It’s been a very long time since the St. Louis Rams have been in the playoff picture halfway through the season. They’re doing it with simple, smashmouth football. A great defense, and one unstoppable Todd Gurley at running back.
The Rams are at 4-3, putting them at second in the NFC West, with a 3-0 record in the division. Yes, even beating the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks, although the latter don’t seem to be as difficult to beat as in the past. But it’s not just the wins; it’s how it’s coming, and it seems that Jeff Fisher has finally found the formula to bring the best out of this franchise, which has been in disarray, looking for a savior in way for a decade.
Gurley, although this is just his rookie year, was worth taking a gamble on. It’s rare to see running backs taken this early in the draft these days, picked 10th overall. It was also weird because the Rams knew they’d have to wait for him to come back from his injury, which ruined his final season with Georgia, derailing what might have ended up being a Heisman trophy kind of year for him.
Gurley’s first game for the Rams didn’t leave an impression. A few carries, a few yards in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was just an afternoon of shedding rust. Gurley has since gone to run for 566 yards in four games, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The Rams have gone 3-1 since he’s become the focal point of their offense, although his rise to stardom is taking away something from an exceptional defense.
The Rams give up just 17.9 points per game (4th in the NFL) and have 26 sacks (tied for 2nd). Their red zone defense is the best in the league (giving up a touchdown only 31.3% of the drives in their own 20), have caused 36 rushes for a loss this season (third-best in the league) and are in 8th among the league’s defenses when it comes to defending third down, giving up a new set of downs only 34% of the time.
Old fashioned is that thing Don Draper drinks whenever he’s trying to come up with a new idea for an ad, or think about whether or not come back home to his wife tonight. But it’s also a brand of football that’s almost obsolete in the NFL. A style of giving everything for the running back while the quarterback is simply there not to make any mistakes, and all covered by an aggressive an unforgiving defense. The Rams have been working a long time to find that this is what works best for them, and the players to make it work.