The New England Patriots defense left the Carolina Panthers no chance in Week 9. Not only did the unit keep its opponent out of the end zone and allow a mere six points, it actually out-scored Carolina on the day: seven of the Patriots’ points in their 24-6 win came courtesy of the defense.
Midway through the third quarter and with the Panthers in the New England red area, quarterback Sam Darnold rolled out to his left on a play-action concept. With Christian Barmore and Matthew Judon closing in on him, however, he decided to quickly let go of the ball on a short pass intended for tight end Ian Thomas.
Thomas never touched the overthrown pass. Instead, it landed in the waiting arms of J.C. Jackson. 88 yards later, Jackson was in the end zone for a Patriots touchdown.
“I made a good read in zone coverage. Had my eyes on the quarterback and the ball,” Jackson said about the play after the game. “I mean, that’s what I do, man.”
Jackson was not done. In the early fourth quarter, the man known as Mr. INT registered a second pick while covering Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore in the end zone. While this interception was not run back for a score, it still ended a promising Carolina drive and effectively sealed the deal for New England.
That second takeaway was no less important, but the first still is special for Jackson given that it resulted in the first touchdown of his career.
“That was a heck of a feeling because that’s my first career touchdown in the NFL,” he said. “That was an amazing feeling. I need to get more of those.”
Jackson had nothing but FieldTurf between himself and the end zone when he caught Darnold’s inaccurate throw. However, there was no guarantee that he would make it that far given that he was being chased by one of the fastest wide receivers in the league. In the end, however, Robby Anderson failed to catch up to the Patriots cornerback.
“I was like, ‘Oh s--t, I don’t want to get caught’ because I got gassed,” Jackson said about being chased by Anderson. “When I got to the 30, the 20, my legs got tight. I’m looking back, I’m going zig-zag, so he won’t catch me. But he was pretty close.”
Now in his fourth season since entering the league as a rookie free agent, Jackson has not only established himself as the Patriots’ number one cornerback but one of the best ballhawks in the game. His two interceptions against the Panthers now bring his career total to 22.
No other players has picked off more passes since 2018.