Los Angeles Rams  


Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams focused on finishing season strong


It is about moral victories for the Rams these days.

The goal is to win their final three games to finish with an 8-8 record, which, again, would be disappointing for a team that each year, gets the preseason benefit of the doubt that things will get better.


If they don't get to .500, they'll have tried hard and will be rewarded with a relocation to Los Angeles or a return to a city that will lovingly accept a mediocre football team rather than have none at all.

For running back Todd Gurley, the multitude of wackiness that's gone down during his rookie season with the Rams is "just football," he said.

That's because he's been able to compartmentalize what he's done and what he's supposed to do and not worry about the changes that have happened and could happen.

He's run the ball with a vengeance behind a limited offense that's had its season-opening quarterback benched and its offensive coordinator fired.

In snapping a five-game losing streak with a 21-14 victory over Detroit on Sunday, Gurley rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns. It was his fifth game this season rushing for more than 125 yards. The Rams won four of those games.

They've won five all season heading into Thursday's game with Tampa Bay -- the Rams' final home game, maybe for good in St. Louis.

"You have to be prepared for everything," Gurley said in a phone interview Monday. "Guys have been around the league for a while, so they told me what could happen and what's going on. Like I said, you have to be prepared for everything."

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After being drafted 10th overall, Gurley was prepared to inflict damage on the NFL -- and everyone who scouted or played against him when he played at Georgia expected him to do what he's done.

Gurley didn't play until Week 3 against Pittsburgh after spending months recovering from knee surgery in late November 2014. Including that nine-yard performance in his debut against the Steelers, he's rushed for 975 yards, caught 18 passes for 150 yards and scored eight touchdowns.

In 11 games.

For an offense so elementary that everyone in whatever stadium St. Louis plays in knows that Gurley is pretty much about all the Rams have to offer.

"Our biggest thing is the run game so teams have been trying to stop that," Gurley said. "At the end of the day, it's all about executing."

Gurley had four straight games rushing for more than 128 yards. The final game in that stretch was a 27-6 victory over San Francisco on Nov. 1, in which he gained 146 yards from scrimmage. The Rams were 4-3 at that point and Gurley looked better than anyone could have imagined.

Then, things went cold. St. Louis lost its next five games, Gurley was stifled as teams figured the Rams out. Quarterback Nick Foles was benched for Case Keenum and offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti was fired.

"It was kind of tough," Gurley said. "Having Nick as the starter for a long period of time, and then Case. You had to get used to the play calling. You got used to hearing that same voice and then things change. You have to make sure you're on top of things."

As for the change from Cignetti to new play-caller Rob Boras: "It's the same concepts and same system. It's not like we had a new O.C. that changed the whole playbook."

With a young star like Gurley, who like so many high draft picks land on bad teams, the hope is that he doesn't quickly get jaded, gets used to losing, gets use to dysfunction and becomes part of the problem instead of the solution.

So far, his head is in the right place.

"Nobody likes losing, especially five games in a row," he said. "It felt so good to get that win (against the Lions). Now, it's all about finishing the season off strong."

Gurley's not big on talking about himself and his success, as any mention elicits him saying "my offensive line, tight ends and wide receivers have done a great job to make sure I get into the end zone and have space to run."

What he does like talking about is his rookie peers at running back, especially fellow NFC West tailbacks David Johnson, of Arizona, and Thomas Rawls, of Seattle. Rawls suffered a season-ending ankle injury Sunday after establishing himself, like Johnson, as the workhorse tailback for playoff-bound teams.

"I love it," Gurley said. "Just to see other guys doing the same thing that you're doing -- or even doing it better. David Johnson has been great and to see Rawls come on the scene like he did. They're good guys and there's a great group of guys. I hope a bunch of us do well. It feels great to see your peers doing so well right now."

As for Gurley: "My main focus is finishing the season strong and on a good note."

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.



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