ST. LOUIS — Someone should tell Joe Barksdale what he missed.
“To be honest with you, I will have to watch the film,” he said Sunday afternoon. “I was too busy trying to block for him. But I heard he did a really good job, so I’m happy for him.”
Had the St. Louis Rams right tackle been able to both block and watch during the Rams’ 34-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, he would have seen a glimmer of hope. He would have witnessed the kind of performance that just might foreshadow a one-dimensional offense adding the layer it must have to pull this season out of a downward spiral. The glimmer is named Zac Stacy.
“He runs the ball hard,” Rams left tackle Jake Long said. “He can run over guys and break away at times. He did a great job today.”
Stacy, the rookie out of Vanderbilt, started for the first time Sunday. While his debut as a lead man came against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars — a team that entered the Edward Jones Dome coughing up an NFL-worst 165 rushing yards per outing — the Rams are not in position to downplay any sign of backfield growth. After all, St. Louis hit the field averaging a league-worst 47.2 yards on the ground.
Stacy, who has slowly marched forward as previous starter Daryl Richardson and previous No. 2 Isaiah Pead have failed to secure the role, had 38 yards in the first half.
“He is hitting the hole well,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He got what was blocked for him.”
And then some.
“They definitely wanted to run the ball,” Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “That was evident. We felt like we were well prepared and we did a solid job for the most part. Then we let up a couple of runs, missed a couple tackles, let a guy fall forward after hitting him, and those little four- or five-yard runs add up.”
Stacy was the one constantly falling forward, always chipping away. It added up to 14 carries for 78 yards, an average of 5.6 per touch.
For perspective, the Rams’ previous rushing high as a team this season was 69 in a loss to Atlanta. Richardson hasn’t surpassed 63 rushing yards in a game this year. Pead has 75 in his career.
“I was able to get into a rhythm a little bit,” Stacy said. “For the most part, it was a lot of good things we did up front, to open up holes and everything for all of us. Hopefully, we can keep that momentum going next week.”
Stacy likely earned himself at least another start. Richardson carried the ball 13 times for 30 fewer yards. Rookie Benny Cunningham totaled just four touches, while Pead’s stretch without a handoff now dates to Sept. 22.
While he prefers to plow into and over tacklers instead of spin and juke, Stacy did his best to dodge questions about the long-term ramifications of his performance.
“It’s one game,” he said.
But it’s also the best game a Rams running back has had all year.
And it came when this team needed it most.
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.