Lost among the chaos and drama and controversy of Super Bowl and ended the Saints' season in devastating fashion ( ), is the fact that Rams star running back Todd Gurley, arguably the best running back in football who is playing under a , basically got benched for C.J. Anderson, who didn't sign with the Rams until mid-December.which vaulted the Rams to the
Over the course of the game, which stretched into overtime, Gurley garnered five touches for 13 yards. He also dropped two passes, the first of which resulted in an interception, the second of which resulted in the Rams settling for a field goal. Anderson, on the other hand, racked up 17 touches for 49 yards.
It didn't matter much on Sunday. The Rams, with some much-needed help from the officials, prevailed over the Saints in an overtime thriller. But it will matter as our attention slowly turns away from the controversy the NFC title game generated and toward this year's Super Bowl matchup between the Patriots and Rams.
Gurley, who suffered a knee injury back in Week 1 and which forced him to miss Weeks 16 and 17, denied that he's still bothered by an injury. He said that he didn't play much on Sunday because he didn't deserve to.
"I didn't play because I didn't deserve to be in there," Gurley told ESPN on the field after the game. "C.J. was in there. He did his thing."
Gurley's not wrong. There's no way to know for certain if he's entirely healthy. It wouldn't at all be surprising if Gurley is still bothered by his knee. We just might not hear about it until after the season. But the fact remains that Gurley cost the Rams twice by failing to make two simple catches that he normally makes. Knee injury or no knee injury, Gurley needed to come down with both of those passes.
His first drop gifted the Saints three free points.
His second drop cost the Rams a chance at a touchdown.
On Monday, Rams coach Sean McVay shot down the notion that Gurley's lack of involvement was due to injury. He also took responsibility for Gurley's limited workload.
"To start, Todd is healthy and he's feeling good," McVay said, per USA Today. "He sure looked pretty healthy on that touchdown run where he ran through guys and demonstrated some explosion and what we know about him.
"I just think, really more than anything, I've got to get him more opportunities. Credit the Saints defense, too. They did some things to limit some of those opportunities."
Despite all of the success Anderson has had since landing with the Rams, Anderson at his peak is nowhere close to Gurley at his peak. And that shouldn't be interpreted as an insult of Anderson, who has exceeded expectations filling in for Gurley.
There's a reason why the Rams gave Gurley that mega-contract before the beginning of the season. Since entering the NFL in 2015, Gurley leads the league in rushing yards with 4,547 (nearly 500 yards more than Ezekiel Elliott) and touchdown runs with 46 (14 more than Latavius Murray in second place).
McVay mentioned a touchdown run where Gurley "demonstrated some explosion." I'm going to guess he's talking about Gurley's 35-yard touchdown run against the Cowboys in the Divisional Round, when Anderson received more carries than Gurley. It was the kind of run that seemingly, at the time, ended talk of Gurley's injury while also providing an example of what he brings to the offense.
The hole was wide open and if Anderson had been carrying the ball, it still would've gone for a first down. But Gurley turned it into a touchdown by beating the safety at the second level. And he made it look easy.
It's the kind of play the Rams will need if they're to overcome the Patriots. So, how much of Gurley will we see two Sundays from now when Super Bowl LIII kicks off in Atlanta? There's no way for anyone to know for certain, but if Gurley is hurt, having two weeks off after barely playing on Sunday can only help. If Gurley isn't hurt, the Rams should do everything in their power to get him going.
For Gurley, Jared Goff's gutsy performance, Greg Zuerlein's clutch field goals, and ensured his season won't end with his bizarre no-show in the conference championship game. And Gurley sounds grateful that he'll get another chance.
"That's why I was so emotional at the end," Gurley told NFL Network. "Just to be able to get another opportunity. So grateful, so grateful, playing on the biggest stage ever. So, I'm just very appreciative."