When the Seahawks host the St. Louis Rams on Monday, they'll focus on stopping running back Steven Jackson. Jackson has not had a 100-yard rushing game against Seattle in 14 tries.
RENTON — The St. Louis Rams might have a question mark at quarterback, but the Seahawks have no doubt about their defensive priority on Monday night.
It’s stopping Steven Jackson, first, second and even third down. That’s how it always is against St. Louis.
“From seven years ago, when I first got in the league, day one, until today,” linebacker Leroy Hill said, “to beat the Rams, you have to stop Steven Jackson.”
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Not many NFL teams have stopped Jackson as effectively as the Seahawks, who have faced Jackson in 14 games and never given up 100 yards rushing to him. No other team in the NFC West can say that, and only two other teams in the NFC can make that claim: the Panthers, whom he has played three times, and the Giants, whom he has faced twice.
Monday will be a prime-time opportunity to change that, but Jackson faces the uphill challenge going into the teeth of Seattle’s defensive strength while the Rams’ quarterback picture is an injury-hazed mystery.
Starter Sam Bradford missed last week’s game because of an ankle injury and couldn’t practice Thursday. Backup A.J. Feeley is almost certainly out with a thumb injury. Tom Brandstater — zero career NFL regular-season passes — took all the snaps in practice Thursday.
That leaves Jackson where he has spent so much of his NFL career: squarely in the opponent’s cross hairs.
“He’s always the focal point,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s that good of a player.”
Jackson is also one of the league’s most sympathetic stories. A running back so big, so skilled and so, so stuck in St. Louis. This will be St. Louis’ eighth consecutive season without a winning record, and Jackson has been there for all eight. The Rams haven’t made the playoffs since his rookie year of 2004, which also happens to be the only time he didn’t rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
“He’s big,” Hill said. “He’s physical. He can run around you. He reads his blocks well. He blocks well. He’s a complete back, and he shows it year in and out.”
Just not so much against Seattle, and that’s not an accident.
The teams played in Week 17 last year, the NFC West division title on the line, and the Seahawks found a way to minimize Jackson’s impact. Carroll’s staff noticed that against certain formations and personnel groupings, St. Louis had instructed Bradford to audible to a pass. The Seahawks used those alignments repeatedly, funneling St. Louis into more passes.
The result? Jackson finished with 11 carries, matching his second-fewest in any game last season.
When the teams played three weeks ago, Jackson entered having rushed for more than 125 yards in three consecutive games, but the Rams decided to spread things out against Seattle’s front-loaded defense. They lined up with four receivers on more than 25 plays, often times splitting Jackson out wide.
He finished with 42 yards rushing, his third-lowest total of the season.
That’s where Seattle’s plan will start Monday: stopping one of the league’s best backs.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @dannyoneil
|Rams running back Steven Jackson has gained 100 yards in a game at least once against 20 of the 31 other teams in the NFL. The Seahawks are not one of them, and the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers are the only NFC teams allowing Jackson fewer yards than the Seahawks:|