Initially, Todd Gurley did not understand what all the fuss was about.
The Rams running back was a rookie in 2015 when he scored a fourth-quarter touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks in a December game at CenturyLink Field.
In celebration, Gurley spiked the ball. But a Rams player told him he should have made it a keepsake.
“My teammate was like, ‘Boy, what you doing? You better keep that ball. You know how many people score in Seattle? Nobody,’ ” Gurley recalled this week, laughing.
Gurley’s touchdown propelled the Rams to a surprising victory over a team that has featured one of the NFL’s best defenses for more than a half-decade.
The Seahawks’ defense was fully stocked in last season’s victory over the Rams in Seattle, and this season in a 16-10 victory over the Rams in Week 5 at the Coliseum.
But Sunday, Gurley and the Rams will go against an injury-riddled Seattle defense that will be without star cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor, among others. Linebacker K.J. Wright is doubtful and linebacker Bobby Wagner is questionable.
That could provide Rams coach Sean McVay with more reason to turn to Gurley, a 1,000-yard rusher who carried the ball only 13 times in last week’s 43-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
McVay blamed himself for not giving Gurley more opportunities in a defeat that dropped the Rams’ record to 9-4 heading into the NFC West showdown with the 8-5 Seahawks.
“However you want to cut it,” McVay said, “I’ve got to get him going.”
Gurley has rushed for 1,035 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also has 51 receptions for 602 yards and three touchdowns.
In the first seven games, Gurley averaged 20.8 carries per game. He has averaged 15.2 in the last six.
Against the Eagles, Gurley ran for 96 yards and averaged more than seven yards a carry. But the Rams continued to pass more than run — and it backfired when quarterback Jared Goff was sacked and stripped for a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Asked this week if he felt he was getting enough opportunities to carry the ball, Gurley said, “Yeah.”
“It’s easy to say when you lose the game that you need the ball more,” he said, “but when you’re winning and you don’t get the ball it’s no problems. So you’ve got to be consistent.”
In 13 games the Rams have attempted 422 passes and rushed 359 times.
In Week 12 against New Orleans, the Rams passed 44 times and rushed 25. The next week against Arizona, the Rams’ pass-to-run ratio was 31 to 24. Against the Eagles, it was 26 to 17.
McVay aims to achieve a balance, Gurley said.
“But you know, stuff never goes as planned in the game,” he said. “You go through situations and he sees looks that he likes, he calls the shots.
“He’s the head dog, and if he wants to pass the ball, we’re going to pass the ball. If he wants to run the ball we’re going to run the ball. ... There’s only one ball and there’s 11 people on the field.
“You can’t get it every time, and you’ve got to just look at it like that.”
Running backs coach Skip Peete said Gurley has never complained.
“Every game is different,” Peete said. “It all comes down to how they’re playing you.
“What we try to do is stay within the moment. We can’t be concerned about whether or not you’re getting it enough or not getting it enough.”
In October’s loss to the Seahawks, Gurley rushed for 43 yards in 14 carries and also caught two passes.
He has rushed for more than 100 yards four times, though not since a Week 7 victory over Arizona in London.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll expects Gurley to be prominent Sunday.
“He really is the centerpiece of the offense,” Carroll said, adding, “I know Sean is trying to figure out ways to make him productive. ... So, yeah we have to defend their whole offense, but their offense is built around him.”
The Rams finished 7-9 and 4-12 in Gurley’s first two seasons.
Now they lead the NFC West and are positioned to make a playoff run for the first time since 2004.
Gurley is excited about playing a meaningful game in December.
“It’s one of those games that you usually see other teams play in at the end of the year,” he said, “and we’re in a situation this year, so it will be exciting.”
Center John Sullivan did not practice because of illness but is expected to play Sunday, McVay said. ... The Rams will have a walk-through Saturday and then depart for Seattle.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein