St. Louis Rams

Rams ride another big day from Gurley to victory over Browns

AP

It takes a rare St. Louis Rams player to generate chants of a positive nature at the Edward Jones Dome. It’s a tough crowd that has seen far too many losses in recent seasons.

But given the continued emergence of rookie running back Todd Gurley as a potential NFL star, expect those chants of “Gur-ley, Gur-ley, Gur-ley” to begin happening a lot more often than they did on Sunday.

Gurley racked up his third straight 100-yard rushing game in as many starts, finishing with 128 yards and his first two NFL touchdowns during a 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns. He also had another 35 yards on four pass receptions.

The win — and another big day by Gurley — got the Rams to the .500 mark at 3-3 before an announced crowd of 51,523. With a ball-hawking defense that forced four turnovers that led to 17 points, they are beginning to look somewhat like, dare we say it, a potential playoff contender.

“It was cool, but just get the win,” Gurley said of the chants, which began in the fourth quarter and got louder after he scored his second TD on a 16-yard run with 8:11 remaining that included a ridiculous cutback move. “It was definitely a good feeling.”

I’m not going to say it’s easy, man, it’s definitely hard.

Rams rookie Todd Gurley

The Rams’ defense helped prop up a struggling offense throughout the first half as Rodney McLeod returned a Browns’ fumble 20 yards for the first St. Louis touchdown just over three minutes into the game.

The defense finished with four turnovers, four sacks and a remarkable 16 tackles by safety-turned-linebacker Mark Barron.

The Rams selected Gurley 10th overall in the 2015 draft even though the former Georgia star was was coming off ACL surgery. In three starts and another cameo appearance, Gurley has generated 442 yards and two TDs.

“I’m not going to say it’s easy, man, it’s definitely hard,” Gurley said. “As you could see, the first quarter I probably had like negative-5 yards. But I’ve got to give credit to the offensive line for doing a great job and the receivers blocking their secondary.”

While the Rams only had three yards of offense during the first quarter, they also had a 10-0 lead thanks to a pair of turnovers. Gurley still had only 45 yards on nine carries at halftime, then shredded the Browns defense throughout the second half.

Taking the (knee)( brace off, coming out here running through arm tackles like it’s nothing ... you can start to see that he knows that he can do the same things in college up at this level.

Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis on Todd Gurley

“Just an animal, really,” was Rams quarterback Nick Foles’ assessment of Gurley. “The guy’s an extremely talented hard worker. Just watching him run, he’s special. There’s not mean people that can run like that, that have ever played this game. The sky’s the limit to what he can do throughout his career.”

Gurley is averaging six yards per carry thanks in large part to numerous runs of 15 yards or more, including a 48-yard explosion Sunday against the Browns (2-5).

The magic of Gurley was on display late in the first half when he caught a pass on the left sideline and hurdled a Browns defender on the way to a 24-yard gain.

These are things not typically seen by running backs in a Rams uniform.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Gurley said. “I think I jumped right on time because if I didn’t it probably would have been ugly. It just comes to you.”

442.Total number of rushing yards for Todd Gurley in four NFL games and three starts

“I think you’re starting to see him getting more and more confident,” Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said of Gurley. “Taking the (knee) brace off, coming out here running through arm tackles like it’s nothing ... you can start to see that he knows that he can do the same things in college up at this level.”

Gurley’s first NFL TD came with 2:14 remaining in the third quarter as he had no trouble jogging in around the left side from one yard out.

Gurley showed great patience on a 16-yard TD run with 8:11 remaining, relying on a key block from Tavon Austin before cutting it back and reaching the end zone.

“I was running and then I saw the two receivers and said I’m just go ahead and cut this back,” Gurley said. “I saw a little crack-back (block) out of the corner of my eye. I kind of saw the edge and the defenders flowing and just cut it back.”

Gurley doesn’t just have fans in the stands, he’s got plenty on his own team. Rams linebacker Mark Barron enjoyed hearing the crowd chant Gurley’s name.

“Most definitely, it was crazy to me,” Barron said. “He’s doing a great job and making me a fan. I just like to watch him.”

So does Laurinatis, who noticed the chants as well.

“That was unbelievable,” he said. “To hear that, that’s awesome. Our crowd chanting and stuff like that, it gives the players energy.”

Rams coach Jeff Fisher coached some great running backs during his tenure with the Tennessee Titans, most notably Eddie George and Chris Johnson. Has Fisher ever coached a back that found success this quickly?

“No, and I’ve been around some really good ones,” Fisher said. “Chris Johnson was outstanding early. Eddie George was outstanding early. I don’t recall them having the numbers that they had after three full games like Todd has.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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