By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Tuesday, Dec. 28 2004

This time, Steven Jackson did play.

The Rams' rookie running back took a handoff from quarterback Marc Bulger on
the second play of the game Monday night and ripped off a 28-yard gain around
left end. And that was just the beginning.

Jackson, the team's first-round draft pick in April, carried six times on the
Rams' opening possession, picking up 46 yards on their 10-play, 73-yard drive
for a 7-0 lead against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Edward Jones Dome.
Jackson scored on a 5-yard run.

By halftime, Jackson already had moved into triple figures, rushing for 114
yards on 13 carries.

Jackson finished with 148 yards on 24 attempts in the Rams' 20-7 victory. He
left midway through the fourth quarter after reinjuring his right knee. Coach
Mike Martz said Jackson had suffered a bone bruise and would have an MRI today.

"It was a statement game," Jackson said. "I hadn't had a chance to be out there
in two weeks, so it was a big statement. I wanted to make up for lost time."

Turn back the calendar a week. There was Jackson, recovered from the bruised
knee that kept him out Dec. 12 at Carolina, on the sideline at Sun Devil
Stadium. Marshall Faulk started, and Jackson waited for his chance.

And waited ... and waited ... and waited ...

When the game ended, Arizona had steamrolled the Rams 31-7. And Jackson hadn't
played a down. This, against a Cardinals outfit that ranked near the bottom of
the league in run defense.

Work in Faulk's ineffectiveness - he gained only 22 yards on 10 carries - and
Jackson's absence seemed even more puzzling. The final chapter in this bizarre
saga was added by Martz, who said after the game - and repeated again Monday -
that he hadn't realized during the action that Jackson didn't move off the
sideline.

This time, Jackson got most of the workload in the backfield, as the Rams
gashed the Eagles for a season-high 209 yards on the ground. He had career
highs in carries and yards, and averaged a whopping 6.2 yards an attempt.

"We wanted to come out and run the ball," Jackson said. "We haven't done it too
much this season. Once we got off to a fast start, we knew it was something we
wanted to keep on doing."

The emphasis on the run game at the outset "was important, because we got into
a rhythm," tackle Orlando Pace said. "We had some success with the running
plays, and it got the ball rolling for us."

As for his individual performance - especially after missing the last two games
- Jackson said: "It was something that I wanted. It's something that I needed.
We need to get in the playoffs. It's a must-win game, and I'm glad I had an
opportunity to do it."