DENVER — On an unseasonably cold day in Colorado’s capital city, the Rams used a punishing ground attack to defeat the Broncos, 23-20.
Running back Todd Gurley became the first Ram since 2001 to rush for at least 200 yards in a game. He finished Sunday with 208 yards rushing, as he set a new career high in the category.
With temperatures hovering around 20 degrees at kickoff, quarterback Jared Goff came out firing on Los Angeles’ first drive, and moved the ball into the red zone with a pair of completions.
On the second play from scrimmage, Goff connected with wide receiver Robert Woods on the right side for a 15-yard gain. Then on the next play, Goff went deep to wideout Brandin Cooks on the right side for a 44-yard gain down to the 12-yard line.
The drive stalled from there, but L.A. was still able to take an early 3-0 lead on a 26-yard field goal by kicker Cairo Santos.
Broncos quarterback Case Keenum and wideout Emmanuel Sanders were able to get a little something going late in the first quarter. After a couple of quick passes put Denver in L.A. territory, Keenum hit Sanders down the left sideline for what appeared to be a touchdown. After review, however, it was determined Sanders was down at the one-yard line for a 43-yard gain. And a taunting penalty committed by Sanders backed Denver up to the L.A. 16.
The foul proved significant, as Los Angeles’ defense forced Keenum into a third-down throwaway to get Denver to settle for a field goal.
Up 6-3, the visitors’ offense got going by leaning on running back Todd Gurley. On the first possession of the second quarter, Gurley took a handoff on the first play and darted 29 yards up the middle, putting the club in Denver territory. Then Gurley took a handoff for five yards and a shovel pass for 13 yards on the left side.
A few plays later, L.A. had 3rd-and-2 at the Broncos’ 11. Gurley took a handoff for a yard, bringing up 4th-and-1. Head coach Sean McVay once again trusted his offense to go for it, and once again the players delivered. With strong blocking ahead of him, Gurley took the rock to the left side and ran it 10 yards to the end zone.
With the Rams carrying a 13-3 lead, it looked as if wide receiver Cooper Kupp could be out for a significant period of time after being taken down by a horse-collar tackle on the right sideline on a jet sweep. While Kupp was carted off the field, he was able to return to the game for the start of the second half.
While Los Angeles began the third quarter having to punt, the visitors got the ball back after defensive tackle Aaron Donald sacked Keenum on 3rd-and-7 to end Denver’s drive.
That’s when the Rams were able to extend their lead. Returner JoJo Natson — playing for the first time since injuring his hand against the Chargers in Week 3 — gave L.A. good field position with a 26-yard punt return to the visitors’ 42-yard line. Goff kept the drive alive on 3rd-and-10 with a 14-yard pass to Woods, and then moved the club into Denver territory with a 12-yard pass to tight end Gerald Everett.
With 3rd-and-1 at the Denver 23, Gurley took a handoff to the edge on the right side and went 21 yards up the right sideline to the home team’s two-yard line. And after a defensive pass interference penalty gave L.A. the ball at the one, Gurley punched it in for his ninth rushing touchdown of the season.
With a 20-3 lead, the Rams’ defense kept one Broncos scoring opportunity off the board with a takeaway. On 2nd-and-7 from the L.A. 24, Keenum fired a pass down the right seam to wide receiver Brian Parker. But linebacker Cory Littleton was there to tip the pass up, and safety John Johnson reeled the ball in for an interception at the L.A. six-yard line.
But Denver would get it right back on the ensuing possession. On 3rd-and-6, Goff looked for wide receiver Josh Reynolds on the right side. The ball was apparently tipped just before it got to the second-year wideout, went off Reynolds’ chest, and into the arms of safety Darian Stewart for an interception.
Despite an offensive pass interference penalty that backed the Broncos up 10 yards, the club was able to get in the end zone with a 22-yard pass from Keenum to Sanders on the right side. With the extra point, Denver cut Los Angeles’ lead to 20-10.
The Rams had a chance to extend their lead early in the fourth quarter, but Santos missed a 47-yard field goal wide right.
The Broncos quickly took advantage, as Keenum connected with wide receiver Courtland Sutton for a 41-yard pass down the left sideline. An unnecessary roughness penalty called on L.A. gave Denver a first down at the visitors’ 11-yard line. But the defense held strong from there, forcing Denver into a 24-yard field goal.
With the score at 20-13, L.A. began to ride Gurley to victory, with the running back eclipsing 200 yards rushing on the ensuing drive. Gurley’s 26-yard run on a toss to the left got him over that mark, making him the first Rams player to rush for 200 yards since Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk in 2001.
Though Goff connected with Woods for a 19-yard screen play to the left on 3rd-and-13 to bring up 1st-and-goal, L.A. settled for a 22-yard field goal to go up 23-13 with 3:15 remaining.
Starting with the ball on their own 23, the Broncos moved the ball quickly into Rams territory in part with the help of a facemask penalty moving the home team up 15 yards, and a neutral-zone infraction giving Denver a first down on the L.A. 18. Then a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone gave Denver a first down at the L.A. 1.
Keenum would cash in with a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the left side on 2nd down. With the extra point, Denver cut Los Angeles’ lead to 23-20.
The Broncos’ ensuing onside kick attempt however, went out of bounds. And after a couple of snaps from victory formation, the Rams moved to 6-0.
Los Angeles will be back on the road to face San Francisco next week.