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Drew Lock was the headline, but the Broncos rallied around another player on Sunday

Zac Stevens Avatar
December 9, 2019

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Super Bowl 32 was for John. Super Bowl 50 was for Pat.

On Sunday, Drew Lock’s remarkable road debut was the headline, but the game was for Kareem Jackson.

“We weren’t playing for ourselves today. We were playing for ‘K-Jack,’” Von Miller stated after the Broncos dominant 38-24 beatdown of the Texans on Sunday. “I said it last night, ‘Let’s do it for K-Jack.’ We all know how important it is to go to your former team and play well. We did this one for ‘K-Jack’ today.”

And boy did they.

After nine seasons as a member of the Texans, Houston let the versatile defensive back walk in free agency this last offseason. The 31-year old walked straight to the open arms of John Elway and the Broncos.

Up until Sunday, Jackson’s been nothing short of amazing during his first season in Orange & Blue, playing at least at a Pro-Bowl level. But Sunday, he took his game to infinity and beyond, saving the best for his former team.

“He had the interception, the fumble return for the touchdown, had a bunch of PBUs, was active in the tackling,” Vic Fangio said, detailing the game Kareem had in his homecoming. “So all in all, I think you could say he had a helluva game.”

Jackson’s 11 total tackles, three defended passes, one interception, one tackle for a loss and one touchdown earned him one of two game balls after the game from Fangio.

But there was one play hidden among that eye-popping stats that not only set the tone for this game, but brought an entirely new mentality to the Denver Broncos.

“He also had a tone-setting big hit, which got us off the field. It was on a third-down play, would have been a first down,” Vic said, detailing the massive hit Jackson delivered on DeAndre Hopkins to force the Texans to punt in the first quarter.

“I think it was important,” Jackson said of his textbook bone-crushing hit. “For me every week I feel like it’s important. Me being physical is one of the things that I do best. And for me, if I can kind of get involved early and kind of set the tone for us as a team, I feel like we can kind of light a spark in some of the guys, and we can kind of get going. Gain some momentum as a team. And so I mean anytime I can do that I’m all for it.”

A spark is great. But Jackson’s big-time plays were more than a simple flash of light for Denver.

“It was great, man. It kind of put us in the spirit of that 2015 playoff run,” Von said of Jackson’s early touchdown and booming hit on Hopkins.

Von Miller—the Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller—credited Jackson’s play as giving the 2019 defense a similar swag as one of the best defenses of all time. How ’bout that.

Sunday wasn’t just for Kareem Jackson. It was by Kareem Jackson.

In fact, on his touchdown, he called his shot. After Alexander Johnson forced the fumble and Jeremiah Attaochu recovered it, Kareem told the outside linebacker to give him the ball so he could score.

“I saw somebody grab him so I just thought he was tackled. I could kind of see everybody relaxing,” Jackson said, explaining why he made the bold move of asking Attaochu to hand him the ball before taking off for a touchdown. “It’s one of those plays they didn’t know if it was an incomplete pass or fumble. So one of the things we harp on we just play through the whistle. I never heard the whistle. It’s great awareness by Jerry to recover the ball, and I was just right there. He heard me. I was able to score it.”

All of this is why Jackson was physically hoisted into the air by Von in the middle of the locker room after the game surrounded by cheering teammates.

“It’s all about the team and what I can do to help the team. I just want to be a piece to the puzzle and to help us be successful and help us win,” Jackson said after the game, deflecting attention away from himself, despite having a career game.

“I felt like as a group we went, and we executed the game plan exactly how we said we wanted to. I kind of told the guys today all 11 guys pulling the rope in the same direction. It’s not about me. It’s not about any other guys. It’s all about all 11 of us being on the same page communicating, and I think we did that today.”

But for the other 52 players, it was about Kareem. While Jackson didn’t want to acknowledge that Sunday’s game meant more to him than any of the other 15 games on the schedule, he did pop a smile and admit “it was real special” that his teammates made this game all about him.

“Especially when we got the guys kind of rallying behind me like that,” Jackson said, bringing it back to his teammates.

Hours after their best win in years, the Broncos were officially eliminated from the AFC West division crown. But the selfless attitude, mindset and team-first approach that’s quickly sweeping over Denver’s locker room has the ability to impact this team for much longer than just this season.

“It’s just all about me being a piece of the puzzle,” Jackson said, embodying Denver’s changing culture. “I didn’t want to make it all about me and my return here. At the end of the day we had to come here, we had to execute as a team. Regardless if I play here or if it was another team. It was all about executing today and just coming in getting the job done as a team. I felt we did it in all three phases.”

Sunday was simply for Kareem, by Kareem for everyone in Orange & Blue except Kareem.

But for Kareem, he just wanted to be a piece of the winning puzzle. Mission accomplished.

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