TE Jackson gives Miami playoff payoff DOLPHINS DIVIDEND

January 12, 1993|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

MIAMI -- Tight end Keith Jackson sat in the locker room and smiled. This is what he had dreamed about. A playoff game, a playoff victory, touchdown receptions and more money.

That's why Keith Jackson traveled from Philadelphia to Miami 3 1/2 months ago. He wanted to get his hands on more footballs and more dollars.

So, on Sunday night, Jackson was in NFL heaven. He was in the middle of Miami's revitalized offense, one that helped rout the San Diego Chargers, 31-0, in an AFC semifinal at Joe Robbie Stadium.

"This is the offense I had in mind. This is the place I wanted to be," said Jackson, whose team will meet the Buffalo Bills here Sunday for the AFC title. "Hopefully, I've got a few more catches in me before this Super Bowl run is over."

Jackson had four catches for 53 yards against the Chargers, including touchdown receptions of 9 and 30 yards. He even made the block -- yes, a block -- that sprung Aaron Craver for a 25-yard touchdown run in the fourth period.

"Surprised you guys, huh?" Jackson said to reporters.

A little.

Jackson was a pretty good blocker out of the University of Oklahoma, but became the Philadelphia Eagles' primary passing weapon during his four seasons there. In the past two seasons, the Eagles asked Jackson to do more than catch passes.

They asked him to block, too, but without the pay increase Jackson wanted.

Jackson said thanks, but no thanks. He became a free agent last fall as part of a court order by federal judge David Doty. Jackson said he no longer wanted to play for Eagles owner Norman Braman and eventually signed a four-year, $6 million contract with the pass-happy Dolphins.

"I'm not at liberty to say what this says about free agency," said Jackson. "But I know what this says about the owners of this team and the coach going out and getting me. Everybody said it shouldn't be done, but they did it. I think it's a victory for them."

In the beginning, joining forces with the likes of Dan Marino, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton wasn't as much fun as Jackson thought it would be. He caught just 48 passes and went without a touchdown catch in the Dolphins' final seven regular-season games.

"It's been a little frustrating at times," Jackson said. "In a couple of games, I made some mistakes that might have made a difference. This team went out on a limb for me, and I haven't had the numbers I thought I would.

"But today [Sunday] I came up with the plays," he said.

The first big one came with 1:46 left in the second quarter. Jackson caught a 9-yard pass from Marino to give the Dolphins a 14-0 lead. The second came 79 seconds later.

On third-and-10 at the San Diego 30-yard line, Marino looked at Jackson in the huddle and said, "Take off."

Jackson did. In a four-receiver set, Jackson blew past broken zone coverage from his slot position and stretched out his arms just enough to haul in the touchdown pass from Marino.

"I didn't think I was going to get to it for a minute," said Jackson, who had five touchdown catches during the regular season.

Shula said the reception was the kind the Dolphins were hoping to get from Jackson when they signed him.

"We signed Keith because we felt he would give us what he gave us today -- a target down the middle of the field, a guy Dan could go to and count on," Shula said. "There aren't too many guys in this league with his kind of ability."

Craver said: "Keith Jackson came alive again today."

Jackson was superb on the same day his former teammates were eliminated from the NFC playoffs by the Dallas Cowboys.

"It feels great," said Jackson, who declined to talk about the Eagles. "I was having a good time out there. That's why I love playing so much -- when you do something like that, it makes it all worthwhile."

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