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Eyeing TDs, Bears’ Eddie Jackson ‘won’t just settle’ for an interception

“There’s 100 guys that get interceptions around the league,” Jackson said, “but there are very few scoring a touchdown when they get the ball.”

Bears safety Eddie Jackson intercepts a pass Sunday, only for a penalty to nullify the call.
Bears safety Eddie Jackson intercepts a pass Sunday, only for a penalty to nullify the call.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Before Bears safety Eddie Jackson offered to help his teammate up, he told him he should have gone to his left.

When fellow safety Deon Bush intercepted a pass by Giants quarterback Daniel Jones at the left hash early in the second quarter Sunday, he ran toward the middle of the field before eventually — and unsuccessfully — trying to bounce it outside.

After a gain of 10 yards, he was tackled — by an offensive lineman.

Jackson ran over to help Bush up, but not before gesturing that he should have run outside the minute he notched his first career interception. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano even joked Bush would be fined for not pitching the ball to Jackson or cornerback Kyle Fuller, who were sprinting up the left flank like rugby teammates when Bush was tackled.

‘‘I feel like everyone knows that when I get the ball, I think touchdown,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘So I feel like that’s the standard I want to hold the rest of our defense to, especially the DBs. Let’s not just settle with getting an interception.’’

Jackson, however, hasn’t scored a touchdown since Nov. 22, 2018. In the first 25 games of his pro career, he returned three interceptions and two fumbles for touchdowns. In 21 games since, he has zero scores.

His attitude hasn’t wavered, though.

‘‘There’s 100 guys that get interceptions around the league, but there are very few scoring a touchdown when they get the ball,’’ Jackson said.

In the fourth quarter against the Giants, Jackson reminded the NFL he’s one of those rare players. He intercepted a pass — after popping the ball up himself — and returned it for a 54-yard touchdown, only for line judge Perry Paganelli to throw a late flag on Jackson for allegedly bumping into tight end Kaden Smith before the ball arrived.

Jackson said Paganelli later apologized to him, saying he thought Smith had popped the ball up.

‘‘My bad,’’ Jackson said Paganelli told him. ‘‘I was like, ‘My bad?’ Like, ‘What?’ So he just walked off. But it’s tough for those guys, trying to make a call and not see if it’s pass interference or not in the blink of an eye.’’

It was a gorgeous play — until the flag came out. Jackson caught his own tip, then ran up the left sideline. At the Giants’ 22, he cut inside to elude three tacklers that were in front of him. He sprinted around running back Dion Lewis before scoring on the far right side of the field.

Jackson was frustrated, but he admits he has a rather Zen approach to touchdowns being overturned. Another one is coming, he believes.

‘‘You always get them back,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s the good thing about it.’’

The Bears practice it. During interception drills, defenders are taught to run toward the sideline when they get the ball. The players in front of them block. The ones behind them clap for the ball — the way Jackson and Fuller did on Bush’s pick — and hope for a lateral.

‘‘We’re really close with the turnover stuff,’’ Pagano said. ‘‘They’re making them in practice. You see it on Wednesday, you see it on Thursday, you see it on Friday. Usually when that happens, it’s going to happen on Sundays. We’ve got to keep that going.’’

Jackson had it Sunday — before the flag came out.

‘‘That’s something he’s been doing his whole career, man, picking it off and taking it back,’’ running back/receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. ‘‘He sees the end zone, he scores in the end zone.’’