McVay: Todd Gurley will 'be a big part' of SB plan

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ATLANTA -- As Super Bowl LIII crawls closer, the questions continue to persist regarding Todd Gurley's usage in the biggest game of his career.

The running back touched the ball just five times in the NFC Championship Game for 13 total yards, both career lows. The NFL Offensive Player of the Year candidate attributed the poor performance to his own "sorry" play after two drops and a big negative-yardage run, not a lingering knee injury.

On Tuesday, coach Sean McVay again took the blame for not getting the running back more involved in the offense, attributing it to play selection, and vowed to get Gurley the rock in Sunday's Super Bowl showdown versus the New England Patriots.

"I think what says as much about Todd as anything, is the way he handled it right after," McVay said. "You learn about people when they do go through a little bit of adversity. I couldn't have been more proud and pleased with just the way that he handled that -- demonstrated the mental toughness that we expect. You show me anybody that's great in anything they do, I'll show you somebody that's persevered, demonstrated that mental toughness to overcome some obstacles and adversity. And I think a large part of specifically when you talk about last week's game was a result of some of the things in terms of the play selection. I've got to do a much better job for Todd to get him opportunities to get him going. ... Fully expect him to be the Todd Gurley we all know and he's going to be a big part of this game."

The player the Rams know is the touchdown demon and reigning Offensive Player of the Year, who galloped for 1,251 yards and 17 rushing scores in 14 regular season games before a knee injury prematurely curtailed his December.

McVay pointing out the play selection is notable. Since C.J. Anderson's arrival, the Rams have installed more 12 personnel sets (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) that have enabled the running game to explode and passing attack to create mismatches with tight ends. The Rams switched from an almost strictly 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) team with Gurley in the lineup (97.8 percent of his snaps) to a more balanced approach with Anderson (use 11 personnel on 69.7 percent of his snaps, 12 personnel on 27.9 percent of his snaps), according to Next Gen Stats.

While McVay promises to get Gurley involved, on paper, the matchup suggests Anderson and the bigger personnel could be the move to make against the Patriots. New England has been relatively weaker against 12 personnel runs, allowing the third-most yards per rush and a 56.4 percent success rate allowed (third-highest in NFL), than 11 personnel runs, where they allow the 15th-most yards per rush and the ninth-highest success rate allowed, per Next Gen Stats.

Gurley's best opportunities Sunday might come in the passing attack, against a Patriots defense that has struggled at times to cover backs.

McVay might insist on feeding Gurley early in hopes of creating explosive plays against New England, but we should still expect a sizable role for Anderson.

"I think the one thing that C.J. did a great job of coming in right away [was] endearing himself to his teammates and where he was just about that work," McVay said Tuesday. "Did a great job in a short week being able to digest the game plan. You can immediately see when you get around him, he's a really smart, cerebral player. Has a great understanding of the big picture perspective, specially from a running back spot. ... Once you're on this team, you're a part of it. He's done a great job of continuing to get know his teammates. He's a likable guy, he's fun to be around."

The question for McVay heading into Super Sunday is whether his backfield will balance out like it did in a domineering performance against the Dallas Cowboys, or swing toward one RB, as it did against the New Orleans Saints.

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