Mr. Consistency: Jackson Joins Elite Club

Posted Dec 30, 2012

SEATTLE – In so many ways, Rams running back Steven Jackson has already made himself at home in the elite company of so many of the greatest players ever to play his position.

At CenturyLink Field on Sunday, Jackson ran his way into even more history and another exclusive club with a 14-yard dash up the middle midway through the second quarter.

That run pushed Jackson, who only entered Sunday’s game with 990 rushing yards for the season, over the 1,000 mark for the eighth consecutive season, a mark that has only been reached by five other backs in the history of the league.

While 1,000 yards isn’t the benchmark for production it used to be, that Jackson is now in the company of NFL luminaries such as Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Thurman Thomas, Curtis Martin and LaDainian Tomlinson (four of whom are Hall of Famers and one, Tomlinson, who will be when eligible) speaks volumes about what’s required to find that type of durability and consistency.

“It means a lot,” Jackson said. “That group I joined today, I am thankful to all those guys, really appreciate what they’ve done for the position and I try to carry the torch and be a franchise running back.”

The Rams very own Mr. Consistency took Sunday’s achievement in stride with the many records he already owns both in franchise history and league-wide.

Taught early in his career by the likes of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce that consistent excellence is the sign of a truly great player, Jackson has strived for that ever since.

“I have just been blessed to play at a high level for a long time in this league,” Jackson said. “I have always set out to be consistent, be a tough runner and being able to do that now since I have been a starter means a lot.”

Needing just 10 yards rushing to hit the mark Sunday, it seemed a sure thing Jackson would get there but after a first quarter in which the Seahawks limited him to 3 yards on three carries, it took an offensive mental mistake to spring Jackson for the gain to move past the 1,000-yard barrier.

One of Jackson’s blockers went the wrong way on the play but it actually created a split that opened a big crease in the middle of Seattle’s defense and Jackson took advantage.

“Someone went the wrong way and it worked out for me,” Jackson said, laughing.

Jackson finished with 52 yards on 11 carries, giving him 10,135 rushing yards for his career, the most by an active player.

Another week, another milestone left Rams coach Jeff Fisher awed once again by his workhorse running back.

“It’s the same thing we have talked about several weeks ago with 10,000,” Fisher said. “He’s a great team players and he’s a great teammate and he loves to play the game. He’s unselfish. It’s just been a great experience for me to stand on the sideline and watch him carry the ball this year.”

With the season complete, Jackson was barraged with plenty of questions about his future with the team and the potential for a pending free agency.

Jackson has the opportunity to void the final year of his contract and was the topic of retirement rumors earlier this week when a couple of joking comments were blown out of proportion.

Of course, both Jackson and the Rams have made no bones about wanting him to stay in St. Louis and finish his career with the only franchise he’s ever known. Pressed on the possibility of leaving or even retirement after the game, Jackson again sounded like a man with no intention of leaving, even making multiple references to the Rams as ‘us’ or ‘we’ in the context of the 2013 season.

“What I said was I would seek all options and that will be something that is an option for me,” Jackson said. “But I love the game of football, I feel like I still have a lot left in my tank and let’s just get the deal done, how about that?”

SACK CHAMPIONS: The Rams defense entered Sunday’s game chasing a little statistical history of its own, trailing Denver by two sacks for the most in the NFL this season.

By the time the clock struck zeroes Sunday, the Rams had dropped Seattle’s slippery rookie quarterback Russell Wilson six times, the most allowed by the Seahawks all season.

End Chris Long led the way with three.

“Our whole D line really just pushed the pocket and kept him in the pocket and for the most part we took advantage of our opportunities,” Long said. “We got him down for the most part when we had the opportunity. He’s tough to get down. It was a group effort.”

That group effort left the Rams with 52 sacks on the season and tied them with Denver for the most in the NFL this season. Long led the charge with 11.5 and fellow end Robert Quinn finished with 10.5, giving the Rams two defenders with double digits in sacks for the first time since Grant Wistrom and Kevin Carter did it in 2000.

In the immediate aftermath of the disappointing loss, Long and his teammates couldn’t quite enjoy the feat.

“I’d say we got better in that regard,” Long said. “We want to win some more games. We take some pride in that but certainly we would have liked to have won that game.”

WHITHER AMENDOLA?: Jackson isn’t the only Ram to face an uncertain future heading into the offseason.

Receiver Danny Amendola is due to become an unrestricted free agent as well. But, like Jackson, Amendola made it clear what he wants to happen.

“St. Louis is my home,” Amendola said. “I am really excited about the coaching staff and the players we have here and the organization. I also understand that there’s a business side of things and you don’t always get what you want. We’ll take it in stride. I love St. Louis so we’ll see.”

HEALTHY FINISH: For a team that had its entire 53-man roster listed as full participants in Friday’s practice, the Rams have to rank as one of the healthiest teams in the league heading into the offseason.

Sunday’s game did little to change that though the Rams had a couple bumps and bruises, notably an ankle injury for defensive tackle Michael Brockers and a concussion for linebacker Rocky McIntosh.

“He went back in the game after he came out with the ankle,” Fisher said. “We didn’t have anything, per se, today. Rocky McIntosh went off with a mild concussion. We are healing up at the wrong time but that’s a good thing for next year.”

Brockers said his injury wasn’t the same as the one he suffered in the preseason finale and cost him time at the beginning of the season but acknowledged that it happened on a similar play. He returned to the game and finished it.

“Not the high ankle, it was the other ankle. One of the offensive linemen cut me at the wrong angle but it was the middle of the play,” Brockers said. “I was fine, I was able to come back and show my team I can play through injury. I felt like I needed to be out there for my team.”

FINDING PETTIS: Rams receiver Austin Pettis has developed a knack for finding ways to end drives with the ball in his hands in the end zone in recent weeks and he was at it again Sunday.

Pettis scored the Rams’ lone offensive touchdown in the second quarter on a pass that was actually intended for Amendola but was deflected by a Seattle linebacker and re-directed his way.

“We had a pretty good play call set up, they gave us the look we wanted and it worked out pretty well except the linebacker made a good play and tipped the pass,” Pettis said. “Fortunately it held up just long enough for me to get back to it and it turned out to be a good play for us.”

The touchdown catch was Pettis’ fourth of the season and second in as many weeks. This one was one of his most difficult of the year, though.

“That’s exactly how we planned it,” Bradford said, laughing. “We wanted to deflect it right into his hands. That was the look we wanted, I wish it would have got there clean but for him to be able to make that catch was just great concentration. It wasn’t easy. “