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Jackson Busts Loose with Big Game
By Nick Wagoner
One week after watching idly from the sideline as he got just seven carries in a shutout loss to Carolina, Rams running back Steven Jackson’s workload increased in a major way.
It was no coincidence that a suddenly busy Jackson having one of his finest games as a professional occurred on the same day the Rams ended their five-game losing streak. Jackson ran over, around and through just about every 49er to the tune of 121 yards on 23 carries with another 71 yards on nine catches.
While quarterback Marc Bulger and the passing game finished the job, it was Jackson that laid the foundation.
“I think this was the hardest I’ve seen him run,” right guard Adam Timmerman said. “He was running up the gut and running right where he was supposed to be and really got off to a good start which really helps the play calling.”
Indeed. Jackson had more carries in the first quarter than he had in all of last week’s loss to Carolina and finished the first half with 17 carries for 103 yards and another 26 yards on three catches.
With a 3-0 lead and riding the tide of a special teams takeaway, Jackson took a handoff and burst up the middle. After juking safety Keith Lewis out of his shoes about 10 yards down field, Jackson cut left and took it 36 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Rams a 10-0 lead, their first two-score lead in a while and forced the ***** to begin passing.
“Whenever you’re running the ball, you’re going after the other team,” Jackson said. “We’re just going to go out and try to pound away at you, try to move the ball and keep our defense off the field.”
Not only did Jackson’s running efforts keep the St. Louis defense off the field, it allowed the Rams’ patchwork offensive line to find some cohesion and develop the confidence to not only open holes for Jackson, but to protect Bulger.
After losing center Richie Incognito to a foot injury, Brett Romberg entered the game, leaving the Rams with an offensive line consisting of Todd Steussie at left tackle, rookie Mark Setterstrom at left guard, Romberg at center, Timmerman and Adam Goldberg at right guard and Alex Barron at right tackle.
Even with the inexperience of that group, it was still able to blow open large holes for Jackson. On a key fourth-and-1 on the game winning drive, Jackson ran right behind Setterstrom for the conversion. It was a certain vote of confidence for the rookie and a prime example of the emerging confidence in a predominantly young line.
“They did a good job,” Bulger said. “I think all game running the ball they did well. Steven played great, but it was nice to have some holes for him.”
Not only did Jackson pound away on the ground, the Rams continued to use him in the passing game. In the second half, when San Francisco attempted to take Jackson out of it on the ground, he became the key cog in the passing game on the game-winning drive.
Jackson caught four passes for 25 yards on the drive and converted a pair of fourth downs on the ground. For a player considered to be one-dimensional as a back, Jackson has turned that idea on its head.
“Jokingly, I said I’m a big Marshall Faulk, but to be honest with you I’ve been able to catch the ball,” Jackson said. “I just said that jokingly because for so long I’ve been having to live with that (tag). Hopefully, with this year we can get away from that and allow me to be Steven Jackson and allow people in the general public to see what I’m able to bring to this game.”
OLSON’S OFFENSE: As a first-year head coach, Scott Linehan has an enormous amount of tasks to deal with on a daily basis. In addition to those tasks, Linehan also held the reins of the offense as the play caller.
But, after a five-game losing streak and a shutout loss to Carolina last week, Linehan decided that the time was right to turn his attention to the good of the entire team. With that in mind, Linehan and the staff decided Friday to turn over play calling duties to offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
“We decided by Friday we would do it so it was worth a try now because things could only get better,” Linehan said. “That was something I wanted him to be able to do. He is very good at it and I hired him to be our offensive coordinator. He understands our system better now. It takes a while. I thought he did a great job of doing that so I will never disassociate myself from the offensive side, but it allows me to spend a little more time with all three phases of the game and do what I can in those areas too.”
Olson’s first day in the hot seat proved successful as the Rams rolled up 349 yards with a strong balance of the run and the pass. St. Louis rushed for 140 yards and threw for 209 with 37 total pass plays and 29 runs called.
RECORD BREAKER: Receiver Torry Holt has followed in the footsteps of Isaac Bruce when it comes to breaking records on a weekly basis, but his effort Sunday put him in a class by himself.
Holt’s four catches for 30 yards enabled him to pass Jerry Rice as the player with the most receiving yards in his first eight seasons in the league. Holt now has 10,282 receiving yards and another five games to add on to his total.
“It’s another tremendous accomplishment,” Holt said. “Again, I guess it goes back to my hard work, focus and dedication to the game of football. I want to thank my teammates for believing in me and giving me an opportunity to succeed on the football field as well as the coaches and management. It’s a testament to everybody who believed in me when I came here. It feels good and along with the win, makes it that much sweeter. So, I’m excited about it and hopefully I can move on from this now and set some more goals and accomplish those.”
TYED UP: When cornerback Tye Hill picked off an Alex Smith pass on textbook coverage down the right sideline in the first quarter, it was his third interception of the season and second in two weeks.
Hill is now tied for the lead among rookies in interceptions with Baltimore’s Dawan Landry and Richard Marshall of Carolina. . But the news wasn’t all good for Hill on Sunday. He has been hampered by a strained quadriceps. He first injured it a couple of weeks ago and stretched it when he was cutting across the field in coverage in the third quarter.
“I was playing with it and it kind of got to me today, but I’m going to rehab it and try to get back as soon as possible,” Hill said. “I just have to get healthy and if not, I will just play through it.”
Ron Bartell replaced Hill.
LITTLE’S CO.: Defensive end Leonard Little had some special guests in the house on Sunday. Little’s brother Army Sgt. Lamont Hughes, who recently returned from Iraq, was in the building Sunday with about 10 close friends.
Little, who has made a habit of saluting his brother after getting sacks as he watched from Iraq, had one sack taken away on an offsides penalty against La’Roi Glover. But, more important, the team is now 1-0 with Sgt. Hughes in the house.
“It meant a lot,” Little said. “After all of the things they’ve been through this past year, it’s good to get a victory and it’s good for them to come to a game and enjoy themselves.”
Little said the group will return next week, perhaps with even more friends in attendance.
INJURY REPORT: In addition to Hill’s injury and the foot injury to Incognito, the Rams had some other players banged up. Defensive end Victor Adeyanju suffered a right forearm injury early and did not return. He was replaced by Brandon Green.
Linebackers Isaiah Kacyvenski and tight end Joe Klopfenstein suffered concussions and also didn’t come back.
Bulger had the wind knocked out of him just before halftime and was replaced by Gus Frerotte for three plays before returning. Frerotte completed one of three for 27 yards to set up a Jeff Wilkins field goal for a 13-7 halftime lead.
None of the injuries are expected to be serious, but Adeyanju will need further inspection before a determination is made on his injury.
PONDER INACTIVE: While there were no real surprises on the inactive list, there was one notable exception. Kick returner Willie Ponder was on the inactive list one week after the team signed him to handle those duties.
Because of the pre-existing injury to Hill, the Rams wanted Dwaine Carpenter active for defensive back depth. That left Ponder as the odd man out.
Carpenter responded with a fumble recovery on a punt return. Kay Jay Harris handled the return duties with three attempts for 58 yards and a long of 23.
Re: Jackson Busts Loose with Big Game
Jackson is a big star in the making,we were lucky he dropped to where he did in the draft and good move on our part to move up and get him,pro bowler for many years to come.