DeSean Jackson has been one of the NFL's best receivers throughout his nine years in the league, and his 67-yard touchdown catch Thursday reminded the league why he's still a force to be reckoned with.
The Washington Redskins offense has been playing well all season, but over the last six games the unit has dipped under 400 total yards just once. That game was missed by DeSean Jackson, who missed Week 10 against Minnesota with a shoulder injury, but he's been back for the last two weeks. In those two games, the Redskins have topped 500 total yards in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.
Coincidence? Jackson isn't the sole reason Washington's offensive production has moved to historic levels, but there's no doubting that the Redskins go from scary to downright terrifying when No. 11 is in the game.
Jackson proved his worth again on Thanksgiving Day by doing what he does best. His 67-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of Thursday's 31-26 loss to Dallas was the 21st touchdown of his career of at least 60 yards, tying Devin Hester for the second-most such scores in NFL history.
With the Redskins trailing 24-12 and less than 10 minutes remaining, they needed two yards to move the chains on third down. Instead of looking short, Kirk Cousins looked deep for Jackson. The nine-year veteran fooled Dallas cornerback Anthony Brown badly into believing that Jackson was going to cut off his route, and instead streaked downfield for an easy score.
"I think DeSean stuttered [Brown] a little bit, and made him feel he was breaking down," Cousins said. "You run so many routes throughout the game where you are, you start to get that 15-20 yard depth from an in cut or an out cut, or a comeback, whatever that may be. You do it enough and he gets the flow of the game, I think he's smart by him to give the guy a little bit, and then take off. Great play by him and it certainly got us back in the game."
Jackson finished Thursday's game with a team-high and personal season-high 118 yards on just four catches. Meanwhile, Jordan Reed gutted out 95 yards on 10 catches while Jamison Crowder had eight catches for 88 yards – both benefitting from the space provided by Jackson's threat of going deep.
Many receivers like Jackson – undersized and speedy – see their value rise and drop dramatically in usually short careers. However, Jackson's skills in both route running and ball tracking – something Cousins often applauds him for – has allowed him to remain one of the league's elites when healthy. Jackson, who was a question mark to play against Green Bay on Sunday with his shoulder issue, has now made it through two games in four days without an issue.
"The shoulder is fine," Jackson said. "I made it through the game. I didn't have any problems throughout the game."
But Jackson didn't talk about himself much more after the game. Instead he wished the Redskins could've scored more – a common sentiment heard throughout the Washington locker room after the offense scored touchdowns on only 2-of-5 red zone trips.
"It's kind of been the tale of our season – the red zone," Jackson said. "Missing couple of plays to not score, field goals here and there. Those two field goals obviously hurt, but it's just not on (kicker Dustin Hopkins). Those times we got to the red zone and didn't score either. It's a whole. We've all got to look each other, from the coaches to the players to everybody on the field. Hopefully we'll get back, get a couple days off, look at film, correct whatever it is we need to correct and move forward."
With the red zone being such an issue for the Redskins, Jackson may be needed now more than ever. As a receiver who is a threat to score from anywhere, Jackson now has a touchdown in back-to-back games for the first time since Week 11 and 12 of last season.
"Very frustrating, but we felt we were in the game, but we just couldn't find a play to either make a stop or make a comeback," Jackson said. "We fought until the end. I think everybody in this locker room has some plays they'd wish they could have gone different. But that's neither here nor there. We took a loss. We're just frustrated about it, but we'll bounce back."