Zac Stacy has become a go-to player after he was selected in the fifth round of the draft and then waited until Week 5 to make his first career start.
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ST. LOUIS — Zac Stacy needs 42 yards to follow in Steven Jackson’s footsteps and give the St. Louis Rams a 1,000-yard rusher in nine straight seasons.
If he reaches that milestone in the season finale at Seattle, the rookie will decide how to reward his offensive linemen.
"I think the O-linemen are more excited about it than I am," Stacy said Thursday. "My whole mentality is just coming in and helping this team win, whatever I have to do.
"So, we’ll talk about when we get there."
Tackle Rodger Saffold joked last week that Stacy had better not be handing out boxes of chocolates or Micro Machine toy vehicles. Stacy replied jokingly that Saffold needed to stay away from chocolates, anyway.
Jackson had eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, beginning with his second year, before leaving in free agency. After one of them, he purchased expensive watches for the offensive linemen.
Last year, with Jackson almost out the door, there was no reward.
It sounds as if Stacy’s success is enough of a present for his teammates, anyway.
"He does well, we do well," tackle Joe Barksdale said. "That’s enough for me. He doesn’t have to give us anything."
Stacy has become a go-to player after he was selected in the fifth round of the draft and then waited until Week 5 to make his first career start. Before taking over for injured Daryl Richardson, he had one carry for 4 yards and twice was inactive.
He’s coming off consecutive 100-yard games and has four overall, including a career-best 134 yards against the Seahawks (12-3) at home in Week 5.
"There’s no secret sauce to what I’m doing," Stacy said after setting a franchise record with 106 yards in the first half against the Saints. "I just want to help the team win."
The Rams (7-8) have become a ground-oriented team since Sam Bradford’s season-ending knee injury in Week 7, giving Stacy 20 or more carries five times.
On Mondays, Stacy said he’s usually so sore he crawls to the bathroom. He typically sits out practices early in the week, saving up for another heavy load on game day.
"They add up quick, the carries," Stacy said. "It’s about being productive."
Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens has done a good job of managing games and the line has been productive despite injuries that led to Saffold starting at three spots. Center Scott Wells and tackle Jake Long are out for the year and guard Harvey Dahl has struggled to come back from a left knee injury, although he hopes to play in the finale.
"It’s not just Zac," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "We’ve been mixing and matching a lot of linemen in there.
"But Zac’s having a great season, and he does a lot of little things for us, too."
St. Louis had a season-best 200 yards rushing the first meeting against the Seahawks but ended up 1 yard shy of the end zone at the finish of a 14-9 Monday night loss.
"Certainly, they’ll adjust," Schottenheimer said. "They found a way to win the game and that’s the objective.
"It doesn’t matter how many yards we have running, throwing, anything."
Though the NFC West title and home-field advantage is at stake for Seattle, the Rams are winding up a decade without a winning season. Their goal is finishing .500 for the first time since 2006.
"Playoff atmosphere is tough because we know that we’ve got one game and we’re going to be doing exit physicals on Monday," Clemens said. "But you’re not going to get anything less than our best."
The Rams’ chances of adding rookie Tavon Austin to the mix for the finale might be slim. Austin has missed two games with a left ankle injury and has sat out the first two practices this week, too, but he’s still trying to stay mentally prepared.
"I’ll tell you what, he’s hard to get out of the huddle," Schottenheimer said. "I know he’s champing at the bit but we’ll see what happens."
Rams rookie receiver Austin returns to practice
Rookie receiver and kick returner Tavon Austin returned to practice for the St. Louis Rams, and coach Jeff Fisher said he was encouraged with his progress.
Austin has not practiced since he injured his ankle Dec. 8 in the Rams’ 30-10 loss to the Cardinals at Arizona. He missed the Rams’ last two games, against New Orleans and Tampa Bay
Fisher said Friday he would list Austin, selected eighth overall in the last draft, as "questionable" for Sunday when the Rams close out the regular season at Seattle against the Seahawks.
The electric rookie has shown big-play potential this season. He was injured after a 56-yard run on a reverse late in the third quarter that set up St. Louis’ lone touchdown at Arizona.