As several Los Angeles Rams players casually and quietly walked to the locker room late Sunday night, dejected after losing 13-3 to the New England Patriots in a boring Super Bowl LIII, Todd Gurley jogged off like he was ready to take the field. The team’s franchise player, the star running back who helped them get this far, had that much energy still left in the tank. How could this be?
If anyone stayed tuned into the snoozer inside Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium — the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in NFL history — the answer was very obvious: Gurley simply didn’t get the opportunities he needed or deserved to be a factor for the Rams offense in the biggest game of his life.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back finished with just 10 carries for 35 yards for a Rams team who desperately needed a spark to give punter Johnny Hekker a break during his own record-setting night.
Was Gurley injured? Why didn’t he play more? The first answer is apparently no, which makes the second question the biggest mystery in a big game that lacked really anything exciting. Gurley, for a lack of better terms, was benched and nobody can understand why.
“I don’t ask questions, man,” Gurley said following the game. “I just come out to work, be with my teammates, have fun, and just take advantage of every opportunity I can get.”
It’s one thing for Gurley to split series duties with fellow running back C.J. Anderson, especially with the veteran’s emergence late in the season and all postseason. After all, football is a team sport. But not having him on the field or a major part of the game plan? That was downright ridiculous.
Time and time again, Rams head coach Sean McVay put the ball in the hands of quarterback Jared Goff to make a play. And time and time again, it failed miserably. Goff completed 19 of 38 passes for 229 yards and an interception.
Meanwhile, Gurley, the $65 million man in Los Angeles who insisted he was good to go after the knee injury he suffered toward the end of the NFL regular season, watched the biggest NFL game of the season from the sideline. He only saw three carries in the first half and just seven in the second half.
In many ways, it’s incredibly disrespectful. Sure, Gurley didn’t see a ton of action in the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints, either, but the Super Bowl is a completely different story. Gurley was the star player who shouldered quite the load in racking up 1,251 rushing yards with 21 total touchdowns this season. And yet, even when his team could have used him, he wasn’t even on the field.
Perhaps Gurley, who handled the postgame media blitz with class, was more injured than anyone is willing to admit. Maybe these opinions are blown completely out of proportion, to blame the Super Bowl loss on a strange disappearing act.
However, when one of the NFL’s best running backs see limited action in a game meant to keep head coach Bill Belichick guessing and Tom Brady off the field, there’s a lot of concern and it’s something that will haunt the Los Angeles Rams and Sean McVay for years to come.