Rams have their man in Zac Stacy

ST. LOUIS -- In a season that is quickly headed toward lost status, there’s been one unquestionable positive emerge from the past month of St. Louis Rams' football.

His name is Zac Stacy.

After a second consecutive narrow loss in the final moments, this one 28-21 to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Stacy very nearly carried the ball and the offense to a victory.

For a team in search of a spark, Stacy is not only providing it but doing it on a consistent basis.

“From the moment that Zac Stacy took over that No. 1 spot he’s been a great weapon for us,” quarterback Kellen Clemens said. “He’s a good back. He’s also very good out of the backfield. He’s a great weapon for us. We’re lucky to have him. He’s stepped up in a big way.”

Four weeks into the season, the Rams’ running game was essentially non-existent, barely registering a blip in the final box score. With Daryl Richardson battling a toe injury, Isaiah Pead struggling to get out of his own way and Benny Cunningham unable to take advantage of his chances, Stacy took the reins.

Judging by Sunday, and his last two games in particular, Stacy doesn’t look like he’ll be handing them over anytime soon.

Even Rams' defenders are sitting up and taking notice of the 5-foot-8, 214-pound bowling ball.

“Zac Stacy is a heck of a back,” end Chris Long said. “If he can stay healthy and continue to improve, he’s going to make people’s lives pretty tough. He’s a tough runner, he gets a lot of yards after contact.”

In what has been little more than half a season, Stacy set a career-high rushing with 134 yards against Seattle last week. On Sunday, he didn’t top that number, but he had his most productive overall game.

Stacy pounded away at Tennessee’s defense, posting 127 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns and six catches for 51 more yards.

Much of Stacy’s damage comes in among the big boys, too. Of his 27 rushes, 22 came between the tackles where he gained 113 of his yards. Although he’s small, Stacy is powerful, which makes it hard for defenders to locate and tackle him when he runs inside.

The humble Stacy doesn’t much care for talking about himself so when asked if he has a sense of the spark he’s provided for the offense, he reverts to a pretty basic answer.

“Just making plays, that’s it,” Stacy said. “That’s what it all comes down to. Week-in and week-out we stress making plays all across the offensive room. There’s no secret sauce to what I’m doing, just making plays.”

Maybe not, but there was one play that appeared to have a little something extra on it. As the Rams drove to tie it at 21 in the fourth quarter, Stacy took a handoff off left tackle, cut to the middle, bounced off a tackler, cut to the right, bounced off two more tacklers and sprinted down the right sideline for a gain of 32 yards.

“That was a great run,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “That’s what he’s about. That was an outstanding run, gave us a chance and sparked that drive for us.”

Perhaps most impressive about Stacy’s breakthrough performance the past two weeks is that he’s doing it when the defense knows it’s coming. With Sam Bradford out for the season because of a knee injury, defenses are loading up to slow the run, but to no avail.

The Rams' offensive line, tight ends and even receivers deserve credit for his work, but there’s still a noticeable drop-off when someone other than Stacy totes it.

Stacy’s Sunday efforts came on an injured ankle suffered last week against Seattle, not that it was going to keep him from playing and producing.

“I’m a competitor,” Stacy said. “I always want to get out there as much as I can. I want to be on the field the whole game.”

With more performances like Sunday’s, that shouldn’t be a problem.