Advertisement
Share

Sony Michel says he took Rams opportunity and ran with it. But against Cardinals ... ?

Los Angeles Rams running back Sony Michel runs the ball against Jacksonville Jaguars defensive back Rudy Ford.
Sony Michel became the Rams’ first 100-yard rusher in a game this season with his performance against the Jaguars. He started in place of the injured Darrell Henderson.
(John McCoy / Associated Press)

He carried the ball 24 times and also caught three passes in a victory that set up the Rams for a playoff push.

The 27 touches running back Sony Michel’s got Sunday in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was his heaviest workload to date for a team built for a Super Bowl run.

“The good thing was, I wasn’t as sore as I expected to be,” Michel said Thursday, “and I’m pretty well turned over now, and ready to roll.”

Advertisement

Michel started against the Jaguars because Darrell Henderson was injured and, perhaps more importantly, because coach Sean McVay adopted a run-first mentality.

Whether McVay remains committed to that approach — and Michel’s role in it — will not be revealed until the Rams play the Arizona Cardinals in a key NFC West game on “Monday Night Football” in Glendale, Ariz.

The Cardinals (10-2) are currently the top-seeded team for the NFC playoffs. They defeated the Rams 37-20 at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 3.

The Rams face a tough test against the NFC West-leading Cardinals and the Las Vegas Raiders look to overcome the odds against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Rams (8-4) are two games behind the Cardinals.

The 37-7 victory over the Jaguars ended a three-game losing streak. Not coincidentally, quarterback Matthew Stafford ended a stretch of turnover-laden performances.

But Michel’s performance was just as vital.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Michel rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown. It was the first 100-yard rushing performance by a Rams player since Cam Akers ran for 131 yards in an NFC wild-card victory over the Seattle Seahawks last season.

Stafford said afterward that as he saw the plan unfold in the days leading to the game, “I’m like, ‘This is a Sony Michel-type of game. He’s just going to slug it out, wear on these dudes.’ ”

That is how it played out as Michel, acquired in a preseason trade with the New England Patriots, continually gained extra yardage by falling forward after contact.

“He’s steady, even keel,” Stafford said Thursday, adding, “You can tell he’s been in New England. He’s a grinder. He likes to come in here and work.”

McVay said Thursday that he and his staff were “working through some things” as they decide whether to take an approach similar to last week’s run-first focus.

Matthew Stafford is one tough guy. Odell Beckham Jr. is gaining confidence in the offense. Here’s what we learned from Rams’ win over Jacksonville.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury indicated this week that he would not be surprised if Michel is featured again.

“I expect to see a heavy dose of him,” Kingsbury said.

That would be fine with Michel, a 2018 first-round draft pick who played three seasons for the Patriots — and scored a touchdown against the Rams in Super Bowl LIII — before he was dealt. The Rams were seeking insurance because Akers had suffered an Achilles injury before training camp, and Henderson’s durability was questionable.

Michel, 26, made his presence felt during the second game of the season when he replaced the injured Henderson and ran hard in a victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

 Sony Michel (25) carried the load for the Rams against the Indianapolis Colts.
Sony Michel (25) carried the load for the Rams against the Indianapolis Colts.
(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)

He started the next game against the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, carrying the ball 20 times for 67 yards and catching three passes in a 34-24 victory that established the Rams as one of the early favorites to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

But playing again as a backup in the next game against the Cardinals, Michel lost a fumble. He did not start another game until Sunday.

McVay called plays that put the ball in Michel’s hands the first four plays.

“I didn’t really think about them putting it on me,” Michel said. “I just kind of thought any opportunities that I get, I’m going to try and take advantage of it. And opportunities just kept coming my way.”

Michel was not the only player who benefited from the run-first mentality.

The Jaguars were the perfect remedy for the Rams, who were on a three-game slide. However, a lot of the season rides on next week’s game at Arizona.

McVay installed lineman Joe Noteboom as an extra tight end in so-called heavy formations with three tight ends.

Noteboom, a 2018 third-round draft pick, has started games at tackle and guard. He said last Sunday was the first time he lined up as a tight end.

“It was definitely new,” he said Thursday, adding that his blocking techniques translated well.

“The more versatile you are,” he said, “the more value you have.”

Veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth said the heavy formation approach was “kind of brewing” because skill players had been lost to injuries. Having Noteboom on the field was like incorporating “a sixth starter” to the offensive line, he said.

“You want to be the kind of team that can put a lot of different bodies in there and get some positive things going, and an energy and a confidence to your team,” Whitworth said. “Joe did a great job of handling that stuff.”

Roundtable: Chargers almost blew a 24-point lead but got their biggest win of the season in Cincinnati. The Rams ended a skid with a blowout of Jacksonville. What’s next for these L.A. teams?

Will McVay continue that approach against the Cardinals?

Henderson is nursing a thigh injury. He was listed as limited on the Rams injury report Thursday.

Michel said he would not change his mindset this week. He will remain patient and, if called upon again, he will be ready.

“Nine times out of 10 there’s going to be things that you want to happen — and it’s not going to happen,” he said. “And you’ve just got to stick to what you know, keep working.

“Because when the opportunity comes, you don’t want to miss it.”


Advertisement