Running Thin: How Steven Jackson's 11 Carries Cost St. Louis Rams a Playoff Spot

Alex GuyCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 05:  Runningback Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 19-6.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As (some of) America watched the "game of the week" last night, I couldn't help but feel like something was wrong.

Please forgive my outdated allusions, but when the final whistle sounded, the worst team ever to host a playoff game (another article entirely) walked quickly off the field as if they were worried someone would yell "Punk'd" over the loud speakers and horrible, horrible Ashton Kutcher would jump out like an idiot.

I looked across the field to find Steve Spagnuolo. I was hoping I would spot him gazing apologetically at Steven Jackson holding up a boom box and a John Cusack "I'm SOOOOO Sorry!" look on his face (see what I mean...outdated).

I honestly think that would've been the only just thing for him to do after allowing Jackson a paltry 11 carries in the most meaningful game of his career, minus one playoff game in his rookie season.

Steven Jackson is the only running back in the NFL to have six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He is the team's horse, leader and warrior. He is the sole reason why some wild card gamblers in Vegas would have picked the Rams over the Saints in St. Louis. Oh if only, if only.

Indulge one quick little interlude. What Sam Bradford has done this season has been remarkable. He's provided poise and stability for a team that's used to looking at someone like Kyle Boller in the huddle. He's given Spagnuolo some credibility, taken a bunch of receivers the Schwab couldn't name and finally given his running back some help. I bet Jackson loves Bradford. 

But to expect the rookie to come into possibly the toughest stadium in football and come out with a win was irresponsible at best. Bradford ended the day 19-of-36 for 155 yards and one interception. I think the only statistic that deserves any sort of glance is his attempts. With over three times as many throws as Jackson's carries, Spagnuolo effectively took the ball out of his workhorse's hands and gave it to a colt.

I know, I know. I can see the comments now: "But...but Bradford is going to be the ROY...he broke Peyton's record...he's played great." I know Bradford has been terrific and exceeded many people's expectations. I am aware of the fact that I thought he was going to bomb after not playing for essentially a year, and I have already opened my mouth and inserted my foot.

However, the fact remains that Jackson was finally healthy and ready to carry the load. This loss rests on the Rams' coaching staff for putting a rookie in a cold weather, hostile environment and saying "Okay Sam, let's get it."

Hey, to Spagnuolo's staff credit, this might be a step in the right direction for the Rams overall. They're likely going to get a shot at Justin Blackmon or Jonathan Baldwin in the draft, and maybe this was their full endorsement on a national stage of their talented young QB.

Still, the fact remains that in eight of nine losses this season, Jackson had fewer than 25 touches.

So you tell me...what song does Spagnuolo go with to make Steven Jackson forgive him?