Rams Really Need Jackson To Play

The St. Louis Rams hope that their primary running back is good to go after turning in a 160 yard 3TD performance last week. New England hopes he isn't available.

If running back Steven Jackson can't play Sunday against the Patriots, or if he is only available on a limited basis, it will truly be a runner by committee setup in a game where the Rams are trying to pull within one game of .500.

Running back Antonio Pittman practiced Wednesday and should be ready to play after missing three games with a leg injury. Also available are Travis Minor and Kenneth Darby.

Jackson rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns Sunday against Dallas, but in the fourth quarter, he suffered a bruised quadriceps muscle. Jackson did not practice Wednesday, but said he was feeling a lot better than he did after the game Sunday.

Said Jackson, "We are going to take it day-to-day. Today, I rehabbed with the weight coach and we did some light leg work on the weight machine and then we went into the pool to get the range of motion and make sure that the soreness wears itself out. It is no need to rush. It is Wednesday and we have until Sunday to make a game-time decision. If I could tell my fans that are concerned, it is definitely going in the right direction."

Jackson acknowledged that, at first, he was worried that the injury might be more serious.

He said, "It kind of got bent up funny on the tackle. It kind of over-stretched itself, and it was a sharp pain right away. I got to the sideline and the doctors checked it out. We kind of thought the worst first and once we got the chance to look at the MRI and it confirmed that it wasn't anything, I guess the mind kind of goes to ease and the body starts to feel its way out. Today, being able to get the light workout is really promising. It really feels good."

Coach Jim Haslett was asked how the decision will be made, and whether it will be a club decision or whether Jackson will have input.

"A little bit of both," Haslett said. "The game plan was to take today off. He worked inside with the strength coach, he'll go out and do walk-through tomorrow and then we'll see where he's at on Friday. Hopefully, he'll get a few reps in on Friday based on how he feels. We still have four days, so if he's ready to go, he's ready to go."

Marc Bulger (AP Photo)

Asked what the offense would be like without Jackson, quarterback Marc Bulger said, "I don't think anything is going to change. He's our best player, so that maybe changes a little bit. Our offense is in and we're going to game plan as if he's playing. We'd love to have him, but at the same time, we are not going to change anything."

Under Haslett, the team seems more resilient and able to deal with adversity, which includes playing without injured players. The Rams beat Dallas Sunday with Adam Goldberg replacing Orlando Pace at left tackle.

Is the mindset different now, where the team doesn't hang its head if a backup has to play? Said Bulger, "Any time you win, you feel more confident. Not having Orlando and being able to win, that is big. With a guy like Steven, your best player, you definitely want him in there. At the same time, it's not going to be an excuse. We played all of preseason without him. We didn't play great at times, but there were other times we moved the ball and played pretty well. We have confidence in the other two guys. I'd love to have Steven, but we don't want to jeopardize him for two or three games just for one game."

On the latter point, Jackson feels the same way. Asked about playing with pain, he said, "Anybody could be tough in someone else's body. If it is something that I can let rest a week and be able to play the rest of the season without injury then it is something that you have to take into consideration."

SERIES HISTORY: 10th regular-season meeting. Rams lead, 5-4, and won the last regular-season meeting in New England, 24-17, in 2001. In the post-season that year, the Patriots beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, 20-17. The Patriots won in St. Louis, 40-22, in 2004.


Super Bowl Memories
--There are four Rams players and nine Patriots remaining from the teams that met in Super Bowl XXXVI in Feb. 2002. The Rams are WR Torry Holt, OT Orlando Pace, DE Leonard Little and Marc Bulger, who was the team's No. 3 quarterback.

Patriots still around are OT Matt Light, QB Tom Brady (injured reserve), RB Kevin Faulk, OG Stephen Neal, DL Richard Seymour, LBs Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Larry Izzo and LS Lonie Paxton. In addition, 11 Rams from that game and 8 Patriots are still active in the NFL with other teams.

Mad Props From Belichick
--Patriots coach Bill Belichick provided an in-depth review of the Rams when asked about the team's turnaround. Belichick said, "The Rams are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, playing very well. They had two big wins and they seem to be doing a lot of things well. They have a level of confidence and playmaking that we have a lot of respect for. I have always thought a lot of Jim Haslett (and) have had a good relationship with Jim for a long time. I think he did a great job at New Orleans and obviously has things going in the right direction at St. Louis. I think they are extremely well coached on defense and now that's carried over to the rest of the team. (They have) a lot of playmakers. They can move the ball - (Marc) Bulger, (Steve) Jackson, (Torry) Holt, (Donnie) Avery, a good group of receivers, an excellent running back (Jackson) and a good offensive line. Defensively they are a very active front kind of like we have talked about the last couple of weeks. They have fast linebackers, real active guys on the line of scrimmage, experienced secondary, free safety - I can't pronounce his name (Oshiomogho Atogwe) but he is a very productive guy with eight interceptions last year (and) he has already had a bunch this year including pre-season. He is around the ball a lot.

"(They have) very good specialists - (Josh) Brown and (Donnie) Jones can really hit the ball, good returner (Dante) Hall and good group of core special teams guys like Gary Stills and kids like that. They use a lot of the starters on special teams, too, like Corey Chavous - those guys are in there on a lot of plays too. They are a good football team, a lot for us to get ready for. They have a very explosive offense. Jim has a lot of good things on defense that they do, a lot of zone pressures, tight man coverage, and stunts with their front. We have a lot to get ready for in a short amount of time so we are really going to have to push through it and try to be ready to go on Sunday. We will meet a team that has a lot of momentum and is playing well.

Moving Inside
--DL James Hall, normally a right end, has also been getting some snaps inside at tackle. He was there quite a bit against the Cowboys after DT Adam Carriker injured an ankle. Hall had 1.5 sacks in the game against Dallas.

Said coach Jim Haslett, "He's never played anywhere but the right side. He's never played left side, he's never played inside, so it's something new for an old dog, but the guy did a nice job. He's feeling a little more comfortable with it every day and he had some power rushes inside, he did a good job. I think he feels a little bit better about it now. It helps when you get some success in there."

Avoiding Costly Mistakes
--Since RB Steven Jackson fumbled in the first five minutes of the Week 6 game against Washington, the Rams have no turnovers on offense and seven takeaways on defense.

Said Haslett, "I try not to talk about it because they might flip it on us. Actually, I think we're third in the league with the least amount of turnovers on offense and we're plus-three right now in that area, which is pretty good for being 2-4. But the guys are making a conscious effort of holding on to the ball, being smart and then the defense is doing a good job when they're running the ball and if the ball pops out, we have guys there.

"I think more of it on a defensive side is effort, guys just trying to get to the ball and trying to make plays and I think when you're around the ball... like the other day we got a fumble because actually two guys ran to the ball, hustling. It was (defensive end) Leonard Little and (safety) Corey Chavous made a play from behind, stripped the ball out and got a fumble. That wasn't like it was a scheme or anything else, it was great effort by those two."

BY THE NUMBERS: 10th --Where the Rams rank in their opponent's average drive start after kickoffs. Of Kicker Josh Brown's 24 kickoffs, 16 have reached the end zone and five have been for touchbacks. His 20.8 touchback percentage ranks 11th.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Sure there are the little things. It is hard to tell how much of it is game plan and how much of it is a fundamental change that will take course over the long haul. They're a little bit of a scheme team anyway. They change their schemes up from week to week depending on what you are doing. I would say the big thing is they are playing fundamentally. The last two weeks they have played fundamentally sound. They haven't made a lot of mistakes and they have taken advantage and capitalized on a lot of the ones that Washington and Dallas made. They look like they are opportunistic. They are hustling. They are around the ball. They are getting extra yards off runs and passes where it looks like the play is kind of coming to an end and there is more there. So, I would say they are probably doing a lot of little things and those little things, as we all know, turn out to be the big things." -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick on what difference he has seen from the Rams in their two-game winning streak.

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