Rams Ride 'Train' to Victory
Sunday, October 30, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
The Rams could have sent Jacksonville an invitation to Sunday’s game and etched in stone. It would have read something like “Please join us at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday for Steven Jackson’s rushing party.”
The Jaguars, along with the rest of the world seemed to know that the Rams were going to run the ball early and often in Sunday’s game. But just because Jacksonville knew it was coming didn’t mean it could stop it.
St. Louis hopped on the “Train,” the nickname that adorns Jackson’s locker at Rams Park, and rode him to a surprising 24-21 win Sunday. The victory sends the Rams into the bye week on a two-game winning streak after they broke their three-game losing streak last week against New Orleans. Jacksonville falls to 4-3 with the loss.
Without the help of offensive talent such as quarterback Marc Bulger and receivers Torry Holt and Leonard Little, it has become obvious in the past two weeks that the running game was going to be put to the test.
“I know it’s a long season and I knew my time would come,” Jackson said. “We always talk about opportunities. Everyone in the locker room has an opportunity to make something happen and once it has presented itself, you just have to make plays.”
New Orleans knew that Jackson was the one being asked to make those plays last week and he ran for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jacksonville also was well aware of the possibility of an increased workload for Jackson. That did the Jaguars little good against “Train” on Sunday, though.
By the time the day was over Jackson had 179 yards on 25 carries with a pair of catches for 21 yards. His 19-yard catch and run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter provided the Rams with the winning points and a surprising victory in a game many thought wouldn’t be close without the likes of Bruce, Holt and Bulger.
But no matter how much Jacksonville prepared for Jackson throughout the week – Jackson said earlier in the week that he thought his face was plastered all over the walls of the Jaguars’ locker room – it couldn’t stop Jackson or the offensive line.
Entering the game, it appeared that things would be made even more difficult for the Rams to establish the run without the help of rookie masher Claude Terrell, the starting left guard. Old reliable Tom Nütten filled in for Terrell, though, and the offensive line didn’t miss a beat.
Right guard Adam Timmerman was also a question heading into the game because of a back injury, but there was no way he would let some stiffness stop him from the challenge of facing mammoth defensive tackles John Henderson and Marcus Stroud.
Instead of worrying about injuries or reserves, the Rams took the fight to the Jaguars, something they have been salivating over since Jackson was named the starter.
They were playing those screens and draws a little bit it seemed like, especially those big guys upfront. They were playing us a lot. It was nice to come off and go after them a little bit. We were able to do that. When you have a guy like Steven pounding it up in there you can’t help but keep using him and I’m glad we did.
“They were playing up on us a lot,” center Andy McCollum said. “It was nice to come off and go after them a little bit. We were able to do that. When you have a guy like Steven pounding it up in there you can’t help but keep using him and I’m glad we did.”
And Jackson was glad to have the blocking players like McCollum in front of him. With 12:54 to play, quarterback Jamie Martin dropped back and dumped the ball into the flat where Jackson was waiting with Timmerman and McCollum in front of him.
There were about three defenders between Jackson and the end zone, but the player with the best chance at him was a linebacker to the right, a player that McCollum quickly wiped out. When Jackson cleared that potential hurdle, he burst forward, leaving little doubt he was headed toward another roll of the dice in the end zone.
“You couldn’t help but see it,” Jackson said. “He had to block the screen we threw.”
The Rams took the lead on that play by Jackson and the offensive line, but it was big play from the passing game early on that really opened things up for the Rams. Jacksonville came out in plenty of basic coverage packages, sometimes with an extra man in the box, but not always.
Surprisingly, the Jaguars didn’t have eight men up to defend the run, but any thought of doing it more was erased in the first quarter when Martin hit receiver Kevin Curtis for an 83-yard touchdown down the middle.
The touchdown gave the Rams a 14-7 lead and kept the Jaguars back on their heels for the rest of the day, allowing Jackson to put them away with his punishing style of running.
“When you do that, it gives them concerns back there in the secondary,” Curtis said. “That’s huge because then you get that running game going and then you have to start trying to stop the run and you give up something again in the pass. It kind of works hand in hand.”
Of course, the offense couldn’t have done what it did without a little help from its friends on defense and special teams. The Rams jumped to a 7-0 lead when Drew Wahlroos blocked a punt that was scooped up and ran in for a touchdown by Brandon Chillar.
The defense also chipped in with a pair of important turnovers. Chris Claiborne forced a fumble in the first quarter that free safety Mike Furrey recovered. Furrey then came up with an interception and 37-yard return to set up Jackson’s touchdown.
With every phase of the game chipping in and so many important pieces missing, the Rams had no choice but to turn to Jackson. Jackson’s performance against New Orleans was clearly his best of the year, until Sunday of course.
Jackson ran with power, pride and purpose and had his best game of the season, or maybe even of his young career.
“He was as good as anybody has seen him,” coach Joe Vitt said. “He is one of those special backs that the more you feed him the ball, the stronger he gets and the more confident he gets. In that fourth quarter, he was wearing people down and he was really still fresh. He is a special back.”
Jackson helped the Rams salt the game away better than they have at any point in the season. Although St. Louis needed another last-minute stop to come up with the win, Jackson pounded the Jaguars into submission.
After the Rams defense got a stop on fourth down with 1:26 to play, Jackson finished Jacksonville off. He broke a 51-yard run to the Jaguars’ 4 and the Rams ran the clock out.
It was the opportunity that Jackson and the offensive line had been wanting and everybody knew was coming.
There’s no telling whether the Rams will continue to pound away with Jackson when they get their supply of weapons back after the bye week, but there’s a good chance he will be prominently involved.
“I haven’t looked toward that question, but I know one thing, we made a statement ourselves saying we deserve to get some attention in the running game,” Jackson said.
That attention is well deserved, even if the opponent is already paying its share.
Re: Rams Ride 'Train' to Victory
WoW! Who didn't know Jackson was a Stud? But, the O-line has stepped it up in there especially with the injuries. On the touchdown pass, Jackson was hit at the FIVE but he just has too much POWER. 2 Jags are going to be hiding in the film room this week when the team watches how they were manhandled by the TRAIN.