LANDOVER, Md. -- Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson once again was surrounded by a crowd he probably wanted to elude. This time, there was no backpedaling or reversing field. Instead, Jackson stood and took the questions head-on.
And he didn’t dodge from a simple truth: His desire to be a playmaker backfired at one of the worst times. He reversed field -- going back 21 yards -- which wasn’t advisable. He then fumbled, which is never good.
“I’ll take that on the chin,” Jackson said after a 19-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. “I fumbled. I know better than that. Protect the ball under any circumstance and get down.”
But Jackson doesn’t regret trying to make something out of nothing. He was corralled around the 23-yard line, so he reversed field and tried to deliver a grand slam.
“I wouldn’t really change nothing, but at a point I was probably like I should have went out of bounds,” Jackson said. “But I was being a playmaker and trying to make a play for my team, but it didn’t come out my way.”
No, it did not. That fumble led to a Dallas touchdown and 16-9 lead. Let’s be clear: Jackson’s gaffe did not cost Washington the game. In fact, his touchdown catch on the next series tied it with 44 seconds left. When you score only three points off three turnovers you’re asking for trouble. That inability to capitalize has hurt Washington too often this season.
But Jackson’s mistake was a huge one, something a team fighting for a division lead in December can’t afford to make. Just like you can’t afford to give up a 46-yard kickoff return after Jackson’s touchdown. That was inexcusable.
The Redskins use Jackson as a situational punt returner, putting him back there for Jamison Crowder when they need a spark. And they needed a spark late.
“He’s had a history of making big plays in key situations,” Gruden said. “I don’t regret the decision one bit. I’ll count on DeSean to make another big play. He ended up getting a touchdown to get us back in the game and tie it. I’ll live with that; he’s just got to protect the ball.”
As Jackson headed to the shower after the game, general manager Scot McCloughan stopped him to deliver words of encouragement, putting his arm around his shoulder. Others offered encouragement to him as well.
Like Gruden, Jackson doesn’t regret the decision he made as much as he does losing the ball. Gruden pointed to Jackson’s history; Jackson pointed to the same. Nearly five years ago he beat the New York Giants on the last play of the game with a 65-yard punt return.
“It’s what I’m used to doing,” Jackson said. “Go back in history, 2010. But in 2015 it didn’t go my way. I fumbled, team lost. Very frustrating.”
Will Blackmon played on that Giants team. He has seen what can happen.
“He wasn’t going out there to make it all about himself. He has plenty of money. He has all the accolades,” Blackmon said. “He’s fast enough where he can reverse field and do all those things, so he tried to make it happen.”
You get many things with Jackson and dynamic plays top the list. But you also get a player who will do things his way; he’s an unconventional star, someone about whom is often said, “But as long as he produces on Sundays.” You get good and bad with Jackson, as the Eagles once found out. You get a player who does his own thing in the offseason and sometimes in games. In his one-plus seasons in Washington, though, that mentality has not cost Washington in a game the way it did tonight.
And more often than not it results in big plays. It’s why they’ll put him back out there if a similar situation arises. Once again, the Redskins blew this game long before his fumble. Once again, Jackson must make better decisions.
“He didn’t lose that game,” Redskins end Jason Hatcher said. “It’s a team loss. We don’t point fingers and single guys out. It’s a tough play. But he has to pick his head up. We need him.”
Yes, they do. Jackson’s speed still scares defenses. He still gives the Redskins a home run threat.
“Part of it is my fault, too,” Jackson said. “I fumbled. I’ll take part of that on my shoulder. Hopefully I can bounce back and do something crazy to help us win a game.”
It’s easy to say that Jackson must understand he’s not a one-man show. But he has been making plays for a long time. Monday, a big play went against him. Now it’s time for him to reverse field away from this mistake. If he doesn’t, the Redskins will fade from the playoff race. They need him to be special, just not on every play.