Steven Jackson incurred back pain and flu-like symptoms this week as he prepared to play the Houston Texans, but neither kept him off the field Sunday.
Once in the trenches with his St. Louis Rams teammates, Steven rushed for 82 yards and gained 41 more on four catches, pounding his way through the tough Texans defense. But the Rams couldn’t hold onto a 10-6 halftime lead, falling 16-13 at the Edward Jones Dome.
"As a team, we have to learn how to put these close ones away," Steven told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. "As an offense, when you are in the position to put the game away, you want to be able to run the clock down, get to the red zone, possibly put up seven (points) or come out with at least a field goal."
Steven picked up 123 all-purpose yards during the loss to Houston (St. Louis Post Dispatch).
No. 39's performance through the air and on the ground made for the third time this season that he has led the Rams in both rushing and receiving yards in one game.
Danny Amendola scored the Rams' only touchdown on a two-yard Keith Null pass, but after an Amendola return set the Rams up at the Houston 25, Steven gained 17 yards on four carries to get the team into scoring position. The touchdown gave St. Louis a 10-6 lead.
Earlier in the game, S-Jax had a beautiful 35-yard run around right end and down the right sideline that set up a Josh Brown field goal that made it 3-3.
For the game SJ carried 20 times, breaking the Rams' all-time record for rush attempts. But it was another honor that was overshadowed by another defeat as he told the Globe Democrat:
"I didn’t even know. It feels good. I guess it is showing that I am durable enough to get those kind of carries, but like always when we accomplish those things we want to do it with a win, so it kind of takes away from those accomplishments."
NEVER GONNA GIVE UP
Many have asked Steven why he continues to play through pain and illness when the Rams are long since out of playoff contention.
It's simple really. He does it for the love of the game, as quoted by Yahoo! Sports:
"I love football, I love this team … "(Shutting it down) has been whispered in my ear, and that's from people on my side looking out for what's best for my future, but I love to play. I only have two more games to play this season. I'm just going to gut it out.''
Yahoo's Doug Farrar gives Steven all the credit in the world for his effort in the face of adversity:
But for all his team's troubles, you'll never see Jackson give anything less than full effort. In St. Louis' 16-13 loss to the Houston Texans today, Jackson rushed for 82 yards on 20 carries in the face of a defense focused almost completely on him. Because when your quarterback is the legendary Keith Null, opposing defenses can commit eight to the box without question. Jackson can counter all that attention because he still has every bit of the speed and strength that has made him one of the NFL's best at his position.
Jackson also has an ability to transcend his surroundings and play above the efforts of those around him. His team is 1-13 and he's got a back injury that has prevented him from practicing for the past month. Friends and family want him to stop and recuperate for next season, but Jackson is having none of it.
Steven's efforts have inspired the Rams faithful in spite of a second straight poor season and they inspire the players on his team as well, as quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"It says a lot to this team; you couldn't ask for more from him," fullback Mike Karney said. "I love the guy. I'll put my body on the line for him any time. Guys like that, that's who you want to play for. And you don't have enough of them in this locker room. We need more guys like that."
Center Jason Brown noted No. 39's consistent performance as something the Rams should cherish:
"We're thankful for his effort week in and week out, what he does and what he contributes to this team. That's just a testament to his willpower, his heart and to his character.
"He comes ready to work every week. When defenses look at tape on him, they know that they're going to be challenged."
And in one of the toughest seasons of his coaching career, Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo is glad there's one bright spot in the haze, as quoted on AHN:
"He always gives us [his all], and I think he instills it in everybody else," said Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. "He's fiery, and you've got to love that. He gives it to us all the time. He hasn't changed that, and I hope he never does."
A LITTLE EXTRACURRICULAR
Many feel the Rams have been pushed around this season and SJ is a little tired of it.
He jawed back and forth with Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry a few weeks ago and this week the war of words with Texans linebacker Bernard Pollard escalated into a little something more. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described the action:
On Sunday we saw Steven Jackson — he of the herniated disc, 1,352 yards rushing and at least that many bruises — get the helmet ripped from his head by Texans safety Bernard Pollard.
Pollard threw a forearm across Jackson's chin for good measure. With the blood filling Jackson's mouth and covering his lips, SJ39 went Pacquiao and threw a right-hand cross. Then he grabbed hold of Pollard and wrestled him to the ground.
That scene may have been a keeper from an otherwise hideous 2009 season: the bloodied Jackson, refusing to back down, skirmishing for a lost cause.
After the game, Steven said there was really nothing to the fracas, just part of the game, as quoted by the Belleville News-Democrat:
"It was just a little physical football,'' Jackson said. "From the looks of it, I got the worst end of it, huh? It was just two guys competing out there. I wasn't going to get scooped and slammed on national television, I tell you that.''
SOMETHING TO STRIVE FOR
The Rams come out of Sunday's loss with two games remaining in their season against two divisional foes, the division leading Cardinals and the 49ers.
Arizona nearly lost to the only team the Rams have beaten this season, the Lions, on Sunday giving the Rams something to help them prepare for a tough test.
Steven hopes to practice soon so that he and rookie quarterback Keith Null can get a little more accustomed to each other, as quoted by the News-Democrat:
"From what the doctors told me when I first injured the back, it's not going to completely heal until after the season,'' Jackson said. "It's getting to the point where I am managing to be able to take a few carries in practice. I really want to do that for me and Keith Null, so we can get on the same page, whether it is footwork or getting a feel for each other.''
S-Jax also remains the No. 1 rusher in the NFC and his 82 yards on Sunday pushed him more than 100 yards ahead of Adrian Peterson. No. 39 now has 1,353 yards on the ground while Peterson has just 1,235. SJ39 also still ranks second in the NFL behind only Chris Johnson.
"I'm proud and I'm hopeful for him," Spagnuolo said of Jackson to AHN. "I hope he keeps having those kind of things happen."
The Rams travel to Phoenix after Christmas where they'll take on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CST and the game can be seen on FOX.
Rams come close but fall short again in 16-13 loss to Texans (St. Louis Globe Democrat, December 21, 2009)
Steven Jackson, he's what's right with football (Yahoo Sports, December 20, 2009)
Steven Jackson: I'm just going to 'gut it out' (Belleville News-Democrat, December 21, 2009)
Rams' back Steven Jackson carries on despite rough season (AHN, December 21, 2009)
Can't help but like how hard Rams play (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 21, 2009)
Jackson vows to finish season (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 21, 2009)
Steven Jackson deserves Pro-Bowl selection (St. Louis Globe Democrat, December 21, 2009)
Week's adversity did not stop team (St. Louis Globe Democrat, December 21, 2009)