Jackson has his own battles

BY BILL COATS
Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Sundays, Rams running back Steven Jackson likes to play a game within the game. He makes it a point to try to outgain the opposition's top ball-carrier.

"I take great pride in trying to win the rushing battle against whoever I'm going against," Jackson said. Usually, he does.

Jackson has been successful in seven outings this season. Only twice having opposing backs collected more yardage: Oakland's Darren McFadden (145 yards to 75 for Jackson) on Sept. 19 and San Francisco's Frank Gore (87-81) last week.

Those aren't exactly embarrassing losses for Jackson: Gore is fifth in the NFL in rushing, and McFadden is tied for seventh with Jackson.

Another strong challenge looms this week for Jackson. Atlanta's Michael Turner has piled up 733 rushing yards, 11th in the league and just 24 fewer than Jackson.

"Week in and week out I've had a chance to battle some good running backs. Last week, Frank Gore, and the test doesn't get any easier," Jackson said. "Michael Turner, he's a brilliant back. He has a very low center of gravity, good balance, strong legs, and he's never down.

"He'll be another good measurement or test to go head-to-head, and hopefully we come out favorable."

Unlike Jackson, who has 74.4 percent of the Rams' carries and 79.4 percent of their rushing yards, Turner gets significant help in the backfield. Jason Snelling has carried 69 times for 291 yards.

The Rams' No. 2 back, Kenneth Darby, has only 27 attempts and 86 yards.

"I'll tell you what, it's tough to slow (Turner and Snelling) down," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Turner is ... a guy that runs low to the ground, makes you miss or people bounce off of him. He's a solid running back.

"We'll have to go back to the same things we always do. It's run fits, it's making sure you tackle low, making sure you get a lot of guys around the ball-carrier, and try to pull the ball out."

None of the running backs figures to have an easy time of it. The Rams rank sixth in the league in rush defense (97.8 yards per game); the Falcons are No. 7 (98.1).

Jackson's pins

Jackson will be playing his third game after surgery Oct. 25 on a broken ring finger on his left hand. Jackson originally reported that the pins that were inserted might be removed after the Atlanta game. But the decision has been made to leave them in for the rest of the year.

"The bone is still maybe a little weak, (and) the pins are adding the support that's allowing me to catch the ball and do some of the things that I'm doing on the field," Jackson said. "So they think it's just safe and best that if it's not bothering me, to leave it in until after the season.

"But the bone is healing well. I got another X-ray this week and all looks good there."

Sack machine

After getting just 25 sacks all last season, the Rams are tied with Green Bay for the NFL lead with 28.

"I just think it's a lot of great play-calls, getting people into situations by stopping the run where we can force people to throw the ball," said defensive end Chris Long, who has had at least one sack in each of the last four games. "I think sacks are you taking advantage of opportunities ... whether they're from a scheme standpoint or a matchup standpoint."

Defensive end James Hall has a team-high 7 sacks. Long is next with 5.

Alexander's status

Wide receiver Danario Alexander (knee) and defensive tackle Fred Robbins (back) were listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. Indications are that Alexander, who had surgery Oct. 29 to repair cartilage damage, will sit out another week. Robbins is expected to suit up Sunday.

Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, a rookie from Mizzou, also was questionable. Weatherspoon was leading the team in tackles before suffering a knee injury in Week 5.

Ram-blings

The Rams are giving up just 12.6 points a game at home, the best mark in the league. ... Robbins and linebacker Bryan Kehl are the team's weekly captains.