Plays that shaped the Rams' season: No. 9

ST. LOUIS -- By the time St. Louis Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints in Week 15, he'd already done plenty to establish himself as the team's current and future starter.

After an aborted start to his rookie season because of some preseason and training camp injuries, the Rams installed Stacy as the starter in Week 5 against Jacksonville. He never looked back with big outings against Seattle and Tennessee and was well on his way to another against Chicago before leaving that game with an injury.

Throughout those strong performances, Stacy had earned more work by way of his hard-nosed inside running, taking advantage of well-designed and well-blocked inside zone runs and consistently pushing for yards after contact. What Stacy hadn't done was show that he possessed the type of speed that would allow him to break the occasional long touchdown run.

Stacy had previous long runs of 32 and 35 yards against Tennessee and Chicago but came up short of the end zone on those long runs. Late in the second quarter against the Saints, Stacy offered a glimpse that his running style is a bit more diverse than first blush might indicate. He took the handoff, bounced outside to the right, shed an attempted tackle and turned on the speed as he outran the Saints defense for a touchdown.

The touchdown was Stacy's seventh of the season and gave the Rams a commanding 24-3 lead they wouldn't relinquish as they pulled off a surprising win against powerful New Orleans. Stacy finished the day with 133 yards on 28 carries.

Stacy had plenty of runs that would lead to the conclusion that the Rams have found the running back they'll pencil in as the starter heading into 2014. This particular one offered proof that Stacy can be more than just a between-the-tackles grinder even if that's going to be his primary function moving forward.