Jackson's availability is uncertain vs. Seahawks

Sunday, November 29, 2009
Rams running back Steven Jackson runs for an 11-yard gain last week against the Arizona Cardinals. (JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)

The Rams' star running back has missed two days of practice due to back spasms

ST. LOUIS -- Steven Jackson bulldozes his way downfield, more than half of his yards coming after contact. The 235-pound running back punishes tacklers.

Backup quarterback Kyle Boller will start in place of injured Marc Bulger today against the Seahawks, but Seattle coach Jim Mora is worried about the guy taking the handoffs.

"We prepare more for scheme than player. I think most defenses do," Mora said. "And they've still got that No. 39 guy that's having such a great year.

"Man, he's really fun to watch. He's just doing everything."

Jackson is paying for his bruising style, however. He missed two days of practice this week due to lower back spasms. But he expected to carry the load again for an offense ranked near the bottom of the NFL, yet showing signs of life in recent weeks.

"Yeah, Steven's a warrior," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I guess I'm thinking positive because of who he is and the way he's been."

Mora would be shocked if Jackson can't go and the Rams are forced to rely on an all-backup backfield. Boller makes his third start of the year with Bulger out three to six weeks with a broken left shin bone, and reserve running backs Kenneth Darby and Samkon Gado have totaled 83 yards on 23 carries.

"Oh, he's going to play," Mora said. "Big deal."

The Rams (1-9) have been one-dimensional all year given a lack of experience and depth at wide receiver, and defenses have crowded the line to stop Jackson. He's responded by refusing to go down without a fight and is second in the NFL with 1,031 yards rushing, a 4.8-yard average and a run of four straight 100-yard games.

A heavy workload, to be sure.

"The ball feels the same," he said. "The ball weighs the same. I'm not worried about that."

Having the gung-ho Boller calling signals might help the running game as the Rams try to end a nine-game losing streak against the Seahawks (3-7). When he scrambles, Boller dislikes sliding for safety, and doesn't mind mixing it up.

"I just have fun out there," Boller said. "If making a block could get Steven an extra 15 yards and maybe he can get in the end zone, that's my philosophy, that's the way I think."

Both Mora and Spagnuolo have been trying mightily to remain upbeat while enduring awful seasons. The Rams lost 17 in a row before beating the Lions earlier this month, and Spagnuolo liked the team's spunk in the second half of a 21-13 loss to the Cardinals last week -- if not the first half, when they fell behind 21-3.

"The fact we got ourselves back in the game and at the end of the game we've got the ball with a chance to win, all of that's good," Spagnuolo said.

The highlight for the Sea- hawks thus far is a 28-0 opening victory over the Rams, whom they've beaten by an average of 30-17 over the last nine games. Seattle is 0-5 on the road, though, losing the last four by double digits.

"You have to keep the standard high, keep pushing them, show them the improvements they're making, focus on not only getting better but winning," Mora said. "I'm sure many of the things Steve says in his team meetings, I say in mine."

The Rams' run defense has sprung a leak, allowing nearly 400 yards rushing the last two games against the Cardinals and Saints. Spagnuolo made his reputation on defense and said of the failure, "It kills me."

Last week the Seahawks abandoned the run after falling behind by three touchdowns in a 35-9 loss at Minnesota and managed only 4 yards on 13 carries.

Which team will benefit? Who knows?

"We're saying, 'Well, maybe we'll have a chance to run it,' and they're saying, 'Well, maybe we struggle against the run, but look at this team coming in,"' Mora said. "It depends on your perspective, I guess."

Rams kicker Josh Brown has been on both sides of the Seahawks' streak. He kicked a pair of late winning field goals against the Rams in 2006 for wins No. 2 and 3, and has lost three straight since signing a free-agent deal with St. Louis in 2008.

"We battled so hard to get the initial win when I was in Seattle, and now I'm on the other side of the ball so we can start our own run," Brown said. "Absolutely, I'm ready for a win."

Brown said beating the Seahawks isn't extra incentive, even though he's been booed mercilessly in his two trips back.

"Honestly, I think it's kind of a small sign of respect," Brown said. "I take it a little bit differently than they want me to take it, I guess. I kind of like it.

"It's better to be noticed than not noticed at all."

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