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Thursday, September 22, 2011
Patriots in a rush to limit Jackson

By Chris Forsberg

David Butler II/US PresswireThe Patriots know stopping Fred Jackson will be a key Sunday in Buffalo.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Buffalo Bills boast the league's top rushing offense averaging a whopping 193 yards per game and much of that can be traced to fifth-year back Fred Jackson, who has piled up a league-best 229 yards on the ground over the first two weeks of the season.

While the Patriots have been tested through the air over the opening two weeks of the season -- and it's likely the Bills will target an injury plagued secondary this week -- Buffalo should also provide the stiffest challenge yet for New England's rush defense. Patriots players openly gushed about Jackson's talents.

"I’ll tell you what, Fred Jackson, he is so underrated," said Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. "This guy, I think I said it a couple years ago, and I know I said it last year, he is so underrated, he is just one of the most tough backs. You can give him the ball 30 times if you want to ... and he will kill you on the ground and in the air, those two together, make a good running back, so we have our hands full."

In seven career games against New England, Jackson has rushed 81 times for 391 yards (4.8 yards per carry), while adding 16 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.

"The guy is an excellent runner, great vision, he’s able to see the hole... and he's also in the passing game, catching the ball out of the backfield," said defensive end Shaun Ellis. "Sometimes they line him up as a receiver, he’s just an overall threat that can pose a lot of problems for the defense."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't skimp on the praise of Jackson, either.

"There’s really no weak points with that guy, he does everything well," said Belichick. "[He] runs hard, breaks tackles, good vision, good balance, catches the ball well, outstanding as a blocker, exceptional blitz pickup, even when they ask him to run block, which occasionally they do with their different personnel groupings. He’s good at everything. We know he can return, we know he can play in the kicking game -- it’s just a question of what they ask him to do. He’s really outstanding. He’s one of the best backs in the league. I would say no weak points. I don’t know what the weak points would be."

Two things to keep an eye on courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info: The Bills rank second in the league with 165 yards after contact, so the Patriots can't miss tackles. Especially because Jackson leads the NFL with four carries of at least 20 yards, showing his ability to create the big play.