ST. LOUIS (AP) Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy played well enough in his first start to gain coach Jeff Fisher’s trust to start again.
And why not? The Rams topped the 100-yard mark for the first time by rushing for a season-high 143 yards, averaging 4 yards a carry, in beating visiting Jacksonville 34-20. It was the highest total since St. Louis put up 173 yards at Arizona on Nov. 25, 2012.
The 5-foot-8, 214-pound Stacy led the team in rushing yards, registering 78 yards on 14 attempts, a 5.6-yard average. The fifth-round pick had just one carry before the start — a 4-yard gain in the season-opening win over Arizona.
“It felt good to go out there and be consistent and help the team get a win,” Stacy said after practice Thursday. “I’m a guy who takes advantage of opportunities. Whether it’s five carries or 28 carries, I want to make the most of it and put this offense in a position to be successful.”
His yardage was the third highest by a Rams rookie since 2004. Brian Leonard gained 102 yards in 2007 against Arizona and teammate Daryl Richardson picked up 83 yards last year against Washington.
Stacy returned to practice Thursday after sitting out the previous day with sore ribs. He quickly brushed off any injury talk.
“It was a precaution thing yesterday. It was nothing serious, just a recovery day,” Stacy said. “I feel great and it’s great to be working. It hurt me more not to be out there practicing.”
Fisher liked what he saw from Stacy against the Jaguars. Stacy ran hard between the tackles. He also blocked well for quarterback Sam Bradford in passing situations.
“He was hitting the hole and he had yards after contact — the violent yards, we refer to them at the running back position,” Fisher said. “He got to what he needed to do in the passing game and I thought in protection he was excellent.”
Now, the Rams want to do it again this week on the road at Houston. The Texans boast the No. 1 defense in the NFL but rank 27th against the run. Houston allows 126 yards rushing a game.
St. Louis had a season-best time of possession of 35 minutes, 19 seconds against Jacksonville. Running the ball helped boost that figure, Bradford said.
Bradford threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns for a 105.3 passer rating in the win over Jacksonville. He attributed success with the running game for that.
“We knew going into last week that after the previous two weeks where we had become very one-dimensional that it was going to be important for us to establish the run game and stay balanced throughout the game,” Bradford said. “I think the guys up front did a great job opening holes. All the running backs who came in ran extremely hard, and I think that balance really helped maintain throughout four quarters.”
Those two previous weeks, the Rams had trouble running. In the 31-7 loss to Dallas, St. Louis gained just 35 yards rushing on 12 carries. That figure surpassed the totals in the 35-11 loss to San Francisco.
Against the 49ers, St. Louis picked up 18 yards rushing on 19 carries.
The Rams turned it around against Jacksonville. They see an opportunity to run on Houston.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer knows Fisher wants to emphasize the running attack again.
“We talked about looking for balance,” Schottenheimer said. “We’ve got to keep working. Anytime you’re one-dimensional in any area or any situation, you’re going to be easier to defend. The running game gives us so many more avenues we can go to.”
NOTES: RT Rodger Safford (knee) practiced Thursday in a limited role for the first time since he was hurt in Week 2 against Atlanta. … DE William Hayes (knee) and DT Matt Conrath (concussion) both remained limited in practice for the second day. … CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh) did not practice for the second day.