Steven Jackson eclipsed 100 rushing yards for the second consecutive week, and scored for the second time this season on Sunday.
But his biggest accomplishment in St. Louis' 20-17 win over the San Diego Chargers was helping the Rams finish.
Steven charging his way through the San Diego defense (courtesy St. Louis Post Dispatch).
Following a San Diego touchdown, St. Louis got the ball back clinging to a three-point lead with over three minutes left in the game and they needed a leader to put the game on ice. Luckily, they had No. 39 to turn to.
"At that particular point in the game, I asked him to go in there and tell the huddle that we needed them right now because the defense was tired,'' Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told the Belleville News-Democrat. "We needed to find a way to get a couple of first downs at minimum. He agreed. I'm not sure what he said in the huddle, but we got a first down. It worked.''
Steven put the finishing touches on the game with five straight runs. After stopping S-Jax on runs of just one and three, the Chargers called a timeout with St. Louis facing a huge third and 6 with 2:24 to go. But after the timeout, SJ battered through the San Diego defense for nine yards and a first down to bring the game to the two-minute warning.
The play led to this exchange between Will of Rams Herd and another fan at the game:
"He's just the man, isn't he?" This said, with a disbelieving shake of the head, by the elder fan on my left, headphones and binoculars in hand. Steven Jackson had just blown through the hole for a 9-yard gain on third and 5, preserving the ball and the three-point lead. It was the third and perhaps least probable of five consecutive carries that led the Rams from nail-biting to the victory formation.
SJ39 said he just knew it was his turn to step up.
"Our defense was gassed, it was no secret,'' Jackson told the News-Democrat. "They'd been fighting for us, and they'd held San Diego. It was going to come down to who had the ball last. We knew we had to get a first down, and we had to get it in a convincing manner to take their will away from them. We did that. Coach challenged me, and I challenged the offensive line, and everyone responded.''
San Diego called its second timeout after a three-yard run by Steven, but on second down, No. 39 picked up a 12-yard run off right tackle for another first down and three kneel downs later, the Rams were victorious.
"To be an elite running back, you have to be able to do that," SJ39 told Rams.com. "I can't take credit for that. I think the offensive line did a great job of just answering to the call. They knew and we knew that it was going to be a three-minute, scratch and claw kind of situation. We had to stay in bounds and we had to get a first down or two. And for everyone to answer, that's just hats off to the offensive line."
ALWAYS BE CLOSING
Steven has talked for weeks now about how much better the Rams could be if they finished games.
They've had opportunities to win in two of their three losses but failed to finish. Spagnuolo was glad that he could give the ball to S-Jax to conclude Sunday's win.
"I think every coach in the league would say they'd like to have No. 39 at the end of a game like that to finish it out,'' Spagnuolo said. "I think he just willed himself and the O-line to get those first downs, and that's what Steven is all about.''
While Steven deferred credit to the offensive line for a job well done, one of those five men on the line gave S-Jax his due for the motivation he provided the unit with.
"I told 'Jack' after the game that he has unbelievable ability, but even greater willpower and effort," offensive guard Jacob Bell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "To see the way he strives to compete and to win — it fuels us. It fuels the line. It fuels the offense. I mean, I was beyond impressed with him today."
Steven also let it be known that his coach may have seen this coming out of his team, as Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat recounts:
Rams running back Steven Jackson said Spagnuolo also showed a clip from Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns fight, an electrifying eight-minute bout that become known as "The War,'' as a motivational tool Saturday night.
"He talked about how this was going to be a heavyweight fight, how guys were going to come out and just swing,'' Jackson said. "We had a feeling that this game was going to come down to a last-minute, fourth-quarter kind of drive, and the four-minute offense was going to have to take over. It was kind of prophetic. Everything happened actually as he said, and as an offensive unit, we took pride in finishing things up.''
Yards haven't been too hard to come by for Steven Jackson this season as he's piled up 507 yards rushing (4th in the NFL) and an extra 130 yards receiving.
Touchdowns have been another story, but Steven reached the end zone for the second time this season on Sunday with a seven-yard burst up the gut of the defense for six.
The Rams drove down the field with 23 yards from Steven to help get into the red zone, but once in the scoring range, the Rams went to the passing game.
After the win, SJ39 celebrated with the fans (courtesy St. Louis Post Dispatch).
But after three straight sacks sandwiched around a roughing the passer penalty the Rams went to their bulldozer. Steven got a head of steam in the backfield and sprinted through a hole in the offensive line, breaking some arm tackles near the goal line before diving across for the score. The score gave the Rams a 17-0 lead in the second quarter.
To watch the run, Steven's 50th career touchdown, click here.
On the same day Steven reached the end zone for a landmark 50th time, a teammate scored his first career touchdown.
Earlier in the game, receiver Danario Alexander, who was recently summoned from the practice squad to replace Mark Clayton, caught a 38-yard pass from Sam Bradford to give St. Louis a 10-0 lead. Alexander finished with four catches for 72 yards and his play, in his first NFL game, impressed S-Jax a bit, as he told the Belleville News-Democrat:
"For him being a young guy and having the success he had right away in the first quarter, it allowed him to have the confidence that he needed,'' Rams running back Steven Jackson said. "That's one of the things you doubt. Can I play at this level after I've had these injuries? I think for him to have success right away really did a lot for his confidence."
No. 39 hopes that a win that sent the team to 3-3 on the season and keeps them in the thick of the NFC West race builds everyone's confidence.
"As we continue the journey and try to win our own division, I think that we can look back at this one and go back to it as a bookmark," Steven said. "Saying we went up 17-0, they came rolling back, and we had the character and the will to fight 'em off. I think this game here is going to do a lot for us later on in the season."
Steven's 109 rushing yards on Sunday put him just 31 yards behind Eric Dickerson for the top mark all time among Rams rushers.
That means Steven will likely eclipse the mark next Sunday in Tampa. No. 39 said all-week that he wanted to become No. 1 at home, but that was never the most important thing.
"I would love to have broken the record at home, but more importantly I wanted to get a win,'' Jackson said. " I think with the fashion we got the win, the fans still got a great show even though we didn't get the record."
S-Jax told Fox Sports last week that Dickerson has always been a man he admired and to pass him will be a true honor, as Nate Lasch wrote:
"Early in my career when (Dickerson) would come down in St. Louis, I spent some time with him," Jackson said. "I've actually had a chance to visit him at home around 2005. It's been a while since I've seen him. He's always been nice to me. He's always been someone that if I needed to get in contact with, he's always been available for me to talk to."
Jackson said he was a fan of the Hall of Fame running back.
"I've always been a fan – I'm a little biased – towards big running backs," Jackson said. "His speed, his awareness on the field, his vision. I think he embodies everything that I would like to be."
SB Nation St. Louis reports that the last time SJ39 went for fewer than 32 yards in a game was in 2008.
While Steven tries to break the record, more importantly, he'll be trying to lead the Rams to holding a winning record for the first time since November 4, 2006.
"To be 3-3 after six games, I think everyone is starting to take us seriously," Steven told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "And going into Tampa next week, they're not going to look at this game and feel like the same old Rams are showing up."
The Rams are now 3-1 at home and 0-2 on the road, so No. 39 is aware of what the next obstacle is:
"To be an elite team, and to get ourselves in position to be in the playoffs, we have to learn how to win on the road," Jackson said. "And I think that's our next challenge."
The Rams and the Buccaneers kick off from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay on Sunday at Noon CST. The game can be seen regionally on FOX.
Alexander is quick to make an impact (Belleville News-Democrat, October 18, 2010)
Rams provide answers with win (StLouisRams.com, October 17, 2010)
Jackson, line, answer call vs. Chargers (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 18, 2010)
Rams find redemption at home (Rams Herd, October 18, 2010)
Rams rebound with a vengeance (Belleville News-Democrat, October 18, 2010)
Rams notes: Jackson closes in on record (Fox Sports, October 15, 2010)
Jackson carries load late for Rams (Belleville News-Democrat, October 18, 2010)
Rams answer the charge (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 18, 2010)