By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Despite the Patriots' resilient fourth-quarter comeback, they still needed a stop. In the end zone. In the final minute and change. Thankfully, J.C. Jackson was there to make the play - his biggest of the season.
Jackson has performed well in limited playing time this season for the Patriots' deep secondary, but his role has increased in the last two games due to injuries. He stepped up bigger than ever in the Patriots' win over the Bills on Sunday, breaking up a fourth-down pass intended for Bills receiver Cole Beasley in the end zone. The breakup denied the Bills of a potential game-tying touchdown and iced the game for good.
It wasn't exactly an easy play. Jackson had to approach it like a last-second Hail Mary and showed good situational awareness to simply whack the ball out of bounds. If he's not in the area, does Beasley make the catch? If he scores, do the Bills go for two, having nothing to lose at that point?
Thankfully, for the Patriots' sake, we'll never know. For a banged-up Pats secondary, they needed Jackson's timely playmaking. But as confident as he typically is, Jackson credited "great play-calling by our defensive coordinator, bringing the pressure, and forcing Josh Allen to get rid of the ball" for allowing him to make the play.
His comment echoed a major reason why the Patriots have had so much defensive success this season: it's not about any singular talent. They play well as a unit. They complement each other. And when it comes time for someone to just make a play, they still have talented guys that can do that for them.
“He’s a baller,” said cornerback Stephon Gilmore on Jackson. “He works hard, he makes plays on the ball. He’s a great player.”
They've especially needed Jackson's ball skills in the last two games, and that came to fruition on the defense's last stand. Credit is also due to Adam Butler and Dont'a Hightower's split sack on third down that helped set up the fourth-down play.
But ultimately, it's good to know that the Pats have a corner like Jackson who can make a play on the ball in crunch time when they need it.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].