After three consecutive weeks of offensive struggles for the Los Angeles Rams, all it took was Sony Michel and a matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars to give L.A. the spark they needed.
With Darrell Henderson held out of action due to a thigh injury, it was all Michel on Sunday. Although Henderson was active, it was only in case of emergency, according to Rams coach Sean McVay.
“You know, we had him up, if some circumstances presented themselves. Hopefully, he'll take steps in the right direction,” McVay said following his team's 37-7 victory. “But based on how the game unfolded, we didn't feel like we really needed him, but I think it’s a really positive reflection on Darrell to be available for his teammates if that situation did come up.”
With Michel serving as the lead rusher for the Rams, the offense flourished among their rushing attack, but perhaps his physical approach even elevated his teammates around him. Matthew Stafford played turnover free football for the first time since October, and the Rams totaled 24 first downs and 418 yards of total offense.
For Michel, this game was a chance for the fourth-year rusher to prove he can still be the feature back in a dynamic offense. Michel’s 121 yards rushing kept the Jaguars' defense more honest than any defense has been towards the Rams over the last month. An increased emphasis on the running game allowed for much more play-action, something the Rams' offense thrives off of.
“Sony really carrying the load did an outstanding job just like I thought he would,” McVay said. “I thought it was good to be able to mix up a lot of different personnel groupings, really utilize all hands-on deck. It was good to get Joe Noteboom in there. Sony was great. That was exactly what we had talked about and it was good to see it come to life.”
While it's always nice to hear words of praise from the head coach, Stafford sang the same praise regarding Michel's performance on what he brought to the offense in the Week 13 blowout.
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“Sony, I thought ran the ball really well,” Stafford said. “Kind of going into the week, seeing the plan unfold, and I’m like, ‘This is a Sony Michel type of game.’ He's just going to slug it out, wear on these dudes. I thought he was great in the pass game too.”
While Michel only had three catches for eight yards in the receiving game, the threat of his speed out of the backfield opened up opportunities for tight end Tyler Higbee who had five receptions for 48 yards yesterday.
With an offensive line that had struggled in the last three contests, it was good for the Rams to get back to playing some smash-mouth football in December – a formula they'll need to rely on at times down the stretch run of their schedule.
“Our guys upfront were really pushing the pile and doing a great job," Stafford said. "A lot of those runs were downhill stuff, and Michel was doing a great job of that."
This was the perfect game for the Rams to reclaim their brand of offense. With two proven, dynamic running backs on the roster, McVay has plenty of options to play with moving forward. Facing a tough Arizona defense next week, the Rams will need to stick with the run game regardless of who's in the backfield, Michel or Henderson.
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