On Monday morning as his Rams took in one last breath of victory before looking ahead to one of their biggest games of the year this Sunday, coach Jeff Fisher made a statement that should resound with the rest of the teams on St. Louis’ slate this season: Steven Jackson is coming.
“I think what we saw out of ‘Jack’ [Sunday] is what we’re going to see the rest of the year,” Fisher said. “It was a pretty impressive effort yesterday. It was fun to watch from the sideline.”
The Rams leaned heavily on Steven in Sunday’s 31-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals and he pounded the Cards for 139 yards on just 23 carries. It was a clear statement written in bold font, italicized and underlined and one that made SJ39 fans all around the country smile and nod. This isn’t “vintage” Steven Jackson; this is the same dominant Steven Jackson we’ve known all along.
His powerful rushes forced Arizona to adjust defensively, opening up the play action for St. Louis. That cause and effect wasn’t lost on quarterback Sam Bradford who recognizes the all-around impact Steven has on achieving victories
“We feel like we are at our best when we are able to run the football. I think in the games where we have been able to move the ball, we have run the ball well. I thought we did that.”
It isn’t just opposing defenses that are tiring of facing SJ39 on the field. Writer Nick Wagoner of StLouisRams.com lamented after Sunday’s game that he’s running out of ways to describe exactly how good Steven has been.
“Writing about him for almost nine full seasons, I’m sure I’ve used every superlative in the book to describe him but what a performance he put on Sunday against a very good Cardinals defense.”
As the season grows long, Steven has once again become the primary focus of the Rams offense and let his sheer brilliance as an NFL running back show the wisdom in handing him the ball. But S-Jax is just happy to have greater opportunity to shine.
“We are really now grinding the games,” he said. “Coach is keeping a balanced call of run/pass and getting me the ball and leaning on me now and it feels really good.”
In the past three games, Steven has rushed for a combined 321 yards. Only two other NFL backs have gained more yards on the ground during that span. But getting better with time is not a new phenomenon for SJ39. Wagoner wrote recently about Steven’s ageless ability and tendency to somehow improve over time.
“Long known as the type of back who gets better as games go on, Jackson also seems to get better as the calendar turns into the winter months. In 2011, Jackson had a three-game stretch starting on Oct. 30 in which he compiled 417 rushing yards. In 2009, Jackson had a quartet of games in which he took games over as he posted 530 yards in those four matchups. With the vaunted San Francisco defense coming that he rattled off 101 yards against three weeks ago coming to town this weekend, Jackson just seems to be getting warmed up.”
Wagoner was right; Steven is only getting warmed up and the San Francisco defense knows it. But there are countless moments in a game when Steven seems to will his team forward with his own individual strength, to carry them to a critical first down. In Sunday’s game, Steven was able to run crucial time off the clock throughout the second half, closing out the win. He said afterward that the youth and competitive nature in the Rams locker room has invigorated him.
“Something about competitive spirit, these young guys have definitely tapped in on something on me that makes me want to go out there and play with the energy and excitement that they have,” he said. “It feels good to go out there with some young guys that are very talented.”
Steven has made it clear time and again that the only thing that matters to him is bringing a winning team to St. Louis. So while he shared the load in the backfield with rookie Daryl Richardson early in the season, Steven embraced the challenge, staying true to his character and quietly doing his business while also helping the young players like Richardson grow. As a veteran, he tries to inject his own positive energy into a Rams team that has a lot left to show this season despite their record.
“I try to will [my team]. I try to be that emotional leader,” he said. “I try my best just to make sure that the energy is up for us as a team overall. Any time I get the ball now, I try to make the most of it.”
As Steven continues to shoulder the leadership mantle and drive the bulk of the offense, he’s also making history on the path to NFL all-time greatness. With five games remaining this season, SJ39 is just 276 yards from recording his eighth straight 1,000-yard season. Words like “consistency” and “dominance” don’t do this story justice. Rams’ legend Eric Dickerson’s career boasted seven straight 1,000 yard years, but Steven is eyeing the land of eight….and beyond. As Mike Revell of the Mirror writes, Steven is fighting a battle with Father Time…and winning.
“Every now and then someone comes along and breaks the rule. If Father Time paid Steven Jackson a visit in his ninth season, the bruising back must have trucked right through him…. He doesn’t just run like every play could be his last – he runs like every second, every snap, every carry and catch means more to him than it does to anyone else on the field.”
When Steven reaches the 1,000-yard mark for the eighth-straight time, he will be one of only six running backs in the long history of the league that can make that claim. But even before SJax enters the exclusive eight-straight club, he will enter another legendary realm of running backs. Right now Steven is only 183 yards shy of the 10,000-yard mark.
When he crosses that line, SJ39 will become just the 27th running back in NFL history to reach that plateau. In the process he will pass both Clinton Portis and Ricky Williams on the all-time list.
An editorial on Turf Show Times from DCRamsFan lauded the history SJax is making, and urged his fellow Rams fans to truly appreciate what Steven is accomplishing.
“‘Impressive’ is probably not a strong enough word when you think about where Steven ranks, and most likely will rank, when this season comes to its conclusion.” The blogger continued, “Every time you see #39 eclipse the 55-yard rushing mark in 2012, you’re watching history-in-the-making. I doubt many Rams fans thought we’d find a viable replacement for Marshall Faulk. It’s hard to view the departure of Steven Jackson any differently. For shoes that seemed large for Jackson to fill, it appears that they can indeed get larger for future RB’s in St. Louis. For now, let’s focus on this great man, this exceptional leader, and his outstanding achievements.”
Steven’s tenacity, toughness, and legendary work ethic have propelled him to unbelievable heights as an NFL running back. But what has made him a prime example for young athletes everywhere is his ability to maintain perspective through success and failure.
“The one thing in the NFL, you have to remain even keel,” Steven said. “When you’re high, you can’t get too high off them. And on the lows, you can’t get too down on yourself. You have to remain steadfast, you have to remain consistent and be someone that can remain dependable. And I think these young men are learning that right now.”
A consummate professional, Steven’s consistency and physicality is rivaled only by his leadership and passion. SJ39 has made it clear the numbers don’t matter—whether it is age or individual yards. He would prefer to let his on-field performance speak for itself, and remains focused on the team goals.
“I’ve learned over the years that football is the ultimate team sport. The more selfless you are, the more the other guys are able to buy into the program and that’s my whole deal. At this point in my career, I just want to win. I want to be part of a winning program. Through my veteran leadership, I try to give maximum ability each and every play, maximum effort, and take advantage of the opportunities given to me. If they see me do that, I think everyone else will do the same.”
With their win on Sunday, the Rams improved to 4-6-1, but the impressive part is the dominance the young team has had in their division. After their second win over the Cardinals this season, the Rams moved to 3-0-1 against NFC West opponents, guaranteeing a winning divisional record for the 2012 season. It is the first time since 2004 the Rams have had a winning record in their division and they can improve it even more on Sunday when they host San Francisco.
Sunday’s kickoff is scheduled for Noon CST and the game can be seen on FOX.
- Rams Continue Division Dominance (StLouisRams.com, November 26 2012)
- Steven Jackson Postgame Video (StLouisRams.com, November 25 2012)
- Rams Find Familiar Formula for Much-Needed Win (StLouisRams.com, November 25 2012)
- Jackson Revs Up Run Game (StLouisRams.com, November 26 2012)
- Rams Appreciate Get-Well Cards (St Louis Post Dispatch, November 26 2012)
- Jackson Puts on Big Boy Pads (St Louis Post Dispatch, November 26 2012)
- Relentless Steven Jackson spearpoint dominant St. Louis performance (The Mirror, November 26, 2012)
- Rams Coaches Deserve Credit for Adjusting (St Louis Post-Dispatch, November 26 2012)
- Steven Jackson: The Quest for Eight Straight (Turf Show Times, November 26 2012)