MINNEAPOLIS — Shouts to clear space came from the back of the winning locker room, and suddenly a staffer half-carrying Adoree’ Jackson plowed his way into the trainer’s room.
Minutes later, Jackson reappeared, hobbled to his locker, downplayed any concern for the scary scene over what he called “a little cramp” and shared the credit for his game-changing performance Sunday against the NFL’s No. 1 receiver in the Giants’ 31-24 upset victory over the Vikings in the NFC Wild Card playoffs.
“We had to take him out of the game and Adoree’ did his thing — he tracked him everywhere,” safety Xavier McKinney said. “He’s a big piece to our defense and just having his presence out there helps us a lot. Go take away the best receiver — that’s why he’s here and why he makes big money.”
Jefferson had four catches for 31 yards on the opening drive. He set up Kirk Cousins’ quarterback sneak across the goal line by stretching the ball to the pylon one play earlier. From there, however, Jefferson managed just three catches for 16 yards as a total nonfactor who couldn’t shake the shadow of Jackson, playing in his first game since Nov. 20.
“I feel like I did all right,” Jackson said. “The only thing that changed was I was getting back in the groove. I want to give credit to him. That’s a top-three [NFL] receiver.”
Then what does it say about the respect that the underrated Jackson deserves compared to his peers?
“I’m just doing what the team and everybody is expecting and asking of me,” a humble Jackson said. “I appreciate the challenge to go compete.”
Jefferson dominated the Giants — like he dominated every team on the way to a NFL-leading 1,809 receiving yards — during the regular season. He had 12 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown on Christmas Eve, when Jackson was sidelined in the middle of a seven-game absence with a sprained MCL.
Jackson admitted Sunday that he knew by the middle of last week that he was ready to play, but tried to play coy for a strategic advantage.
“I love having Adoree’ out there,” defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said. “He gave us a little extra time to get [to the quarterback] when he was holding the number one receiver.”
Maybe the biggest play that Jackson made actually was a tackle on Cousins, who handed off to Jefferson and slipped out of the picture as he prepared for a throw across the field that would set up a double pass. Jackson diagnosed the trick play and broke for Cousins, grabbing him by the ankle before others rallied to the ball.
“I thought he was going to run it, then I thought he was going to throw it,” Jackson said. “It was a great call by us defensively. If it was a different play call, maybe that would’ve worked differently.”
Or maybe it would’ve worked if Jackson was still sidelined. But he wasn’t concerned about his body not holding up.
“That was the last thing on my mind,” Jackson said. “If I’m going to be here for my brothers, put everything on the line. I feel like they had my back, and I knew I was going to have theirs, as well.”
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