The highest-drafted running back in the last three years looks every bit the worthwhile investment as the Rams’ Todd Gurley shines in a two-touchdown performance against the Cleveland Browns.
Quarterback Josh McCown and the Browns hit a wall in St. Louis, literally and figuratively.
Led by their top-tier defense and the running of rookie running back Todd Gurley, the St. Louis Rams regained the second-place position in the NFC West division over the Seattle Seahawks (temporarily ahead due to their Thursday night victory) with a 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Gurley, the game’s leading rusher with 128 yards on 19 totes of the rock, also accomplished his first NFL career touchdown, then his second. The stout St. Louis Rams defensive unit looked rather energized off the bye week with a 4-sack/4-fumble recovery afternoon, one of which went directly for a score on the Browns’ opening series to set the tone. In fact, 17 of the Rams 26 points were the direct result of Cleveland’s miscues. Todd Gurley’s first touchdown was the Rams’ lone score that came from a sustained St. Louis Rams drive. Robert Turbin led the Browns’ ground game with only 30 yards on 5 carries in spite of having seen less action than two other running backs.
On paper at a glance, and perhaps because the Rams still lacked offense, Cleveland outplayed St. Louis; time of possession was in their favor, 35:33 to 24:27. So was passing yards (282-150), total yards (364-308), and total first downs (19-16). The Rams did dominate on the ground, nearly doubling the Browns total output, 158 yards to 82 yards, and they did double up in sacks 4 to 2. The important turnover stat was owned by the Rams, recovering 4 of 4 fumbles, while Cleveland managed 1 of 1. There were no INTs thrown in the game.
Cleveland’s bright spot had to be their leading receiver, tight end Gary Barnidge with 6 of 7 targets for 101, yet he was mostly ineffective as were most of the Browns’ offensive series. Their low point had to be in the second quarter when pressure forced QB Josh McCown out of bounds inside the 5-yard line, and his momentum —- so we’re being told — carried him much further, causing him to slide into a reinforced wall where stadium fans sat elevated. It wasn’t funny (but it was) because he apparently injured his throwing shoulder, but it left people scratching their heads as to why he didn’t do more to avoid not only hitting the wall (there seemed to be ample time), but to turn [the other shoulder]or slide or…anything but that, damn! He would eventually be replaced by back-up Johnny Manziel late in the game, and his status for the Browns next game is uncertain.
Scoring summary per quarter:
FIRST QUARTER: On the Browns’ third play of their first series, Janoris Jenkins sniffed out a swing pass to to the left to receiver Taylor Gabriel and lowered the boom. Free safety Rodney McLeod scooped up the fumble and took it 20 yards for the score. On the very next Browns series, DE William Hayes (the injured Chris Long’s replacement) sacked Josh McCown eight yards behind the line of scrimmage causing a fumble, recovered by linebacker Akeem Ayers. It led to a 39-yard field goal. Score: Rams 10, Browns 0
SECOND QUARTER: Cleveland regrouped and drove 73 on 14 plays before settling for a 25-yard field goal. Teams exchanged punts before the next Rams drive ended with a missed 43-yard field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein. Halftime Score: Rams 10, Browns 3
THIRD QUARTER: A Highlighted by a 27-yard pass play to TE Gary Barnidge and a 22-yard burst from Robert Turbin, the Browns achieve another field goal, this of 44 yards by Travis Coons. The Rams missed another field (35-yarder), then held Cleveland to a punt to get the ball back. The Rams most successful drive of the game was highlighted by a 20-yard pass play to Tavon Austin, a 26-yard pass interference call, and a 41-yard connection to Kenny Brit. Running back Todd Gurley took the final yard off left tackle and into the end zone untouched. Score: Rams 17, Brown 6
FOURTH QUARTER: Cleveland receiver Travis Benjamin fumbled after a 20-yard catch and hit by T.J. McDonald, to be recovered by a hustling Nick Fairley. Seven plays later, Todd Gurley struck again with an impressive 16-yard run that included a move that fooled two Browns that appeared to have an angel advantage. Final Score: Rams 24, Browns 6
It was the overall dominating performance by the Rams defense, who’s developing a reputation for hurting opposing quarterbacks, that kept them in the game until the ‘child’ led them. Janoris Jenkins played one of the best games I’ve seen him play, while strong safety Mark Barron played hybrid safety/linebacker and did an excellent job filling a gap left by the Ogletree injury, credited with 16 total tackles.
The Rams are back at .500 (3-3), but if they are to go on and achieve a winning record this season, it will be due the performances of both the defense and Todd Gurley. If they are to make the playoffs it will take some major step-ups by several other players, mainly on the offensive side of the ball. Gurley’s second-half takeovers can only last so long, and the glue holding what’s left of the Rams O-line…Well, the same could be said about that.