Cam Akers rushes to the forefront during the Rams’ win over Patriots
With less than two minutes remaining in the Rams’ blowout win against the New England Patriots, Fox cameras showed coach Sean McVay on the sideline with rookie running back Cam Akers.
The conversation seemed short, with Akers nodding his head and McVay tapping him on the chest. After his performance, not much needed to be said. His stats spoke clearly enough.
Akers rushed for 171 yards in 29 carries Thursday — an average 5.9 yards per carry — in the Rams’ 24-3 win. It was the most in his young career and the most by a rookie this NFL season. Nearly three weeks after Akers scored his first touchdown on Monday Night Football, the Florida State product again shined for a national primetime audience and asserted himself as a key offensive contributor.
But he doesn’t want to think too far ahead.
“This is just a ‘get-my-feet-wet’ type of game,” Akers said. “You got to do it consecutive and you got to do it consistent. That’s what the goal is. I’m not going to get too high or too low off of one performance.”
The Rams beat the New England Patriots 24-3 on Thursday to stay on top in the NFC West.
On the second play of the game, Akers, a second-round draft pick, dashed up the left side for a 35-yard gain. It set the tone for what was to come. Before the first quarter ended, Akers posted 70 yards in six carries. He added 19 more yards before the break, a big factor in Los Angeles being up 17-3 at halftime.
Akers, 21, said he learned before the game at the team hotel that he would start. He didn’t know he’d be central to the game plan though.
“I knew whatever it was, I was going to be ready for it,” he said.
Since the Rams released Todd Gurley, they’ve taken a running back-by-committee approach with veteran Malcolm Brown, second-year pro Darrell Henderson and Akers. But the rookie’s role has expanded over the past month.
Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he scored his first touchdown off a four-yard pass from quarterback Jared Goff. Against the San Francisco 49ers a week later, he scored on a one-yard touchdown run after he broke free for a 61-yard run in the third quarter. And last week against the Arizona Cardinals, he scored a nine-yard touchdown and finished with 72 rushing yards.
McVay said the results aren’t surprising based on how he has prepared.
“This really started with the way that he’s been practicing,” McVay said. “He’s a creative runner, he can put his shoulder down, he can finish and he’s got the explosive speed. You can just see that this guy is going to be a very special player and this was a great night for him.”
Said Goff: “I thought tonight, it was on full display for everyone to see what he could do. He’s a special talent, special player, humble kid, does a great job, works hard and deserves all this.”
McVay, Akers and Goff credited the offensive line for being exceptionally physical. That included using packages with tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, a scheme known as “12 personnel.” The Rams used 12 personnel on 69% of the snaps against the Patriots, the second-highest rate in a game under McVay, according to Next Gen Stats.
Higbee and Everett combined for 43 receiving yards. Their blocking, coupled with their pass catching, help keep defenses honest, Goff said.
“We’ve liked our matchups with that recently and today is no different,” he said. “We had a good plan for it and activated it accordingly.”
Akers was key to the plan, and he made the most of the opportunity.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.