ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Kareem Jackson insisted last week wasn't about him as returned to Houston to face his former team. You know, the franchise that let him depart as a free agent after nine years without even making him an offer. It was personal and emotional. And in his best game as a Bronco, Jackson delivered. He notched 11 tackles, an interception and a 70-yard touchdown return on a pitch-and-score fumble romp.
For his efforts, Jackson earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, the first Broncos player to accomplish it since Von Miller in Week 11 last season.
“It was real special. Especially when we got the guys kind of rallying behind me like that. But for me I wanted to treat it as another game on the schedule. Obviously, I knew I was coming in here early in the year. It's just all about me being a piece of the puzzle. I didn't want to make it all about me and my return here. At the end of the day we had to come here, we had to execute as a team — regardless if I play here or if it was another team. It was all about executing today and just coming in getting the job done as a team. I felt we did it in all three phases. ... But I expect to go out and have that type of performance all the time.”
The Broncos have won two road games this season -- at the Chargers and at the Texans -- and Jackson was the best player on the field in both games. The Broncos landed Jackson as a free agent. While other top addition Bryce Callahan (foot) did not play this season and Ja'Wuan Jackson (knee) has been limited to 63 snaps, Jackson has emerged a cornerstone. He brings an edge to the defense as he transitions to full-time safety work after spending the bulk of his career at corner.
"There are things that he can do better than he has been doing. He still shows at times lack of safety experience and lack of clean knowledge of everything, but overall we’ve been very happy with him," coach Vic Fangio said. "We were forced to play him at nickel some early in the year. I think that set him back a little bit. I even thought about playing him at corner. We never did, but I did think about it. For his benefit I just wanted him to keep developing at safety. I think it's in you (to play bigger than your size). Some guys just have that in them. He’s been that way his entire career, including college.”
Jackson is the third NFL player with at least 10 tackles, a fumble returned for a touchdown and an interception in a single game since Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher in 2011. Wednesday represents the 34th time a Broncos player has received this honor.
The former Alabama star put his stamp on Sunday's win by lighting up Houston receiver Deandre Hopkins like the Vegas strip, snuffing out a third down conversion.
"(Jackson) was really focused. I mean how do you get rid of a guy like that?" said running back Phillip Lindsay. "He is the NFL. The fact that you get rid of him -- I am happy we have him after what he did to me last year (with a huge hit). Hopkins got to feel a little bit of that today."