The St. Louis Rams have put themselves in a position to get back to the postseason, Steven Jackson's year-long goal.
But after a 27-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Rams must finish with two wins to guarantee their spot in the NFL playoffs for the first time since his rookie season of 2004. And that's not something Steven is about to let slip away.
"I thought it would be an every year thing," SJ39 told the Belleville News-Democrat. "I thought the playoffs would be something I'm accustomed to. But God willing, if we make it back this time, I won't take it for granted. I'll play each and every game, and each and every play, like I may not be back."
Steven had another strong game on Sunday, going over the 100-yard mark in all-purpose yards for the ninth time this season and the third consecutive game. He also found the end zone for the fifth time this year, a five-yard run that put the Rams down by just a touchdown with 4:04 to play. But the Chiefs answered with a quick score to put St. Louis away.
The Rams actually began the game with consecutive field goals to take a 6-0 first quarter lead. Their offense, led by Steven's 40 first quarter yards, was producing scoring drives and the defense was limiting Kansas City's possessions.
The Rams would actually reach Kansas City territory on their first three drives, but only came away with six points.
"We had an opportunity to go up with a substantial lead, and we didn't do so, and we allowed a team that does have an explosive offense to stick around,'' Jackson said. "It bit us."
The Chiefs broke through for a TD to take the lead early in the second quarter and took control. After their second field goal, St. Louis punted on each of its next eight drives. In the meantime, the Chiefs added a second touchdown before halftime and a pair of second half field goals to go up by 14.
Steven helped the Rams finish for the first time in the game with his five-yard scoring run in the fourth, but the defense subsequently allowed Jamaal Charles to run for 78 yards to the two-yard-line on the first play of Kansas City's ensuing drive. They scored the backbreaking touchdown one play later.
No. 39 finished with 67 yards on just 19 carries and five catches for 37 yards.
"He is the complete package," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. "He is a true stud. Big, strong, fast, breaks tackles and…really catches the ball well. You have to be alert for him wherever he is. He's a big, big percentage of their offense before the day's over. If you don't stop him early and you let him get going, you're going to have your work cut out for you even to hang in there."
For the season, S-Jax now ranks fourth in the NFC in rushing yards with 1,148, behind only Michael Turner, Ahmad Bradshaw and Adrian Peterson. Add in his 325 yards receiving and No. 39 ranks third among NFC running backs in total yards behind Peterson and Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy.
"Steven is so strong I refer to him as, if he was a horse, as a thoroughbred," Rams center Jason Brown told Fox Sports. "That's the only thing you can pretty much call him. He is a physical specimen. He's not built like any other running back in this league as far as the height, the strength and also the speed and explosiveness. He's still strong, and with that strength he's done a great job at maintaining his health. When other guys might be declining right now, I still feel as though he has the best years ahead of him."
The Rams now face a situation where they must beat two division rivals, San Francisco and Seattle, in consecutive weeks, to ensure a trip to the postseason.
"We put ourselves in this spot to fight (for the division title)," Steven told Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "But now we have allowed for another team to come into the race."
That team is San Francisco and the Rams welcome the 49ers to the Edward Jones Dome this Sunday with an eye on simultaneously ending San Francisco's playoff hopes while extending their own.
"This team has accomplished a lot, Steven told the Belleville News-Democrat. "We're up to the task. We have the capabilities of doing so. If we didn't, we wouldn't be in the position that we're in."
Sunday's kickoff is scheduled for Noon CST and the game can be seen regionally on FOX.
- Rams fail to measure up (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 20, 2010)
- Rams lose margin for error (Belleville News-Democrat, December 20, 2010)
- Chiefs' No. 1 priority: stop Steven Jackson (Arrowhead Pride, Dec. 19, 2010)
- Rams commit five false starts (Belleville News-Democrat, Dec. 20, 2010)
- Bradford can't do it alone (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 20, 2010)
- Rams running back in select company (FS Midwest, December 16, 2010)
- Jackson: returning to playoffs as important benchmark (BND, Dec. 17, 2010)