DeSean Jackson's 77-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the Redskins' victory over the Bills highlighted another prolific day for Kirk Cousins' favorite deep threat.
Bills head coach Rex Ryan is known to be brash and excessive at his press conferences following practices and games, offering zingers and one-liners that become a theme throughout the week. But, after watching wide receiver DeSean Jackson torch his defense for the majority of Sunday afternoon, the postgame analogy Ryan made to reporters didn't feel like the usual exaggeration.
In fact, considering the record Jackson was chasing, it felt particularly honest.
"The one wide-out makes a big difference for them, there's no question about it" Ryan said. "I never thought he was Jerry Rice, but I guess I was wrong."
Jackson collected six passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, his fourth on the season, which came on a 77-yard catch and run that beat double coverage and prompted Ryan to say the second-half play "broke our back" in the Redskins 35-25 victory at FedExField.
It was Jackson's 20th score of 60 or more yards in his career, tying Bobby Mitchell and Devin Hester for second all-time, just three behind Rice.
The play was also Jackson's 33rd career reception of 50 yards or more, the most by an NFL player since he entered the league in 2008.
"We needed that to spark us up and get momentum and like I said throughout the game, that's what I live to do," Jackson said. "Spark it up, get big plays and get the momentum and everything going like that."
The touchdown, the first play the Redskins offense dialed up in the third quarter, responded immediately to the Bills' first score of the game and deflated the Ryan and co.'s sideline.
Jackson lined up inside and began a wheel route, well-covered by cornerback Corey Graham, who didn't bite on quarterback Kirk Cousins' play-action fake. As safety Bacarri Rambo drifted for support, Cousins underthrew Jackson, who re-adjusted and caught the ball in front of the double coverage. With a cut inside it was off to the races, blowing by both defenders before raising the ball to the air in celebration.
"I actually saw the defender. He was a little over the top of me a little bit and Kirk threw a great back shoulder for myself," said Jackson, averaging 55 yards in his 10 career Redskins touchdowns. "The defender slipped and I saw my guy in front of me and I ran around him. He tried to trip me up, but I kicked out of there. It was a big play coming out of the half."
The play highlighted Jackson's talent to track the ball and accelerate but it also showed the steps the offense has taken over the last few weeks. Cousins is no longer the only person responsible to make plays – his throws can just be good, trusting his receivers to make them great.
"Guys are making plays, and Kirk is starting to trust the fact that these guys are great players and they are making plays for him," head coach Jay Gruden said." So it works hand in hand. Kirk has to pull the trigger, but the receivers have to make the plays for him."
Cousins targeted Jackson eight times, tying the wide receiver's season-high at Carolina, and found him at multiple levels in the secondary throughout the game. By the end of the first quarter, Jackson already had three catches for 43 yards, including a 28-yard floater down the sideline.
He followed that up with a 27-yard completion on the Redskins' second scoring drive in which Jackson adjusted his route again, this time to his right in front of a defender that had been juked out of place, finding his way down at the Bills' 5-yard line. That set-up an eventual Cousins rushing touchdown, and Jackson sprinted over to slap the back of his quarterback.
"With a young quarterback, who doesn't have as many reps as you would think, or you would want, it really just comes down to trusting," Jackson said. "I think the more and more we play together and the more snaps we take together, I think we'll see more days like this."
He'll need it most next week, when the Redskins visit Philadelphia, Jackson's old stomping grounds, on Saturday night when Washington attempts to win the division.
"We're winding down to the end of the season," Jackson said. "If we win out, we control our own destiny…We're just excited for the opportunity and it can't get better than going back to Philly."