Sean McVay: Todd Gurley's touches due to rhythm

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Perhaps once the final whistle had blown in the 2018 NFL season, we'd finally get some clarity on what exactly was going on with Todd Gurley. Or so we hoped.

Tuesday didn't bring us any clarity on the matter. Instead, it was Sean McVay explaining how pacing, rhythm and similarly sized workloads were the focus of the Rams in the postseason.

"We had gone in knowing that we wanted to be able to almost have kind of a shared load between he and C.J. (Anderson)," McVay said Tuesday. "So the amount of attempts that we had just rushing the ball in the last couple games was a little bit different. Specific to the game the other night, Todd gets into a little bit of a rhythm, or it would seem like when we'd have a good, positive run, then something would inevitably occur to set us back. And then when you're not efficient on third downs, we just didn't get a lot of attempts off. That really ended up being a big result of what ended up happening."

The numbers bear it out. Gurley and Anderson combined to rush just 17 times (Gurley: 10, Anderson: seven) for a total of 57 yards. The ground game never really got going, just like the rest of Los Angeles' offense.

And when it appeared as if Gurley was warming up, a questionable penalty brought it back. Gurley's 13-yard run early in the fourth moved the Rams into Patriots territory, but was negated by a flag for holding on center John Sullivan.

The video shows Danny Shelton, who was engaged with Sullivan, knocked down at the knee by teammate Gerald Everett. Everett was executing a split block on Kyle Van Noy, who blew up Everett so violently, he flew into the legs of Shelton, knocking him down. The flag flew in shortly thereafter, bringing back Gurley's gain.

That call forced the Rams to pass, which resulted in a sack on first-and-20, an incomplete pass on second-and-22 and loss of 1 yard on an ill-fated third-and-22 rushing attempt. The Rams punted, and the Patriots scored the go-ahead touchdown on the next possession.

Those are the setbacks McVay referenced. Anderson, who had been a revelation in the final three weeks of the regular season and through Los Angeles' two playoff victories, was ineffective. New England played excellent defense for 60 minutes (and McVay admittedly could've opened his thinking to some different options in that high-pressure scenario). It's tough to overcome such circumstances.

"I think they were both just in a really good rhythm," McVay said of the games leading up to Super Bowl LIII and their subsequent approach. "And I think the ideal scenario that we had gone into the playoffs with was what you saw in Dallas, where it was both of those guys getting involved. When we kind of had that approach, and then you're limited with the amount of carries that you end up getting off or the way that a game plays out, that's just kind of what the result was. But it was something where we knew we wanted to get both of those guys involved."

But that still doesn't explain what became a two-and-a-half-game trend for the Rams. Was Gurley's absence in key situations due to his health? Anything on that?

"I haven't had a chance to meet with Reggie yet, in terms of kind of following up with how all those things went," McVay said of exit physicals. "But that's the standard operating procedure and Todd took part in that."

We might never know. But we'll always wonder what might have happened had the Rams pounded the ball with Gurley in Atlanta.

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