Steven Jackson, without question, had his best performance of the 2012 season on Sunday. Touchdowns, unfortunately, would not tell his tale. For a running back whose name is typically being associated with differing levels of "gas in the tank," Steven appeared to be running on high-octane in Arizona. Just where does Sunday’s performance put him in his quest for eight consecutive 1000-yard seasons?
A mere three games ago, having finished the midway point of the season, SJAX had rushed for 403 yards (3.7 ypc), and [if the math is escaping you] on pace to rush for only 806 yards. For those pining to have had Jackson shipped out of town for a mid/late round draft pick, feelings of vindication were probably coursing through your veins.
The last three games have been a completely different story. Steven has quieted doubters, and those who questioned his motor are beginning to switch gears of their own. While he busted down the field for 46 yards on Sunday, and on his way to 139 on the day, it was clear to see that Beast Mode had been fully initiated. Having rushed for 321 yards over the past three games (107 ypg), including his dominant 139-yard performance on Sunday, creates a new snapshot of how the season will most likely end for the running back who looks to make it eight straight 1000-yard seasons.
With five games left, Jackson now has only 276 yards to go to reach the mark, passing Rams’ great Eric Dickerson with seven, and joining the company of Thurman Thomas and Ladainian Tomlinson in the eight-straight class. And while nothing in the NFL is a given, Steven needs only needs 55 yards per game for the remainder of 2012 to join the aforementioned pairing of great running backs in NFL history. As it currently stands, with his average through 11 games, Jackson would eclipse the millennium mark by a mere 53 yards. If his last three games are any indicator, it would be well over 1,200 yards for his 2012 campaign.
Prior to potentially joining Thomas and Tomlinson in the history books, he’ll join another group of elite rushers - the 10,000 yard club. Needing only 183 more yards to accompany them, he’ll also move up the all-time rushing ranks a couple of notches in doing so. Sunday’s game in Arizona moved him past Hall-of-Fame rusher Joe "The Jet" Perry (9,723) on the all time list, and puts him a mere 106 yards behind Clinton Portis for 27th all time. If his current YTD averages were to hold true, he’d etch out his place at 26th, surpassing Ricky Williams (10,009).
"Impressive" is probably not a strong enough word when you think about where Steven ranks, and most likely will rank, when this season comes to it’s conclusion. The Rams will let Jackson walk in 2013, voiding the last year of his contract. Regardless of what team he plays for in 2013, being the 26th leading rusher in the history of the NFL - 90+ years of running backs - is an astonishing feat. I think too often that NFL players are too easily chewed up and spit out by both the organization and it’s fans. Whether or not you wanted, or will want, SJAX in a Rams uniform for this season and beyond, enjoy [and appreciate] watching this man carry the rock in blue and gold.
Every time you see #39 eclipse the 55-yard rushing mark in 2012, you’re watching history-in-the-making. I doubt many Rams fans thought we’d find a viable replacement for Marshall Faulk. It’s hard to view the departure of Steven Jackson any differently. For shoes that seemed large for Jackson to fill, it appears that they can indeed get larger for future RB’s in St. Louis. For now, let’s focus on this great man, this exceptional leader, and his outstanding achievements.