Bills quarterback Josh Allen made plenty of bad decisions Sunday in Buffalo’s 16-10 loss to the New England Patriots. Worst among them was targeting Patriots cornerback JC Jackson not once but twice on deep passes.
Allen should have known going into Week 4 that throwing deep on Jackson is a risky proposition. To do it twice is inexcusable. Jackson picked off both passes.
Quarterbacks are now just 2-of-19 for 51 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions targeting Jackson on passes traveling 20 yards or farther over the cornerback’s first two NFL seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s a 10.5 completion percentage with a 0 passer rating. Jackson has a 21.1 interception rate on deep targets. He also has eight additional forced incompletions to go along with his four picks.
Over the last two seasons, NFL quarterbacks overall are 1,035-of-2,785 for 34,790 yards with 308 touchdowns and 168 interceptions on deep passes. That’s a 37.2 completion percentage, 96.8 passer rating and 6% interception rate.
The Patriots, overall, have allowed 40 catches on 152 deep targets for 1,264 yards with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a 50.2 passer rating, 26.3 completion percentage and 8.6 interception rate over the last two seasons.
The rest of the NFL has allowed a 98.7 passer rating with a 37.8 completion percentage and 5.9 interception rate in that same span.
Take out Jackson’s coverage stats, and Patriots defenders have allowed a 64.5 passer rating, 28.6 completion percentage and have a 6.8 interception rate over the last two seasons. So, the Patriots have been considerably better than the rest of the NFL at protecting against deep balls, and Jackson is exemplary even compared to his New England defensive peers.
“JC’s got a good skill set,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday. “He’s got good coverage ability, he’s quick, he’s got pretty good length for a corner, runs well and he’s got excellent ball skills and excellent hands. You saw the way he timed his jump and went up — I don’t know how high he went up to get that ball — it had to be it looked like 11 or 12 feet in the air.
“That’s a ball that some players just wouldn’t have been able to get to it. Like I certainly wouldn’t have been able to get to it. It’s a combination of all of those things, but in the end, guys that intercept passes have to have good ball skills, good judgment, good timing, good hands, good concentration and he certainly has those.”
It speaks to the Patriots’ secondary depth that Jackson is New England’s No. 4 cornerback behind Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones. The Patriots clearly are trying to find ways to get Jackson on the field, however. He’s played on 55% of defensive snaps which is good for eighth-most on the Patriots’ roster.
The Patriots have done a good job of rotating their defensive backs this season. Gilmore and safety Devin McCourty have been on the field for almost every snap, but Jackson, Jones, Jason McCourty and safeties Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon all have been on the field for somewhere between 51 and 78% of snaps. That keeps everyone fresh and allows the Patriots to play to matchups. All seven of those defensive backs rank in the top 11 defensive snap-getters on the Patriots.
It’s hard to throw on the Patriots’ defense, in general, this season. They’re allowing a 41 passer rating with no touchdowns and 10 interceptions. But throwing deep on Jackson has proven to be a futile endeavor.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.