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Vegas may hate it, but Rams' Todd Gurley made a heady play to beat Packers

Vegas may hate it, but Rams' Todd Gurley made a heady play to beat Packers
Rams running back Todd Gurley is tacked by Packers defensive back Jaire Alexander at the end of a 23-yard run late in the fourth quarter. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Rams running back Todd Gurley surely disappointed a lot of bettors and fantasy football owners when he slowed down and allowed himself to be gently wrestled to the ground instead of strolling into the end zone with less than a minute separating the Rams from a hard-earned win over the Green Bay Packers.

Gurley doesn’t care what anyone thinks. The right play was to run out the clock, to keep the ball out of the miracle-working hands of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Gurley made the right decision, even though stopping at the four-yard line meant he didn’t pad his already impressive numbers for the game and for what is shaping up to be an MVP-caliber season.

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“Forget fantasy and forget Vegas. We got the win,” Gurley said after the Rams’ 29-27 comeback victory over the Packers in front of a lively and emotionally divided crowd at the Coliseum. “That’s all that matters.”

His talents at running with the ball and catching it are obvious: He’s the NFL’s leading scorer this season with 15 touchdowns — 11 rushing, four receiving and three two-point conversions, including one Sunday. He also tied a franchise record held by Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch by scoring a touchdown in his 11th straight regular-season game. He carried the ball 25 times for 114 yards, his 15th career 100-plus-yard performance, and caught six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Gurley, the engine of an 8-0 team, should be a big factor in the leaguewide MVP conversation, a dialogue that also has been dominated by Rodgers, Kansas City quarterback Pat Mahomes and New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.

“I’m not worried about that,” Gurley said. “Obviously, you know, they like to give it to quarterbacks but we’re just going to keep doing our thing and keep getting these wins and everything else is going to take care of itself.”

His awareness and smarts became as impressive as his rushing and catching skills Sunday. He knew the situation even before quarterback Jared Goff, prompted by coach Sean McVay, reminded everyone in the huddle to just get down and milk the clock on that game-clinching play. They didn’t need to score. They needed to close the game. Gurley did what was required, not what he might have wanted to do.

“That’s very humble,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said of Gurley. “It obviously was a great run that he had, a great job by the O-line as well as the receivers to clear the path for him to get there and great situational football, understanding when you get that first down, game is over. The touchdown is great but you’ll have many more opportunities to get touchdowns. A win is a lot more important.”

Gurley seemed surprised that his sacrifice drew so much attention.

“We go over this stuff every week,” he said. “We know what to do in what situations, and that’s what makes us the team that we are. Unselfish players, situational masters. “That’s what it’s all about: having that edge. It’s not all about talent, whatever. You can always beat somebody by just knowing the situation of the game. We didn’t want to give 12 [Rodgers] back the ball.”

And they didn’t.

“Had I not told him, he might have done it on his own anyways,” said Goff, who ended the game by taking a knee with 19 seconds left. “Todd is a smart player and made that play.

“I saw when he kind of slowed down. He knew what he was doing. I was just hoping he didn’t get out of bounds. Again, he’s a smart player — a lot smarter than I think he wants people to think. He did a great job.”

Goff wasn’t alone in that opinion.

“I see a guy that’s willing to do anything for his team. He could have got an easy touchdown but he decided to win the game for us,” linebacker Cory Littleton said. “It means he’s bought in to this team and where we want to go, and I am too. And I’m excited to see where it goes.”

The only time Gurley wasn’t where he was supposed to be was after he caught the touchdown in the third quarter. He caught the ball in the right corner and then ran from side to side to high-five fans in the seats. When the Rams went for the two-point conversation he lined up on the left side but quickly shifted over to make the catch that gave the Rams a 16-13 lead.

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“I probably shouldn’t have used up all my energy running down the whole line. Did we get it?” he asked the throng of reporters surrounding his locker. Told that they did, he smiled. “We did get it. Everything worked out,” he said.

So far, so good for Gurley and the Rams. But his situational awareness prevents him from thinking his job — or theirs — is done.

“We’re just trying to strive for greatness. That’s what we’re trying to do, trying to keep being better,” he said. “We’re going to go in there [Monday] and see all the bad things we did and we’ll try to learn from them.”

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