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Ground game grinds down Denver defense
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Just when it looked as if Denver's defense had solved the Rams' running game in general, and back Steven Jackson in particular, a funny thing happened at the Edward Jones Dome: First-year head coach Scott Linehan kept ordering runs.
"Hats off to Coach Linehan and the offensive coordinator (Greg Olson) for sticking with the run," Jackson said. "That's something we're not used to around here."
Jackson has made it clear that he believed Linehan's predecessor, Mike Martz, often abandoned the run prematurely. Based on his 121-yard showing in Sunday's 18-10 victory over the Broncos, Jackson might have a point.
Less than 3 minutes into the second half, the 6-foot-2, 231-pound third-year pro had piled up 63 yards on 13 carries. Then Jackson lost a total of 10 yards on his next four tries, and the Broncos closed to 15-10 early in the fourth quarter.
After an interception by safety Corey Chavous snuffed a Denver possession in Rams territory, Jackson pounded out 68 yards on his final five carries, including a 37-yard burst to the 6-yard line with 2 minutes to go.
Three kneel-downs by quarterback Marc Bulger, and the Rams were 39-0 when a back tops the 100-yard mark since the team moved to St. Louis in 1995.
"My offensive line, man, they stuck with me," Jackson said. The Broncos "changed some things, made some corrections ... it was a chess match out there. They did some things that confused us, we changed some things around, and we got the best of them."
Denver was the second-stingiest team in the NFL vs. the run last year, when it went 13-3 and advanced to the AFC championship game. Despite their temporary glitch, the Rams averaged a solid 4.5 yards per run Sunday.
"They did exactly what we thought they were going to do," guard Richie Incognito said. "A lot of movement up front, a lot of flowing with the backers over the top, and bringing (safety John) Lynch down and trying to give us different looks in the backfield. That's why it was a little up and down."
Despite having excellent field possession several times, the Rams mustered only six Jeff Wilkins field goals, going 0 for five in the red zone. The first-team offense also failed to score a touchdown in the preseason.
"It's Week 1," Jackson said "You've got to get those jitters out."