Leading into Sunday's game with the Denver Broncos, Steven Jackson slept in an altitude tent to get himself acclimated to the atmosphere in Denver.
On Sunday night, Steven slept soundly while getting used to a different kind of high altitude, the elevation of first place in the NFC West.
S-Jax battling for yards during Sunday's win (courtesy St. Louis Post Dispatch).
No. 39 ground it out against a stiff Broncos rush defense, carrying 29 times for 72 yards in the Rams' 36-33 win over Denver on Sunday evening, a win that catapulted the Rams back into a first place tie with the Seattle Seahawks. Given their Week 3 win over Seattle, the Rams now hold a one-game edge in the division.
The Broncos packed the box against S-Jax all day, many times sending nine men to combat the run, so rookie quarterback Sam Bradford took advantage and put on a show, his first 300-yard passing game as a Ram.
"It seemed like all day the box was loaded. They were trying to take 'Jack' away," Bradford said. But when they do that, they gave a lot of one-on-one matchups outside, and the wide receivers did a great job creating space and getting open."
Steven was proud of the work his team did to get the win.
"I'm very impressed, not only with the play of Sam, which has been phenomenal, but our young guys, our young receivers," Jackson said. "Some guys have stepped up in a major way and it has allowed (Sam) to have weapons down the field. So we can show teams that we have a threat — we can stretch the field a little bit."
After the game, the Belleville News-Democrat reported that Steven gave the game ball to new Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who also happens to own three Denver based sports franchises. But as they make a push at a playoff berth, S-Jax and the Rams are quickly becoming Kroenke's pride and joy.
While the Broncos were able to slow Steven for much of the game by sending nine defenders to outman the Rams offensive line, SJ39 did hit beast mode on the second drive of the third quarter.
After Na'il Diggs recovered a Knowshon Moreno fumble to give the Rams possession at the Denver 30, Steven battered the Denver defense for a 20-yard run off right tackle on first down. After making a tackler miss, No. 39 took off down the sideline before being forced out of bounds. But that run alone put the Rams in the red zone.
S-Jax would add runs of four and six, bringing St. Louis to the goal line, where Kenneth Darby finished the drive with a one-yard scoring run to put the Rams up 33-13, a lead that would be too large for Denver to overcome.
Steven remains a focal point for the Rams offense both running and catching the ball, but that's not all he does when he's on the field.
Not only is Steven as good a decoy as there is in the NFL on the play action, but as Van Ram of Turf Show Times writes, he's developed into one of the league's best pass blockers.
The highlight reels aren't exactly filled with running backs in pass blocking, at least not specifically. You can see a nice example of Jackson's blocking work on the Hoomanawanui TD pass. And again on the 2-yard TD pass to Bajema. Those really aren't even the best examples of SJ39's work in keeping Bradford on his feet. On the Uh Oh touchdown, you can't tell from the highlight clip who exactly Jackson blocks. Denver was a in 3-4 and it looks like an OLB. Whoever it was, Jackson keeps him from coming around while Bradford waits for the play to develop and hit his TE on the screen.
Screens have been a big play for the Rams this season, and those don't happen without good blocking the backfield.
The running game may be a little circumspect for the Rams this year for several reasons, not the least of which is run blocking. Nevertheless, Jackson's mere presence on the field forces defenses to account for him at the expense of covering other players. That's made for lots more success on play action passes, misdirection, etc. Still, without his pass blocking acumen, much of that would be impossible.
It wasn't all that long ago that Jackson was criticized for his pass blocking. That he's since made it into a strength speaks volumes of what kind of player Jackson has become with experience, a player who leads by example, quietly excelling in everything he's asked to do. And that's a big reason for the Rams turnaround this year."
To watch a few of the plays Van Ram references click here and here and next time Sam Bradford drops back to pass, keep an eye on SJ39. He may not always be making the play, but No. 39 is always making a play to help his team succeed.
Much was made this week about Steven sleeping in his altitude tent to become accustomed to the Mile-High altitude in Denver before the Rams made the trip.
But according to Steven, it's not a new thing for him, in fact he's been using the tent since training camp much like a hyperbaric chamber, as he told the Belleville News-Democrat:
"I've actually been using it since training camp,'' Jackson said of the tent, which simulates high altitude by maintaining a lower oxygen concentration. "It's to help, one, get accustomed to what we are going to face this weekend in Denver, having thin air. Two, it helps the body recoup a little faster with the blood cells, muscles that tear in the game, just the abuse your body goes through. It helps the healing process speed up a little. I've enjoyed it. I've used it all season.''
Steven said he prefers the tent to the chamber because he didn't like the idea of being enclosed in the chamber, instead he keeps the tent in a spare bedroom where he often sleeps during the season.
"It's not in my actual master bedroom. It's down in my basement, and it goes over the bed. Depending on how I feel, I'll spend the night in it. I'll get a good night's rest in it."
The Rams will look to reach .500 and improve their divisional record next Sunday as they head to Phoenix to take on the Arizona Cardinals.
In St. Louis' season opening loss to the Cardinals, Steven totaled 87 yards on 26 touches.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:15 CST and the game can be seen regionally on FOX.
- Rams grow by winning shootout (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 29, 2010)
- Rams took us on a wild ride this trip (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 29, 2010)
- Rams overcome mental roadblock (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 29, 2010)
- Steven Jackson comes alive in third quarter (SB Nation, Nov. 28, 2010)
- A quick assist to Jackson's pass blocking (Turf Show Times, Nov. 29, 2010)
- Jackson's confidence is a mile high (Belleville News-Democrat, Nov 25, 2010)
- Steven Jackson, Rams finally thinking playoffs (USA Today, Nov. 26, 2010)