Rams clinch NFC West as Gurley makes MVP bid
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Putting the ball in the hands of Todd Gurley is the easiest decision for the Los Angeles Rams. The star running back is doing his best to push himself into consideration for NFL MVP with an amazing season.
Gurley came in leading the NFL with 17 touchdowns, and he added two more, including the longest reception of his career after taking a screen pass 80 yards. The Rams clinched their first NFC West title since 2003 by beating the Tennessee Titans 27-23 on Sunday.
The running back finished with 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving, becoming only the third in NFL history to post such a performance as he joined Ollie Matson (1954) and Herschel Walker (1986). Gurley also became the third in NFL history with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards, 10 TDs rushing and more than five TD catches in a season, joining O.J. Simpson (1975) and Marshall Faulk (2000 and 2001).
“He’s a special player,” Rams first-year coach Sean McVay said. “He is playing his best the last couple of weeks when it is the most important, these last couple of weeks.”
Jared Goff threw for 301 yards and four touchdown passes, the last for the final margin with 11:51 left on a 14-yarder to Cooper Kupp. Goff said he knows who he’d pick for the league’s MVP award if he had a vote.
“I know there’s a bunch of other guys in the league doing great things, but he’s got my vote,” Goff said.
Here are some things to know as the Rams and Titans prepare for their regular-season finales:
TENNESSEE IN CONTROL: The Titans (8-7) have lost three straight, and the loss to Los Angeles allowed Jacksonville to clinch the AFC South. But the Titans host the Jaguars to wrap up the season needing only a win for their second straight winning season and first playoff berth since 2008. Losses by the Chargers and the Bills also would clinch a berth for the Titans even with a loss.
“This is our season, and we’re looking forward to it,” Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota said.
ROUGH DEBUT: Sam Ficken missed his first extra point in the NFL and followed by clanking a 36-yard field goal attempt off the right upright in replacing Greg Zuerlein, the Rams’ Pro Bowl kicker. Ficken bounced back by connecting on his next three extra points, and Ficken also put four of his five kickoffs in the end zone, with two touchbacks.
“To his credit, he found a way to respond and came away being able to make the rest of the opportunities that he did have,” McVay said. “I thought he kicked the ball off pretty well. We’ll continue to evaluate moving forward.”
MURRAY’S KNEE: DeMarco Murray had to be helped to the sideline late in the game, and Mularkey says the running back will have an MRI on his right knee. “He’s a pretty tough guy, watched him walk off, didn’t look good,” Mularkey said. Murray finished with 48 yards on 15 carries and three catches for 11 yards.
The Titans still have Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner, who would be in line for only his second start this season and fourth of his career if Murray can’t play in the finale.
SACKED: The Rams came in ranked second in the NFL with 47 sacks, and the Titans ranked fifth after piling up 26 over the past five games. Each team left adding only one sack apiece to the totals.
MORE WORK LEFT: The Rams’ win ensures Los Angeles will host its first NFL playoff game in a very long time. First, the Rams wrap up the regular season hosting the San Francisco 49ers. McVay gave the Rams off until Wednesday with the Christmas holiday. The Rams are a win away from reversing 4-12 last season to 12-4.
“I guess from the outside looking in you’d be surprised …,” Goff said. “I felt good about our year coming into it and now we’re division champs and it feels really good.”
AP freelance writers Brian Hinchman and Terry McCormick contributed.