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A career and historic night for Cam Akers against Patriots

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – A little over halfway through his appearance at the virtual podium, Rams rookie running back Cam Akers was asked how the speed of the game has come to him and whether it's slowed down.

"Speed slowed down a long time ago," Akers said. "That hasn't been able to be an excuse for a while now. It's kind of, you get it, you go. It's what this team expects me to do, be a playmaker. So it's not about the speed of the game, it's not about anything else, it's about going out and playing ball."

With a career effort like Thursday night, he had every reason to feel that confident.

Akers rushed 29 times for 171 yards in the Los Angeles' 24-3 Week 14 win over the New England Patriots, authoring a performance that was not only a personal best in his young NFL career, but one of the top ones by a rookie running back this season and in franchise history.

His total rushing yards surpassed Kansas City's Clyde Edwards-Helaire (161, Week 6 at Buffalo) for most by a rookie running back in a single game this season and were sixth-most by any running back – regardless of experience – in a single game this year.

Moreover, his 171 rushing yards were most by a Rams rookie running back in a single game since Jerome Bettis' 212 against the Saints in December 1993 and fourth-most for a rookie running back in franchise history behind only Bettis and Eric Dickerson (192 and 199 yards in 1983).

Though no one can predict such production, a fast start hinted Akers was in for a big night. He received his first carry on the third play of the game, and it went for 35 yards to the Patriots 10-yard line to help set up the Rams' first points. By the end of the first quarter, he had amassed 84 rushing yards on nine attempts.

"Just letting the offensive line open up the holes for me," Akers said. "When they create the space, that's all I needed. The rest is in my hands."

Akers eclipsed 100 early in the third quarter with back-to-back carries for six yards each. The Rams continued to lean heavily on Akers on that same drive, a 9-minute and 42-second series that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jared Goff to wide receiver Cooper Kupp and included a 25-yard run by Akers.

"We knew that was in him," Goff said. "He's shown sparks of that all year. I think you go all the way back to the Washington game. He broke one off late in the game for about 40 yards, and ever since then, just trying to bottle that up. I thought tonight it was on full display for everyone to see what he can do."

The runs were also reminiscent of similar flashes of explosiveness Akers showed against the Cardinals last week (21 carries, 72 yards, one touchdown) and 49ers in Week 12 (9 carries, 84 yards, one touchdown, including a 61-yard run).

"I think he gave us a spark in that San Fran game even though we didn't really pull it out," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "I thought that momentum carried on to last week, and ultimately, he did a great job for us on a short week."

Collectively, Akers' efforts over the last three weeks have accounted for 327 of 528 rushing yards this season, 36 shy of tying fellow running back Darrell Henderson Jr. for the team lead.

"He's a special talent, a special player," Goff said. "Humble kid, does a great job, works hard and deserves all of this."

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