Field goal, punt, punt, punt, safety, punt, punt, punt ... five minutes into the second quarter, the score was 3-2 and neither team had mustered 65 yards of offense. This is every St. Louis Rams game since 2012, an elaborate production of a ferocious defense thwarted by its own mistakes, a rash of penalties and the kind of offensive incompetence that can barely muster a shrug from the team's dwindling fans. A billion dollars worth of apathy.
But something strange is happening. I feel things. It happened again last Sunday, on first-and-10 at the Rams 29-yard line at 11:35 in the second quarter. Whatever version of Kerry Collins Jeff Fisher's team currently employs called for the snap, the left guard pulled to his right and Todd Gurley slipped through a crooked alley and streaked 71 yards, unhindered, into the end zone.
My heart was beating. I was smiling. Looking back with the proper distance, I can now confirm that, yes, I was having fun ... while watching the Rams. Emotions! I should have been uncomfortable, but I was too busy hollering.
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Gurley is already a superstar, five games into his career. That's not surprising. He was a star during his unpaid football internship at the University of Georgia. Unfortunately, his college career is mostly remembered for a violation of the NCAA's draconian rules and a brutal knee injury that put his career in doubt.
His knee kept him off the field until Week 3 this season. He had 9 yards on six carries against the Pittsburgh Steelers that week. It wasn't the kind of performance that made the next week's game, a road trip to face the then-undefeated Arizona Cardinals, appointment viewing.
But there he was, running for 146 yards on 19 attempts, eating up the field chunks, leaving would-be tacklers to deal with Bruce Arians and whatever wave of obscenities he threw at them once they returned to the sideline.
Hey, take it easy on 'em Bruce! It wasn't their fault. It's not easy to tackle Gurley, as the last four weeks have revealed.
Gurley has 575 yards through five games (four starts). That's the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL, and only 134 yards less than what league leader Devonta Freeman has done through eight games. Gurley's averages (6.1 yards per attempt and 115 yards per game) lead the NFL.
It's how he's getting those yards that make the numbers so impressive. Against Arizona, 43 percent of his yards came after contact. It was 48 percent against the Green Bay Packers. Last week against the San Francisco 49ers, 97 of his 133 rushing yards came after contact.
In Danny Kelly's look at the league's young running backs last week, he pointed out that Gurley was getting more than 58 percent of his yards AFTER contact. That was before this last game against the 49ers where nearly 73 percent of his yards came after contact.
He has to get his yards that way. The Rams offensive line is a mess. It's a group led by Greg Robinson, the second pick in the 2014 draft who possesses the blocking acumen of a street free agent. The rest of the line came via a smattering of last-minute draft picks this year, an approach that's about as well thought out as midnight run to the dollar store on Dec. 24 to pick up Christmas gifts ... and with the similar results.
But you'd never know it because Todd Gurley doesn't really need blockers. He just needs some vague hint of sunshine to ping-pong his way through a sweaty mass of humanity.
HOW?!?! That's a 48-yard run. It should have been a tackle for a loss. There's no hole there, just a tangle. Gurley squeezes under a defender and squirts through the pile. BLOOP!
Watch him break tackles.
Oh, hey, it's Todd Gurley, just running through three would-be tackles.
Sometimes he doesn't break tackles; he just takes the defenders with him. This was a 5-yard gain on first-and-10 in the third quarter against the Packers in Week 5.
There he goes, five or six green jerseys all hanging onto to him, with about a 10:1 advantage in weight, being dragged down the field by a running back who tore his ACL a year ago. NO BIG DEAL.
There aren't enough Bob Dylan lyrics or Seinfeld quotes in the world for MY COLUMNISTS to describe just how great Todd Gurley is playing right now. Just stare at the images above, that's enough.
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It's not cool to like running backs anymore. They're spare parts. A good team can pluck some Samkon Gado out of the ether and plug him into the lineup to check off a box for "running game."
You're definitely not supposed to draft a running back with a top 10 pick. That's what teams like the Cleveland Browns do. And when the Rams drafted Gurley in the spring, like most people, I laughed at it. This is the same team that traded up to take Tavon Austin with the eighth pick, the same team that made Jared Cook one of the highest paid tight ends in the NFL ... the same team that got a bounty for the second pick in 2012 and STILL hasn't had a winning season.
Being drafted by the Rams, unless you're a defensive lineman, is a kiss of death. But not for Todd Gurley. He's breaking that tradition like so many shitty arm tackles.
The Rams haven't been fun to watch for more than a decade. Being a fan of this team sports flagellation. They have a head coach whose modus operandi is mediocrity. The general manager is a displaced shampoo model throwing money at deadbeat free agents and making overvalued draft picks at the behest of the head coach. The owner's only interest in the team is what it adds to his personal net worth and spiriting it off to Los Angeles as soon as the NFL will let him. If you didn't feel the disdain brought about by watching this team, you might not be capable of feeling anything at all.
I'm prepared for what's going to happen next, already have the scenario mapped out in my head. The Rams are playing well enough right now that they'll probably sneak into an NFC wild card spot; after all, Fisher finds his way to 9-7 every four or five seasons. Perfect timing to generate a little buzz for Stan Kroenke to bring them back to Los Angeles with a little hype in their sails, just in time to sink back to 7-9 next year.
Whatever. I'm watching Todd Gurley cut and run his way through the best (and worst) defenses in the NFL, and I'm too high on the experience to really care.
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SB Nation presents: Handing out the NFL midseason awards