- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It was far from the type of return Steven Jackson wanted.
The Atlanta Falcons running back, sidelined since Week 2 with a hamstring injury, figured he could help bring balance to a pass-happy offense. Such wasn’t the case as Jackson rushed for just 6 yards on 11 carries in the Falcons’ 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. His biggest contribution was a blitz pickup early in the game.
"It was tough sledding today," Jackson said. "The Arizona defense came out there and did a really good job against the run. Definitely not the production that I wanted to see out of myself."
The Falcons finished with 27 yards on 14 carries a week after picking up just 18 yards on 18 carries against Tampa Bay. On Sunday, quarterback Matt Ryan had the longest rush with a 13-yard pickup.
Jackson, who had no issues with his hamstring, was targeted five times in the passing game and picked up 7 yards on three catches. He missed an opportunity to haul in a touchdown pass thanks to solid defense by former Falcon John Abraham.
The Cardinals boasted the league’s seventh-best run defense coming into the game. Run blitzes helped keep Jackson and crew in check.
"They’re a really good defense and they have Pro Bowlers on that side of the ball as well," Jackson said. "We have familiarity as well; myself and that defense. They did a really good job. Hats off to them. Kudos."
Although the outlook for the season looks bleak now, the Falcons still have to find a way to get Jackson involved moving forward. He signed a three-year, $12 million deal after coming over from the St. Louis Rams. The injury set him back several weeks. Jackson just returned to practice last week and didn’t take a full load of reps until week’s end.
With Ryan taking his lumps while dropping back to pass, it only emphasizes the need for Jackson to be effective in the running game.
"We need to get the balance going, period,’’ Jackson said. "We need to be able to run the ball. We need to be able to convert on third down. We need to be able to do a lot of things better than what we did today."