Gutsy performances are becoming commonplace in the career of St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson.
But there's something extra special about a player who can do all that Steven did on Sunday with only one fully functional hand.
Steven accumulated 148 all-purpose yards against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. No. 39 carried 20 times for 81 yards and tied for the team lead in catches with eight for 67 yards. His third quarter rushing touchdown, a 13-yard scamper, put the Rams ahead 17-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
But the San Francisco 49ers reeled off 10 consecutive points to take a 20-17 lead. After a one-handed catch by Steven with 42 seconds left put the Rams at the San Francisco 18, St. Louis kicker Josh Brown forced overtime with a 33-yard boot as time expired.
But the Rams went three and out in overtime and San Francisco drove down the field, capped by a 29-yard Joe Nedney field goal to win, 23-20. It was yet another in a series of heartbreaking losses for St. Louis this season. Of the Rams' five losses this year, three have come after St. Louis held a fourth quarter lead and two have come on their opponent's final possession.
But Steven stood up after the game and rallied the troops, encouraging his teammates to keep fighting and believing in one another.
"Stick together. Everyone stick together," Jackson said. "Everyone trust in what we're trying to get done, what we're trying to establish here. We have seven games to go. Although this is a tough one to swallow … we're still in the middle of things."
Steven's determined performance on Sunday earned him his due and The Dew, from SI.com's Will Carroll:
I have to give this week's honor to Steven Jackson, a guy who's turning into this generation's Barry Sanders. He's an incredible physical talent, works well within the various offenses he's been given, and has done it despite a series of injuries. He's pretty opposite to Sanders in that he'd rather initiate contact than juke around it, but even in a low-scoring offense that's been built to protect Sam Bradford and has lost more of the receiving talent they expected to have.
Every week, the Rams know what they're going to get and each year — even when injured and missing some games — Jackson's put up 1,000 yards of rushing every year — save his rookie season. He's getting to the stage in his career where some decline can be expected, but not this year and maybe not for the next couple. I'll take that and pending the QB situation in Minnesota, we have to at least talk about Jackson as being one of the top four RBs for 2011.
MAN ON FIRE
In the first half on Sunday, Steven touched the ball just 12 times for 40 total yards, 20 of which came on a game-opening field goal drive.
But with the ball in his hands in the second half, Steven put on a show.
No. 39 piled up 24 yards on three runs and a catch on the Rams' opening drive of the half, but penalties compromised the drive, forcing a punt. San Francisco went three and out on their subsequent drive and punted back to the Rams with the score tied at 10 halfway through the third quarter.
After a Sam Bradford scramble on first down picked up six yards, Bradford handed off to Steven looking to pick up the other four yards and move the chains. But Steven had a better idea. No. 39 took the hand off and sniffed out a gaping hole in the left side of the line. S-Jax sprinted through it and across midfield before finally being wrestled down at the 27, but not before dishing out a lick to 49ers safety Reggie Smith, who saved a touchdown but paid the price.
No matter, after a screen pass from Bradford to SJ39 went for 10 yards and another first down, Steven ended the drive in style with a 13-yard scoring run. Steven had to break the tackle of an oncoming blitzer to get there, but after hop-stepping out of his grasp, No. 39 followed his blocks, turned the corner around right end and burst into the end zone for his second touchdown of the season to make it 17-10.
To watch Steven's scoring run, click here.
On that scoring drive, No. 39 accounted for 49 yards on just three plays and on the first two drives of the second half, he averaged more than 10 yards per touch. Over St. Louis' next four drives, however, No. 39 would only touch the ball four times and the Rams punted each away on each possession.
San Francisco took advantage of the stalled St. Louis offense to take the lead, but with the game on the line and the Rams needing a comeback, there was Steven when his young quarterback needed him. On that fourth quarter drive, Steven made his biggest grab of the season, a circus catch along the right sideline for a 25-yard gain to the 18, giving the Rams a chance to win.
Breaking Eric Dickerson's Rams rushing record meant the world to Steven because of his admiration for Dickerson as a person and player.
So Steven would be pleased to know that admiration goes both ways, as Dickerson recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"I'm really happy for Steven," Dickerson said. "Steven's a great player. He's been the backbone of the Rams' offense through some really lean years. He's a class guy. I think he's a guy that his teammates can look up to, the younger guys can look up to.
"He's a workhorse back. There's very few guys like a Steven Jackson. There's probably maybe three or four guys like that. A guy that you can hand the ball off to 25, 35 times if you have to and he can still carry the ball and come back and play the next week. That's a tribute to him and his work ethic as a football player."
Dickerson was extra-pleased that the man to bust his record was a big back like himself.
"It means something to me also when a big back does it," Dickerson said. "All of us big guys, tall guys, they always give us this stigma that we couldn't play running back. And I'm sure Steven heard it also. You shouldn't play running back, you're too tall. You should try to play tight end or something like that. I don't want to be no tight end; I want to be a running back."
But most of all, Dickerson is just happy that the player who took his place at the top of the Rams record book is someone he considers a friend.
"I'm very flattered that he's a friend of mine," Dickerson said. "And I was honored that he wanted to wear those ugly goggles."
The Rams return to the comforts of the Edward Jones Dome this week, where they are 4-1 this season, tied for the second best home record in the NFC.
Since dropping their home opener, the Rams have won four straight at The Dome, but they'll face a stiff test to hold up that mark when the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons (7-2) come to town on Sunday.
In his last game against Atlanta, on December 28, 2008, No. 39 broke 200 total yards as he rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns and also caught four passes for 54 yards in a 31-27 Falcons win.
Sunday's kickoff is scheduled for 3:05 CST and the game can be seen regionally on FOX.
- Garrard, Thomas join Kitna in Fast Forward (SI.com, Nov. 14, 2010)
- Rams lose in overtime (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 15, 2010)
- Latest Rams failure was pretty basic (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 15, 2010)
- Monday Morning Backup QB (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 15, 2010)
- Dickerson: Steven Jackson owes him (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 10, 2010)