Injury will force Cam Akers out for Rams vs. Seahawks
An NFC West showdown on the road against the first-place Seattle Seahawks already was going to be a tough matchup for the Rams.
It got more difficult Monday when the Rams learned that rookie running back Cam Akers will not play Sunday because of a high ankle sprain suffered during the Rams’ 23-20 loss to the previously winless New York Jets.
“He’ll definitely miss this game, which will be a big blow to us, and then we’ll see what happens after that,” coach Sean McVay said during a videoconference with reporters.
Second-year pro Darrell Henderson and veteran Malcolm Brown will step in for Akers, the team’s leading rusher who had been making the running-back-by-committee approach obsolete.
“Both those guys will be heavily involved,” McVay said.
Akers, a second-round draft pick from Florida State, has rushed for 591 yards and has scored three touchdowns.
There’s no Pro Bowl because of COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped the Rams’ Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey from earning Pro Bowl selections.
Akers started the first two games, but suffered a rib injury against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Henderson started the next 10 games, including the Rams’ 23-16 victory over the Seahawks on Nov. 15 at SoFi Stadium. He has rushed for 562 yards and has scored three touchdowns.
Brown has rushed for 372 yards and five touchdowns.
Akers, however, became a focal point of the offense when he rushed for a career-best 171 yards in 29 carries in a 24-3 victory over the New England Patriots on Dec. 10.
He started against the Jets and broke off two significant runs, including one for an apparent touchdown. Penalties, however, nullified both plays.
Akers was injured early in the second quarter after he rushed for one yard on the first play of a series. He limped to the sideline and was attended to by a team physician while sitting on a training table.
Two series later, Akers returned with his ankle wrapped in white tape.
He finished with 63 yards rushing in 15 carries.
McVay, citing Akers’ toughness, described him as a “War Daddy.”
“In a lot of instances, you get your adrenaline going, you’re in the midst of a game and it gets banged up,” McVay said, adding, “And then you get a picture of it from an MRI, you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy was playing through some real stuff.
“It just kind of further reiterates what we think of him. ...You can see why we have so much confidence in what he’s going to be for the future.”
Kevin Greene, who played for the Rams, Steelers, 49ers and Panthers during his Hall of Fame NFL career, died Monday at the age of 58.
McVay lamented the loss of Akers for the game against the Seahawks (10-4), and also his team’s inability to capitalize on opportunities against the Jets. The Rams fell to 9-5 and missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth.
“We had opportunities to win and close out that game,” McVay said. “Really all of our losses, there’s been those opportunities. … You’ve got to figure out how to make those plays in crunch time.”
McVay acknowledged seasonlong inconsistency by the offense and special teams, noting that the defense has mostly been consistent.
On Sunday, the defense made several key plays inside the 20-yard line that forced the Jets to settle for field goals. But the unit “didn’t make any big plays to change the game,” linebacker Troy Reeder said Monday.
“Being the No. 1 defense, which we think we are and have been, we want to try and make plays that drastically affect the game, not bend but don’t break,” Reeder said.
Now, with a playoff berth on the line, the Rams must bounce back against the first-place Seahawks.
“I love the way that we’ve responded,” McVay said, “but you don’t want to have to respond too many times to these tough outings.”
Defensive lineman Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey were voted to the Pro Bowl. Because of COVID-19, the annual Pro Bowl exhibition will not be played. Donald made the Pro Bowl for the seventh time in seven NFL seasons. Ramsey made it for the fourth time in five seasons. ... Defensive lineman Eric Banks was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
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