Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams head to the Motor City this weekend to take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
The Rams visit Detroit Sunday in search of their first win of the 2009 season. The Lions are 1-5, with only a victory over the Washington Redskins to their ledger.
Steven enters the game third in the NFL in rushing yards with 635 combined with his 169 yards receiving. No. 39's 804 yards from scrimmage rank second in the league. S-Jax enjoyed his best game of the season last week against the Colts, rushing for 134 yards on just 23 carries. He'll hope for more of the same on Sunday against the league's 20th ranked run defense.
The Lions have allowed 112.3 rushing yards per game this season and backs average 4.6 yards per carry against Detroit.
As is the case for every team that plays St. Louis, the Lions are well aware of whom they need to stop in order to defeat the Rams.
Lions safety Kalvin Pearson notes that the Detroit defense will key on big No. 39, as quoted in the Detroit Free Press:
"Steven Jackson's a good back, a big back, so they're really going to need us to fill the holes and stop the run, man. We want to try to make them one-dimensional. I know if we stop the run and take Steven Jackson out of the game, it'll be a good win for us."
There's mutual respect between the two sides and Steven believes the speed of the Lions could be a factor, as quoted by the Belleville News-Democrat:
"They're really fast and athletic," Jackson said. "They have aggressive play calling in (defensive coordinator) Coach (Gunther) Cunningham. We're going to have to be sound in our protection. We have to be really stout and give Marc some time to throw the ball down the field, because they're going to apply pressure. And, make sure that we can pick up the blitz."
Despite his gaudy totals through the first seven games, the Beast has yet to reach the end zone.
The drought has people wondering if S-Jax will get to "roll the dice," his patented end zone scoring celebration, at all this season. Steven is mum on the celebration, noting only that when the time comes, he'll decide if the dice-roll will return, as quoted by the Canadian Press:
"When I get there, I get there, and then we will decide then," Jackson said. "We have to get there first."
According to ESPN's Mike Sando, Steven's 635 yards through seven games are the second most in history to open a season without a touchdown, through the first seven weeks. Tiki Barber rushed for 715 yards without a TD through the first seven games of the 2007 season.
Still, No. 39 isn't worried about his own stats. He'd rather get the Rams their first win of the season. If that means he scores, so be it. If he doesn't, that's all right, too, as quoted in the Belleville News-Democrat:
"Well, as an offense, we haven't put up a lot of points," said Jackson, who plays for a team that is averaging only 8.6 points per game. "First thing first is to get rolling as an offense. That's where I'm focused at. My individual things that I have accomplished so far wouldn't happen without my offensive teammates. I don't even go into that talk of individuals."
Steven believes that the running game has been working for the Rams all season and the third quarter of last Sunday's game was a proving ground for he and his offensive line:
"I think we've been playing good football on the ground all year long," Jackson said. "The third quarter was the biggest of my career. There you have it. It's something that I've never done in my career. We're doing a good job. We're doing a really good job of getting after the defense."
Steven may lack a touchdown to his credit so far this season, but one thing he has no shortage of is desire.
Even as the Colts were pounding the Rams last Sunday, S-Jax was running hard every time he got the ball. His quarterback, Marc Bulger, took notice, as quoted in the Belleville News-Democrat:
"He has that fire, and that's one guy that runs hard," Bulger said. "If we're tied or if we're losing by 30 at the end of the game, he's going to run just as hard. That's what we love about him."
According to Bulger, there's no running back in the league he's rather have behind him and with him in the trenches:
"If I had to pick a running back, that would be my guy," Bulger said. "I'm sure there is a lot of different debate to put up for other guys. Unfortunately, with our record the last couple of years, he's not getting the recognition I think he deserves throughout the league. I know in this locker room and myself, I wouldn't pick any other guy."
HOW THEY SEE IT
Across the nation, S-Jax is receiving plenty of credit for his performance in the face of adversity.
Pro Football Weekly's Pat Fitzmaurice has Steven ranked as his Best of the Worst:
"It’s criminally unfair that a player this good is stuck on a team this bad. I’m not sure either Superman or The Flash could average 4.4 yards per carry on the 2009 Rams. (Well, maybe The Flash could … he breaks a lot of long runs.)"
Dennis Dillon of The Sporting News thinks Steven is still a stud:
"Steven Jackson is among the league's elite running backs. He's big, strong and fast, and he can provide the home run. He's not showing it, but that's a byproduct of his situation. He's just with a bad team. If you put him on a good team, he'd probably be tearing it up."
ESPN fantasy football expert Eric Karabell believes No. 39 is well worth your time, despite his touchdown drought:
"Jackson was traded in one of my leagues last week for a RB-WR package I'd prefer not to mention, lest you think the league features a bunch of bozos. It's not only that league, though. Jackson's name seems to be floating around in many leagues as the owners who made him a top-eight pick worry he'll end up scoring as many touchdowns this season as they do… But now is a time to buy low, not sell for what you can get."
The Rams and the Lions meet this Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit and Steven believes the Rams are ready to win:
"We fully know each and every week no team's going to lay down and give us a win," Jackson said. "So we have to just go in there completely focused and execute our game plan.
"I really feel we have a good game plan in store, and we just have to execute it."
Kickoff is scheduled for Noon CST and all the action can be seen on FOX. Ron Pitts and John Lynch will have the call.
Lions coaches to Db's: limit mistakes (Detroit Free Press, October 28, 2009)
Jackson's search for end zone making history (ESPN.com, October 26, 2009)
St. Louis Rams vs. Detroit Lions Preview (ESPN.com, October 28, 2009)
Jackson, Rams, without a rushing touchdown this season (Belleville News-Democrat, October 30, 2009)
Rams running back Steven Jackson having a big year, but hasn't scored (The Canadian Press, October 29, 2009)
The Best of the Worst (Yahoo! Sports, October 27, 2009)
Scouts View: Eagles' Jackson a nightmare matchup; Rams Jackson still a stud (The Sporting News, October 29, 2009)
St. Louis' Rams Jackson still productive in fantasy sans touchdowns (ESPN.com, October 26, 2009)