Gur­ley ad­mits win­ning rush­ing ti­tle re­ally is im­por­tant

The Fresno Bee - - Sports - BY GARY KLEIN

The mar­gin was only 22 yards. That’s how close Rams run­ning back Todd Gur­ley came to win­ning the NFL rush­ing ti­tle last sea­son af­ter coach Sean McVay held out starters in the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale to rest for the play­offs.

Gur­ley said at the time that he was fine with the de­ci­sion. “You’ve got to look at the big­ger pic­ture,” he said be­fore Ka­reem Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs clinched the ti­tle with a 35-yard touch­down run in his only carry. Hunt fin­ished with 1,327 yards, Gur­ley 1,305.

With four games re­main­ing this sea­son, Gur­ley again is in the race to fin­ish first. He leads the league with 1,175 yards rush­ing head­ing into the Rams’ game against the Chicago Bears on Sun­day night at Sol­dier Field.

On Wed­nes­day, Gur­ley was asked about last sea­son, and he ac­knowl­edged that fin­ish­ing on top of the rush­ing list would be mean­ing­ful.

“Yeah, I was ly­ing, I re­ally did care about the ti­tle,” Gur­ley said, chuck­ling, be­fore adding, “That would be a pretty cool thing to get.

“I tell peo­ple that all the time: It’s like you play for team goals but who wouldn’t want to be the NFL sack leader? Who wouldn’t want to be the NFL pass­ing or rush­ing leader?”

The rush­ing ti­tle is only one achieve­ment that Gur­ley is chas­ing for a Rams team that is 11-1, has clinched the NFC West and is com­pet­ing for home-field ad­van­tage through the play­offs.

Gur­ley is on track to pos­si­bly re­peat as the NFL Of­fen­sive Player of the Year and is also among the fa­vorites to win Most Valu­able Player hon­ors.

In the Rams’ vic­tory at Detroit last Sun­day, Gur­ley rushed for 132 yards and two touch­downs in 23 car­ries and caught three passes for 33 yards.

“That’s kind of par for the course for him,” McVay said. “You don’t ever take it for granted.”

Gur­ley’s ef­fort moved him to the top of the rush­ing list ahead of Ezekiel El­liott of the Dal­las Cow­boys, who has 1,149 yards. Gur­ley also leads the league with 19 touch­downs and 120 points.

Part of Gur­ley’s ef­fec­tive­ness stems from his abil­ity to avoid turnovers. In 233 car­ries, he has fum­bled only once – in Week 3 against the Charg­ers.

“I try not to even think about it,” Gur­ley said of his suc­cess, adding, “When you lose the ball, that’s like the worst feel­ing ever, be­cause you know ev­ery­body is talk­ing about you, even your team­mates. So, that’s the last thing you want to do.”

Ball se­cu­rity will be para­mount against the Bears. The fore­cast calls for tem­per­a­tures in the 20s, and the Bears lead the NFL with 30 take­aways. The Rams have lost only four fum­bles, tied for se­cond fewest in the league.

Gur­ley will have to ad­just his rou­tine Sun­day.

Gur­ley and backup Mal­colm Brown had a side­line rit­ual that be­gan in 2015 when they were rook­ies. Pre­par­ing for the Rams’ first pos­ses­sion, one of them clutched a ball while the other re­peat­edly punched it with both fists. Then they switched.

Brown suf­fered a clav­i­cle in­jury against the Lions and is ex­pected to be placed on in­jured re­serve, end­ing his sea­son.

Se­cond-year pro Justin Davis and rookie John Kelly will fill in for Brown, who also was a spe­cial teams stand­out.

“They’ll be fine when they get in the game,” Gur­ley said. “They’re def­i­nitely go­ing to play be­cause I’m pretty sure I’ll get tired a play or two.”

Gur­ley, how­ever, is cer­tain to be on the field for ev­ery im­por­tant play of a po­ten­tial run to the Su­per Bowl.

It re­mains to be seen how McVay will han­dle Gur­ley’s play­ing time as the play­offs near.

“I’m just go­ing to fo­cus on these next cou­ple of games and what­ever hap­pens, hap­pens,” Gur­ley said. “I’m just happy that we were able to clinch a play­off spot and just go from there.”

‘‘ YEAH, I WAS LY­ING, I RE­ALLY DID CARE ABOUT THE TI­TLE. THAT WOULD BE A PRETTY COOL THING TO GET.

Todd Gur­ley

REY DEL RIO AP

Los An­ge­les Rams run­ning back Todd Gur­ley pulls away from Detroit Lions de­fen­sive back Mike Ford in Detroit on Sun­day. Gur­ley has gained 1,649 yards from scrim­mage and scored 19 TDs this sea­son. Only six play­ers have topped those marks in the first 12 games of a sea­son.

Todd Gur­ley

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