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Lions aren't deceived by Todd Gurley's slow start

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Rams' running back Todd Gurley has already fumbled twice this season after coughing up the ball only three times in 2015.

Allen Park — By this point last season, through five games, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley already had four 100-yard rushing performances.

This season, he's still looking for his first.

What gives?

"Don't be fooled by it," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday, with a sly grin. "I'm going to tell you something, that guy is dangerous.
"He's really still powerful, has got speed, got versatility.

"He's just as dangerous as he's been before."

That seems to be the common chorus in the Lions locker room, ahead of Sunday's meeting with the Rams at Ford Field (1 p.m., Fox/WJR).

The Rams offense is scuffling, on all fronts, and a big reason why is the running game. The Rams rank 28th out of 32 teams, at 81.8 yards per game.

Last season, they ranked seventh, thanks to Gurley, who rushed for 1,106 yards as a rookie, the No. 10 overall pick out of Georgia. That included five games of 100 yards or more on the ground out of the 13 he played.

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"What are the stats you're expecting?" Lions linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. "He's still probably gonna rush for over 1,000 yards. That's crazy.

"He's still good."

After the third-worst rushing game of his career — a 33-yard performance in a Week 4 win over Arizona — Gurley, a 6-foot-1, 226-pounder, bounced back last week for 72 yards on 23 carries, including a touchdown, his third of the season.

This weekend, Gurley, 22, faces a Lions rush defense that's among the least-effective in the league, allowing nearly 115 yards a game.

So, it sounds like a fine time for Gurley to get going — "I've got to pick it up," he told ESPN recently — not unlike when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers busted out of his supposed slump against the Lions in a game earlier this season.

"He's a big-play guy and we've just got to find ways to give him the football," Rams coach Jeff Fisher told Detroit reporters on a conference call Tuesday. "We have not gotten started in the run game, per se.

"We've got to get it going, and our feeling is if we can keep Todd involved in the game in the fourth quarter, then we've got a chance."
Gurley has rushed for 288 yards through five games, an average of 57.6 — down from 85.1 as a rookie a year ago.

That said, the Rams have gotten him more involved in the receiving game. He had 108 total yards in last week's loss to Buffalo, with three catches for 36 yards.

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The Rams are searching for any way to move the football, and it's been a struggle. They're dead last in total offense, at 284.2 yards per game.
A Gurley resurgence, perhaps this week, can change that in a hurry.

"What don't he mean is an easier answer," Lions safety Glover Quin said, smirking, when asked what Gurley — who's already fumbled twice, after fumbling just three times all last season — means to the Rams offense. "He means everything. They're gonna give him the ball. He'll probably touch the ball 25, 30 times.

"He's a very, very, very, very talented back. They understand that, they know that."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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