Better to receive as Jackson breaks out from backfield
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Nov. 06 2006
Some 56 NFL seasons ago, against a team called the New York Yanks, fullback
Dick Hoerner caught 14 passes in a 45-35 victory for the Los Angeles Rams, who
had moved from Cleveland four years earlier. No other back in franchise history
had put together such a prolific receiving game since then.
Until Sunday, that is, when third-year pro Steven Jackson hauled in 13
receptions for the 12-year-old St. Louis Rams. Despite Jackson's career-high
219 yards from scrimmage — 86 rushing, 133 receiving — the error-plagued Rams
fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 31-17 at the Edward Jones Dome.
The Rams rolled up a season-high 452 yards, outgaining the Chiefs by 135. But
the Rams committed three turnovers to none for Kansas City, and that spelled
Three lost fumbles in the first half led to 17 KC points. Jackson was the
culprit on one giveaway, coughing up the ball at the Rams' 33-yard line early
in the second quarter. Four plays later, a field goal extended the Chiefs' lead
"No one likes to turn the ball over, but at the same time, when it happens you
can't get down on yourself," Jackson said. "You've got to try to make it back
up to your teammates."
Jackson rebounded quickly. His 2-yard touchdown run with 7 minutes 1 second
remaining in the first half provided the Rams with their first points. They
closed to 24-17 after three quarters but couldn't score in the final period
despite pounding out 152 total yards.
The Chiefs, intent on holding down wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce,
deployed Cover 2 and Cover 4 defenses regularly. Holt and Bruce combined for
just six catches and 111 yards. But that alignment left room underneath the
deep coverage, and Jackson and quarterback Marc Bulger exploited it.
"As the game progressed ... Marc mentioned to me that we were going to need me
big in the passing game," Jackson said. "I just tried to show up for us."
Jackson's 13 catches are the most for a back in the NFL this season. His 41
grabs for the season are second among the Rams, behind Holt's 45. Jackson is
rapidly earning status among the league's elite multi-threat backs.
"In this new generation, you have to be an all-around back," he said. "I do put
a lot of pressure on myself, because I want to be among the top running backs.
Hopefully it shows up on Sundays."
Bulger noted that in past seasons, he had been a bit stubborn about going
through his progressions, reluctant to check down to a back. With first-year
coach Scott Linehan emphasizing ball control, times have changed.
"Sometimes I'd force the ball a little bit and not take the check-downs,"
Bulger said. "But now (Jackson) wants the ball out of the backfield. When
you're getting the ball as a back, you get to the places you need to be."
The dividend will come down the road, guard Adam Timmerman deduced. "When teams
know they've got to cover (Jackson) coming out of there and we're going to
check down a lot, it brings the coverage up to us," he said. "Hopefully it's
going to soften it up on the deep routes."
Jackson, who missed only a couple of snaps after dislocating the forefinger on
his left hand on the first play of the fourth quarter, had 32 touches vs. the
Chiefs. He averaged 4.5 yards on 19 runs and overall, the Rams advanced almost
7 yards every time the shifty Jackson got his hands on the ball.
"He made a lot of plays," fellow running back Stephen Davis said. "When he gets
out in space, he can make a lot of guys miss tackles."