In a league where the average running back survives roughly three years, Fred Jackson just completed his seventh.
He closed the season Sunday as the leading touchdown producer with 10 of Buffalo's 34 touchdowns adding a five-yard run in the loss to the Patriots at Foxborough.
"It just shows his tenacity, man," Thad Lewis told BuffaloBills.com. "That guy there is just unbelievable. One of his favorite guys is The Incredible Hulk, so we kind of call him that."
Jackson lived up to his nickname Sunday, as he rounded up 113 all-purpose yards and contributed a touchdown, all after battling broken ribs in the week leading up to the game.
Jackson's contributions became more important, especially after Buffalo's offense sputtered after the first drive, which resulted in a field goal.
Lewis said in the first half, the running game and the pass game weren't jelling, and one doesn't work well without the other. After the field goal, Lewis only converted two third downs via pass, one of which he threw to Jackson.
Leading up to halftime, the offense made it a mission to establish the running game, and Jackson led the charge.
In the last two drives before the half, Jackson handled the ball six times, and C.J. Spiller handled it four. Although the two drives stalled, Jackson ripped off two runs and a pass for over 10 yards each.
"We tried to get the running game going a little bit, and sometimes we didn't quite convert on third down, and that was the difference," Lewis said. "We converted third downs on the first field goal drive, and that's one thing we kind of got corrected in the second half."
Lewis said halftime was a key turning point for the offense, with its execution benefitting from the changes.
"We just challenged all the playmakers in the room, 'Hey, this game's not over, let's try to make plays.' And guys went out and made plays."
After establishing the running game as a threat, the offense started to march. Three drives into the third quarter, Buffalo scored its first touchdown of the day. Lewis said although he threw a passing touchdown, the running game earned some of the credit.
"When you have two great backs, it kind of opens everything up for you, and that's how we got the passing game going a little bit in the second half," Lewis said. "But you've got to take your hat off to those guys, they're tough, hard nose guys. There's no quit in them, and that's all you can ask."
Soon after Lewis brought about a one possession game, Tom Brady fired back, scoring a touchdown of his own, helped by an 83-yard kickoff return by LeGarrette Blount.
"It's something you can't control, so it's something you can't worry about," Lewis said. "You just have to get ready for the next opportunity you can as an offense to get back on the field. And that's all you can do."
Jackson responded for the team one more time. He spearheaded the next drive on a third down by catching a short pass up the middle, building a 37-yard play. Jackson said the play stemmed from good foresight.
"It was a designed play for us. Thaddeus and I was talking before the play even started. He said, 'I'm probably going to come to you, it looks like pressure, so get ready to look a little bit faster.' They dropped a guy on me, and I was able to get inside of them, and Thad stayed with me," Jackson said. "We were able to make a big play, and that's just us being on the same page, and that's the type of thing we have to be able to consistently make those plays like that."
After thrusting Buffalo into the red zone, Jackson again bolstered the offense. A 12-yard run from Spiller brought the ball to the one-yard line, but a false start penalized the team back to the five-yard line. Jackson then punched through to the end zone after breaking three tackles.
Jackson said he exhibited extra caution in the slick terrain, as the rain made simple jump cuts a difficult task.
"You just have to trust yourself. You have to trust your footing, you have to plant extra hard knowing that it is slippery, make sure you get your foot in the ground I was able to do so on that play, get us in the end zone and try to get us back into the game," he said.
Jackson's efforts alone couldn't win the day; the team failed to get back into the game after he brought about another one possession game.
Buffalo fell 34-20 in the Patriot's Gillette stadium, but Jackson said his team fought a good fight.
"That just shows what type of team this is. It's a resilient team that's going to keep fighting, every time we get that opportunity on the field. We're going to go out and try to win football games, and everyone's stuck in the game," Jackson said. "You know that's a good team, and they made plays when they had to, and we tried to keep fighting back, got back into it, and they made another play that kind of sealed the deal for them."
The 32-year-old's season may be over, but Jackson solidified his spot in the team's annals as the fifth place all-time rushing touchdown scorer. Jackson said Sunday's loss will fuel his offseason work, as he intends to come back healthy and ready in 2014.
"We just didn't do enough to get a win, so that's tough, and something we'll remember for the rest of this offseason," Jackson said.