Rams RB C.J. Anderson rushes for 167 yards as Todd Gurley fill-in

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Throughout last week, reporters peppered veteran running back C.J. Anderson with questions.

Could he learn the Los Angeles Rams' offense? How was his conditioning? Did Todd Gurley offer any advice?

Anderson handled each inquiry with unabashed confidence, then Sunday started in place of Gurley and rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown in a 31-9 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Not bad for a sixth-year pro who was released this season by the Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders, and whom the Rams signed just five days earlier as uncertainty loomed over the status of Gurley and inflammation in his left knee.

"I never gave up on myself," Anderson said after the game. "I never gave up on my ability and what I could do."

Gurley was listed as questionable going into the game, then was placed on the inactive list after he participated in a workout two hours before kickoff.

"We were expecting him to play today," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "He wasn't feeling quite as good as we thought, based on yesterday and coming in today. It was a little bit different than we anticipated."

McVay said he was not concerned about Gurley's health going forward. "We'll just take it one day at a time," he said.

Gurley's knee injury is not considered serious or one that will keep him from the playoffs, a source told ESPN.

Anderson's performance helped the Rams (12-3) stop a two-game losing streak, their first such skid in the regular season under McVay, and maintain pace to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The 5-foot-8, 225-pound Anderson became the first Rams player not named Gurley to rush for 100 yards since Tre Mason in Week 13 of 2014, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

It was Anderson's first game rushing for more than 100 yards since Dec. 14, 2017, and it was one yard shy of tying his career high of 168 set in 2014 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Teammates and coaches joked with Anderson that he spent last weekend watching games from his couch. McVay awarded him a game ball for his performance Sunday.

"We felt like some of the things we were going to do were a good fit for his skill set," McVay said. "He delivered in a big way."

Quarterback Jared Goff, who completed 19 of 24 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown, said he spent extra time with Anderson throughout the week to catch him up, but that the running back needed little assistance to understand what the Rams were doing.

After he signed, Anderson routinely arrived at the practice facility around 5 in the morning to begin his daily preparation.

Still, Goff was somewhat surprised by Anderson's performance.

"Yes and no," Goff said, when asked if Anderson's numbers were bigger than expected. "I mean yeah, because he's brand new to the team, but you see the way he practices, the way he prepared, how smart he was, and I think halfway through that first quarter I'm like, 'OK, this guy can still run.'"

Anderson played five seasons with the Denver Broncos before he signed a one-year deal with the Panthers last offseason. In nine games he rushed for 104 yards on 24 carries and was released Nov. 12. Anderson spent three weeks looking for work before he signed with the Raiders on Dec. 5. He was released after less than a week.

Prior to Anderson's emergence Sunday, the Rams had become dangerously thin at running back as they prepare for the playoffs.

Trusted backup Malcolm Brown was placed on injured reserve after he suffered a clavicle injury in Week 13. Second-year pro Justin Davis injured his shoulder last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and sat out of practice all week, but was active against the Cardinals. And rookie John Kelly was inactive through 12 games, then was inserted on offense last week and appeared overwhelmed in pass protection. On Sunday, Kelly rushed for 40 yards on 10 carries.

The Rams will close out the regular season next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. A victory over the 49ers (4-11) will give the Rams a first-round bye in the playoffs.