Jackson hits milestones, longs for playoffs
If he never plays another down, Steven Jackson is in select company.
Last week, the St. Louis Rams' running back became the 11th player in NFL history with six consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. It's a mark of durability that he's justifiably proud of.
Marshall Faulk, the Rams' starter in 2004 when Jackson was a rookie, had five straight 1,000-yard seasons. Among others in the 16-game season era who fell one season short of matching Jackson's feat are Eddie George, Tiki Barber, Edgerrin James and Ahman Green.
What's missing on the resume is meaningful games.
The last time the Rams (6-7) made it to the playoffs was Jackson's rookie season in 2004. They're in first place in the NFC West with three games to go, and he can almost taste it.
St. Louis can take a big step on Sunday at home against the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs. Jackson hopes to lead the way.
''It means a lot,'' Jackson said Thursday. ''That's when you see guys kind of start to define themselves in their career, what people remember of them. It's not regular season play, it's postseason play, so I do hope to be a part of that.''
Emmitt Smith holds the NFL record with 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons. Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin did it 10 straight times, LaDainian Tomlinson and Thurman did it eight straight. Others who did it six times were Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Ricky Watters and Corey Dillon.
The Chiefs' Thomas Jones needs 234 yards the last three games to become the 12th player to reach 1,000 yards six straight times.
Jackson has 1,081 yards rushing, a 3.9-yard average and four touchdowns against defenses typically stacked to stop the run and make rookie quarterback Sam Bradford beat them. He's seventh in the NFL in rushing and eighth in yards from scrimmage.
Jackson made it to 1,000 yards last year playing the final six games with a herniated disk in his back that required offseason surgery. In a 1-15 season, he kept grinding.
This year, he's played through a groin strain and is still playing with a broken left ring finger sustained in Week 7 at Tampa Bay. Counting that game, he has since had a pair of 100-yard efforts and had 96 yards on 16 attempts last week at New Orleans.
''It doesn't matter what the year is like,'' fullback Mike Karney said. ''He's obviously had 1,000-yard seasons when it's been not a good season for the Rams, so it tells you he shows up to play no matter what.''
Now, finally, there's extra incentive. The Rams hold the tiebreaker advantage over the Seahawks (6-7) and it all could come down to the season finale Jan. 2 in Seattle.
''I think the team's at a state of mind where we feel confident enough that these next three games we can compete,'' Jackson said. ''That's what you want to see. You don't want to see guys walking around afraid to make a mistake or allowing the pressure to kind of put them in a bad spot.''
Jackson was a first-round pick out of Oregon State in 2004, also the first running back selected in the draft, and joined an aging version of the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis. He had 673 yards rushing and a 5-yard average for a team that beat the Seahawks three times, the final time in the first round of the playoffs, before getting blown out 47-17 at Atlanta.
He assumed there would be many more opportunities. Instead, the Rams' best since then was 8-8 in 2006, and they were 6-42 from 2007-09.
''I thought it would be an every year thing,'' Jackson said. ''I thought the playoffs would be something I would be accustomed to. God willing we make it back this time, I won't take it for granted. I'll take every play like I won't be back.''