Jackson gaining yards, perspective


ST. LOUIS -- Posting on his Twitter account, SJ39, on Sunday night, Steven Jackson said aches and pains from a big day against the Detroit Lions were "starting to get to me."

You should see the other guys.

The 235-pound running back was at his bruising best in the St. Louis Rams' slump-busting victory at Detroit, dragging tacklers while piling up 149 yards on 22 carries and breaking free for the winning score. He can hit the hole, he can create his own holes, and he can put a team on his back, too.

The Lions certainly got their fill and then some from the unique hybrid, a runner who can get the tough yards but with wheels to match. On a contender, he'd probably be one of the NFL's top stars.

"Man," Detroit defensive end Dewayne White said, "he's a big guy."

Jackson was so determined to put a halt to the Rams' 17-game skid, he accidentally ran over an official on one of his rambles. For that, he apologized on Twitter.

No need to revisit anything else in that game, or virtually his entire season for that matter. Jackson has consistently produced despite a lack of playmakers around him in the NFL's worst offense; the Rams have scored just 77 points.

For better or worse, Jackson has been the face of the franchise for years.

Last season, the Eldorado High School product staged a 27-day training camp holdout that reflected a me-first attitude and then missed four starts and most of a fifth -- all losses -- because of injuries.

He's consistently been the most outspoken Rams player, whether it's criticizing music choices and a generally drab setting at home games, chafing as Marshall Faulk's understudy as a rookie in 2004 or voicing lofty goals.

During rookie coach Steve Spagnuolo's often painful rebuilding effort this fall, though, the 26-year-old Jackson has found patience. He's consistently taken the high road, embraced leadership.

"That's me knowing what kind of makes me go and what kind of makes me tick is really not helpful for a young team," Jackson said. "My determination and I guess my competitive spirit sometimes can be overwhelming, and it can kind of take guys aback. I don't want to go there anymore."

That attitude adjustment has helped win back a disenchanted fan base. The production always has been there; halfway through the season, Jackson is 216 yards from being the first player in franchise history with five straight 1,000-yard seasons.

"They've had a chance to get to know me, and I've had a chance to get to know them, so some of the things I say might not take them aback as much as it would in the past," Jackson said. "I'm also growing up.

"I'm just going to continue to let my play do the talking and continue to play hard, and if you don't like me at this point, you just don't like me."

Jackson frequently predicts that given enough carries he'll wear down the opposition. It's happening this year despite a nondescript cast of pass catchers, allowing opponents to jam the line of scrimmage.

A marked man, and yet unstoppable.

Jackson has 784 yards rushing with a 4.8-yard average, tied with the Vikings' Adrian Peterson for the NFC rushing lead. He has 970 yards from scrimmage, 3 yards behind Peterson's NFL-leading total.

 

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