting big plays out of it. The explosives were huge last week...I think fires up our guys up front and our guys on the perimeter to continue to block. If they continue to block, man, good things are going to happen. Those backs are going to get to the second level. So obviously got to go out there and keep proving it week in and week out, but it’s definitely something that as an offense, if you can come out of a game as balanced as we were last game that’s a positive.”
In games with Kyren Williams as the Rams’ starting running back this season, Stafford has 2,737 yards to go with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. That’s an average of 248.8 yards per game and passer rating of 94.8. In games without Williams, Stafford in averaging 194.3 yards per game to go with three touchdown and three interceptions and a 73.4 passer rating.
Last week, Williams hit the 100 yard mark for the fifth time in his first nine starts. That's the first for a Rams running back since Eric Dickerson in his rookie season. Williams also hit 1,000 yards from scrimmage and could hit 1,000 yards rushing on Thursday Night which is and would be the first Rams running back to do so since Todd Gurley.
Williams has played a key role in giving the Rams an identity and bring the run and pass together on offense. He’s been able to take some of the pressure off of Stafford which has led to the Rams quarterback being one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Rams play an important game on Thursday Night Football against the Saints that has huge playoff implications. New Orleans ranks just 24th in run defense DVOA for the season. Over the last five weeks they are 27th in run defense EPA and in the last three games they are allowing 135.3 rushing yards per game which ranks 26th. Los Angeles will be relying on Williams to once again have a big game on the ground and help carry them to a win.