Blocking a punt and intercepting a pass.
Those boxes aren’t on the weekend to-do list for most. And no player, according to NFL Research, had checked both of those boxes in a single game since New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung back in 2010.
A teammate of Chung’s did Sunday.
J.C. Jackson even added a second pick during New England’s 16-10 win over the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park.
“That’s my first time doing it,” Jackson said of the trifecta in his postgame press conference.
Safe to say.
“They’ve got to make up some sort of award to give J.C.,” suggested veteran Patriots safety Devin McCourty, who has now intercepted a pass in four consecutive games. “I don’t know if it’s special teams, defensive player of the week, but they need to do some type of combo. But he’s another guy when he gets on the field, somehow he makes a play, from last year all the way to this year. It was great to see him make those plays today.”
Those plays began when Jackson, an undrafted rookie only one spring ago, shellacked the left foot of Bills punter Corey Bojorquez midway through the first quarter to spark a recovery and touchdown by longtime Patriots captain Matthew Slater. Those plays continued when the 23-year-old cornerback by way of Maryland, Riverside Community College and Florida went airborne to intercept Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen a handful of minutes later.
And after the intermission at New Era Field, those plays saw Jackson tiptoe the sideline to pick off Allen again on a pass intended for wide receiver Zay Jones.
“He was huge,” Slater told reporters in the locker room afterward. “He might’ve been the best player on the field for us today, honestly. I told him on Wednesday that he owed me a pick, and he got two. He’s just locked in. He’s an instinctive player who’s a playmaker. I still don’t know how he went undrafted.”
Jackson’s undrafted ascent is ongoing on a team that remains unbeaten. He appeared in 16 games as a rookie from the opener through Super Bowl LIII. He started six. He registered 27 tackles, a handful of pass breakups and a trio of interceptions through the campaign.
It’s been more of the same through this September for a former priority free agent who originally garnered $60,000 in guarantees.
On Sunday afternoon, Jackson became the first player since the New York Jets’ Erik McMillan to notch two interceptions and a blocked punt in a single game, per league release. McMillan did so in the 1989 season opener against the Patriots.
“Just going out there, competing and finishing plays, man,” the 6-foot-1, 198-pound Jackson added. “We just knew what this game was going to be about. We had to finish, compete and that’s really about it.”
The Patriots conceded 22 completions on 44 pass attempts against Buffalo. Allen, who’d leave the game following a helmet-to-helmet collision in the final frame, and Bills backup quarterback Matt Barkley combined for no touchdowns and four interceptions.
Jackson is well on his way to reaching his rookie total in the latter department. He’s well on his way to earning more than his base salary of $570,000 in 2019 and $660,000 in 2020 before becoming a restricted free agent.
“Just does a great job,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “He does play scout team a lot, so we actually go against him a lot. Very talented. Just very, very skilled. And he’s obviously got great ball skills, as well. Fast, quick, you know, can’t make a mistake around him.”
The 3-1 Bills learned that in more ways than one.
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