ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Steven Jackson has been a standout for the winless St. Louis Rams, ranking second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage and third in rushing.
No TDS yet, though he's doing his best to be a team player about it.
"Sometimes his emotions get the best of him, but that's why we love him," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "He has that fire. In the first quarter, if we're tired, or if we're losing by 30 at the end of the game he's going to run just as hard."
Jackson is coming off his best game of the season, rushing for 134 yards on 23 carries against Indianapolis, and the best quarter of his career, piling up 95 yards in the third quarter. The bruising 240-pounder has 635 yards rushing, a 4.4-yard average and 804 yards from scrimmage and typically drags tacklers for extra yards.
Too bad he's stuck in the NFL's worst offense, averaging a mere 8.6 points, and the NFC's worst red-zone attack to boot. Jackson had a shot at that elusive TD but he and Kyle Boller missed connections on a handoff inside the 5 against the Vikings in Week 5.
Last year, Jackson scored eight touchdowns, all but one rushing, despite missing five starts due to injuries. He entered 2009 with 44 career scores in five seasons, and four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
"If I had to pick a running back, that would be my guy," Bulger said. "Unfortunately, with our record the last couple of years, he's not getting the recognition I think he deserves throughout the league."
Heading into Sunday's game at Detroit (1-5), Jackson is suffering along with the rest of the offense. His Lions counterpart, Kevin Smith, has 348 yards and a 3.2-yard average, but has scored three touchdowns.
In past seasons, the Las Vegas native has mimicked rolling dice when he reached the end zone. He said Thursday he hasn't thought about what he'd do if he gets there against a Lions defense that's next-to-last in the NFL in scoring defense at 31 points per game.
"When I get there, I get there and we'll decide then," Jackson said. "We have to get there first."
The Rams are thin at wide receiver, increasing the degree of difficulty for Bulger and Jackson. They've been shut out twice and held to seven or fewer points in two other games, including last week's 42-6 blowout against the Colts.
"We need to score points," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "And I've said it probably now for seven weeks that's the focus."
The team has gotten better at sustaining drives, at least between the 20s, and eliminating some of the mistakes that haunted them earlier in the season. This week they're facing a defense ranked 20th against the rush (112 yards) and 30th against the pass (258.5 yards)
"Now we've just got to find a way to get the ball in the end zone," Shurmur said. "There is no magic formula, other than we've just got to be better at what we do."
For a team saddled with a 17-game losing streak, Jackson knows the formula is simple. Play a clean game with sustained effort.
"We fully know each and every week no team's going to lay down and give us a win," Jackson said. "So we have to just go in there completely focused and execute our game plan.
"I really feel we have a good game plan in store, and we just have to execute it."
Defensive tackle Clifton Ryan was sent home before Thursday's practice due to illness. Defensive end James Hall and cornerback Justin King, among the candidates to start after rookie Brandon Fletcher's season-ending knee injury last week, were limited.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)