Why wasn’t Todd Gurley on the field much in Super Bowl 53?

Why wasn’t Todd Gurley on the field much in Super Bowl 53?

The Los Angeles Rams’ first offensive play of Super Bowl 53 was a handoff to running back Todd Gurley, who picked up only 2 yards before he was tripped up by a New England Patriots defensive lineman.

Gurley didn’t get another touch until just over six minutes left in the second quarter. He finished the first half with only 10 rushing yards on three attempts.

Early in the second half, Gurley busted free for 16 yards, but then he disappeared once again. He finished the game with only 35 yards on 10 carries.

The absence of the star running back was a puzzling theme throughout the playoffs for the Rams. Gurley averaged 89.4 rushing yards and 41.4 receiving yards during the regular season, but finished a NFC Championship victory over the Saints with just 10 rushing yards and 3 receiving yards.

Figuring out why has been a difficult question to answer.

The Rams insist Todd Gurley isn’t injured

After the win against the Saints, an emotional Gurley said that he wasn’t on the field much because he wasn’t playing well and “didn’t deserve to be in there.” He also dropped two passes — including one that was intercepted.

Rams coach Sean McVay didn’t quite echo that sentiment, but did say that the Saints did well to take Gurley out of the game.

“We just weren’t able to run it as much as we’d like to, because New Orleans did a nice job stopping us,” McVay said Friday. “Then, we were in some two-minute situations at the end of the game and the end of the half where you’re more inclined to throw it. He should be good. But I think really our team, as a whole, is feeling really good just having two weeks since our last game and looking forward to the challenge and competing to the best of our ability.”

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Gurley said the same after the Super Bowl, telling reporters that he really is healthy.

But not everyone was buying what the Rams and Gurley are selling.

Plenty are convinced Gurley isn’t 100 percent

The Rams didn’t list Gurley on the injury report, but Tracy Wolfson of CBS said that a knee injury suffered by the running back in December may still be bothering him.

“The Rams told me there is nothing to report on Todd Gurley,” Wolfson said during the second quarter. “All I can tell you is that I was told he was going to be heavily involved in this game plan. But with that knee injury he could wake up and it could just not feel right.

“We watched him in practice this week. He ran hard, took a lot of reps, but definitely favored it. Walking back to the huddle I’ve been watching him. He’s been stretching, he’s been on the bike. He just had a conversation with C.J. Anderson and his running back coach. We’ll see if he can get more involved.”

But early in the fourth quarter, Wolfson said that the Rams have insisted Gurley’s knee isn’t the reason for his inactivity. Gurley’s sudden devolution from MVP candidate to bench player convinced our Stephen White that something must be amiss.

The problem is that Gurley might not be 100 percent.

Overall he just didn’t look healthy when I went back and watched the film. Everyone was focused on his lack of touches, but what jumped out to me on film was how poorly he performed in pass protection.

He appeared to be favoring one of his legs, and when he tried to pick up blitzes he just didn’t seem to get to the rusher quickly. Even when he did make it there in time to make a block, Gurley appeared unable to handle any power rushes at all.

With Gurley not doing much of anything, the Rams finished the first half scoreless and only found three points in the second half. If he really was healthy like the Rams say, his disappearance in the playoffs is really a head scratcher.

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