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  • Rams rise to challenge ..

    Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell

    DETROIT Our local nightmare was at long last about to come to an end, only we didn't know it yet, and quite frankly, neither did Steven Jackson.

    He'd already endured 378 agonizing, disgusting, frustrating days and nights of winless football. And with less than 2 minutes to go Sunday afternoon in half-empty Ford Field, the rambunctious audience of 40,857 raw-lunged Lions fans were cranking up the noise and sensing that somehow, some way Jackson's woebegone Rams would figure out another excruciating way to extend a 17-game losing streak to one more luckless game.

    These Lions fans connoisseurs of the unflattering art of NFL futility thought they knew what a truly bad team looks like when it is on the verge of going paws up. So they had all eyes zeroed in on your luckless Rams, counting on St. Louis to help replace Detroit as the punch line to every bad pro football joke there is.

    But Jackson was looking for something entirely different. The big, bruising tailback was sick and tired of being sick and tired. "Enough is enough," he kept saying over and over inside his head. "Let's end this NOW!"

    So he did a rather curious thing as he walked into that huddle to start this critical, do-or-die drive. Jackson walked up one end of the huddle and down the other, peering into the faces of his teammates. He stared at the linemen, glared at the tight ends and receivers, and went facemask to facemask with his fullback with one specific purpose in mind.

    "I told them, 'I just want to see if you're afraid,'" he said.

    Afraid of what?

    Afraid to win or scared to lose.

    It sure did seem like a legitimate question considering the circumstances. When you've suffered through as much losing as the Rams have, you can't take too much for granted.

    So what did they say, and what did Jackson see?

    "They didn't say anything, but then again, they didn't have to," Jackson said, that wide grin spreading across his face inside the noisy and victorious (did I really say 'victorious'?) Rams' locker room.

    "What did I see?" he said. "I didn't see any fear. I saw that they responded."

    Rams 17, Lions 10.

    The losing streak is over, and now all the Rams have to do is concern themselves with a far more daunting objective, which is to become a consistent winning team (which is going to be a lot harder than knocking off the feckless Lions). In the meantime, though, please don't tell me anything about how ugly it was or minimize the victory with other trivial bits of nonsense that today don't matter at all.

    The Rams won a football game that counted for the first time in more than a year, and I don't care if they did it going downhill on roller skates or stumbling in a dark alley like drunken sailors.

    They won.


    So today, 1-7 is better than 0-8: light years better. And if you don't believe me, then you should have been inside that visitors' locker room at Ford Field, where these Rams players didn't know whether to laugh or sing, dance or shout, slam their heads against the wall or raise their hands to the sky and give thanks for this wonderful absolution from nearly 13 months without a victory.

    You should have seen Victor Adeyanju, Clifton Ryan, Leonard Little and Chris Long sitting in front of their locker stalls tossing their sweat-soaked uniform pieces to the floor. What was that expression on their faces: perhaps a self-satisfied blend of emotions that were simply too delicious and delirious to explain?

    "I don't know, I just don't know," said Little. "I just am so glad it's over."

    "It feels damned good," Ryan boomed. "DAMNED GOOD."

    They were giddy and relieved and thankful and crazy and too happy to care if you want to grade their first victory as though it were a dunk contest in which style matters more than substance.

    "As a rookie I once said, 'That was an ugly win,' and I got chewed out," Jackson said. "You have to understand that in the National Football League, there's no such thing as an ugly win."

    In fact, judging from the emotions inside the locker room, this one might have been the most crazy, beautiful win of them all. When you have lost as much as the Rams have over the past three seasons, and when the victories are separated as far apart as the banks of the Mississippi River, you embrace each one like it's a jewel.

    But most of all, what you do is remember that the reason the Rams finally won is because they had the best player on the football field Jackson and they remembered to go to him when it mattered most (even though they continue to have far too many play-calling brain cramps that forget him at the most mystifying times) while the Lions, without Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson, essentially played four quarters with a pop-gun offense.

    Jackson had another monster game with 149 yards on 22 carries that were as tough and manly as you can get. Did you see that 11-yard thing of beauty when the Rams were pushed back on their own 2-yard line and he faked like he was going to muscle inside, then bounced it to the edge and made five count 'em, five Lions defenders wave at him like frightened matadors facing a charging bull?

    Did you see how many times Jackson singlehandedly carried this team (and half a dozen Lions defenders) on his back and created the only possible ending that made sense on this otherwise offensively challenged afternoon when he burst through the line of scrimmage almost untouched for the game-winning, 25-yard TD run?

    "It's just exciting and it's even better that we ended it on our terms with the ball in our hands and how fitting it was that Steven put the exclamation point on it with that touchdown," said guard Adam Goldberg.

    In celebrating Jackson, Goldberg and his fellow offensive linemen were savoring the product of their own handiwork, too. They had opened up holes all game long for Jackson, and whether they were mere slivers of daylight or giant slashes of open field, the Big Fella galloped through them with equal parts power and speed. If you want to see an offensive lineman smile, ask him what it feels like to throw a block for a great running back and then look up and see him gliding downfield.

    "It's what we call a sense of 'O-line-ism,'" rookie tackle Jason Smith chuckled. "It's a new word. Check it out in Webster's."

    And what exactly is this thing called "O-Line-ism?"

    "It's looking up from the ground after you've held your block and seeing (Jackson's jersey number) getting smaller and smaller," said center Jason Brown.

    "It is," Brown said, "such a wonderful feeling."

Related Topics


  • r8rh8rmike
    Burwell: Rams Fans Finally Can Appreciate Steven Jackson
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams fans finally can appreciate Steven Jackson

    Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell

    On Tuesday afternoon as he went rummaging through the bottom of his locker room stall to find his shoes and socks, Steven Jackson really didn't look any different from how the big Pro Bowl running back has for most of his six years as a Ram: same long, flowing dreadlocks, same toothy smile, same oversized middle linebacker's body that has been tenderizing defenses on a weekly basis since he became this team's go-to offensive weapon.

    But there was something different.

    At long last, Steven Jackson seems to be accepted.

    "I think (the public) has had a chance to get to know me and I have had a chance to get to know them," Jackson said. "Some of the things I may say now might not take them aback as much as it would have in the past. I'm growing up too."

    The folks who used to hate him, who used to think he was either too flamboyant or too brash or too outspoken but mostly just too ... too ... something finally are on his side.

    The silly "trade him" talks have diminished to a whisper. They no longer want to measure him against Marshall Faulk. They don't want to pick him apart for not running hard enough (he always ran hard), or for holding out (he was justified), or for complaining about the bad music in the Dome (he was right) or the lukewarm support of the fans (right again). They have put all that aside.

    And all it took was a monster game against the Detroit Lions to finally close the deal and open their hesistant eyes and hearts.

    In one of the worst and most difficult years in Rams history in a game that was considered to be potentially one of the most embarrassing to the franchise Jackson was an intimidating, dominating force of nature in that 17-10 victory that ended a 17-game losing streak. It was his most impressive performance as a Ram, and not just because of the numbers 149 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. It was the style and substance of what Jackson did that seems to have finally connected him to a public that has been reluctant to embrace him for any number of reasons.

    Jackson didn't talk his way into their hearts and minds.

    He ran his way in there.

    What made him so stunning on Sunday?

    For all those Jackson haters who kept saying he wasn't a tough inside runner, how's this for destroying that silly notion? After a lengthy film review of Sunday's game, it was determined that Jackson gained a staggering 125 yards after contact (the first hit by a defender). That means that Jackson averaged 5.6 yards rushing against the Lions after the first Detroit defender made contact with him.

    He kept slamming into people, pushing them back, stiff-arming them or just flat out...
    -11-03-2009, 11:15 PM
  • eldfan
    Rams have a high mountain to climb in the rebuilding process
    by eldfan
    Rams have a high mountain to climb in the rebuilding process

    Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell
    [More columns]Bryan Burwell

    A week ago down in the sun-splashed isolation of Jacksonville where apparently NFL franchises go to suffer in wretched exile before half-empty stadiums and a dispirited fan base the winless Rams stood on their tippy-toes like a baby brother trying to inch his way up a kitchen-door growth chart.

    Last weekend, the Rams thought that at long last they were starting to measure up. They stiffened their backs, stretched their necks, then glanced over their shoulders and convinced themselves that after 16 consecutive losses, they were finally poking their heads even with the rest of the NFL. For one oh-so-brief moment, the Rams actually flirted with victory and dared to believe that prosperity and the end of one year of uninterrupted losing was near.

    That overtime loss in the Florida sun had them fooled and some of us too into believing that this was real progress.

    Of course, now we know that wasn't progress.

    That was just the Jaguars.

    What we need to remember and what the undefeated Indianapolis Colts reminded us of quite emphatically on Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome is what the real standard of measure should be as the Rams continue on their path to reconstruction.

    The goal can't be about just creeping up from the bottom of the NFL barrel. It has to be about leaping out of the gutter, rising above the mediocre masses and returning to prominence. And this 42-6 beatdown by the Colts was just the sort of shock-and-awe reminder of just how far the Rams have to go to accomplish that.

    And let me be the first one to get the buildup started for next Sunday's Debacle in Detroit between your hopeless 0-7 Rams and the pathetic 1-5 Lions. One simple victory won't heal the deep and ugly scab that develops over the course of a losing streak that hit a staggering 17 games on Sunday afternoon.

    Ask the folks in Motown how long their uplifted spirits lasted when the sad-sack Lions ended their 19-game losing streak with a victory over Washington four weeks ago. I believe it lasted all of six days before the Lions started on another losing streak.

    This is not about short-term pleasure. It has to be about climbing all the way back up the pro football summit, where the Rams used to dwell and these powerful Colts seem to be holding permanent residence. Who cares how close the Rams are to bad teams like Jacksonville or Washington, or even ordinary ones like Seattle and San Francisco. Who cares if at the end of this season all they have to show for their efforts is one measly victory against a miserable team like Detroit or Tennessee? MORE BURWELL
    E-mail Bryan Burwell
    More Burwell columns
    Sound off...
    -10-26-2009, 04:01 AM
  • Nick
    Burwell: Rams didn't look half bad this time
    by Nick
    Burwell: Rams didn't look half bad this time
    BY BRYAN BURWELL | Posted: Monday, September 13, 2010 2:00 am

    At the end of the game, the paying customers were still on their feet, still lingering at their seats as the Rams raced off the field. And for a change, this was no bile-spitting, expletive-blurting, crazed, depressed or hostile mob of unsatisfied customers who bothered to hang around until the bitter end only to empty their spleens with a barrage of vulgarity that would make a sailor blush.

    Yes, the green but growing young Rams had lost the season opener to the visiting Arizona Cardinals, but since they had actually given these folks more than 52,000 of them something entertaining to talk about, the spectators lingered to cheer, not to curse. No one should have left the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday giddy about the ultimate result of the day Cardinals 17, Rams 13 but the paying customers could leave the premises satisfied that they had seen a good and entertaining show.

    We're not passing out "atta boys" or gold stars for effort like this was some Little League frivolity. This is still the NFL, where they are paid to play, and winning is the ultimate measure of satisfaction. But when you have been as bad as the Rams have been for such a long time, satisfaction is a relative thing. Satisfaction comes in small steps, not giant leaps. So on this Sunday in the Dome, that satisfaction was measured by an honest to goodness sense that even in defeat, people could walk away without that same old sick and depressing feeling in their guts that their favorite team was an incompetent and hopeless mess.

    Come on, admit it. The Rams didn't look half bad, did they?

    Having been up close and personal for far too many of these hideous, gawdawful nightmares of the past when the Rams always looked outgunned and outmanned, it was a treat to see that this 2010 team doesn't look like a welcome mat anymore.

    I don't know how many football games the Rams will win this season, but they do look capable of winning football games in the National Football League again, and when was the last time you could say that?

    They played the Arizona Cardinals, defending NFC West champs, on even terms right down to the last seconds. And it won't be the last game they play this close. That is the way you mark the improvement of the Rams at this stage. You mark it by noticing signs that they have upgraded, lifted themselves up from the status of NFL laughingstock to a team that has a decent chance on any particular Sunday to find a way to football games again.

    This looks like something positive is happening.

    "We believe now," defensive end Chris Long said, echoing a comment I heard throughout every corner of the locker room on Sunday. "We believe we can win now. Now, as a ballplayer, you gotta believe anyway. But there's...
    -09-13-2010, 06:33 AM
  • RamWraith
    Jackson need not apologize for speaking out truthfully
    by RamWraith
    By Bryan Burwell
    Friday, Sep. 21 2007

    Leadership comes in many forms. It can be as subtle as a look, as complicated
    as a plan, as forceful as a sermon or as compelling as the cult of personality.

    In the simulated battlefield environment of pro football, leadership is most
    often identified in emotional men who rage wonderfully in the heat of battle.
    There is no place on the football field for anyone who cringes or panics in
    their athletic wars. So it strikes me a little odd that anyone would demand or
    quietly coax an apology from Rams running back Steven Jackson for baring his
    dissatisfaction with another fourth-quarter meltdown by his team in last
    Sunday's 17-16 loss to the San Francisco *****.

    I would never undercut the passion that Jackson shows on the field. I would
    never suggest for a second that he turn down his competitive fire even one
    notch. I would never discourage the intensity he carries in his gut and the
    will to win that he displays every time he steps on the field. In fact, I would
    stoke it so all his positive emotion spreads to some of his underachieving and
    nonchalant teammates.

    A year ago, quarterback Marc Bulger ripped into unnamed underachieving
    teammates, and he was hailed as a team leader. He exposed some unvarnished,
    inconvenient truths about the passion and commitment of some of his teammates,
    and Bulger was not convinced to tone down, smooth over or distill his outrage.

    There was no polite backtracking, and there never should have been. It was the
    last thing that struggling team needed at the time, and it's the last thing the
    Rams need now as they try to break out of this mistake-filled 0-2 start to the
    2007 regular season. Nearly 10 months ago, Bulger was trying to rattle a few
    cages and deliver a message that there were more than a few young, gifted and
    underachieving athletes on this squad who must learn, as Bulger put it, the
    difference between being a professional and being on scholarship.

    And here we are with another Rams team struggling to get its act together and
    another team leader expressing his outrage over the way things are going.
    That's what leaders are supposed to do, and he has no reason to apologize.

    Instead of questioning him, the folks at Rams Park ought to listen carefully to
    Jackson, mimick his desire and share his hatred of losing these close and
    winnable ball games.

    It has been a long time since the Rams have had such an athlete like Jackson, a
    rising star who wants to race full speed into the burning spotlight and take on
    all the joys and burdens of stardom: high performance, visibility, high
    character, role model and team leader.

    I don't...
    -09-21-2007, 04:41 AM
  • RamsFan16
    Rams Notebook: Jackson leaves team with no hard feelings
    by RamsFan16

    Rams Notebook: Jackson leaves team with no hard feelings
    By Jim Thomas

    After signing a two-year deal with Detroit earlier in the day, defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson and his wife, Tenique, celebrated Tuesday evening at a St. Louis steakhouse.

    They walked into the restaurant wearing Detroit Lions hats and settled in for a nice meal. Barely 10 feet away were Rams coach Scott Linehan, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, defensive line coach Brian Baker and Cleveland Browns free agent Jason Fisk, who could replace Jackson.

    No hard feelings? Actually, there never seem to be any hard feelings with Jackson, who earlier in the offseason was told by the Rams he no longer fit into their plans.

    "It was funny," Jackson said of the restaurant encounter. "But I've got no animosity toward them, and they don't seem to have any toward me. So it was no problem. We waved to each other."

    Later, when Linehan's dinner group was leaving the restaurant, they stopped by Jackson's table to shake hands. Jackson wished them luck. And that, in effect, signaled the end of Jackson's five-year stay with the Rams, a period that included three playoff berths, two division titles and one Super Bowl appearance.

    "I'm not disappointed at all," Jackson said. "I wake up every day, I've got a beautiful wife, I've got a (baby) coming in three months, and I play in the National Football League. So every day is a sunny day to me. Believe me when I tell you that."

    Naturally, Jackson is going to miss many of his Rams teammates. He mentioned much of the roster, as well as the trainers, community relations department, strength coaches, equipment managers and general manager Charley Armey, plus Ray Ogas and Ray Agnew of the player programs department.

    "And I'm going to miss the fans," Jackson said. "I'm going to miss the fans big-time, because I think we've got here in St. Louis some of the best fans. I'm saying 'we,' because I'm still sitting in my home right here in St. Charles. ... But you know, come Oct. 1, I'm looking forward to being on the other side and hearing some boos."

    That's when Jackson, Detroit offensive coordinator Mike Martz and the rest of the Lions visit the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome. Jackson, 34, is expected to perform the same duties in Detroit that he did for the Rams as a swing player at end and tackle.

    [email protected] 314-340-8197...
    -04-26-2006, 09:03 PM