One of the NFL’s most prolific offensive weapons watched much of the NFC championship game from the sideline.
After the game, Rams coach Sean McVay explained — sort of:
“It was a flow for the game. I thought Todd’s run from the 5 on the two-minute drive was outstanding. I think what personifies Todd is this is an MVP-caliber player and he just kept fighting, he just kept supporting his teammates. He’s going to have an instrumental role against whoever we play, whether it be the Patriots or the Chiefs. Today, that was just kind of the feel for the flow of the game. Not anything against Todd. C.J. did a nice job, but I think (the Saints) did a nice job as a whole slowing down our run game and we kind of just had to grind some things out. Todd’s a special player and couldn’t be more impressed with the way that he handled himself and he ended up making a big-time play that ended up in us winning that football game today.”
We didn’t learn a lot from that.
The Los Angeles Rams also said Gurley wasn’t dealing with any physical issues during the game, according to the FOX broadcast. In the week leading up to the game, Gurley was not listed on the injury report for any of the team’s practices.
Most puzzling, Gurley, who rushed for more touchdowns (17) than anyone in the NFL in 2018, watched while Anderson failed to score on two rushes inside the 5-yard line on a Rams’ drive with six minutes left in the game. At the time, the Rams were trailing, 20-17, and settled for a game-tying field goal.
At times, the Rams seemed intent upon featuring Anderson over Gurley, particularly in the third quarter when Gurley didn’t touch the ball. In the first half, he had three carries for four yards and a touchdown with two drops, including one which went through his hands for a Saints’ interception. On the game, Gurley had four carries for 10 yards, a rushing touchdown and one reception for three yards. Anderson, meanwhile, finished with 16 carries for 44 yards and one reception for five yards.
The Rams signed Anderson after Gurley suffered a knee injury, and Anderson rushed for 299 yards and two touchdowns with four receptions for 17 yards in the final two weeks of the season. When Gurley returned for the NFC divisional win over the Cowboys, they didn’t abandon Anderson, who had 23 rushes for 123 yards (5.3 ypc) and two touchdowns. Gurley, meanwhile, had 16 carries for 115 yards (7.2 ypc) and a touchdown.
In the NFC title game, they were still in a committee. It didn’t go in Gurley’s favor. Gurley almost looked like a backup — but perhaps not for long.
“I expect Todd to have a hell of a game in the Super Bowl,” Rams quarterback Jared Goff said on FOX after the game.