For the first time in nearly six years, Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams boast a winning record.
St. Louis made the best of a short week on Thursday night and came out slugging against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals. Thanks to a mighty defense and persistent offense, the Rams defeated the Cardinals 17-3 at the Edward Jones Dome.
The victory moved St. Louis 3-2 for the season, the first time the team has laid claim to a over .500 record since November 5, 2006.
“It feels good. I mean, within four days we’ve beaten two divisional teams that are very good,” Steven said. “We’re going to have a very tough division and for us to defend our home turf and be 3-0 at home is huge. This team is fighting and it feels good.”
SJ did his part by fighting hard for yardage all night. Arizona came into the game as one of the league’s better rush defenses, allowing just a shade over 100 yards a game. They’d faced three of the leagues premier runners in Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush and none of them had topped 100 individually.
They kept Steven from the plateau as well, but he did average 4.2 yards per carry, by picking up 76 yards on 18 runs. Backup running back Daryl Richardson added 35 yards on nine carries and the Rams had a balanced attack. This allowed them to get opening in the receiving game and Sam Bradford capitalized.
The Rams struck first in the game on their opening drive, a five-play, 69-yard jaunt that culminated in a seven-yard touchdown pass from Bradford to Lance Kendricks. Arizona answered with a field goal on their first, but that’s all the Rams defense would allow them for the night.
After Arizona picked up 63 yards on its first drive, the swarming Rams defense limited them to just 219 yards for the rest of the game. They sacked Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb nine times and forced seven punts.
The teams traded punts for most of the rest of the first half. But the Rams won the field position battle and despite picking up just one first down on their second drive of the second quarter — a 12-yard run by SJ39 — St. Louis was able to add points to the board when kicker Greg Zuerlein booted a field goal from 53 yards out with 10:45 left in the half to make it 10-3 Rams.
At halftime, SJ39 had just five carries for 19 yards. But the Rams rode him in the second half and he didn’t disappoint. The teams traded three and outs to start the half and after the Rams defense forced a second one, the offense got the ball back with great field position at their own 43. From there, Steven went to work.
His first carry of the drive — a seven-yard run — pushed the Rams to midfield. He followed with three more consecutive runs of five, 11 and five, as St. Louis burned time off the clock and advanced the ball deep into Arizona territory. Richardson gave SJ a breather on the next play and gained four to bring up third and one. No. 39 trotted back out and everyone knew what was coming. Still, with their defense stacked to stop him, Steven gained five to pick up the first down.
The drive ended when Bradford was intercepted in the end zone by Patrick Peterson, but with the help of 33 yards from SJ on the drive, the Rams had at least flipped the field on Arizona. The Cardinals mounted a long ensuing drive to cross into Rams territory, but the field was too long and the Arizona offense eventually stalled, thanks to more great work from the St. Louis defense.
The Cardinals punted from the Rams’ 42 and St. Louis took over at their own 11. It was from there that the Rams mounted their best drive of the game, one that carried them into the fourth quarter and put the game out of reach.
The drive started with Richardson in and the rookie picked up 18 yards on four carries. Steven returned for the seventh play of the drive and immediately reeled off a 12-yard run for first down that got the Rams to midfield. He followed with runs of eight and one, setting up a third down pass for the first down. But the Rams were assessed a penalty on the pass, backing them up to their own 49 for 3rd & 11.
Facing the prospect of punting, Bradford made the play of the night when he threw deep to Chris Givens, who had beaten his man down the left sideline. Givens hauled in the pass at the seven and glided into the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point gave the Rams a 17-3 with 11:49 remaining in the game and the defense held the fort the rest of the way.
“That was a very tough team,” Steven said. “They were in it to the very end. For us to continue to fight and four our defense, they were just incredible, especially our defensive line. We just have to keep it rolling.”
The victory moved the Rams to 3-0 at home and 2-0 in the NFC West. The last time the Rams started 2-0 in the West was 2004 and the last time they won their first two home games was 2003, when they went undefeated at home for the year.
“We’re going to take great pride in that. We want to be a very tough home team and we want to win our division. For us to be able to win these last two games is huge,” SJ said. “We’re building something here and it feels good to be a part of. We have to continue though. It’s only five games into the season. We’re doing a very good job, but we have to continue to grow and get better each game.”
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Prior to Thursday night’s game, it was reported that Steven and the Rams renegotiated his contract before the 2012 season began and he will have the opportunity to become a free agent at the end of the year if he so desires.
SJ reiterated after Thursday’s win that his goal has always been to remain a Ram for life and said he and the team will address his future when the time comes in the offseason. But right now he’s focused on being a part of a special 2012 Rams team.
“I’ve said that from the beginning that, even in 2004, I wanted to retire here. This organization gave me the opportunity to live out a dream. In 2008 they extended me and at the end of the season we’ll see what happens with me. But something is happening here and I want to be a part of it.”
Coach Jeff Fisher let it be known that Steven remains a major part of the Rams and he hopes No. 39 will get to see out the end of his career in St. Louis.
“We want to have Jack back. We want him to be part of our future,” Fisher said. “But it hasn’t affected anything. Jack is one of the major faces of this franchise. We’d like to give him the opportunity to finish his career here.”
Thanks to their shortened week, the Rams get a long break before their next game, which comes next Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
Though they’ll be entering a game with a winning record for the first time in the last five seasons, SJ39 said the team must remain focused if they hope to win their first road game of 2012 in Miami.
“It’s big for us, but it doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to continue to build off this,” he said. “We have a nice little break coming ahead of us, but we’ve got to face another tough team on the road and we have to learn how to win on the road.”
Kickoff in Miami next Sunday is scheduled for Noon CDT and the game can be seen on FOX.
- Dominant Defense Leads Rams Over Cardinals (StLouisRams.com, October 4, 2012)
- Rams take down unbeaten Arizona (Belleville News-Democrat, October 5, 2012)
- Rapid Reaction: Rams 17, Cardinals 3 (ESPN, October 4, 2012)
- Rams Making Most of Homefield Advantage (StLouisRams.com, October 5, 2012)
- Rams win 17-3 slugfest over Arizona (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 5, 2012)
- Hekker Getting His Kicks (StLouisRams.com, October 5, 2012)
- Rams, Jackson rework contract (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 5, 2012)
- Rams Report Card: All A’s on defense (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 5, 2012)
- Amendola Suffers Shoulder Injury (StLouisRams.com, October 4, 2012)