INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Perhaps it's no surprise that the player regarded as "Mr. Reliable" by his position coach was the focal point of the Rams' backfield.
Running back Malcolm Brown set new career highs with 18 carries for 79 yards, and his two rushing touchdowns marked his second multi-touchdown game of his career, in Los Angeles' 20-17 SoFi Stadium-opening win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Primarily a reserve through his first five years with the Rams, the expanded role and performance was "exciting" for him.
"We had a good gameplan going in," Brown said. "If those guys call my number, I just got to be ready. That's my mindset, that's going to stay my mindset throughout the year."
Not only did Los Angeles call his number, they did so at critical junctures in the game.
L.A.'s crisp 7-play, 75-yard drive to open the game ended with Brown scoring a 1-yard touchdown run for the game's first points. And on the Rams' go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter that gave them back the lead, it was Brown punching it in from two yards out.
In the passing game, Brown led the running back rotation with four targets, hauling in three of them for 31 yards. His longest catch went for 18 yards, off of a screen pass.
"In the run game, Malcolm Brown was kind of our bell cow and he did a great job," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said during his virtual postgame press conference.
Overall, Brown wound up playing 60 percent of L.A.'s offensive snaps against Dallas. In addition to those single-game personal bests for rushing attempts and rushing yards, he surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his NFL career.
"We felt like Malcolm is such a big, important part of our gameplan, but he was going to get a lot of opportunities in those later-down situations," Rams head coach Sean McVay said postgame. "He ended up carrying the load and did an excellent job."
It was yet another strong season-opening stat line for Brown – he also had 11 carries for 53 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the Rams' Week 1 win at the Carolina Panthers last year – but the Rams knew he was valuable long before those performances. Back in March 2019, the Detroit Lions had signed Brown – a restricted free agent – to a two-year offer sheet, and Los Angeles matched it to retain him through this season.
For a player who first joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and ascended from special teams contributor to backup running back by the 2017 season, putting together a performance like Sunday night's was certainly special.
"It's very exciting. I feel like that's just what I had to do," Brown said. "Sometimes you gotta step into this league and play a role. I was very aware of it. My rookie year when I came in, I knew I wasn't going to just be the man automatically. I was very, very, very aware of it. I just kept my head down and worked. I knew I may eventually get a shot, I may not, but at the same time, you just gotta keep going. That's what I tell a lot of guys coming in – it may not be the circumstance you want, but you last long enough and do what you need to do throughout your years in this league, and something will spark. An opportunity came, and I was able to just do what I had to do."
The Los Angeles Rams host the Dallas Cowboys to kickoff the first game at SoFi Stadium for the 2020 season. Checkout the game photos from the historical day!