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Kyren Williams will play pivotal role in first playoff game with Rams

Rams running back Kyren Williams has emerged as one of L.A.’s most important players against the Lions

Syndication: The Record Chris Pedota, / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kyren Williams had a good career at Notre Dame, gaining 2,800 yards from scrimmage and scoring 31 touchdowns in his last two seasons combined, but he didn’t enter the NFL with fanfare or high expectations. He wasn’t expected to be the fastest, biggest, or strongest. Williams was drafted in the fifth round, the 15th running back drafted at a depreciated position, and then he missed valuable time as a rookie and not even the starter when this season started.

Now four months since the team traded Cam Akers to start featuring Kyren Williams, the second-year back has emerged as the most productive rusher in his draft class and has a pivotal role in the L.A. Rams hopes of coming out of the wild card victorious against the Detroit Lions.

His 1,144 rushing yards ranks third in the NFL despite missing five games. His 59.6% success rate ranks second behind Aaron Jones. He hasn’t been thrown a lot of passes, bu thas proven capable of being a receiver. And the Rams just aren’t as good without him or without him producing.

In the eight games this season in which Williams rushed for at least 60 yards, the Rams went 7-1. The lone loss was the 37-31 overtime defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, the top team in football going into the playoffs. Williams had 114 rushing yards against the Ravens.

When Williams carries the ball at least 15 times, the Rams average 29 points per game.

When he doesn’t, including the five games he missed, the Rams average 16 points per game.

Some will say that there’s no causation there, that it is just a product of Williams getting more opportunities when the Rams are ahead. But L.A. isn’t a dominant football team this year. He’s still averaging 4.6 yards per carry when the team is tied or the Rams are trailing, which that mark alone would rank 8th in the NFL.

Williams averages 5.4 yards per carry when the Rams do have the lead, which proves that having a capable running back instead of all the options that Sean McVay had since Todd Gurley indeed does help a team win more football games and score more points. Williams has been nearly as productive in the first half as he is in the second half. He has 528 yards in the first half of games and 608 in the second half and he actually has four more attempts in the first half.

Others will say that Williams benefits from a system or an offensive line. Well, all players are impacted by a system.

But Williams has shared the backfield this season with Royce Freeman, Darrell Henderson, Ronnie Rivers, Zach Evans, and Akers. They were all worse. They were all significantly worse actually.

Bad days? Maybe.

It’s just not disputed anymore that the Rams are better with Kyren Williams than without and many more in the media are crediting him as the key to L.A.’s wild card game.

The Rams will face one of the NFL’s top run defenses in the wild card game. The Lions rank second in rushing yards and third in rushing yards per carry allowed in 2023. The pass defense has been much more suspect, ranking 29th in yards per attempt allowed, making it all the more necessary that Williams balance out Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Puka Nacua with a rushing attack.

Few expected Williams to play such a key role in L.A.’s playoff run this season, or any season. Except maybe Kyren Williams, Sean McVay, and Les Snead.