Usually mentioned alongside words like reliability and leadership, Fred Jackson is no stranger to motivating a team. He motivated by example Sunday when he led the offense despite being injured on his first play in the game.
"I was scared on the side. I saw the thing happen," head coach Doug Marrone said. "Chandler was working out of bounds and somebody clipped him and he went down and at first I was concerned."
The collision with tight end Scott Chandler along the Bills sideline aggravated Jackson's left knee, which was injured earlier in the season. The Miami field crew drove the cart used to take players from the field to the locker room right up to the scene as Jackson was being examined by Bills doctors.
Ultimately Jackson told the cart to turn around and headed to the bench. Two minutes later he was jogging up and down the sidelines. The veteran back soon reappeared in the game on the team's very next possession.
"They checked him out and next thing I know he's out there and I told him, 'What you couldn't stay inside? You couldn't miss all this fun.' I think that's the way Fred has been playing," Marrone said. "People talk about age and years with Fred, but he's as strong and tough as any rookie we have."
Now in his eighth season in Buffalo, Jackson is 32-years-old, but having grossed 380 yards on this season already, he's near passing his rushing yardage total of last season (437 yards).
"He knows his body more than anybody else does," Robert Woods said. "He's got a little Hulk in him. He's strong and he can take a lot."
On his first carry of the game, Jackson scored Buffalo's only offensive touchdown on a three-yard rush. His teammates -- even those on the defense -- say his presence on the field is inspiring.
"That's why he has the 'C' on his shoulder. He's one of those guys that we can always count on no matter what. There are going to be some situations where you need to realize that you just can't go," said Aaron Williams. "You want to be the tough guy and want to show the team you don't want to quit on them, but sometimes you just can't go. You can't tell Fred that. Fred has been in the game for a long time and knows if he can go or not and when he goes in he's going to give you his best injured or not. He's going to give you the max he can give you. That's the kind of leadership we count on."
Jackson not only solidified a touchdown, but he also fought for three rushing first downs, earning 36 yards on 11 carries. He was the second best receiver on the day as well with four receptions for 46 yards.
"I knew it was going to be tough, but I wanted to get back out there," Jackson said. "I knew it was going to take all of us to win this game and I wanted to be a part of it."
The final scoring drive was only possible because of the coordination of offense and defense. After Kyle Williams recovered the fumble forced out by Mario Williams with 2:57 left in the game while down a point, Buffalo entrusted Jackson with burning off Miami time outs and gaining better field position for a game winning field goal.
Starting at Miami's 34-yard-line, Jackson would run consecutively for one, five then 10 yards. Not only did he take away each of Miami's time outs, his final third down conversion brought Buffalo to Miami's 18-yard-line, and gifted the offense with a new set of downs.
"We needed it. We had the opportunity to kind of ice the game so to speak," Jackson said. "I relish those types of moments and coach called my number and the offensive line and Frank Summers did a tremendous job giving me an opportunity to beat somebody one-on-one and we converted. That was a great team effort on the offensive side of the ball. A lot of the credit goes to the line because they did a tremendous job blocking."
Tashard Choice would run the next three downs to burn the clock before Dan Carpenter's final field goal of the day lifted Buffalo over Miami in a two-point win.
Jackson's teammates made it clear his value to his team goes beyond his in-game contributions.
"Being a younger guy to see an older guy come back from an injury, nothing can be wrong with you because you're young," T.J Graham said. "No matter what bump or bruise you think aches, you see an older guy and you know it hurts worse than whatever you have. So you've got to suck it up and play harder."