Steven Jackson has talked often the last few years about how the Rams as a unit needed to learn how to win close games.
The ability to close strong was something that had eluded St. Louis over the past several seasons, but after a Week 2 win over the Washington Redskins, Steven couldn’t help but beam. The Rams had finally figured it out.
The Rams did it again on Sunday, proving that they will win and lose collectively with a 19-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at the Edward Jones Dome. SJ39 spoke afterwards about how the Rams needed and received contributions from all three phases of their team in order to beat a divisional rival.
“They’re a tough opponent and it was big for us to get this win in the division and at home,” Steven said. “They’re good. Point blank, they’re good. For us to get a win in this fashion with all three parts of the team contributing, it’s huge.”
No. 39 did his part on the ground, hammering out yards against the NFC’s toughest run defense. He carried 18 times for 55 yards and caught one pass that he took for 12 more yards.
While he was fighting for every yard against Seattle’s fast and stingy front seven, S-Jax said he felt no ill effects from the groin injury he suffered two weeks ago against the Redskins. The injury limited him in practice during the week, but wasn’t going to keep him from playing in such an important game.
“I felt all week I’d be able to go,” he said. “It’s one of those things that you have to play it by ear, especially with a quick turnaround coming Thursday night. But if I had any chance of going, I was gonna try to get out there.”
No. 39 gained 54 of his 55 rushing yards in the first half as the Rams played the field position battle with Seattle. The Seahawks took an early lead on their first drive of the game, marching 80 yards in just eight plays. The drive was capped off by an 18-yard scoring run by Marshawn Lynch that gave Seattle a 7-0 lead.
St. Louis answered immediately, piecing together their own drive from the 20 into Seattle territory. After playing a very unbalanced game a week ago against the Chicago Bears, the Rams made sure to maintain their balance this week and went to Steven four times on the 10-play opening drive. Despite being stuffed the first two times for single-yard gains, he found room on the third handoff and carried them into Seahawks territory with a 23-yard dash.
The run put the Rams at the Seattle 32, well within the range of kicker Greg Zuerlein. They lost a total of 12 yards on the next two plays, but Steven gained back four on a third down draw and Zuerlein split the uprights with ease from 58 yards out to make it 7-3.
“Our kicker is the MVP of the season right now,” SJ said. “He’s doing a great job. Pretty much all we have to do is get across the 50-yard line and we’re within his range.”
After allowing the opening drive score, the St. Louis defense buckled down and refused to allow the Seahawks to reach the end zone again. The teams traded fruitless drives early in the first and into the second quarter, but the Rams finally caught a break halfway through the second.
Seattle had just crossed midfield and was looking strong as they sought to take a two-possession lead. But a 3rd & 8 pass from Russell Wilson went through the hands of Seahawks receiver Dough Baldwin and into the lap of Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson to give the Rams possession near midfield.
SJ got St. Louis across the 50 on the next play with a nine-yard run and carried three times for 21 yards on the drive. The third of those carries brought the Rams from the 10 to the Seattle three to set up second and goal from just three yards out. Following the two-minute warning, St. Louis went back to SJ39 and he galloped into the end zone untouched. But the hole he ran through was created via a holding penalty on center Robert Turner and the touchdown was called back.
The penalty appeared to have killed a touchdown chance when a two-yard pass from Sam Bradford to Danny Amendola two plays later fell incomplete, setting up fourth and goal. Coach Jeff Fisher sent out the field goal unit, but had something up his sleeve and when the ball was snapped, holder Johnny Hekker tossed to a wide-open Amendola in the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point put the Rams in front 10-7 with 1:11 left in the half.
The Rams defense forced a quick three and out after the score and a short punt gave the Rams the ball back at the Seattle 46. Two quick plays put them into field goal range and set Zuerlein up in the middle of the field, where he made his second field goal of the game — this one from 48 yards away — to give the Rams a 13-7 lead at the break.
“Collectively, in the NFL, when one part of the ball or you might have a bad game or bad half, we have to pick each other up,” Steven said. “As we continue to grow throughout this season, we’re going to continue to lean on each other. As you see, in this young season and this young team, we take care of each other. Even special teams, we’re playing phenomenal right now.”
The Seahawks tried a little trickery of their own on the second half kickoff, but it backfired. Their onside kick was recovered by the Rams and though St. Louis gained just six yards on the three plays that followed, it was enough to put Zuerlein in range. The rookie made his third kick of the game, a 60-yard field goal to put St. Louis in front 16-7.
Seattle chipped away at the lead with a field goal late in the third and another in the fourth to pull within three as the St. Louis offense struggled to make any headway. But after the Seahawks made it a three-point game, the Rams sensed the urgency of the moment and the offense went to work.
Starting at their own 20 with 13 minutes remaining in the game, the Rams drained seven minutes off the clock on a 15-play, 74-yard drive. The drive featured two big third down conversions for the Rams’ passing attack and a great catch and run for 12 yards by SJ39 that put St. Louis inside the 10 looking for the kill.
“It was huge for us to establish a long drive,” he said. “Our defense had been on the field for a while. We needed to get going in the second half and we put together a drive at the right time.”
Unfortunately, the Rams couldn’t punch it in and had to settle for a chip shot field goal from Zuerlein to make it a six-point game with six minutes to go. Attention turned to the St. Louis defense and they stopped Seattle twice in the final minutes of the game, capped by a Bradley Fletcher interception with a minute to go that sealed the deal.
“It came down to, once again, the fourth quarter and the last drive. Our defense was pretty stout all day,” Steven said. “In the NFL, it always comes down to four, five plays in a game. Right now, unlike the last few years, we’re making those four or five plays.”
Just a few weeks into the 2012 season, the Rams have gone a long way towards learning how to win and becoming a consitently competitive team. SJ39 was asked after the game where the difference in the team comes from this season and he pointed to two areas that new coach Jeff Fisher began stressing the moment he arrived in St. Louis.
“I think it’s a combination of chemistry and leadership,” Steven said. “That’s all starting to come together. We’re a very young team, very eager and [hungry] to turn things around here.”
Steven and the Rams (2-2) don’t get any time to soak in their second win of the season, because they have the quickest turnaround in the league this week.
St. Louis will be right back at it on Thursday night inside the Edward Jones Dome where they host the undefeated, NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals (4-0). Like Seattle, Arizona represents another home test for the Rams in what’s shaping up to be the toughest division in football.
“Arizona, right now they’re red-hot. They’re definitely making noise in the NFL,” SJ said. “To get a second win in the division would be huge for us. We have to continue to establish who we are, what we’re doing and that’s making home field advantage tough.”
Thursday’s kickoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. CDT and the game can be seen locally on CW 11, or nationally on the NFL Network.
- Big Plays Give Rams a Big Win (StLouisRams.com, September 30, 2012)
- Special teams carry the load for Rams in win over Seahawks (Belleville News-Democrat, October 1, 2012)
- Rams’ 19-13 win is something special (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 1, 2012)
- RB Steven Jackson Press Conference (StLouisRams.com, September 30, 2012)
- Keys to the Game Answered: Seattle (StLouisRams.com, September 30, 2012)
- Rams Report Card (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 1, 2012)
- Zuerlein Boots Way into Record Books (StLouisRams.com, September 30, 2012)
- Fisher’s steady hand at helm is difference (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 1, 2012)