Darby Does the Job

Posted Sep 26, 2010

As Kenneth Darby crossed the goal line for his first regular season NFL touchdown, he couldn’t help but let the emotions of his journey from practice squads and training camp position battles free.

So Darby did the first thing he thought of: he let out a primal scream that could even be heard above the din rising in the Edward Jones Dome.

“(It was) emotional,” Darby said. “The first thing I could think of was to just holler. Just let it all out, the frustrations through the years in a good holler.”

That 12-yard touchdown burst up the middle would later prove to be the deciding points in the Rams’ stirring 30-16 win on Sunday. The fact that it was Darby doing the work might set off plenty of alarms because it means starter Steven Jackson was on the sideline with a groin injury.

But it also serves the purpose of showing that even without Jackson; the Rams running game can be successful.

After Jackson went to the ground following a run in the second quarter, the Redskins tugged and pulled on him like a wishbone and when the pile cleared off, Jackson stayed down.

Jackson limped into the locker room and did not return in the second half. After the game, the Rams were optimistic that Jackson’s injury was not serious.

“All the signs kind of say that it’s not a tear,” Jackson said. “But you never know until we’ll be able to see it through the MRI, but I’m just praying and hoping that it’s not going to be a serious injury and that I’ll be able to come back and not have to sit out a long time.”

With Jackson on the sideline in the second half, he took it on himself to help provide guidance to youngsters Darby and Keith Toston, the two backs pressed with picking up the slack.

Darby got his first touch, an 8-yard gain on a swing pass with 1:58 to go in the first half. He didn’t touch it again until a 3-yard run with nine minutes to go in the third quarter. Three plays later, he scored the aforementioned touchdown.

In the locker room after the game, Darby said he didn’t need many touches to get in the flow of the game.

“Not at all,” Darby said. “I just need a few carries, that’s all. The line did a great job up front, we had good push up front on their D line and it didn’t take me long at all to get in a rhythm with the way they were opening up holes for us.”

Darby got rolling soon after that, at one point rolling up 28 yards on five consecutive carries. He finished with 49 yards on 14 carries with the touchdown and the 8-yard catch.

Toston chipped in with 22 yards on 11 carries but picked up some tough yards late to help the Rams exhaust the clock and add some insurance points.

“I think Darby did a great job,” Jackson said. “I think our backs came in, showed that if something was to happen to me that they could come in and fill in and do their job. They knew their assignments. You could tell they ran with confidence. They took advantage of the opportunity, and that’s what you have to do in this league. When you get an opportunity you have to take advantage of it, and I think those guys answered.”

CAPTAIN-LESS: As if losing offensive captain Jackson to his injury wasn’t enough, the Rams also lost their defensive captain.

Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe battled a quad injury for most of the week of practice and started Sunday’s game.

But Atogwe was unable to get the quad loosened up enough to stay in and had to be replaced by rookie Darian Stewart.

“Losing Jack and OJ within the course of the game is hard but we did a good job of filling in,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said.

SUBS ON THE RUN: As injuries mounted during the week, the Rams began working in practice on getting some players involved with the first team in case they were needed in the game.

On Sunday, the Rams used some of those players in the game to change up looks at gain experience.

John Greco rotated with Adam Goldberg at right guard for parts of the game and seemed to have success in the run game, opening some holes for Darby along the way.

“We needed to get John going,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “He missed a lot in training camp and only had that one preseason game. And somewhere along the way, we get dinged in the offensive line we’re going to have to do some shuffling, so we need guys that have played some reps.”

Greco wasn’t the only one to get reps with his respective top unit. Linebacker David Vobora also worked in with the linebacker corps.

“Coach Ferraro and I had talked about it and I think in the third series we were going to put him in,” Spagnuolo said. “I kind of like it when you can do that especially early in the year. And then when you’re faced with all these injuries, guys aren’t going in and playing their first regular season reps. I think that’s good.”

ONE FOR THE FANS: Sunday’s win was the Rams’ first victory at the Edward Jones Dome since a 34-13 win against Dallas on Oct. 19, 2008.

It was also the first home win for the Rams of the Spagnuolo era. And the enthusiasm spread from players to coaches and well into the stands until every player had gone into the locker room.

Receiver Brandon Gibson even grabbed the Rams flag and began waving it, college style. Goldberg took the time to soak it all in and thank the fans for their patience.

“Hats off to these fans for sticking with us these first two weeks,” Goldberg said. “We rewarded them this week and there’s more to come for them. I want to just thank our fans for all the great support. When they had the ball on third down it was crazy loud in here. And that’s what we need. We feed off their energy and they feed off our performance so it’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.”

INJURY REPORT: While the Rams will await word on Jackson and Atogwe’s statuses for this week, there was one injury suffered in the game that was substantial.

Receiver Dominique Curry, who blocked a punt in the first quarter and has emerged as one of the Rams’ top special teams players, suffered a right knee injury when he planted to make a tackle in coverage and his knee buckled.

All signs pointed to a torn ACL which would end Curry’s season though that won’t be confirmed until Monday morning.

“The one we’re concerned about is Dominique Curry,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s a knee injury, could be an ACL, we don’t know that. Obviously, he’ll get looked at.”

Running back Keith Toston (shoulder), defensive tackle Gary Gibson (ankle) and Stewart (hamstring) were nicked along the way and missed some snaps here and there. All three are expected to be OK but will be looked at further.

RAM BITS: Cornerback Bradley Fletcher’s interception in the fourth quarter was the first of his young career…Receiver Mark Clayton had another big game, plucking five catches for 85 yards, an average of 17 per reception…Tight end Fendi Onobun made his NFL debut and had a pair of catches for 15 yards…Receiver Brandon Gibson was also active for the first time this season, finishing with three grabs for 33 yards…In unofficial pressbox statistics, Laurinaitis led the Rams with seven tackles, including four for loss.