ATLANTA — No longer bothered by sore ribs, Jerious Norwood feels 100 percent for the Atlanta Falcons.
He showed as much on Sunday, finishing with 270 all-purpose yards in a 31-27 victory over St. Louis.
The burst he lacked as recently as two weeks ago returned with ease, helping Norwood run back a kickoff 92 yards and score a pair of touchdowns from 8 and 45 yards out.
Though the 45-yarder sealed Atlanta’s win, Norwood placed more importance on ending an 11-5 regular season with three straight wins. He believes the last three weeks will help the Falcons have the right mind-set in preparing for their playoff game at Arizona.
For Atlanta, the turnaround was unexpected following last season’s 4-12 record, the imprisonment of quarterback Michael Vick and the resignation of first-year coach Bobby Petrino after just 13 games.
"I’m just thankful for the position we’re in," said Norwood, a fourth-year running back from Mississippi State.
"We came a long way. Whoever would’ve thought we’d be in the playoffs?"
Norwood’s 8-yard TD run with 11 seconds left before halftime came out of the "wildcat" formation. He was lined up to the left of quarterback Matt Ryan.
His 92-yard kickoff return came two plays earlier. St. Louis’ Jason Craft chased him down.
"It was me and the safety, one-on-one," Norwood said.
"I was trying to see where he was going, so I could go the other way."
Milestone for Jackson
Rams running back Steven Jackson wanted to remind the rest of the NFL that he can overpower opponents when healthy.
Rushing 30 times for 161 yards and a touchdown and catching four passes for 54 yards, Jackson became the first Rams player since Eric Dickerson to have four straight years of 1,000 yards on the ground. Dickerson, a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, made his mark for Los Angeles from 1983-86.
The 235-pound Jackson crossed the 1,000-yard threshold despite playing only 12 games because of hamstring and quadriceps injuries.
"It means a lot," Jackson said. "I look up to Eric Dickerson and a lot of backs that have played in this organization. It has been a rough couple of seasons for me just being banged up and still being able to reach 1,000 yards in only 12 games."
Another big day
Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner surpassed 100 yards rushing for the eighth time this year. His 208-yard game gave Turner 1,699 yards for the season, third-best in franchise history behind Gerald Riggs in 1984 and Jamal Anderson in ‘98.
Turner’s performance also marked the eighth time that a St. Louis opponent ran for 100 and topped the 149 yards Thomas Jones had for New York in a 47-3 loss to the Jets on Nov. 9.
No returns allowed
After allowing no punt return yards on four fair catches by St. Louis’ Dane Looker, the Falcons set a single-season NFL record by giving up just 49 yards in 2008. The punt coverage team topped the Buffalo Bills’ mark of 53 punt return yards allowed in 1991.
Down the seam
Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins made a good read on a second-quarter route that resulted in his 41-yard catch. After Jason Rader’s false start penalty, Michael Turner ran for a 9-yard touchdown and a 10-7 Atlanta lead on the next play.
"I ran toward the middle of the field, and I think the coverage moved toward (teammate Roddy White’s) side," Jenkins said.
"Once I saw that, and (quarterback) Matt (Ryan) got it out, I knew I had a chance to make a play."
On the mend
Atlanta safety Lawyer Milloy, inactive because of an injured back, missed just the sixth game of his 13-year career. It marked the first time since 2004, when he missed Buffalo’s first five games, that Milloy wasn’t healthy enough to play. Jamaal Fudge made his first start for the Falcons. ...Rams interim coach Jim Haslett scratched two starters, right guard Richie Incognito and cornerback Fakhir Brown, before the game. Both claimed they were ill, but Haslett confirmed it was his decision to keep them out of uniform. ...Atlanta defensive end Jamaal Anderson (high ankle sprain) was replaced in the lineup by Chauncey Davis, who sacked Rams quarterback Marc Bulger for an important 8-yard loss.