More often than not, Todd Gurley crosses the goal line running with the ball rather than after catching it.
The Rams’ star running back entered the game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday with 51 career rushing touchdowns and 10 touchdown receptions.
After sitting out against the San Francisco 49ers because of a thigh bruise, Gurley returned to the lineup and made an outstanding touchdown catch in the Rams’ 37-10 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Quarterback Jared Goff connected with Gurley on the 13-yard play in the second quarter. It was Gurley’s team-best sixth touchdown this season, his first on a pass.
“Just a catch,” Gurley said.
It was more than that.
As Gurley ran toward the right corner of the end zone, linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. shadowed him. Goff lofted the ball out of Beasley’s reach, and Gurley tracked it while looking over his shoulder.
“He and I have been working on that pass for the past three to four years,” Goff said. “To be honest, I don’t think we have ever connected on that route in a game but to get the look that we wanted to snap it on time and get it to Todd was exciting and he made a great play.”
The touchdown broke a 3-3 tie and sent the Rams on their way to a victory that ended a three-game losing streak.
Gurley rushed for 41 yards in 18 carries.
Zuerlein bounces back
Kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a field-goal attempt in the final minute of the Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last season, and he missed a 40-yard attempt in the first quarter against the Falcons.
But Zuerlein came back and converted attempts from 55, 25 and 20 yards.
“To miss that first kick and then come back and hit it from 50-plus, I think is a demonstration of his mental toughness and then our confidence in him to come back to him in that situation,” coach Sean McVay said.
Punter Johnny Hekker also made an impact, most notably with his arm.
Late in the second quarter, with the ball at the Falcons’ 46-yard line, Hekker completed a fourth-down pass to Nick Scott that resulted in a 23-yard gain. The play set up Zuerlein’s second field goal.
Hekker has completed 12 of 20 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in seven-plus NFL seasons.
Rams linebacker Cory Littleton intercepted a tipped pass in the third quarter — his second interception this season — but the real action on the field did not begin until the play was over.
Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, who stands 5 feet 8 and 208 pounds, tussled with 6-2, 280-pound Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who briefly lifted Freeman off the ground.
“He’s a strong dude,” Goff said of Donald. “I’ve seen him rip facemasks off, so he’s a strong dude.”
Freeman and Donald were penalized for unnecessary roughness but Freeman also was ejected from the game.
Rookie David Edwards started at left guard in place of injured Joe Noteboom for a Rams line that did not give up a sack. Edwards, a sixth-round draft pick, played tackle in college at Wisconsin.
“After the first couple plays I felt like I was able to kind of quiet my mind,” and rely on technique, Edwards said.
McVay was impressed by Edwards’ ability to “seamlessly” transition to guard. Goff also gave Edwards high marks.
“He’s really level-headed for a rookie,” Goff said. “For a guy to be making his first start ... every play he was so dialed in and ready to go.
“We’d kind of seen that through the preseason and other times, but you never really know until you really get a guy on the field what he’s going to be like. And I thought he did a great job.”