THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Going into last week's game against the Jaguars, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford could sense the gameplan was setting up a "Sony Michel type of game."
His intuition would be correct.
Sony Michel had 24 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown in the Rams' 37-7 victory, becoming their first 100-yard rusher this season. He also an effective ground game that Rams will need once again this week.
"I didn't really think about them putting it on me, I just kind of thought, 'Any opportunity that I get, I'm going to try to take advantage of it,'" Michel said after Thursday's practice. "Opportunities just kept coming my way, and I was very fortunate to be able to execute on a positive note."
The Rams looked to establish Michel early last Sunday, calling his number on the first three plays of their first drive. Michel had runs of seven and six yards on his first two carries to keep the chains moving on a series that ended with a 40-yard field goal by kicker Matt Gay. After the Rams defense recorded its first fumble and fumble recovery, Michel punctuated the drive following the takeaway with a 5-yard touchdown run to give the Rams a 10-0 lead.
By halftime, Michel was averaging a healthy 4.1 yards per carry and had shown the physical presence Rams head coach Sean McVay expected him to bring in that lead back role. In the second half, he broke off a 25-yard run on his way to those 121 rushing yards.
"He's physical. He's tough. He's got great contact balance and really good vision. He's just strong," McVay said during a video conference with reporters Monday. "When you're just looking at Sony Michel, he's a sturdy, tough back. So, all of those things are really reflective. He's really conscientious, really smart."
Stafford described Michel as "steady, even-keel."
"(He) comes to work every single day. You can tell he's been in New England," Stafford said after Thursday's practice. "He's a grinder. He likes to come in here and work and that's awesome. I think both he and (RB) Darrell (Henderson Jr.) have done excellent jobs when we've asked them to do it this year. Continue to hopefully get the same kind of effort from both those guys."
Heading into Week 14, the Rams will need another strong performance out of Michel – plus Henderson, if he plays.
In the first meeting between the two teams, the Cardinals ran for 216 yards on 40 carries as a team, a factor in them to control the time of possession by more than 10 minutes. If the Rams want to limit the effectiveness of the Cardinals offense, an efficient run game will be critical to winning the time of possession battle, keeping the ball out of Cardinals Murray's hands, and putting together another complementary performance.
Along those same lines, McVay knows the offense is most effective when they can get both Michel and Henderson Jr. McVay said Monday that it was good to get Michel going, but they "definitely" want to find ways to have Henderson be a big part of the offense.
Whatever that carry distribution looks like moving forward, Michel's approach will remain unchanged.
"Hopefully," Michel said, when asked if he thinks last Sunday's performance will lead to more opportunities. "We all wish we'd get more opportunities in our profession. But my mindset is continue what I've been doing – keep working, keep grinding, keep sticking to the root of things, and hopefully I get opportunities."