Steven Jackson set out on Sunday afternoon to provide his team with an early boost that could create some momentum.

With one power move on the first drive of the game, SJ39 did just that.

Steven finished off an 83-yard opening drive for the Atlanta Falcons with a punishing three-yard touchdown run as he bowled over Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson. It was the first of two touchdown runs for SJ39 as he helped the Falcons win their fourth game of the year, 27-26 over the Washington Redskins.

Steven and his teammates celebrate his first of two touchdowns in a 27-26 win over Washington (Getty Images).

No. 39 finished with 43 total yards on 15 carries and four catches and the Falcons offense managed just 243 yards total. But Atlanta was boosted by the efforts of a defense and special teams that combined to create a season-high seven turnovers. After the game SJ credited those men with helping to deliver a victory.

“Our defense did a really good job of getting the ball out, and the game was all over the place,” Steven said. “These are the wins you have to pull off and I’m very proud of my teammates. Guys were stepping up, guys created turnovers; we’ve talked about it all year long and the defense did that today.”

The defense carried the day for Atlanta, but it was the offense that got things started for Atlanta. After an opening kickoff game that set the Falcons up with possession at their own 17-yard-line, the offense set out on a methodical 14-play drive that took nearly seven minutes off the first quarter clock.

Matt Ryan connected with five different receivers over the course of that drive and Steven carried five times for a total of 16 yards. The last of those yards were as hard earned as they come.

After a pass from Ryan to Gonzalez put the Falcons 1st and goal at the 3, the Falcons set up in a single back look and Ryan handed off to Steven running to the right. SJ quickly reached the goal line, where he was met by Wilson. Rather than bounce off the contact, SJ embraced it, lowering his upper body and delivering a vicious blow that knocked the Redskins cornerback off his feet tumbling backwards while Steven continued on into the end zone for six.

The hit elicited a howl from Fox Sports color commentator Heath Evans, a former fullback, and a roar from the Atlanta crowd. After the game, Steven talked about what a runner does when he is preparing for contact at the goal line.

“In goal line situations, it’s a tight box. Guys are going to fill fast and definitely guys want to get me stopped before I get started, so I knew it was a possibility that I would be one-on-one with that guy,” Steven said. “You know you’re going to have someone that’s going to be in the hole, and I was able to square him off, get underneath him, and try to deliver a blow and set a tempo for the game.”

In addition, Steven set off a frenzy on Twitter as fans reacted to his touchdown thump.

Steven enters the end zone after knocking Josh Wilson off his feet at the goal line (Getty Images).The Falcons’ defense played strong on the next possession and when Osi Umenyiora sacked Redskins’ quarterback Kirk Cousins, the quarterback fumbled and Atlanta recovered the loose ball — the first of the seven turnovers forced by the ATL D. Atlanta took over with great field position and capitalized when Matt Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for a 13-yard touchdown to put Atlanta in front 14-0 just over 11 minutes into the game.

Washington was able to answer with a touchdown to cut that lead in half before the end of the first and then stopped the next Atlanta drive, but the ensuing punt was muffed by Santana Moss and recovered by Robert McClain of the Falcons at the Redskins 14 yard line.

SJ39 had one of his best runs of the game on the next play, taking a delayed handoff up the middle for 11 yards while breaking three tackles to reach the 3-yard-line where it took five Washington defenders to bring him down. Steven nearly got into the end zone on the next play but was brought down just before he could reach across the goal line. He was stopped again on 2nd & goal from the 1 and after a third down pass to Levine Toilolo fell incomplete, Atlanta settled for a field goal to make it 17-7.

It took five Redskins tacklers to keep Steven from the end zone in the second quarter (Getty Images).

The game got ugly from there as the teams exchanged fumbles on three of the next four plays. Cousins hit a deep pass to Aldrick Robinson for 62 yards on the first play after the field goal, but Washington running back fumbled the ball on the next play and it was recovered by Malliciah Goodman for Atlanta.

On the first play for the Falcons offense, Ryan was sacked and fumbled, and Brian Orakpo recovered at the Atlanta 27. But on the very next play, Santana Moss fumbled after a 17-yard pass from Cousins and William Moore recovered the ball for the Falcons at their own 9.

“The game was all over the place,” Steven said afterward. “Not a good display of ball security.”

Atlanta went three-and-out after the series of fumbles was completed and punted to Washington with eight minutes left in the half. It was then that the Redskins began to build some momentum and they reeled off 13 unanswered points in the final eight minutes of the half to take a 20-17 lead in at halftime.

The Falcons defense forced a quick three-and-out at the outset of the second half and the offense found a rhythm on the ensuing drive. Ryan once again spread the ball around well, hitting five different receivers over the course of a 12-play drive. But after reaching the eight-yard-line on a pass to Gonzalez, the Falcons were stifled. SJ picked up two yards to the six on first down and Gonzalez went all the way to the goal line on third down, but brought down before he could reach across the goal line.

On fourth and goal, down just three, Atlanta coach Mike Smith elected not to go for the field goal and put the ball in the hands of SJ39. However, the Redskins blew up the Falcons line at the line of scrimmage and SJ was tackled short of the end zone.

Steven would get another chance just moments later after Cousins was intercepted by William Moore on the first play of the ensuing drive. Moore returned the pick to the two and on the very next play SJ39 plowed into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. That score gave the Falcons a 24-20 lead.

SJ39 scores his second touchdown putting the Falcons up 24-20 in the third quarter (Getty Images).

The fourth quarter saw Atlanta create two more turnovers, but the Falcons couldn’t put the game away, managing just a field goal between them. That field goal made it 27-20 with 3:31 to go and gave the Redskins one more chance to tie or win the game.

Washington answered the call with a 13-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in a three-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Moss with 18 seconds left. With nothing to lose, their playoff hopes already dashed, the Redskins elected to go for a two-point conversion to take the lead rather than the extra point try to tie.

“Given the situation, everybody wanted to come out with a win, and the way they game was going, who knows if we had gone to overtime what would have happened,” S-Jax surmised. “So I’m not surprised by that aggressive play call.”

On the conversion attempt, Cousins rolled out and targeted Pierre Garcon in the end zone, but rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant tipped the ball away to preserve Atlanta’s one-point lead. Washington’s onside kick attempt added more drama as the ball escaped Atlanta’s hands team and ended up 20 yards down field before Jason Snelling fell on it to secure the Falcons their fourth win of the season.

“It came down to that last two-point conversion and even the onside kick was dramatic,” said Steven. “It was a game full of drama but I’m just happy that we were able to pull it off.”


The Falcons will be on the road in prime time this week as they head to the home of one of Steven’s old NFC West foes, Candlestick Park in San Francisco, to face the 49ers on Monday Night Football.

The game will be the 18th of Steven’s career versus San Francisco, against whom he has rushed for 1,252 yards, more than he has against any other NFL team. He’s also scored six touchdowns against the 49ers. Last season, SJ39 rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown at Candlestick in a game that ended in a 24-24 tie.

The 49ers open Levi’s Stadium next fall and Monday’s game marks the last regular season game scheduled at Candlestick. San Francisco currently holds the sixth and final NFC playoff spot, making it unlikely that they could host a playoff game. So Monday might be the last game ever played at Candlestick, where Steven scored the first touchdown of his NFL career on October 3, 2004.

Kickoff of Monday’s game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen nationwide on ESPN.