Overcoming sore knee, RB Jackson sparks Bills win

JOHN WAWROW (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Running back Fred Jackson immediately waved off the Buffalo Bills training staff once the cart pulled up along the sideline.

''Yeah, I knew it was out there,'' Jackson recalled Monday. ''And I knew I didn't need it.''

Sore as his sprained left knee felt a day earlier, Jackson had no intention of being carted off during a game at Miami for the second time in two years.

Rather than climb aboard, Jackson grabbed his helmet and headed back on the field, where he proceeded to play a key role in a 23-21 win over the Dolphins.

''Oh yeah, I was motivated,'' said Jackson, still stung by the memory of breaking his right leg at Miami in November 2011.

''That was something that ran through my mind yesterday. And I wanted to be out there.''

Wearing a brace he's had on since first hurting his knee three weeks ago, Jackson persevered in producing a gutty performance that continued to solidify his position as the Bills' vocal and inspirational leader.

He scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter after aggravating the injury a series earlier, when teammate Scott Chandler rolled into the side of Jackson's knee on the sideline. And he was still at it in the final minutes.

Jackson gained 16 yards on three consecutive carries - including a 10-yard run to convert a third-and-4 at the Dolphins 28 - to set up Dan Carpenter's game-winning 31-yard field goal with 33 seconds left.

He finished with 36 yards rushing and 49 yards receiving in helping the Bills (3-4) snap a two-game skid and win a road game for the first time since Oct. 14, 2012, at Arizona.

And don't be surprised to see Jackson playing this Sunday at New Orleans (5-1).

''It's definitely sore today,'' Jackson said. ''But I expect to be out there. I'll do everything I can.''

His teammates would expect nothing less from the seven-year veteran.

''He's got a lot of heart. He's one of those guys who's a natural leader,'' guard Kraig Urbik said. ''When we need a little pick up or need a little extra, he's always the guy to provide it. He's one of those guys that we always rally behind.''

Jackson's resilience is beginning to reflect the identity of a young team that has shown no signs of quit this season despite a series of injuries to key regulars - including rookie quarterback EJ Manuel (sprained right knee).

Buffalo's three wins have been determined by a combined 6 points, and four losses determined by a combined 25. And the Bills have either led or been within a score of the lead in all seven games.

That's well ahead of the modest expectations that came with a team that underwent a near top-to-bottom overhaul this offseason and hasn't been to the playoffs in 13 seasons - the NFL's longest active drought.

''I'm extremely proud,'' rookie coach Doug Marrone said. ''We're fighting, fighting, fighting. And that's what we're going to keep doing. ... Granted, we're not happy with the record or where we're at, but we're working on changing that every single day.''

Marrone singled out Jackson for the leadership he's provided.

''I think Fred is an outstanding pro, and he leads by example,'' Marrone said. ''There's a lot of youth in him which we're very happy with.''

Youth is a relative term for Jackson.

At 32, he's not sure how many more seasons he's got left, or how much longer his wobbly left knee can hold up this season.

That leaves him focusing on short-term objectives, such as doing everything he can to turn the Bills into winners this season.

''We've got a great opportunity in front of us right now. And I want to be a part of it,'' Jackson said. ''The confidence in this locker room is sky-high in here. We believe in ourselves. And there's nothing more powerful than a locker room that has confidence in itself.''

NOTES: Bills LB Manny Lawson (hamstring) is expected to be limited in returning to practice this week after he was hurt Sunday. ... Buffalo has allowed two TDs rushing this season, the team's fewest through seven games since allowing two in 1982, according to STATS LLC. ... The Bills and Broncos are the NFL's only two teams to have scored at least 20 points in each game this season.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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