Tuesday, December 12, 2006

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

While there’s no doubt that this has been a difficult season for the Rams, there is one bright shining star that continues to emerge and get better on a weekly basis.

Running back Steven Jackson, in his first national television appearance against the Bears on Monday Night Football, made his case for why he should be an NFC Pro Bowler and considered one of the top back in the league with another strong outing against one of the league’s best defenses.

Although he missed part of the late third and early fourth quarter with cramps in his legs, Jackson managed to piece together another statistically solid outing. He finished the evening with 81 yards on 18 carries and 10 catches for 58 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

In the process, Jackson set a new career high for rushing yards at 1,105 and receptions with 82. His receiving yardage total also helped him pass Amp Lee for fifth most by a Rams running back in a season. Jackson has 680 on the season and leads the NFC in total yards from scrimmage with 1,789.

Of course, Jackson would trade all of those impressive numbers for a larger number in the team’s win column.

“It means something, but at the same time, you start looking at yourself and saying, ‘What can I do more to help?’” Jackson said. “I’m being a competitor and I want to win. I’d trade it all back if we were 10-2 or whatever the record should be. It’s just very disappointing. My offensive line has created some big holes for me, but at the same time, it’s not producing anything. Hopefully we can turn this around. We still have three weeks to play and there’s no need to throw in the towel. We need to start building for something and we need to do it now.”

Jackson has been building something for most of the season, a strong case for his first trip to Hawaii. After the game, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher called Jackson one of the toughest backs he has faced and Jackson seems to get better as the year goes on.

There was one scare during Monday’s game, though. Jackson, who has yet to make it through an NFL season without missing a game because of injury, hobbled off the field after a 4-yard run late in the third quarter.

The injury turned out to be nothing more than cramps, though, and Jackson returned to catch a 6-yard touchdown pass.

MOVIN’ ON UP: Rams receiver Isaac Bruce seems to make a bit of history every week and Monday’s game was no different. With his third reception of the game, Bruce moved past Steve Largent for eighth place on the all-time receiving yards list.

Bruce now has 13,104 yards for his career after posting four grabs for 62 yards.

DROPSIES: The Rams receiving corps has long been known for its excellent hands and lack of dropped passes. But that number has seemed to increase in recent weeks.

Shaun McDonald dropped a pass on the team’s opening drive while trying to convert a third down and even Torry Holt continues to drop the occasional pass.

“Drops are a critical error,” coach Scott Linehan said. “You can’t stay on the field if you don’t catch the football, and we had some of that today and it affects our ability to stay out there and score the points you need to score in a game like this.”

PLAYOFFS?: The Rams entered Monday night’s game with statistical hope of finding a way into the playoffs. But those hopes essentially vanished after the 42-27 loss.

St. Louis is still mathematically involved and stranger things have happened than an 8-8 team making it (the Rams did it with that record in 2004), but Jackson says that looking ahead to any playoff hopes has been a serious problem in recent weeks and has hurt the team more than helped.

“If anyone brings up playoffs I try to correct them,” Jackson said. “That’s the problem. We’ve been looking at the playoffs all week. You’re not going to get into the playoffs until you start winning. We need to go out here to Oakland, try to get a win, and go from there. If we can run the table and go 3-0 it would be great, but if not, someone needs to start stepping up and making plays and not waiting for somebody else to make plays.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams entered Monday’s game fairly banged up and left it even more banged up.

There was nary a player who entered banged up and left banged up more than linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa. Tinoisamoa broke his right hand in the first half and did not return to the game. For the record, Tinoisamoa now has a broken right hand, broken left hand, dislocated left elbow and right shoulder injury. His status for the rest of the season remains up in the air, but there’s a chance he could be shut down for the final three games. Dexter Coakley replaced him in the lineup.

In addition, defensive end Leonard Little took a shot to the throat and had some swelling in the second half. He also didn’t return to the game and was taken to the hospital where he was expected to stay overnight. Eric Moore and Claude Wroten took Little’s place.

Receiver Kevin Curtis took a hard hit late in the game that caused him to have some migraine headaches and kept him from finishing the game. Dane Looker replaced Curtis.