The St. Louis Rams have a player named Steven Jackson. He's a running back, a pretty good one. Perhaps you've heard of him? If you only became a Rams fan this week, inspired by the team's hard-nosed tie against San Francisco last week, you can be forgiven if you've never heard of Jackson since the Rams opted to ignore him in an inexplicable loss Sunday to the New York Jets.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, head coach Jeff Fisher ... blame whoever you want for the strange decision to drop the running game from the playbook.
St. Louis ran the ball a total of 20 times for a total of 114 yards and a very effective rate of 5.7 yards per attempt. Compare that to last week when the Rams ran the ball 37 times, and even with the extra frame, the commitment to the run was obvious.
Jackson ran the ball 29 times last week for 101 yards and a touchdown. It was the first game of the year that Jackson topped the century mark. Coaches and the press lined up to praise Jackson, rightfully so. He continued right where he left off to start the game this week, running the ball five times for 26 yards on the Rams' first possession of the game, one that resulted in a touchdown. The threat of Jackson's legs helped the Rams convert two third downs, something they would only do THREE more times through the entire game.
The Rams all-time leading rusher finished the game with a whopping 13 carries for 81 yards, a marvelous 6.2 yards per carry. Nine of those rushing attempts came in the first half.
Yes, that's right. The Rams, after starting the third quarter trailing only 13-7, ran Jackson just four more times in the second half.
Abandoning the run makes even less sense when you consider Fisher's remarks after the game, pointing to the Jets' success in pressuring Bradford and smothering the team's receivers. From his post-game remarks:
"When they send extra guys, you've got to get rid of the football," Fisher said. "The issue was they were fitting routes well and Sam was holding the ball. When the quarterback holds the ball with no place (to throw to), that's when the pocket collapses."
The Rams are a young team, naturally prone to the ups and downs that come with inexperience. That excuse holds when you're talking about young players making mistakes in coverage or blocking the wrong man. It doesn't hold much water when you think about a veteran coaching staff - a head coach known for his insistence on running the ball even as the rest of the league moves to some version of the spread - taking the ball away from their best player.