ST. LOUIS – Rams coach Jeff Fisher admitted after their 27-13 loss to the New York Jets last week that he probably should have given running back Steven Jackson more carries.
He didn’t let the same mistake happen twice.
Jackson had a season-high 139 rushing yards on 24 carries to help lead the Rams to a 31-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals on the road Sunday. It was his second-most carries of the year, behind only his 29 attempts in a 24-24 tie in San Francisco three weeks ago.
Weeks after reports surfaced that the Rams were receiving trade inquiries on the former Pro Bowler, Jackson looked every bit like the productive runner he’s been during his now nine-year NFL career.
“I think what we saw out of ‘Jack’ yesterday is what we’re going to see the rest of the year,” Fisher said Monday. “It was a pretty impressive effort yesterday. It was fun to watch from the sideline.”
The longest-tenured Ram had a season long 46-yard scamper to help set up the Rams go-ahead score on their first possession of the second half. In seven of the first eight games of the season, Jackson had nearly that many yards (less than 58) for the entire game.
Jackson is aiming for his eighth-straight 1,000-yard season, which would move him ahead of Rams great Eric Dickerson for the franchise record. And it seemed unlikely when he had just 403 rushing yards at the midway point of the season.
But he’s turned it on of late, accumulating 321 yards on the ground in his past three games. He’s now just 276 yards away with five games remaining and should easily surpass it unless he were to get hurt.
Jackson needs just 183 yards to reach 10,000 for his career, a feet accomplished by just 26 running backs in the history of the NFL. He could get there in two games with the way he’s run the past three games.
The Rams’ all-time leading rusher, Jackson had 81 yards on just 13 carries against the Jets. But he took advantage of the increased workload Sunday in Arizona, helping the Rams orchestrate a near seven-minute drive in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“It’s kind of what we had talked about not only at halftime, but also at the quarter change, that this is how we’re going to have to win this game,” Fisher said. “The offensive line’s going to have to take it over and they did with some help from ‘Jack’. That’s how you win games on the road. When you have a lead going into the fourth quarter you have to keep the ball and that’s what they did. They did a nice job with it.”
The return of Scott Wells at center certainly helped Jackson and the Rams ground game. Having back Wells, who hadn’t played since the season opener, allowed them to move Rob Turner from center back to his stronger spot at left guard.
And the results were obvious and immediate.
“He got help,” Fisher said. “He needed help. He got it from the guys up front. … We felt real good about it during the week and the way Scott had practiced and the way he had been working together with Rob, so it was good.
“Overall, they probably played our best game. Now, we had some issues, which you’re going to against that good defense. But, the results and the production from the run game reflects that they did a pretty good job up front.”
But some of the credit certainly deserves to go to Jackson himself. Set to possibly become a free agent after the season, the 29-year-old is heating up at just the right time. And the Rams are benefiting nicely.
Jackson and the Rams will face the 49ers on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome. And Jackson could be set for more success. He rushed for 101 yards on a season-high 29 carries in their first meeting.