The Rams advanced to the Super Bowl, the NFL’s biggest stage, with a minimal contribution from one of their biggest stars.
Running back Todd Gurley rushed for just 10 yards and a touchdown in four carries Sunday in the Rams’ 26-23 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
On the Rams’ first possession, a pass from quarterback Jared Goff tipped off Gurley’s hands for an interception. Gurley also dropped a pass.
C.J. Anderson played most of the game and finished with 44 yards in 16 carries.
Gurley was sidelined for the last two games of the regular season because of a left knee injury, but returned and rushed for 115 yards in 16 carries in last week’s divisional-round victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
“So, C.J. did his thing,” said Gurley, who signed a $60-million extension before the season and led the league in touchdowns, “and the whole team did its thing.”
Coach Sean McVay said that it was “the flow of the game” and “not anything against Todd,” that dictated the way the backs were used against the Saints.
“What personifies Todd is this is an MVP-caliber player and he just kept fighting, kept supporting his teammates and he is going to have an instrumental role” in the Super Bowl, McVay said.
Gurley said teammates kept him up during the game.
“That’s why it’s a team sport,” he said. “This is the greatest team sport in America, you know what I’m saying?
“It takes everybody on the team. That’s what we do.”
“That’s why I was so emotional at the end, just to be able to get another opportunity,” he said. “I’m so grateful, so grateful, playing on the biggest stage ever.
“I’m just very, very appreciative. Love my team. It’s a great feeling.”
Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh continued his outstanding play in the postseason, sacking Saints quarterback Drew Brees on one play and helping to sack him on the next. He finished with four tackles and a tackle for a loss.
“It feels absolutely great to come to somebody else’s house and win a championship,” Suh said. “I say that because we came in Week 9 and took a [45-35] loss. And I always dreamed about coming back here and getting that win.”
Suh, a five-time Pro Bowl player in his ninth NFL season, will play in his first Super Bowl.
Suh signed a one-year $14-million contract before the season.
He already had earned $750,000 in bonuses for playing 65% of snaps and winning a playoff game. The victory over the Saints increased the bonuses to the maximum $1 million.
Change in appetite
The NFC championship had been dubbed the Gumbo Bowl because of comments made by Rams cornerback Marcus Peters a few days after the Rams’ November loss against the Saints.
Peters was responding to Saints coach Sean Payton, who had said his team got the matchup it wanted when receiver Michael Thomas beat Peters on a game-clinching 72-yard touchdown pass. Peters said the Rams would see the Saints “soon” and that he and Payton would have “a good little, nice little bowl of gumbo together.”
But after Sunday’s victory, when asked if he was ready to have that bowl of gumbo with Payton, Peters changed the menu.
“I don’t even eat gumbo,” he said. “Man, I was just [B.S.-ing]. So I like goulash really, though. … Goulash is going to be my bowl for tonight.”
Thomas, who caught 12 passes for 211 yards against the Rams in November, had only four catches for 36 yards Sunday.
Brees completed 26 of 40 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions.
Cornerback and special teams standout Sam Shields helped jump-start the offense in the second quarter after he caught a pass from Johnny Hekker on a fake punt and gained 12 yards for a first down. The Rams eventually kicked a field goal for their first points.
“More than anything, it was that we needed a little bit of momentum,” McVay said of the decision. “We felt like if the look presented itself we were going to take it.
“Sam Shields did a good job running an excellent route. Johnny delivered the ball right on the money, and even though that didn’t end in a touchdown, we ended up getting some points.”
Said Shields, who also caught a pass against the Green Bay Packers this season: “It’s one of those types of plays, when you get your name called, you got to take advantage of them.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein