February 23, 2024

The Rams offense under Sean McVay historically is at its best when an effective rushing attack creates play-action passing opportunities.

So the return of running back Kyren Williams, and receiver Cooper Kupp’s perseverance to play through an ankle injury should provide the Rams with a boost on Sunday when they play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Williams, a second-year pro, was on injured reserve the last four games because of a left ankle sprain suffered during a career-best performance against the Cardinals on Oct. 15.

Williams returned to practice this week and on Friday he pronounced himself fit.

“We’re just getting started,” Williams said of a Rams team coming off a victory over the Seattle Seahawks. “I still feel that momentum.”

In six games, Williams rushed for a team-high 456 yards and six touchdowns, and he also scored on a touchdown catch.

In the 26-9 victory over the Cardinals in Week 6, Williams rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown in 20 carries before suffering the injury late in the game.

Williams said initially he did not think the injury was serious.

“It wasn’t until, like, the next day when I woke up,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, there’s something wrong.’”

Rams coaches and players are happy to welcome back Williams, who brings “such a good charisma and presence,” coach Sean McVay said.

He elevates guys around him,” McVay said. “He’s so engaged, he’s so coachable. … His teammates love playing with him.”

Quarterback Matthew Stafford agreed.

“The way he competes with and without the football, it’s kind of what we want around here and he’s done a great job of showing that,” Stafford said.

Williams, a 2022 fifth-round draft pick from Notre Dame, said he has played football with the same attitude since elementary school.

“This is where I go to express myself, that’s like my art,” he said. “So I just go out there and have fun. That’s what it’s supposed to be.

“It’s not supposed to be stressful. It’s not supposed to be hard. You’re supposed to go out and execute and have fun while doing it.”

Kupp’s opportunities for enjoyment this season have been limited.

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp is tackled after making a catch against the Seahawks.

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp is tackled after making a catch against the Seahawks last week.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

After suffering a season-ending right ankle injury in 2022 against the Cardinals, the seventh-year pro was sidelined the first four games this season because of a hamstring injury. Upon his return, Kupp amassed more than 100 yards receiving in each of his first two games but struggled in the next three.

Last Sunday against the Seahawks, Kupp suffered a right ankle sprain during the first half that sidelined him for the second half. He did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday before fully participating on Friday.

“Don’t feel 100% but that’s football at this point in the season anyways,” Kupp said Friday, “so it’s something we’re handling.”

Asked if the latest injury was related to the ankle injury he suffered last season against the Cardinals, Kupp said, “I don’t think so.”

“I got stepped on,” he said of what caused his injury against the Seahawks, “so sometimes it happens. You happen to get stepped on and it rolls and there are some big guys out there that can create some force.”

Kupp acknowledged that this season has been one frustrating challenge after another.

“Kind of dating back even just to how last year went,” he said. “Yeah, it’s frustrating but it’s unfortunately part of the game.

“You play enough snaps, you’re going to get hurt– —and hopefully I’ve done enough over the last year and a half to buy myself some time moving forward.”

The Rams aim to build on the victory over the Seahawks, which ended a three-game losing streak and improved their record to 4-6. They are in third place in the NFC West behind the San Francisco 49ers (8-3) and Seahawks (6-5).

The Rams remain in the race for a spot in the NFC playoffs.

“The only way that you continue to put yourself in position is by being able to take care of your business,” McVay said, adding, “Then you can continue to say, ‘All right, well what are we going to do next? Same exact thing,’ and you keep yourself in the fight.”

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