NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Aaron Donald didn’t just vouch for it; he basically demanded it.
Robert Quinn, the Rams’ veteran outside linebacker, was just as firm.
“MVP,” Quinn said. “That’s it, MVP. Point-blank, period.”
Gurley further strengthened his case for an award that traditionally goes to quarterbacks on Sunday, amid a 27-23, division-clinching victory over the Tennessee Titans from Nissan Stadium. Gurley picked up a career-high 276 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns, adding to his NFL-leading total of 19. He also hurdled two defenders, just for fun.
Gurley has now gained an NFL-best 2,093 scrimmage yards this season, and 456 of those have come over the past two weeks, when the Rams rode him to lock up their first NFC West title since 2003.
“He deserves to be the MVP of the league,” Rams inside linebacker Alec Ogletree said, unprompted. “He’s playing really well.”
Actually, he’s playing at a historic rate. Gurley joined Jamaal Charles (2013) as the only players with at least 10 rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns in a season over the past decade, according to data from ESPN Stats & Information. He’s also the third player in NFL history with 2,000 scrimmage yards, 10-plus rushing touchdowns and more than five receiving touchdowns, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and O.J. Simpson.
With Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown nursing injuries, it looks as if Gurley’s only real threat for MVP honors is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who had a subar game on Sunday — 21-of-28 for 224 yards, two touchdowns and one interception — and has cooled off lately. But history is on Brady’s side. A quarterback has won MVP after nine of the past 10 seasons.
“Change the trend up a little bit,” Rams receiver Tavon Austin pleaded. “Give it to a running back.
It took a 2,000-yard rushing season from Adrian Peterson to interrupt that stretch, and teammates believe Gurley’s season should do the same.
“Absolutely,” Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers said. “That’s biased and it’s real, because the guy has done so much for this team and so much in the league.”
Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold believes “there hasn’t been a more complete back” than Gurley. “He has highlights in the pass game, highlights in the run game, highlights in blocking that you guys [the media] don’t highlight. That’s huge.”
Gurley put himself in the running over these past two games, first by rushing for 152 yards and scoring four touchdowns in what was basically a must-win game on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, then by going off in the clincher on Sunday.
Gurley’s 276 scrimmage yards — 118 on the ground, 158 through the air — were the most in a game this season and the most by a Rams player since Faulk in 2000. His 184 yards after the catch, a number helped by an 80-yard screen pass that resulted in a touchdown, were the most in the past 10 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Gurley became the first player since Herschel Walker in 1986 with 100 rushing yards and 150 receiving yards in a game. And he joined Pierre Thomas as the only players ever with 100 rushing yards, 100 receiving yards and 10 catches, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Rams have secured a home playoff game and don’t have a chance at a first-round bye. They don’t have a whole lot to play for in Week 17, and it’s possible that head coach Sean McVay will rest some starters in the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers. Gurley might not play much until the playoffs, but teammates believe he already has solidified his case as the MVP.
“He is in my book,” Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. “If there’s a running back that deserves it, he’s the guy. I know there’s a bunch of other guys in the league doing great things, but he’s got my vote.”