With a little over nine minutes left in the opening quarter, Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers took a handoff up the middle and ran into a pile of would-be Seattle Seahawks’ tacklers.
But the Florida State product’s legs kept churning, and helped by teammates Tyler Higbee, Andrew Whitworth and Robert Woods, the Rams kept moving the pile, resulting in an 8-yard gain.
Akers let out a resounding roar and Whitworth a first pump at the end of the play. The veteran left tackle said Akers bulling his way for tough yards set the tone for his team’s effort on offense -- a big-boy run that signaled his arrival as a workhorse running back for the Rams, something lacking for this offense since Todd Gurley’s departure this offseason.
“You’re going to need plays like that, where you see guys saying ‘hey, it doesn’t have to be perfectly blocked, I don’t have to be out in the clear, but I can go fight for tough yards and turn a two or three or four-yard gain into something that’s eight, 10, 11, 12,’” Whitworth said. “Those will make the difference in a football game, and the more you do that to a team, the more it demoralizes them. I think that is something he is definitely capable of and definitely up front something we can do more of, if we continue to play with that kind of attitude.”
Akers rushed 28 times for 131 yards, including a 5-yard run for a score and added two receptions for 45 yards, totaling 176 yards from scrimmage. According to Next Gen Stats, 150 of those yards came on plays outside of the tackle box.
Akers’ 176 scrimmage yards are the most by a running back a rookie in their postseason NFL debut since 1970.
“He was huge,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “I thought Jared [Goff’s] best play of the day was on the third down where he stepped up, slide in the pocket and found Cam for the explosive. You see what a great athlete Cam is. He’s tough.
“I thought he was really getting into a rhythm early on in the game. It was big. We were able to control the time of possession, able to just eat up yards a little bit at a time. He’s a special player, he’s really tough. I love the way Malcolm Brown came in and churned out some tough yards as well.”
Selected in the second round out of Florida State, Akers went through a tough transition at the start of season, missing two games due to a rib injury, learning the nuances of McVay’s complex scheme and figuring out how to be a pro.
But in the second half of the season, he played faster, became a more decisive runner and impressively battled through a high-ankle sprain, missing just one game.
Since Week 8, Akers has 807 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. And as Akers said leading into Saturday’s big road win over the Seattle Seahawks, he’s ready for more.
“I just feel like it’s a mindset,” Akers said. “That’s what it boils down to. We prepare all week. We do everything we’re supposed to do, so on game days it’s just a mindset. I’m going to line up in front of you, and I’m not going to let you beat me.”
Whitworth said Akers brings that mindset every game.
“You’re watching a guy grow up and learn how to play NFL football,” Whitworth said. “He’s a guy who has all the ability, all of the talent, and most importantly the right stuff in his chest. He’s made of the right junk. His heart, his passion of the game is special.”