Monday, December 31, 2007

Jackson again reaches 1,000 yards


GLENDALE, Ariz. — A thousand-yard rushing season might not mean as much as it did in the days of 12- and 14-game schedules. Yet as the Rams' Steven Jackson pointed out, "It's still definitely the standard" for a running back in the NFL.

Jackson reached that standard Sunday for the third consecutive year, since he succeeded Marshall Faulk as the club's primary ball carrier. It was a more formidable hurdle to clear this time.

Only 9 minutes 37 seconds remained in the season when Jackson churned off left tackle for a 2-yard gain against Arizona that put him at 1,000 exactly. He added another 2-yarder later, then gave way to rookie Brian Leonard for the Rams' final series in a 48-19 spanking by the Cardinals.

After getting 1,046 yards in 2005 and 1,528 last year, Jackson wound up with 1,002 despite missing four games and most of another with groin and back injuries.

"Any team getting a thousand yards or more is a huge accomplishment, (even with) a 16-game schedule," Jackson said. "I never thought that it'd be to the wire, to make sure that we got the thousand yards. … Those games that I missed, I do wish that I could get them back."

Individual milestones were hard to come by in this 3-13 season, but the Rams reached several Sunday. In addition to Jackson's quadruple-figure finish:

— Isaac Bruce had two receptions, giving him 942 for his career and pushing him past Art Monk for sixth place on the league's career log.

— With seven catches, fellow wideout Torry Holt surpassed the 800 mark. Only five active receivers have more than Holt's 802.

— Kicker Jeff Wilkins' lone extra point was his 371st in a row without a miss, tying him with Denver's Jason Elam (1993-2002) for the NFL record.

— Donnie Jones broke the franchise record for gross punting average. Jones' three punts traveled 158 yards, and he finished with a 47.2-yard average. Danny Villanueva had held the previous mark (45.5) since 1962.

Holt, who ended with 93 catches, 1,189 yards and a seventh Pro Bowl invitation despite a balky right knee, isn't figuring on lowering his standards as he looks toward his 10th season and beyond.

"Yeah, I'm thinking I have maybe, what, another 800 in me?" he said, laughing. "The knee deal didn't help. But I'm just going to keep playing and keep catching."

Wilkins was noncommittal as to whether he planned to keep kicking after wrapping up his 14th season. "We'll see; I've got some issues with some health things that I'm trying to get fixed up," he said. "It's been a rough season. I'm going to contemplate the next couple of weeks and hopefully things will work out and we'll go from there."

The record-tying kick came early in the third quarter, following a 36-yard touchdown pass from Marc Bulger to tight end Joe Klopfenstein. After safety Oshiomogho Atogwe took his eighth interception of the season 52 yards to the end zone later in the period, Wilkins was heading back onto the field.

But with the score 31-19, coach Scott Linehan ordered a two-point attempt (which failed).

In his first year with the Rams, and fourth in the NFL, Jones topped his previous high average by almost 4 yards per punt.

"It's definitely an accomplishment," Jones said. "I just try to do my best to help our team win, and ultimately football is a game of field position. … By far this has been my best season. It was a great group of guys to work with, and it starts with (Chris) Massey. He's awesome, just a great snapper."

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