Todd Gurley cheering for the Dodgers but won't let them be L.A.'s only title contender
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Los Angeles Dodgers will play an NLCS Game 7 Saturday and try to make another trip to the World Series. If Todd Gurley II has his way, the Los Angeles Rams won’t be far behind with their own deep postseason run.
“When you see stuff like [the Dodgers’ success], it’s more just like inspiration, and you want that feeling as well,” Gurley said while wearing a Manny Machado jersey. “You don’t want to be the team that’s losing in the playoffs.”
While there’s a long way to go, the Rams are doing their part as the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL. They’ll face the 1-5 San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
The Rams have a 99.7 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN’s NFL Football Power Index, and a Super Bowl run is certainly within reach, along with several other accolades for the 24-year-old Gurley, the defending NFL Offensive Player of the Year, who is on pace for an MVP season.
“He’s been instrumental in having us have a lot of production on offense to this point,” coach Sean McVay said. “He can do everything.”
The Rams’ offense is ranked first in the NFL, averaging 464.3 yards per game. Gurley leads the league in rushing with 623 yards and 9 touchdowns, averaging 103.8 yards per game.
Last Sunday against the Denver Broncos, he rushed for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns and also caught two passes for 17 yards, much to the delight of fans who have him on their fantasy teams.
“They’ve just been telling me how great I’ve been doing,” Gurley said. “And how I’ve been winning them their leagues.”
But don’t expect Gurley to pat himself on the back for his eye-popping performances. As his numbers continue to grow, so does his ability to deflect credit to everyone except himself.
“I really didn’t have to do too much to be real because Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, the whole O-line, [Tyler] Higbee is out there,” Gurley said about his career-best performance against the Broncos. “Everybody really did just a great job.”
But coaches and teammates won’t let Gurley off that easy. A large part of their success is due to their star running back, who signed a four-year, $60 million extension before the season and has the ability to run, catch passes and block.
Against the Broncos, the Rams faced third-and-10 from their 42-yard line in the third quarter, leading 13-3, when safety Darian Stewart blitzed and Gurley leveled him, allowing Jared Goff to complete a 14-yard pass to Woods. The series eventually resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run by Gurley.
“Those are the things that make him unbelievable,” McVay said. “And he’s doing an excellent job.”
“I know I’ve talked about it a bunch of times with all the stuff he’s good at,” Goff said. “But when you get a guy like that who can go for 200 and take a lot of pressure off me and certain things they were doing to take away some of the stuff in the pass game. You can rely on that. It’s huge and helped us win that game tremendously.”
Throughout the week, Gurley, who leads the league in scoring with 11 touchdowns, is careful to study defenses so that he can anticipate his moves, along with his opponents’. He knows other teams are doing the same.
“It’s good when you can put stuff like that on film,” Gurley said about his block. “If the team wants to blitz us, then at the end of the day, it’s our job to make them pay. If we didn’t pick them up, then they would keep doing it, so the more good stuff we keep putting on film, then hopefully [we] won’t have to deal with that situation.”
After a physical game against the Broncos, McVay cut a practice session this week, opting for a walkthrough instead. Despite his heavy workload against the Broncos (28 carries), Gurley said he felt good as he prepared for the 49ers.
“I didn’t really take too many big hits,” said Gurley, who has five rushing scores in the past two games. “The linemen did a pretty good job, didn’t really have too many free runners, taking too many crazy hits, so it just varies.”
Gurley has now scored in nine consecutive games, dating to last season, the longest streak by a Rams player since Marshall Faulk scored in nine straight from 2001-02, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“He’s a special player; he’s a grinder,” defensive lineman Michael Brockers said. “He’s going to get up and down the field. He’s going to get the yardage you need. He’s not going to be superflashy and juke someone out of their shoes. He’s going to get north to south and get in the end zone.”
As for sharing L.A. with another championship-caliber team, that isn’t what Gurley, even as he roots for the Dodgers, had envisioned when he came to the city three years ago.
“I was thinking more of the party life,” Gurley said, grinning. “Not too much of other sports.”