In the Rams' 16-10 loss to the Seahawks in early October, running back Todd Gurley had a near touchdown turn into a touchback when he extended the ball toward the pylon and safety Earl Thomas knocked the ball out of his hands.
It was an unfortunate play, but one that turned into a clear coaching point: Lower the shoulder instead and run through the pylon.
That's something head coach Sean McVay and the rest of the offensive staff stressed to the team, and the third-year running back took it to heart — and it shows.
In the Rams' Week 7 victory over the Cardinals in London, a similar situation came up on Gurley's 18-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. And on Thursday, the running back admitted he had the coaching point on his mind.
"Oh yeah, most definitely," Gurley said. "I just saw two big guys running at me, so I was like, 'Dang, they're about to hit me.' But, they didn't. But, it did, it came to my brain. Then, on the 10-yard line, I was like, 'Got to run through this, got to run through this.'
"That's the good thing about messing up," Gurley continued. "No one wants to make mistakes or try to mess up, but it's just like life. You learn from your mistakes and if you don't then something's wrong. But that is the good thing about messing up, because you know that you're not going to let that happen again or you know the look that just happened."
McVay pointed out those two plays as an example of how he's noticed Gurley's growth during the season.
"The thing that says as much as anything about Todd is you look at any time you can use one of your premier players as an example to teach from and he responds the right way," McVay said. "But, I think he's so conscientious — he's done a great job of correcting those little things."
Through seven games, Gurley has racked up 920 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. With nine remaining contests in 2017, the running back has already reached 70 percent of his rushing total from last year. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, and NFC Offensive Player of the Week after the victory over the Cowboys.
"It means a lot," Gurley said of being amongst the league leaders. "Obviously, if you're winning you hope you have somebody at the top. I've been able to be up there in rushing. Like I said, the O-line has been doing a great job of giving me room, the receivers out there blocking. Everybody just out there doing their job.
"So, I told [Jared] Goff to give me the ball so all these fantasy people want their points, so got to make them happy," Gurley added with a laugh.
Each time Gurley has an outspending performance, McVay has consistently said throughout the year that those are the kind of performances the team expects from the young running back. And it's also what Gurley expects out of himself. It's been that way since he saw the kind of scheme McVay was bringing to the club.
"When coach came in, man, and just going through that install that first weekend, just seeing the plays he had, just seeing what he had done in Washington and we were looking at each other and getting excited," Gurley said. "We've been playing ball our whole life. The good comes with the bad, the bad comes with the good — so you just have to bounce back after a rough year, a rough start — whatever it is. Like I said, we play ball, so I know what I'm capable of doing. You just not going to be able to do it every game or every season. That's just how it works."
Now after the bye week, Gurley said he feels rested, though he admittedly got a bit out of his routine with the days off.
"Four to five days can make a difference," he said. "Didn't know it could make such a difference, but it definitely makes a difference."
And when it comes to his rest-of-the-season goals, Gurley echoed one of McVay's biggest mantras: daily improvement.
"Obviously, always get better," Gurley said. "My main thing is just to make sure I'm just doing my same routines, not slacking off. Just making sure I still get my massages or my extra lifts etc., etc. So, just making sure I'm doing the exact same thing I was doing in the beginning of the season, towards the end."
"Just seeing him consistently play the way he has in the pass game and the run game, if he can do that — that's why he's playing as good as anybody at that position in this league right now," McVay said.