By Howard Balzer for KSDK Sports
(KSDK Sports) -- On a Sunday afternoon where a win was imperative, Rams running back Zac Stacy was just what the doctor ordered.
Physical and consistent, he substantially helped jump-start a running game that had been spinning its wheels in the previous four games and contributed significantly to the Rams' 34-20 victory over winless Jacksonville.
Physical. As quarterback Sam Bradford said, "I think he showed everyone what he was about. He ran hard, he ran physical, he ran downhill. I don't think you could ask for much more from him today."
Consistent. Stacy totaled 78 yards on 14 attempts (5.6-yard average) and his attempts-yardage for each quarter was 4-20, 4-18, 4-20 and 2-20. He might have had more in the final quarterback, but left the game with what was announced as an injury to his ribs.
"It's good," Stacy said afterward. "It's just football. Playing in the physical SEC (at Vanderbilt), I had a good internship."
He continually kept moving for extra yardage, and while his long run was 12, there were also runs of 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11 and only two for just one yard.
Said coach Jeff Fisher, "He's hitting the hole well. He got some extra stuff, so it was good."
Concluded Stacy, "I was able to get into a rhythm a little bit. For the most part, there were a lot of good things that we did up front to open up holes and everything for all of us, so hopefully we can keep the momentum going into next week."
Not Very Special
The penalty issues continue for the Rams' special teams. Sunday against the Jaguars, there were six penalties for 53 yards, which accounted for all of the team's penalties in the game. To make matters worse, Johnny Hekker also had a punt blocked. For the season, the Rams now have 17 special teams penalties for 145 yards, a significant percentage of their overall 33 penalties for 288 yards.
Wide receiver and punt returner Tavon Austin left the locker room quickly after the game still with eye black on his face. Frustrated? Perhaps. Austin lost returns of 23 and 49 yards because of penalties, and against Dallas had an 84-yard touchdown called back.
Coach Jeff Fisher said, "(We) need to clean up the special teams stuff. I have not seen it so I can't comment on the two penalties until I look at it. Out of fairness to Tavon, we can't even get close to any blocks in the backs or holds now because he's got a chance to make some plays for us."
The two penalties on Austin's returns were an illegal block by rookie Ray Ray Armstrong and holding on rookie Daren Bates. For Armstrong, it was the fourth consecutive game that he has been penalized and he leads the team with four special teams penalties. Rookie cornerback Brandon McGee has three, including one for fair-catch interference Sunday.
The others against Jacksonville were holding on Chase Reynolds and two offside penalties on Janoris Jenkins, one on an extra point and the other on a field-goal attempt.
Many of the penalties have adversely affected field position with seven being for half-the-distance. Had all of those been penalized the full yardage, the total would be 180 yards instead of 145.
Winning Third Down
Overall, it was the best day of the season for the Rams on third down.
On offense, the Rams converted 8-of-19 (42.1 percent), and that included a kneeldown at the end of the game. Prior to that, as well as a third-and-3 miss before the kneeldowns, they were 8-for-17 (47.1 percent).
In two crucial possessions, the Rams converted all four third-down plays. The first was a 12-play, 90-yard drive at the end of the first half that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Austin Pettis and a 24-10 lead. The touchdown was on third down, and earlier on third-and-7, Bradford hit Austin for a 25-yard gain to the Jacksonville 17-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, after the Jaguars cut the lead to 27-20, the Rams went 80 yards in eight plays with Pettis scoring again on a 31-yard play. Two third-and-1 situations were converted.
Asked about those two drives, Bradford said, "I think it says a lot about our guys. Things weren't always pretty today, but everyone hung in there. No one flinched and we went out there and executed when we needed to."
On defense, the Rams held the Jaguars to just 3-of-12 conversions and Jacksonville was 1-for-9 after three quarters.
Howard Balzer will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2013 season. Howard hosts PrimeTime Monday-Friday from 6-8 pm on CBS Sports 920. He is also a host on SiriusXM NFL radio and one of 44 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.