ST. LOUIS — Zac Stacy is proving plenty of people wrong.
The St. Louis Rams’ rookie from Vanderbilt was the 13th running back selected in the 2013 draft when the Rams took him in the fifth round at No. 160 overall. But if he keeps up his strong play of recent weeks, Stacy might run off with the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award.
He has become a revelation for a Rams team that fell to 3-6 with its 28-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at Edward Jones Dome.
Less than a week after rushing for a career-high 134 yards against the Seahawks, the 5-foot-8, 216-pound bowling ball gained 127 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries and caught six passes for another 51 yards.
“I’m just making plays,” Stacy said. “That’s what it all comes down to. Week in and week out we stress making plays all across the offensive room. There’s no secret sauce to what I’m doing. I’m just making plays.”
The Rams have leaned on the rookie since quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a season-ending knee injury three weeks ago at Carolina. Stacy has responded by showing he’s more than capable of handling the load as Jeff Fisher’s go-to guy in the backfield.
Stacy ran the ball 49 times for 201 yards in his first three starts, beginning in Week 3 against Jacksonville. But the past two weeks he has rushed 53 times for 261 yards, an average of 4.9 yards per carry, and tallied the team’s first two rushing touchdowns of the season.
“It just comes down to just taking advantage of your opportunities,” Stacy said. “Week in and week out we stress being detailed and we stress preparation in the offensive room and also the
running back room. I’m just going out there and taking advantage of the opportunities that I get.”
Stacy now has 475 yards rushing on 103 carries. His 4.6 yards-per-carry average is among the best in the league.
“He’s a good football player,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We liked him in the draft. We talked to him and had him over from Vanderbilt and thought he was going to be a special back. We thought that he ran downhill, he stayed square and he ran well last week and he ran well today.”
Stacy is also making fans forget about Steven Jackson, who made his mark on the franchise with eight consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons before signing with Atlanta as a free agent in the offseason.
Jackson, in case you’re wondering, has been hampered by a hamstring injury this season and has rushed for just 140 yards on 38 carries in four games. The Falcons fell to 2-6 with a loss at Carolina on Sunday.
Stacy’s back-to-back 100-yard rushing games equal the number of 100-yard games Jackson recorded during the 2012 season. Jackson’s last consecutive 100-yard games came in Weeks 8 and 9 in 2011.
“From the moment that Zac Stacy took over that No. 1 spot, he’s been a great weapon for us,” Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens said. “He’s a good back. He’s also very good out of the backfield as you saw tonight. I think he probably had three or four catches. So he’s a great weapon for us. We’re lucky to have him. He’s stepped up in a big way.”
The Rams’ front office and scouting department saw something in Stacy and now they’re being rewarded for it.
Despite rushing for 2,334 yards and 24 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Vanderbilt, the bruising back was still available late in the fifth round when the Rams traded two sixth-round picks to the Houston Texans to move up and steal Stacy.
“It’s not about where you get drafted at,” Rams right tackle Joe Barksdale said. “It’s the NFL. First round, seventh round, undrafted free agents — there’s all-stars and Hall of Famers at all those positions. It’s about what you do when you get here, and he’s making the most of his opportunities when he gets the ball in his hands and he’s helping our team succeed.”
Stacy is averaging 94.2 rushing yards per game over his five starts the past five weeks, but he has said repeatedly he doesn’t care about his statistics. He said it Monday night. He repeated it again Sunday.
So the best two weeks of Stacy’s fledgling NFL career have left him feeling less than satisfied after coming up short in losses against the Seahawks and the Titans.
“The only stats I worry about are wins and losses,” Stacy said. “We came up short today, but we’re going to keep going, just keep improving week in and week out and we’ll be fine.”