Steven Jackson and the Rams showed on Sunday that they have what it takes to compete in the NFC West right now.
But above everything that could be taken from St. Louis' win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday was this: running back Steven Jackson has the heart and determination to take St. Louis all the places it wants to go.
Despite a groin strain that limited both his stride and mobility, Steven piled up 124 yards on 22 rushes and three catches as the Rams dismantled the Seahawks 20-3 to move into a first place tie atop the NFC West.
"I felt like this team was going in the right direction, and I just wanted to be part of this today," Steven told the Belleville News-Democrat of playing through the injury. "A lot of people said, 'Sit out one game, you don't want to set yourself back for three or four games,' but I'm a bit of a risk taker, and I wanted to take that risk."
So, while practicing only in a limited manner on Friday and without doing much running before the game, Steven was given the option by the Rams coaches to go and he told them he wouldn’t miss this game.
"Steve’s a warrior and we left it on him," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "He went out and warmed up; didn’t have to do very much. He was ready to go. I think his mindset was that he was going to go. I just asked him to be sure that it wasn’t going to set him back at all."
Thanks to some great work from the Rams medical staff all week and prior to the game getting Steven ready, No. 39 was a go. His desire carried Steven through the game and he couldn’t doubt that doing it against Seattle, a team that had beaten the Rams 10 straight times before Sunday, made it that much sweeter.
"I knew I wouldn't be 100 percent, but I knew I had enough to give," he said. "It's been a long time – 2004. I know we have a philosophy around here that we don't look back. But sometimes you just can't help but think about some of the hardship that this organization has been through. For us to be able to get a win against Seattle at home, a divisional win, it means a lot to me. I think it means a lot to the guys that are in this locker room."
Watch Steven talk more about the game on Jay Glazer’s After Party on FoxSports.com below:
To keep S-Jax from re-injury and to give the Rams a fighting chance with their No. 1 back, the St. Louis training staff dressed No. 39 accordingly prior to the game, as Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recounted in a postgame column:
In the unusual din of another noisy winning locker room, Steven Jackson stood in front of his stall Sunday afternoon and began the sort of delicate procedure that only gimpy running backs and horror movie mummies are familiar with.
"Look at all of this stuff that kept me together," he bellowed. The Rams' running back began to peel off the many protective layers that had essentially kept him all together during a 20-3 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. A victory that not only put his surprising 2-2 team in a first-place tie for the NFC West lead, but also pushed Jackson up a notch in the Rams' record book.
First he carefully took off the white game pants, then it was the gray compression shorts with the high-tech bubble-wrapped padding. That revealed an odd looking, black corset-like contraption that had a bunch of Velcro straps on it that zig-zagged across his tender right leg and strained groin like wire on a burlap sack.
"They got so many things wrapped on me, I couldn't move my leg in the wrong direction even if I tried," he said, laughing again. "Look at this. Strapped in pretty good. And I have two more pairs of compression shorts on under this too."
And somehow, it all worked out just fine.
Jackson was not even remotely close to 100 percent Sunday, but nursing a badly strained groin muscle, and swaddled in more protective layers than King Tut's corpse, this was perhaps one of the most impressive games of his seven-year NFL career."
Steven also told ESPN’s Mike Sando that the wrap was designed to keep him from extending the groin the way it was last week.
"It is just to lock the groin in and make sure I do not get overextended, kind of what happened last week," Jackson explained. "At the same time, you give away the lack of opening up and being able to run fast. But luckily I'm 240, right?
ONE BIG ONE
Steven did most of his work on the ground, battering the Seattle defense for short gains and then busting out longer ones when he could as the Rams marched up and down the field.
But Steven also had one big play in the passing game, picking up a huge 49-yard gain on a screen play, that he believed would have went for a touchdown had his stride not been limited.
It was second down and 10 yards to go from the 30 for St. Louis, clinging to a 10-3 third quarter lead, when Sam Bradford led S-Jax perfectly into the flat with a screen. Steven lost his defender then galloped into the open field making sure not to over exert himself before finally being pulled down at the 21.
Three plays later Bradford hit Steven’s backup Kenneth Darby for a 21-yard score on yet another screen pushing the score to 17-3 and the rout was on.
To watch video of the 49-yard scamper, click here.
The Seattle Times called the play a gamebreaker:
Play of the game: Three minutes into the third quarter, St. Louis led 10-3 when Sam Bradford dropped back to pass on second-and-10. The Seahawks pass rush was sucked in as the Rams set up a screen pass to Steven Jackson. Nose tackle Colin Cole sniffed out the play, but couldn't get to Jackson in time. The Rams' downfield blocking was excellent, resulting in a 49-yard gain, the longest play from scrimmage in the game.
It was also on this day, sore groin and all, that No. 39 became No. 2, as in the No. 2 leading rusher in Rams history.
With a 15-yard run in the fourth quarter, which can be seen here, Action Jackson passed Marshall Faulk for the second spot on the Rams All-Time rushing list. At 6,991 rushing yards, 32 more than Faulk, Steven now sits 254 yards behind Eric Dickerson for first on the list, a mark he should undoubtedly eclipse sometime this season.
"From Day 1, I set a tone that I wanted to leave here putting my footprint on this organization," S-Jax told the Associated Press. "It's very meaningful, but I ain't in first place."
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, though only in his second year with the franchise, understands what Steven means to the organization and what the Rams mean to Steven, so much so that he opened his press conference with a public congratulations for his running back.
"Congratulate (RB) Steven Jackson for becoming, don’t let me say this wrong, the second-leading all-time rusher – that’s special. He deserves it. He worked for it. I thought that was a great thing. I really thought what the officials did too, that’s a little thing, but I mean, I thought that was pretty classy that they kind of stopped it and made sure that he got the football for that. That’s a lot of class by Pete Morelli and his crew."
And Steven wouldn’t let the moment pass without giving credit to the guys that get themselves dirty for his benefit.
"Hat's off to my offensive line, all the guys over the years that have helped me get to this point," Steven told the Belleville News-Democrat "It is very meaningful, but two wins in a row is what I'm really proud of."
The Rams will look to make that three in a row next week as they head to Detroit to take on the Lions.
"You can see the confidence around here starting to brew," SJ39 said after Sunday’s win. We are starting to believe in what is going on, the philosophy the coach has been talking about the last two years."
Steven reported no setbacks from Sunday’s game on Monday and is expected to suit it up again in Detroit, though coach Steve Spagnuolo said the team will continue to be cautious with the injury until it fully heals.
"I hadn’t had a real chance to talk to him about the groin," Spagnuolo said after the win Sunday. "I’m sure he’ll be sore now. You have an injury and you go out and play, it’s going to be a little bit sore. But hopefully we can get him back and get him some reps in practice, but we’ll be smart about it."
Kickoff is scheduled for Noon (12 p.m.) CST and the game can be seen regionally on FOX.
After Party: Steven Jackson (Fox Sports, October 4, 2010)
Rams vs. Seahawks postgame transcripts (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 3, 2010)
Rams finally ground Seahawks (Belleville News-Democrat, October 4, 2010)
Risk taker Jackson plays through injury (Belleville News-Democrat, October 4, 2010)
Jackson a warrior in Rams’ win (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 4, 2010)
Rams end hex vs. Seattle (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 4, 2010)
Rams bury two streaks (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 4, 2010)
Seahawks’ Two-Minute Drill (Seattle Times, October 4, 2010)