While the end of last week's game still produced a loss for the St. Louis Rams, good vibes surround the team after taking the undefeated Saints to the brink.
The Rams will look to build on that positive energy this Sunday afternoon when they welcome a familiar divisional rival, the Arizona Cardinals to the Edward Jones Dome for an NFC West showdown. Between the Cardinals formerly making a home in St. Louis and Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner being the man that led St. Louis to its only Super Bowl win 10 years ago, there are plenty of reunions to be had this week.
But Steven is focused on what he and his teammates can do to get the 2009 Rams and the Rams of the future rolling, as quoted in the Arizona Republic:
"Someone has to carry on the tradition and the legacy that had been laid here," he said. "I worked with those guys and I know what it takes to be a pro. We're laying the foundation here and if we can get the young guys' confidence up and learn how to do the little things, we'll be a good team."
Steven rushed for 131 yards last week, his third straight week topping 100 yards on the ground. In order to keep that streak alive, S-Jax will have to defy the odds just as he has all season. As the Cardinals' official website reports, No. 39 has never gained more than 100 yards against Arizona:
"The Cardinals have faced Jackson eight times since he came into the league, allowing an average of 55 yards a game and never giving up 100 yards in a game to the Pro Bowler. Last season, the Cards also forced a fumbled exchange between Jackson and quarterback Marc Bulger that defensive end Darnell Dockett returned for a touchdown in the Cards' NFC West-clinching win.
Jackson brushed aside the idea the Cardinals seem to have found a way to control him.
"It's hard to play in this league," Jackson said, "so if I gain two yards or 102 yards, I feel like I worked for it."
But Steven has been surpassing expectations all season long. After two injury plagued seasons, No. 39 used this offseason to better prepare himself for the 2009 season. The results have been undeniable.
With 915 yards rushing this season, SJ39 ranks fourth in the NFL. He's on pace to rush for a personal best 1,627 rushing yards, 99 yards more than he rushed for in his Pro-Bowl season of 2006. So there's reason to believe that Steven will keep on defying doubters on Sunday:
"Eventually, we feel that eight-man box will break because once you get through that first level of defenders there is no one else left," Jackson said.
The Cardinals despite their past success in containing The Beast have plenty of respect for what he can do.
"He's one of the great backs in this league," Cardinals linebacker Gerald Hayes said. "To me, it's the next game. I know we have played Steven Jackson pretty good but we have to do that this weekend. Other games are in the past and it's the first time we play them this year."
Cardinals coach Ken Wisenhunt also has a strong respect for what challenges Steven presents his team with.
"He's playing as good as anybody in the league right now, breaking tackles, getting extra yards," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It will be one of those games, if we're going to have success, we have to do a good job tackling."
CENTURY MARK WITHIN REACH
Steven is just 85 yards away from 1,000, a mark he is looking to top for the fifth straight season.
With the year that No. 39 is having, 85 seems imminently doable this week, but S-Jax isn't declaring it a certainty by any means, as quoted in the Arizona Republic:
"I don't like to talk about what's going to happen until it actually happens," Jackson said. "Whenever it does happen, it will definitely be special. But I don't want to jinx myself. Arizona presents a tough challenge with that defensive front. And from top to bottom, all 11 of their guys rally to the football.
"They play tough and physical, so getting to 1,000 yards won't be easy."
At Turf Show Times, VanRam looks at Steven's flirtation with the Rams record books and suggests that at his current pace No. 39 could be the Rams leading rusher by passing both Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson before too long:
"Jackson needs just 753 more yards to pass Faulk and 1,039 to pass Dickerson. Can he pass those Rams icons this season and engrave his name into the team's history?
At his current pace, Jackson will finish the season with 1,626 rushing yards, his best total ever. That will leave him just 42 yards short of Faulk's total with the Rams. However, if the line continues its strong play and the team stays inspired from their recent run an extra 42 yards might be well within reach.
Sometime early next season, Jackson should be the Rams all-time leader in rushing yards."
SEND STEVEN TO THE PRO BOWL
ESPN.com's Mike Sando notes this week that Steven, the NFL's fourth best rusher this season is ranked 5th in his OWN CONFERENCE in early Pro Bowl balloting.
You know what that means fans, Steven needs your help to get to the second Pro Bowl of his career.
Click here, log in and make No. 39 a Pro Bowler.
Pro Football Weekly's Dan Arkush makes the case for S-Jax in his latest column:
"Just like Ernie Banks used to be with the Chicago Cubs, Jackson stands out as an absolutely terrific player on a not-so-terrific team — provided he's healthy. Unlike the past few seasons, he has avoided injuries and actually seems to be getting stronger as the season wears on, running over, around and through people with reckless abandon. Forget his meager TD total. With the possible exception of Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams, Jackson shouldn't have any competition in the NFC for a starting RB berth in the Pro Bowl along with Peterson."
Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King also gave No. 39 his props in this week's Monday Morning Quarterback:
"Just because Steven Jackson is playing for a 1-8 team doesn't mean he's invisible. He's a heck of a back, both inside and outside the tackle box, and he tormented arguably the best team in football for 131 rushing yards Sunday."
At Rams Gab, RamView columnist Mike compares Steven to the friend who's always willing to help when you're in need:
"Steven Jackson (26-131 rushing, 9-45 receiving) is that friend you'd call if you get your car stuck in a ditch, except I think Steven would just pick the car up with his bare hands and carry it back up to the road on his back."
Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams host the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday afternoon at the Edward Jones Domes in St. Louis. Kickoff is scheduled at 3:05 p.m. CST and all the action can be seen live on Fox. Ron Pitts and John Lynch will have the call.
Bill Belichick made wrong call in Patriots-Colts game (SI.com, November 16, 2009)
RamView Week 10 (Rams Gab, November 16, 2009)
Quick look at Early Pro Bowl balloting (ESPN.com, November 17, 2009)
Jackson running into record books (Turf Show Times, November 19, 2009)
The Cards' Action on Jackson (AZCardinals.com, November 19, 2009)
Rams keep losing but Jackson keeps rolling (Pro Football Weekly, November 16, 2009)
Cardinals turn focus to elite runners (The Arizona Republic, November 16, 2009)
Even at 1-8, Jackson, Rams, upbeat (The Arizona Republic, November 18, 2009)