Vincent Jackson had 216 receiving yards in Sunday’s shootout loss to the Saints, the most in a single game in Buccaneers history. It was very nearly 225 yards if not for the fact that football is, as is often said, a game of inches.
With roughly five seconds left in the game and the Bucs down a touchdown, Josh Freeman threw in Jackson’s direction in the back middle of the end zone. The big receiver, who had already started the drive with a 38-yard catch-and-run and kept it alive with an impressive fourth-down snatch, leapt high to catch the pass, then came down on the toes of his left foot. Before his right foot could complete the toe tap, however, Jackson’s left heel settled onto the back line, just about an inch into the paint. There was an official just a few feet away, and he immediately and emphatically called the play an incompletion.
Moments later, Mike Williams’ apparent touchdown catch would be disallowed because he had already stepped out of bounds, and the seemingly never-ending production for Jackson and the Bucs’ offense (513 yards) was over. So was the game, with the Saints still up, 35-28.
“Tough loss,” said Jackson afterward. “Obviously we fought hard at the end, tried to come back, but came up a little short. Hats off to the Saints, they played a good game and they finished well.”
Jackson scored on a 17-yard reception in the second quarter, but a good chunk of his yardage came on a team-record 95-yard catch in the third period. Saints S Malcolm Jenkins was able to catch the Buc receiver and haul him down at the one, which was an unfortunate reminder that Jackson had been limited in practice all week by a calf injury. Obviously, he was able to gut it out most of the day, but getting caught by Jackson ended up being pivotal because the Saints then produced an impressive goal-line stand and the Bucs came up with no points after their longest play from scrimmage ever.
“I came out there and did the best I could,” said Jackson. “I obviously wasn’t 100-percent today, but I went out there to fight and gave it everything I got every play. We tried to get down there in the red zone, try to improve and come away with points. We think we have an offensive line that can move people and get someone to punch it in. But, again, hats off to the Saints, they played tough.
“I mean we’re going to have to go back and look at the film; you don’t lose a game by one play. There are some things in all three phases of the game that we can improve on. We will do that, we will make the corrections and we will get better, and we’ll come back and play hard on Thursday.”
Jackson has been going all out for weeks. He has a touchdown catch in each of the last three games, the first Buc to do that since Williams in the last three outings of 2010, and he has surpassed 100 yards in three of the last five games. His 586 yards so far put him on pace for 1,563 this season, which would be a new Buccaneer record. The Bucs didn’t get the last few yards they needed on Sunday, but Jackson showed once again that he can rack them up in bunches.