In a season that started with a seven-game touchdown drought, teams just can't keep St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson out of the end zone anymore.
Steven rushed for a touchdown in his fourth straight game, a one-yard run in the fourth quarter and gained 116 total yards on 23 carries and five catches, but the Rams couldn't overcome a sluggish start, falling 27-17 to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
No. 39 was bothered all week by back spasms that caused a great deal of soreness and discomfort, but the pain couldn't keep S-Jax out of the lineup and the Seahawks couldn't keep him from paydirt, as quoted by the Belleville News-Democrat:
"I hope nobody takes this the wrong way, but I think I can always help the team," said Jackson, who was held under 100 yards rushing for the first time in five weeks. "If I have one leg out there and coach says I can play, I'll play."
Steven admitted that the pain was with him from the beginning of the game until the end and he carried it into the locker room at the end, but one important factor kept him out there, as quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"Absolutely. It bothers me now," he said. "A lot of people question, why did I play? Well, I played because I love to play. I look forward to Sundays."
OPENING WITH A GASH
It wasn't known until pregame warm-ups that No. 39 would even suit up on Sunday afternoon, but once he did, the Beast wasted little time inflicting his pain on the Seahawks.
On his first carry and the Rams' second offensive play of the game, Steven took a handoff from quarterback Kyle Boller and burst through a whole in the middle of the offensive line. No. 39 cut left and evaded tacklers, gaining 25-yards before finally being hauled down in Seahawks territory at the 38-yard line.
As Rams coach Steven Spagnuolo told the Belleville News-Democrat, it's what the Rams have come to expect from SJ39:
"He's a warrior and a trooper and I appreciate everything he does and that's him," Spagnuolo said. "In the morning, he said he could do it, so we trusted him and went with it."
The offensive line also considers it a privilege to block for a back as determined and dedicated, no matter his condition, as Steven.
"That's encouraging as an offensive line to watch a guy like that work; we appreciate it," guard/center Mark Setterstrom told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He brings it every week, regardless of whether he's hurting or not."
SHORT OF 100
Action Jackson gained a sum total of 116 yards on 27 touches, but only 89 of those yards were picked up on the ground, leaving Steven short of the 100-yard mark for the first time since mid-October.
But 39's 116 total yards marked his seventh straight game over 100 yards of total offense and the ninth time he has done it in 11 games this season. No matter his condition or what the defense is showing him, SJ always brings his A-game, something his teammates appreciate, as quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"He looked great,'' quarterback Kyle Boller said of Jackson. "I was excited this morning when I found out he was going to play. He didn't seem like his back bothered him one time.''
Steven maintained his stranglehold on second in the NFL in rushing with his 89 yards on the ground. No. 39 is 276 yards behind Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, who is literally running away with the rushing title. But Steven leads the NFC with 1120 yards, ahead of Adrian Peterson and Deangelo Williams.
"He's the type of guy where if he can play, he's going to play," said Billy Bajema, a reserve tight end who started at fullback for the injured Mike Karney on Sunday, as quoted in the Belleville News-Democrat. "We want to have Steven out there and we feel good about having Steven out there. He's a great player. Anytime he can step in there and help us in any way is great for the team."
PRAISE FROM A PROTÉGÉ
Steven's decision to play meant that St. Louis rookie running back Chris Ogbonnaya didn't get the chance to see action for the first time in his career.
"They knew I wasn't going to be 100 percent, but we wanted to make sure I could play the game," Steven told the Belleville News-Democrat. "Coach had to make the decision if we were going to dress Chris and have him play for me. Coach really wanted to know if I could play a whole game and when I went out there, I felt I could."
Ogbonnaya took the decision in stride, realizing what SJ39 means to the team:
"I do want to play and help this team as much as I can, but I understand the other aspect of it," he said. "It's a learning process for me. I'm a rookie. I just have to stay ready and be prepared for my time and make the most of it when I have the opportunity."
"Steven is a competitor. I felt like if he could go, he was going to go. That's his nature. That's his competitive fire. He wants to win and he wants to play at his highest level.
"A little nick is not going to slow him down. Obviously, you see how he played today."
But Ogbonnaya wasn't the only rookie talking about Action Jackson after the game.
Steven had several encounters over the long afternoon with Seahawks rookie linebacker Aaron Curry, as each player imposed their will on one another.
"I guess it’s like a battle of respect and being a rookie I just don’t see myself backing down," Curry told the Olympian. "The first time I played him he verbally assaulted me, but he’s a good dude. I don’t know what his intentions are, but I think it’s like, who’s going to lose their cool first, and it isn’t going to be me.
"I respect him as a running back. I respect him for how he runs the ball, but everyone has to understand that we’re all grown men out here and nobody’s going to back down from any human being. That’s just not what I was taught."
Steven and the Rams hit the road this week and head toward the Windy City where they'll do battle this Sunday with the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Kickoff is scheduled for Noon CST and all the action can be seen on FOX.
Rams remain hopeless at home (Belleville News-Democrat, November 30, 2009)
Ailing back can't keep Jackson off the field (Belleville News-Democrat, November 30, 2009)
Steven Jackson carries full load (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 30, 2009)
Curry spars with Jackson (The Olympian, November 30, 2009)