(CBS) When the ball was waiting for him, Bears safety Eddie Jackson made the plays happen.
In Chicago’s 17-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the rookie Jackson became the first player in NFL history to record two defensive touchdowns of 75 yards or more. In the first quarter, he scooped up a loose fumble and returned it 75 yards for the score. In the second quarter, he retrieved a deflected pass and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown.
“That was just right place at the right time,” Jackson said in an interview on the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score on Monday. “(Adrian) Amos was there on the fumble, then (Pernell) McPhee, then Danny (Trevathan) came in. On the interception, Prince (Amukamara), he played great defense, and was able to hit the ball out of Big Papa’s (Kelvin Benjamin) hands. I was just there on the back end.
“When we get the ball in the secondary, we’re thinking touchdowns. We’re going through a wide receiver mindset saying we just want to score, get in the end zone and help the defense get some points on the board.
“Playing punt return (in college), that kind of helped me out a lot with vision and making people miss.”
The two return scores by Jackson gave the Bears a 14-0 lead over the Panthers that they turned into 17-3 at halftime. From there, they played a conservative offense aimed at draining down the clock and earning the victory. Though it was a team effort, Jackson’s plays proved to be the difference.
Jackson’s performance came exactly one year to the date that he suffered a broken left leg returning a punt at Alabama. The Bears drafted him in the fourth round because of their belief that he could recover and make plays in the secondary.
The recovery for Jackson lapsed into the offseason program. He would join the secondary in training camp and earned his way to a starting spot.
“It was very tough,” Jackson said. “But when I got here, Coach (John) Fox told me, ‘We’re not trying to rush you back. We just want to get you healthy.’ He used an analogy like you’re driving in NASCAR — you want to go as fast as possible without crashing into a wall. We just took our time, stepping into everything slowly and working back into the defensive drills and getting reps on the defense. and working back into the defensive drills and getting reps on the defense.
“It was pretty tough, but the environment around here kept me up and kept me going.”