|WR Jackson looks for third straight big game for Bolts|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 17 January 2008 23:44|
In Vincent Jackson's case, make it two.
The San Diego wide receiver will be looking for his third straight big game when his underdog Chargers face the undefeated New England Patriots in the AFC championship game on Sunday.
Of the lesser-known players who helped the Chargers upset the Indianapolis Colts, Jackson had one of the bigger roles. He caught seven passes for 93 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers. The 6-foot-5 Jackson used his height advantage to leap over safety Antoine Bethea for the score.
The week before, he helped the Chargers to a wild-card win over the Tennessee Titans with five catches for 114 yards and one TD.
``Call it what you want to call it, but I've been here about three years, and this is the first time I think I've actually been able to contribute a little more, statistically,'' Jackson said. ``I think I do a great job in other roles they have me doing, blocking and what not. It's fun. I actually get the ball, make some plays.''
Come Sunday, Jackson will no doubt meet up for the first time with hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison, a former Chargers star.
``Can't wait to see him,'' Jackson said with a laugh. ``Let's go. Let's go.''
Chargers fans have waited for the third-year pro to start contributing more. Jackson said nothing has changed in the way he plays, just in the opportunities he's getting.
Against Tennessee, he and Chris Chambers (six catches, 121 yards) carried the load as two-time NFL rushing champion LaDainian Tomlinson was being bottled up.
With Tomlinson getting knocked out against the Colts with a knee injury, and Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates limited by a toe injury, Jackson continued to get chances.
``You have L.T. and Gates and those guys are definitely going to get their recognition, and they deserve it, absolutely. There's not a lot of 1,000-yard receivers around here. It's just the way the system's been run, I guess.
``You go back and look at game film, I'm not doing anything differently. There's only one ball to go around on the field.''
Coming into the season, the Chargers' wide receivers - who are coached by Hall of Famer James Lofton - were young and undistinguished. Chambers was obtained in a midseason trade with Miami and has added a new dimension to the offense, and Jackson has come on strong.
``We're just excited that people are finally starting to see that we have do have a very strong solid corps of receivers here,'' Jackson said. ``It's been a nice postseason so far, but again, we're not even close to being satisfied.''
Coach Norv Turner has been impressed with Jackson, who during the regular season had 41 catches for 623 yards and three touchdowns.
``We have guys that have really stepped up,'' Turner said. ``Vincent Jackson is playing as good as any guy I've been around through this stretch of the last six or seven weeks and obviously the last two games. You talk about stepping up in big games, he was unbelievable.''
The Patriots certainly have noticed.
``I see a confident football team,'' linebacker Mike Vrabel said. ``I see a physical football team. Philip's making plays. The receivers are becoming a huge part of their offense. You always knew they had Gates and he was going to catch everything that was thrown his way. Those big receivers are making plays so that just gives them two more options.''
The Patriots are familiar with Chambers from his Dolphins days.
``And Jackson has stepped up big for them, so they've gotten a lot of production out of their receivers as well as their tight ends, their running backs,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ``I mean, everybody produced, just like what happened in Indianapolis: they got contributions from everybody.''
The Chargers will be huge underdogs against the Patriots. They'll no doubt need another big game from Jackson.
``We're excited,'' he said. ``Let's go. Bring 'em on.''