A person or thing that precipitates an event. That's the definition of the word catalyst and Fred Jackson fit the definition of that word for the Bills on Sunday in their dramatic 38-35 win over Oakland.
Jackson didn't cap the game-winning drive with a touchdown, but he did a lot leading up to that point, and as his teammates will tell you ignited a Bills offense that was sputtering in the first half with a 43-yard touchdown run on Buffalo's fourth play from scrimmage in the second half.
"That was what started it all off," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "He didn't see a lot of carries in the second half, but he went over 100 yards and put two in the end zone. To see him make that run, that got everybody going and we didn't look back from there."
Jackson took the 2nd-and-3 carry off left guard, found a seam and went straight up the hash marks. He then set up the last defender with a fake to the outside before outrunning three other defenders to the end zone.
"A safety is not going to let you get outside of him, so you've got to press him hard and get him to commit to running hard and then just know you have to plant and get back inside of him and that's what I tried to do," said Jackson. "I got him leaning hard, cut and I was able to break the tackle and get in the end zone."
Even when Buffalo's offense was struggling in the first half, Jackson had a very respectable 44 yards on eight carries (5.3), thanks in large part to a 34-yard run. But down 21-3 at halftime, Jackson put the onus on himself to make something happen.
"We needed a big play and I felt like if I can get a spark just by making a play, everybody would feed off of it and we did," he said. "Everybody wanted to go out and make a play. We saw Stevie hobbling around out with cramps, but he wanted to be on the field to help this team with a victory. Anytime you've got guys willing to put in the work like that we're going to be a hard team to beat."
After Jackson's big touchdown run early in the third quarter, the Bills defense forced a turnover, and the offense scored touchdowns on their next four possessions, with another going to Jackson on a one-yard touchdown run to fittingly erase the 18-point halftime deficit.
"Fred had that first drive and pretty much put the team on his back and then to motivate the team, the defense had a great stop and the fumble and then the crowd got into it and then it was anybody's ball game at that point," said David Nelson.
By game's end Jackson had rolled up his second straight 100-yard rushing day, becoming only the fourth back in Bills history to pull off the feat joining Bills Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson (1973, 1975) and Thurman Thomas (1991).
And with another stellar yards per carry average day (15 car. 117 yds, 7.8 avg), Jackson now stands second to only Simpson (4.8) in career yards per carry average (4.53) as he has surpassed the late, great Cookie Gilchrist.
Jackson (229) is also leading the league in rushing as he stands seven rushing yards ahead of Oakland back Darren McFadden (222). But Jackson's ability to lift the collective level of play up for his teammates was what proved most valuable on Sunday.
"That guy right there is an inspirational leader," said Fitzpatrick. "Everybody follows him. His play is so inspiring to everyone on that field."