On Sunday afternoon in St. Louis, Steven Jackson made the impossible seem possible for the St. Louis Rams.
Faced with the proposition of taking on the unbeaten New Orleans Saints, the Rams put their faith in SJ39 and he delivered. Steven ran for 131 yards and a touchdown, and caught six passes for 45 yards, giving the Rams a chance to knock the Saints into the loss column.
Steven racked up 131 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Saints (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
But a final drive by the Rams offense came up short as time expired, and New Orleans prevailed, 28-23.
S-Jax acknowledged that it was a strong showing by the Rams just to hang in with a team that is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. But at the same time, he wasn't willing to declare a moral victory, as quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"Coming into this game, not a lot of people gave us a chance to even hang around in this game," running back Steven Jackson said. "[But] you want to come out with the win. You want to be in here jumping and celebrating."
FIRST TO 100
Both teams were held scoreless in the first quarter but each team went off when the second quarter began.
New Orleans struck first with a Reggie Bush touchdown, but the Rams answered right back with a touchdown drive that featured three Steven runs totaling 29 yards. A 29-yard touchdown pass from Marc Bulger to Donnie Avery tied the score at seven.
After Bush scored again to give New Orleans the lead, St. Louis offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur put the ball in No. 39's hands, a key decision in keeping the Rams in the game, as noted by Will of Rams blog Rams Herd:
"With the Saints offense on track, and up 14-7, the Rams make it into the fair side of the 50 on a nice grab by the emerging Brandon Gibson. A run by SJ and catch by Billy Bajema later and the Rams are set up on the 29. This was a make-or-break drive in terms of staying with the Saints, and keeping the active crowd into the game, and Shurmur put away the playbook and gave the reins to Jackson, Karney, and the offensive line. Seven runs later, and Jackson is in the end zone, riding behind a punishing pair of blocks by Jason Smith and Mike Karney."
Action Jackson carried nine times for 36 yards on the drive and finished it off with his second touchdown of the season and his signature roll of the dice.
With the touchdown, S-Jax also reached 100 yards rushing for the half. His effort was crucial in the Rams being tied with New Orleans 14-14 at halftime, something he knew the Rams needed to do to stand a chance, as quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"(Saturday) night in the hotel, we just talked as a unit that we were going to have to put up points," Jackson said. "We knew that (the Saints) were going to make their plays. But we as a team, we were just going to have to match their intensity. And I think we did that. We came up short at the end, but I'm really proud of the effort that we put out there."
Thanks to a Saints adjustment in the second half, Steven was only able to add 31 yards to his total, but one third quarter carry had big meaning.
With a seven-yard dash halfway through the third quarter, No. 39 passed Lawrence McCutcheon for 3rd on the Rams' all time rushing list. Steven, an admirer of past Rams running backs was honored with the achievement, as quoted in the Post-Dispatch:
"It'd mean a little more if we got this win," Jackson said following Sunday's 28-23 loss to the Saints at the Edward Jones Dome. "But I'm a fan of 'Clutch,' and to be able to pass him, it means a lot. It says more for my offensive line and what we're doing as a team than me myself. I couldn't do it by myself."
Steven added 20 more yards to his total and now has 6.206 career yards, 20 more than McCutcheon. Next up on the list are two all-time greats: Marshall Faulk is in second place with 6,959 yards. Eric Dickerson is St. Louis' all-time leading rusher with 7,245 yards.
As for the second half outage, although he only had 10 carries, Steven credited the Saints with making it more difficult on him to get through the line:
"They know that a running back has to read a defensive line, so they were just doing stunting with the defensive line and the linebackers, which they weren't doing at first," Jackson said.
There was plenty to talk about after the Rams nearly pulled off the upset of the season.
ESPN.com's Mike Sando recognized Steven's performance as the biggest silver lining in the Rams loss and also believes that Steven's production week-in and week-out makes the Rams a dangerous team going forward:
"Steven Jackson rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown. He is averaging better than 100 yards per game rushing and needs only 85 yards against the Cardinals to reach 1,000 for the season."
At Examiner.com, Rams Examiner Tim Klutsaris makes his case for S-Jax as NFL MVP:
"Although he won't be seriously considered, he should be considered an NFL MVP candidate…Every other non-quarterback in the MVP race has other options offensively surrounding him. Jackson does not. He is a sure bet Pro Bowl running back this year and should garner more national attention for what he is doing in St. Louis."
"Steven Jackson again was a force. He pounded out 131 yards on the ground on 26 carries, and added 45 yards on nine catches. GRADE: A"
The Rams remain home this week for a NFC West showdown with the division leading Arizona Cardinals. The game is scheduled for a 3 p.m. kickoff and the action can be seen on Fox.
New Orleans Saints vs. St. Louis Rams recap (AP, November 16, 2009)
What the Rams' strong showing could mean (ESPN.com, November 15, 2009)
Silver linings: Rams vs. Saints (ESPN.com, November 15, 2009)
Rams-Saints: A real loss (Rams Herd, November 15, 2009)
Rams lose 28-23, finally progress (Examiner, November 15, 2009)
Rams Report Card (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 15, 2009)
Rams lack the gift of grab (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 15, 2009)
Final drive runs out of time (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 15, 2009)
Jackson reaches milestone in defeat (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 15, 2009)
At least Rams are earning some respect (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 15, 2009)