Jackson’s goals have been dashed with Falcons

Steven Jackson was looking forward to showing what he could do
on a winning team, to really making his mark on the national
stage.

It hasn’t worked out as he hoped.

Not even close.

The 30-year-old Jackson is mired in the worst season on his
decade-long career, and any hope he had of carrying the Atlanta
Falcons to a Super Bowl title are long gone.

”It has not been the year we all wanted,” Jackson said
Wednesday. ”It’s kind of like the reality of life. A lot of times,
people go through things that you just don’t prepare for. Some
things hit you (from the) blind side.”

After missing four games and most of a fifth with a hamstring
injury, Jackson has been largely invisible since returning to the
field. Over the last three weeks, he has carried the ball 33 times
for 74 yards and turned in two of the worst performances of his
career – an 11-carry, 6-yard effort against Arizona and last
Sunday’s nine-carry, 11-yard showing against Seattle.

Overall, he has a measly 151 yards rushing and a career-worst
3.2 yards per carry, his struggles mirroring the team’s. The
Falcons (2-7) are one of the league’s most disappointing squads,
going into Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay (1-8) having lost six of
seven to put themselves in the running for the top draft pick in
2014, not a championship.

”You kind of look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself,
`Are you doing all the things you have done in the past? Are you
staying motivated? Are there areas you need to improve?”’ Jackson
said. ”You’ve got to be completely honest with yourself and then
kind of go from there.”

When Jackson arrived in Atlanta, he was touted as the last piece
to the puzzle, a more versatile runner than his predecessor
(Michael Turner) and a player who could get the Falcons over the
hump after they came oh-so-close to reaching the Super Bowl last
season.

If nothing else, it seemed a pretty sure bet what could be
expected out of Jackson. After gaining a full-time starting job
with the Rams in his second year, he had put together eight
straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons – though few people knew about
it outside St. Louis because he played on perennially losing
teams.

Barring a stunning turnaround, the 1,000-yard streak is surely
over.

The Falcons’ performance, on the other hand, is right on par
with what he endured in St. Louis.

”In these situations, it’s easy to start pointing a finger at
people,” said Jackson, who was limited in practice Wednesday by a
sore toe. ”But first things first, you take responsibility for the
things you can control. That’s what I have done over the years, and
that’s what I will continue to do this season.”

Jackson isn’t the only one struggling on offense.

The Falcons have scored only three touchdowns – one in each game
– the last three weeks. Quarterback Matt Ryan has struggled in the
passing game without star receiver Julio Jones, who went out with a
season-ending injury. The offensive line was a big question mark
even before it lost two starters for the year, and what’s left up
front has provided hardly any room for Jackson and the other backs
to run.

”Everybody’s disappointed and frustrated with where we’re at,”
Ryan said. ”We understand that. Steven is a great teammate and a
good guy to be around. He’s got a lot of good insight. He just
keeps plugging away. That’s part of the deal. That’s what you have
to do.”

Jackson could easily point to the porous line or the lack of
carries as reasons for his troubles. The Falcons have been
outscored 94-33 during a three-game losing streak, usually getting
so far behind they have to quickly abandon the running game.

But he’s only concerned with what he can improve.

”Running the ball is group effort,” Jackson said. ”It’s not
one individual. It’s not one unit. Over the years, I’ve taken pride
in being consistent. But regardless of why things have not worked
out, I refuse as a leader to point the finger at someone else
before I point it at myself.”

NOTES: As expected, LB Sean Weatherspoon rejoined the roster
Wednesday after recovering from a foot ailment. He had been on the
injured list since Week 2 and watched the Falcons go 1-6 while he
was out. ”I’m not Superman,” he said. ”I’ve got to go out there
and play my game.” … The Falcons also signed OT Sean Locklear,
who spent much of his career in Seattle and started 10 games for
the New York Giants last season. He fills the roster spot left by
LT Sam Baker, who is done for the year because of a knee injury.
… TE Tony Gonzalez (toe) and backup running back Jason Snelling
(knee) did not practice Wednesday. DT Corey Peters (knee) and DE
Malliciah Goodman (calf) also sat out.

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