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Jackson is pleased with 161-yard day; Rams earn No. 2 pick in NFL draft
With all the attention focused on Altanta running back Michael Turner, St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson was looking to make a statement Sunday.
Jackson ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns, reaching the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for the fourth straight year in the Rams' 31-27 loss to the Falcons on Sunday.
Eric Dickerson is the only other Rams running back to rush for 1,000 yards in four straight seasons. He accomplished the feat from 1983-86.
St. Louis rams running back Steven Jackson (39) breaks away from Atlanta Falcons defenders Chris Lofton (50) and Erik Coleman (26) during the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008, in Atlanta. - AP Photo
"Across the field, I respect Michael Turner a whole lot," Jackson said. "He is a Pro Bowl back this year. I wanted to go out with a bang. You play in front of a packed dome full of excitement. I have been banged up for a couple of years now, but I still have a little stuff."
Jackson turned in a play worthy of any highlight reel when he made a one-handed catch on a screen pass and then hurdled defender Eric Coleman in the third quarter.
"He was playing his butt off," Rams coach Jim Haslett said of Jackson. "I think that's a guy you can build a great football team around."
On the other hand, Turner rushed for 208 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry.
"We didn't play well," Haslett said of his run defense. "The linebackers didn't finish well and tackle well, and that's going to get you when you are playing a team that likes to run the ball like that."
Jackson reached 1,000 yards -- he ended with 1,042 yards -- despite missing four games to injury.
Jackson said he's still not completely healthy.
"Actually, I don't feel good at all," Jackson said. "My hamstring, my quad, everything feels really tight. I said on Thursday during my press conference that everybody hurts at this point.
"This was a game where I felt that we matched up with the Atlanta Falcons well, and we wanted to go out and play hard for our coaching staff."
Rams players have sent a letter of endorsement backing Haslett to be the team's head coach for next season to owner Chip Rosenbloom.
Haslett is expected to be one of the coaches interviewed by the Rams during their coaching search, which will be overseen by General Manager Billy Devaney.
"We took part in a complimentary letter just saying that we appreciate what the guy has done, and we believe in his ability to lead us to success in the future," Rams right guard Adam Goldberg said. "It wasn't much more than that, it wasn't much less than that. We just stated how we felt, and that he was a good person.
"Obviously, we rally behind whoever, be it Coach Haslett or be it someone else, but we just want to endorse our guy."
Jackson declined to discus the letter.
"I went out and played hard, and hopefully, that speaks enough for Coach Haslett," Jackson said.
Feeling a draft
The Rams will have the second overall in the NFL Draft for the second straight season.
The Rams tied with Kansas City for the second worst record in the NFL, but the Rams' opponents had fewer wins, giving them the nod over the Chiefs for the No. 2 pick.
Historically, the Rams have had a lot of success with the No. 2 overall pick.
They took Dickerson with the No. 2 in 1983, Tom Mack with the No. 2 pick in 1966 and Roman Gabriel with the No. 2 pick in 1962.
The Rams' home opponents for the 2009 season will be New Orleans, Green Bay, Minnesota, Houston, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle.
Their road opponents are Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle.
The NFL releases the times and dates for games in April.
The Rams' offensive line, with two new starting guards, paved the way for the team's season-high 202 rushing yards.
Rookie John Greco started at left guard in place of Jacob Bell, while Goldberg started at right guard in place of Richie Incognito.
Bell has a hamstring injury, while Incognito missed practice late last week because of the stomach flu.
"We're proud of our group," Goldberg said of the Rams' offensive line. "Coach (Steve) Loney has a phrase, we as an offensive have to play at a level that our opponents are either unwilling or unable to match.
"I think, at least in our little mini-battle, our up front vs. their up front, we did that."
• The Rams' inactives were cornerback Fakhir Brown, defensive tackle Antwon Burton, tackle Anthony Davis, defensive end Eric Moore, Bell, Incognito and third-string quarterback Brock Berlin.
• The Falcons set an NFL record for fewest punt returns allowed in a season with 49. The old mark was 53 by the 1991 Buffalo Bills.
The Falcons punted four times against the Rams, but Dane Looker was forced to call for a fair catch all four times.
• James Hall had the Rams' lone sack against the Falcons, giving him a team-leading 6.5 sacks for the season.
• The Rams' 10-game losing streak ties for the third longest in team history. They also lost 10 straight games from 1941-42.
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