ATLANTA -- Todd Gurley, still wearing a helmet to shield his countenance, jogged past teammates in the tunnel toward the Los Angeles Rams' locker room following the substandard performance in the 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots. As the first man through the doors, it was the freest space Gurley saw all night.
Gurley took just 10 carries for 35 yards, with a long run of 16 yards. His only catch of the day went for a one-yard loss. After the loss, the 24-year-old running back insisted he wasn't miffed by getting 11 touches.
"No, it's cool. It's a team sport," he said. "There are 11 people on the field, everyone can't touch the ball. Still a great season by us. I'm still blessed either way it goes. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to be able to play in a Super Bowl."
Despite Sean McVay's proclamations throughout the week that Gurley would see a larger role, the star running back was once again an afterthought in a playoff game.
The Rams entered the tilt with a clear plan to split reps between Gurley and C.J. Anderson early. Gurley took the first eight snaps of the game. Anderson the next eight. Gurley then played the final six snaps of the first half, as the Rams' offense was stuck in park, generating just 57 total yards and two first downs. Gurley returned to open the Rams' first two drives of the second half, before Anderson re-entered for the Rams' only scoring possession of the game.
Gurley insisted the back-and-forth had nothing to do with the knee injury that sidelined him the final two weeks of the regular season. Multiple times Sunday night, Gurley said his knee was "fine." The running back added he wasn't anticipating any long offseason recovery.
"I kinda had a break, low-key, the last two months," Gurley said of his time off to rest. "So it's cool, we do the physicals and all that stuff tomorrow. But I'm fine now."
Gurley added he doesn't expect to need offseason surgery.
McVay also declared Gurley healthy, and said it was on the coaching staff that they didn't get him the ball more.
"He is," McVay said when asked if the RB was healthy. "I just never enabled us to get into a rhythm offensively. You know we didn't have any third down conversions really the whole first half. They did a good job, and it seemed that anytime we got a little bit of a positive play then we'd end up having a penalty or move ourselves back. So, I think a lot of it is a result of some of the things they did but then also the play selection. I was not pleased at all with my feel for the flow of the game and kind of making some adjustments as the game unfolded and with giving ourselves a chance at some success and put some points on the board. Credit to them, they did a good job, and I certainly didn't do enough for us. But, Todd is healthy."
Gurley ended up taking most of the reps down the stretch as the Rams fell behind and never recovered. The starter played 40 snaps (66.7) on the day with Anderson playing just 20 (33.3 percent).
The Rams didn't believe the early-game shuffling between Gurley and Anderson was the root cause of Sunday's struggles.
"Whenever my names called to get in, I'm ready," Gurley said. "But like I said, we've got a good running back in C.J., so obviously he's going to come in as well and I've just got to take advantage of my opportunities when the chances."
Neither took advantage of the few opportunities. Anderson finished with seven carries for 22 yards (3.1 YPC).
Anderson was more adamant that the use of both backs didn't hurt either player.
"We was swapping in and out all year, so, it worked," he said. "Since I've been here, we'd been swapping in-and-out, so it's been working. So, it's not like because we were swapping in-and-out today it didn't work. It worked in Dallas. It worked in New Orleans. It just didn't work today."
It certainly worked against Dallas, which was one of the best playoff rushing performances by a duo in years. But the past three weeks, Gurley hasn't looked like himself, and the Rams' run game suffered mightily for it.
The team can say he's healthy, and McVay can take the blame for not getting him the ball more, but this feels like a situation that warrants further information. For a star player, like Gurley has proven to be, to go underutilized on the biggest stage is an offensive to both the talent and Rams fans who watched their high-flying offense relegated to the equivalent of used, ratty tinsel.