Steven Jackson scored his first touchdown in a New England Patriots uniform, but the banged-up Pats couldn’t pull out the road victory.
Quarterback Tom Brady joined the list of the walking wounded in Boston on a rough afternoon for the New England offense. S-Jax scored the team’s only touchdown in a 20-10 defeat to the Miami Dolphins, which kept the Pats out of the No. 1 seed in the AFC.On the bright side, the Patriots still have a bye for the first round of the playoffs, which will grant them some time to get healthy. And when the postseason begins at Gillette Stadium, Steven hopes his squad can bring better energy through 60 minutes of play.
"I think we need to get better at it," SJ said. "We need to continue to come out with energy, and continue to carry it through four quarters."
Steven’s role was greatly expanded in just his second game with the franchise. He earned a team-high 14 carries and totaled 35 yards and a score. He added one 20-yard reception, and it was clear right from the start that he’d be a centerpiece of the team’s offensive plans.He carried for three yards on the team’s first offensive play, but the Pats finished two yards short on third down and were forced to put. The Fins responded with a 10-play, 54-yard drive that ended in a 38-yard Andrew Franks field goal and a 3-0 Miami lead.
SJ39 opened New England’s second drive with three straight carries and moved the chains win a three-yard run on 3rd-and-2. But on the next third down, Brandon Bolden was halted two yards short of the sticks. After another Pats punt, the Dolphins etched out another similar drive—12 plays, 52 yards—but this time, the Franks field goal sailed wide right and the Patriots took over.
The Pats found the board on their third drive, much thanks to some big plays by No. 39. On 2nd-and-15, the Patriots set a screen for the veteran back. Brady dumped it to Jackson on the left flat and he blasted his way ahead, carrying three Miami defenders across midfield on a 20-yard gain.
New England head coach Bill Belichick didn’t have much to say after his team’s loss, but he did take the time to praise the play of his big back.
"Good to have him out there," Belichick said of Steven. "We'll see. [We'll] take a look at it."
S-Jax kept it going later in the drive, moving the chains on third down with a five-yard carry. Four plays later, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, tied the game at three with a make from 34 yards out.
It looked like the normally automatic New England kicker would give the Pats the lead before the half, but his 46-yard attempt with two minutes to go was off the mark. Miami took over with just under two minutes to go in the half, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill found receiver DeVante Parker for a 15-yard go-ahead score, as the Fins took a 10-3 advantage into the break.
But thanks to the thunder-and-lightning combination of Steven and James White, the Pats were quick to tie it up in the third quarter. On 3rd-and-4, White hauled in a Brady pass on a slant and dashed upfield for a terrific 68-yard gain down to the six-yard line.
From there, the Pats leaned forward and handed to their power back. Steven blasted ahead on consecutive runs and punched in his first score as a Patriot to tie the game at 10.
"It was one of those things, it was set up by the long pass, and once we get in those situations where we got to grind out those yardages that’s where I got to make sure I pull my weight on the team,” Steven said. "Inside zone I bounced the play outside and had a DB there so I just got to lower my pads to get in the end zone, and that’s what I did."
Steven made it clear with that run, and with his comments after the game, that he understands his role as the enforcer in the New England running game. No. 39 brought a team-first veteran mindset to Boston, and it has helped him find his way in less than two weeks’ time.
“That takes work, it takes effort,” Belichick said. “You’ve got to build those relationships and that communication, and I think he worked really hard at that and continues to.”
SJ39 reiterated his coach’s comments after the game as he explained his outlook on his role on the team, both on the field and in the locker room.
“I think, ideology, we line up very well – with what coach is doing, what he’s coaching the young guys to do and get done and what the veterans here have accomplished over their careers,” Jackson said. “It’s right down my mentality with the way I approach the game and the way I approach life.”
Unfortunately, that was the last hurrah for the New England offense on the day. The two teams went into the fourth quarter still tied at 10, but the Pats went forward with their star quarterback far from full strength. Brady had his ankle rolled up on by Miami’s Ndamukong Suh. After the game, he underwent an MRI, which revealed a sprained ankle—but fortunately no fractures or breaks.
Brady’s injury might not have been a problem if the Pats could have built a lead early in the game, but early in the fourth quarter, Tannehill found tight end Jordan Cameron for the go-ahead score.
One drive later, the Dolphins tacked on another field goal, and with Brady hobbled, the Pats didn’t have the fuel to pull off the comeback.
As a team, the Patriots came away disappointed that they couldn’t secure the No. 1 seed and home field advantage through the playoffs. But they still have a first-round bye, giving them a week to regain some health before they play the winner between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Individually, that week will give SJ another week to get his body in top condition, and to strengthen that rapport with his new teammates.
“Well, stamina was there. Definitely want to get better,” SJ39 said. “Will be interesting to watch the film and see my reaction time and things like that. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy when I signed up for this. Ready to put in the work, and that’s why I’m here. I’ve got an uphill battle myself. I’ve got to continue to work hard, continue to learn and continue to sharpen my sword.”
- Jackson carries the load for Patriots against Dolphins (CSNNE, Jan. 3, 2016)
- Steven Jackson tries to pull his weight with the Patriots (Telegram.com, Jan. 3, 2016)
- Patriots stagger to No. 2 seed (Boston Herald, Jan. 3, 2016)
- Pats miss chance to clinch No. 1 seed, losing to Miami (AP, Jan. 3, 2016)
- Steven Jackson gets extended look in second game with Patriots (247 Sports, Jan. 3, 2016)
- James White’s 68-yard run sets up Steven Jackson touchdown (MassLive, Jan. 3, 2016)
- Days after Jackson had accepted retirement, Belichick came calling (Providence Journal, Jan. 2, 2016)
- Steven Jackson answers Patriots’ call (Boston Herald, Jan. 2, 2016)
- Patriots alter RB rotation to feature Steven Jackson in power role (ESPN, Jan. 3, 2015)
- Steven Jackson All Access (Patriots.com, Jan. 1, 2016)