TAMPA, Fla. -- Todd Gurley took his right hand and slammed it against the turf at Raymond James Stadium.
It was second-and-11, early in the second half of the Los Angeles Rams' 37-32 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, and Gurley still couldn't find any holes through which to run free. The star running back tried cutting his way to the outside, but was stuffed for no gain by the Bucs' safety -- yes, their safety -- Bradley McDougald. By then, Gurley had managed a mere 34 yards on the ground, putting his average for the season at 2.5 yards per carry.
Then, finally, it happened: Todd Gurley became Todd Gurley again.
Six minutes later, the Rams had the ball and Gurley led them on an eight-play, 69-yard drive that gave them a 24-20 lead. He ran for 38 yards on six carries, capping it with a one-yard score. He gained nine yards twice. And he broke off a brilliant 16-yard run in which he quickly found a hole to his right, exploded to the second level, got tripped up twice, spun around and managed to stay on his feet for an extra seven yards.
"That’s what he needs," Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold said, "but it’s just like last year. He didn’t even get to play the first three games, and then he came out smoking. Everything comes together when you start to see it. Then you start to believe in it, then it becomes second nature. That’s when it becomes your mentality."
That's the Rams' hope for Gurley, who finished with 27 rushes for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 3.15 yards per carry, an improvement over Week 1 (2.77 yards) and Week 2 (2.68) but still not quite good enough.
"He's not there yet," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "Not because of Todd Gurley personally, but we don't have him there offensively to where we want to get to."
That's partly because of an offensive line that isn't opening up enough holes and partly because of a passing game that doesn't pose enough of a vertical threat, and it's hard to identify where one issue ends and the other begins.
The Rams, at least, have shown progress offensively.
They've gone from gaining 185 yards from scrimmage in Week 1 to 283 in Week 2 and 320 in Week 3. On Sunday, they went 6-for-13 on third down. And on several occasions, Case Keenum -- 14-of-26 for 190 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown -- used play action with Gurley to set up a deep pass play.
Gurley credited the offensive line and said there were "a lot of good signs" that the running game was moving in the proper direction, but that he would check the film to make sure.
"I tried to be patient," Gurley said. "Obviously they’re going to try to stop the run, and we’re going to keep running, so you just have to go out there every play and just try to get some yards."