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Rookie RB Stacy helps Rams run past Jaguars

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- Zac Stacy's stats Sunday of 78 yards on 14 carries were good but not great. However, the St. Louis Rams rookie running back was just what a struggling offense needed.

Getting the running game it had lacked in the first four games, St. Louis snapped a three-game losing streak Sunday with a 34-20 victory over winless Jacksonville at the Edward Jones Dome.

Quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns, while the much-maligned defense contributed three takeaways, including Matt Giordano's 82-yard interception return score in the first quarter.

But it was Stacy, a 5-foot-8, 214-pound product of Vanderbilt, who stepped into a starring role in his first NFL start. A one-cut runner who primarily works between the tackles, Stacy had no run longer than 12 yards but consistently churned out 7- and 8-yard runs.

That was a blessing for an offense which entered the game ranked last in the NFL in rushing at just 47.3 yards per game.

"We came into the game looking to establish the run," Stacy said. "You have to give credit to the guys up front who did that. So overall, it was a good team win today."

It was a win the Rams (2-3) desperately needed. Marked as a team which could surprise Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West, St. Louis instead followed up a Week 1 win over Arizona by getting outscored 97-42 in its next three games, including 66-18 in losses against Dallas and San Francisco.

Things looked no better early as the Jaguars (0-5) pushed the Rams around in the first quarter, outgaining them 156-27 in building a 10-7 lead. But St. Louis tallied 17 unanswered points in the second quarter and nursed its two-touchdown advantage through the second half.

After Jacksonville pulled within 27-20 when backup quarterback Chad Henne tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts with 10:22 left in the game, Stacy got the game-sealing drive started with runs of 12 and 8 yards.

Bradford took over from there, hitting passes of 17 yards to Cory Harkey and 9 yards to Austin Pettis to set up the clinching score. Pettis beat Will Blackmon's coverage down the right sideline and Bradford lofted a perfectly thrown 31-yard score to him with 5:45 remaining.

"Being able to establish the running game was big for us," said Pettis, who also caught a 4-yard scoring strike with 27 seconds left in the first half. "Zac was great. He gave us a big lift."

While the Rams breathed a collective sigh of relief, the Jaguars not only mourned another loss, but took more injury hits a talent-thin roster didn't need.

First-round pick Luke Joeckel, playing his first game at left tackle after starter Eugene Monroe was traded to Baltimore on Wednesday, was carted off the field late in the first quarter with a season-ending hairline fracture to his right ankle.

Starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert also departed in the third quarter with a hamstring strain after throwing for 181 yards and a touchdown.

But first-year coach Gus Bradley wasn't making excuses after watching Gabbert throw two more interceptions -- giving him seven in just 86 passes this year -- and seeing his team lose a fumble that led to a touchdown.

"The tale of this game are the turnovers," he said. "So many times this game comes down to ball security and making good decisions with the ball. We'll continue to emphasize it."

Meanwhile, St. Louis will go into a two-game road trip against Houston and Carolina hoping to keep its newly revived running game on track.

"It's definitely a confidence-booster for the running game," Stacy said. "But overall, whatever play is called, we'll execute it."

NOTES: CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh) was among the inactives for St. Louis, which also played without starting RT Rodger Saffold for the third straight game. ... Jacksonville TE Marcedes Lewis (calf) was on the inactive list and is out indefinitely. ... Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon returned from a season-opening four-game league ban and made an immediate impact with a 67-yard TD catch at the 10:31 mark of the first quarter. Blackmon finished with five catches for 136 yards.
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