Through the first three weeks of the season, there’s no better division in football than the NFC West.
The division currently sports one of the league’s last two undefeated teams — the 3-0 Arizona Cardinals — as well as two 2-1 teams in San Francisco and Seattle. At 1-2, the Rams sit at the bottom of the division, but with their first divisional test on the slate Sunday against the Seahawks, they can go a long way toward changing that.
Running back Steven Jackson believes that it starts with defense in the West and it’s the job of the offense to do enough to get their team a win.
“Our division will, I think, at the end of the season have four of the top defenses in the NFL,” Steven said. “They all are very aggressive, all of them have a lot of athletes on that side of the ball and create turnovers. We as an offense are going to face some tough defenses, not only in practice, but six games out of the year. Each and every game is probably going to come down to the fourth quarter.”
Seattle is tops among the division’s defenses through four weeks. The Seahawks have allowed just 39 points through their first three games and less than 275 yards of total offense per game. Last week the Seattle defense got to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 10 times for sacks and SJ knows the Rams must keep their quarterback Sam Bradford upright in order to have a chance to win on Sunday.
That can be accomplished by blocking well and running the ball with success to keep the defense honest.
“Seattle is built on speed and they’ve done an excellent job so far this season. They’ve established that they’re going to come after the quarterback and we have to protect Sam,” Steven said. “We have to establish the run to keep them off balance. We have to make sure we get our reads right, get a man on a man and take advantage of the creases that are going to be there.”
Steven said he’s had no setbacks this week in his recovery from a groin injury, but that soft-tissue muscles like the groin notoriously take longer to heal.
“It’s one of those things that’s nagging until they finally just go all the way away,” he said. “I just have some discomfort and things that I have to deal with throughout the game, but it’s not anything that has set me back.”
While he sat out practice this week in an effort to let his injury heal as much as possible, SJ39 has been getting plenty of what he calls “mental reps” by watching practice as well as plenty of tape on himself and the Seahawks.
“I feel pretty good. The last [few] days, I’ve been just taking it easy, making sure that we’re maximizing our time between games,” Steven said. “Physically I’m not able to get out there and run through the plays, but mentally and through film study, I’m putting just that much more time in since I’m not on the field with the guys.”
In Steven’s stead, rookie running back Daryl Richardson has produced well for the Rams in the last two weeks. Richardson has 119 total rushing yards on just 21 carries. He rushed for 83 yards when Steven missed the second half of the Week 2 win over Washington. He had four carries and a catch last week against the Bears.
“Daryl has done a good job of spelling me, a great change of pace back for me,” he said. “He’s definitely going to help us out in third down situations, coming out of the backfield and doing what his specialty is, [operating] in space. As a unit, we’re pretty solid.”
It will be another uphill battle for the running game as the Seahawks are particularly stout against the run. Through three games against the Cardinals, Cowboys and Packers, Seattle has allowed an average of just 58.7 rushing yards per game, second fewest in the NFL.
“You have to go out there knowing that your job is not going to come easy. I’m going in there thinking that more than likely I’m going to have to fight for every yard,” SJ39 said. “It’s just a matter of each and every Sunday that we execute the game plan and we know our responsibilities.”
Sunday’s kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. CDT at the Edward Jones Dome and the game can be seen on FOX.
- Rams Ready for First Round in Rugged Division (StLouisRams.com, September 28, 2012)
- RB Steven Jackson Press Conference (StLouisRams.com, September 27, 2012)
- RB Jackson Limited in Practice Again; a Game-Time Decision (Rams Gab, September 28, 2012)
- Steven Jackson a game-time decision Sunday (Ramblin’ Fan, September 28, 2012)
- What can the Rams get from Steven Jackson (ESPN.com, September 28, 2012)
- Steven Jackson misses practice (ESPN, September 27, 2012)