Coming into the 2019 season, the Rams faced more questions than answers after a lackluster 13-3 loss in Super Bowl 53 against the New England Patriots. This was especially true for Rams HB Todd Gurley who finished with only 10 carries for 35 yards in the big game.
However, the bigger story coming into week one would be how would his knee would hold up after reports revealed that Gurley had arthritis in his surgically repaired knee. Coming off a league high 17 rushing touchdowns in 2018, there’s no question all eyes were gonna be on Gurley at the start of of this season.
In week one, Gurley and the Rams company did all but disappoint.
Gurley finished with 101 total yards on 15 touches en route to a 30-27 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
With limited carries and a fumble through the first three quarters, Gurley did most of his damage in the final 15 minutes of play. The physicality of the contest caused the Panthers to fatigue late and allowed Gurley to take it into 2nd gear.
Up 23-20 entering the fourth quarter, the Rams finally fed its star running back. Gurley gashed the Panthers defense on four consecutive run plays totaling 41 yards and eventually setting up QB Jared Goff who found TE Tyler Higbee in the end zone for a five yard touchdown to extend the Rams lead to 30-20 late.
Carolina Panthers RB Alex Armah converted on a one yard rushing touchdown to trim the lead to 30-27 with 1:58 left in the game but after the Rams recovered Carolina’s onside kick attempt, HB Gurley iced the game. With runs of eight and four yards on first and second down, Los Angeles put the Panthers away for good.
A crucial part to the Rams victory was that even when Gurley was on the bench, the Rams continued to have success running the football. Second string RB Malcolm Brown filled in nicely, finishing with 11 carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.8 yards per carry. WR Robert Woods even turned a twenty-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The Rams success continued on the defensive side of the ball as it denied Panthers QB Cam Newton any chance of getting in a rhythm all game. Rams LB Cory Littleton led the way on defense with 14 total tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. LB Dante Fowler Jr. also recorded two sacks in the victory.
Despite the team success, Goff, like Newton, didn't have much to show for in this matchup. He finished with only 180 passing yards and a QBR of 20.
The Panthers lone bright spots on offense were RB Christian McCaffrey and WR DJ Moore. McCaffrey, further established his position as a top five RB in the NFL as he finished with 209 all-purpose yards (128 rushing, 81 receiving). Moore finished with 76 receiving yards on seven catches.
A surprising no-show for the Panthers was WR Curtis Samuel. Samuel, who by many beat reporters covering the team was dubbed the MVP of training camp, was held to only three catches for 32 yards and finished fourth on the team in targets well behind McCaffrey (11), Moore (10), and TE Greg Olsen (9).
While questions about Gurley’s surgically repaired arthritic knee will be a hot topic throughout the entire season, it was a sigh of relief to see Brown have success right away in regular season action. Rookie RB Darrell Henderson also figures to see a role in the offense as the season moves along.
The Rams will look to continue its winning ways in week two with an NFC title game rematch against the New Orleans Saint. The Panthers will hope to bounce back on a short week when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town on Thursday Night Football.
No shenanigans, just football.