Jackson puts Cowboys in headlock

Mike Sherman forgot his candy bar, and because of it he and the Packers tasted a sweet victory Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Sherman and Grady Jackson took part in some good-natured sparring in the days leading up to Sunday's Packers-Cowboys game. Jackson, who had been out of action since the third defensive snap of the regular season after sustaining a dislocated left kneecap in the opener at Carolina, all week had said he'd be ready to play. Sherman wasn't so certain and considered keeping his run-stuffing nose tackle out of the lineup for one more week.

Hearing his coach's doubts, Jackson threatened to put Sherman in a headlock in order to get onto the field. Sherman said he'd break Jackson's grip by throwing a Snickers candy bar on the ground.

Jackson won the clash of wills, and despite more than a month of rust, played a superb game.

Jackson made his presence felt on just the third snap of the game. Inexplicably left unblocked, Jackson slashed inside center Al Johnson to drop Richie Anderson for a 1-yard loss.

On the next series, Jackson was briefly double teamed before being left one-on-one against Johnson. Jackson grabbed hold of Johnson and pushed him right into Eddie George's path to limit the Cowboys running back to a 1-yard gain. On the next play, Jackson dominated a double team to allow linebacker Nick Barnett to slash into the hole to snuff out the play.

With Green Bay ahead 10-6, Jackson again was a dynamo. He diagnosed a screen pass and made the play after a 3-yard gain. One play later, on third-and-4, Jackson batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage. The play was nullified on a delay-of-game penalty, but it showed Jackson was on top of his game.

His stat line — two solo tackles, one assisted tackle — was hardly impressive but his play certainly was.

"They tried to run the ball up the middle and I think they kind of went away from it," said Jackson. "Once you get a team like that one dimensional you can win games like that."

The Cowboys rushed the ball just 16 times due to a combination of Jackson's stellar play and the ever-growing Packers lead on the scoreboard. Those 16 carries netted 66 yards, and 27 of those came on an Anderson sweep to the outside when Jackson was on the sideline.

"They were running mostly to the outside when they knew they couldn't run up the middle," said fellow nose tackle James Lee, who made his debut after injuring his knee in Week 2 against Chicago. "They abandoned the run in the first quarter. We just shut them down so bad they went to the air."

Despite his obvious influence on the game, Jackson remained modest afterward.

"I'm a little rusty right now," Jackson said after playing an estimated 40 snaps — about 10 more than the pregame plan. "I plan on getting better as the season goes on. This is my first game back in six weeks."

Jackson, who had been champing at the bit to get back into the lineup — especially when the Packers were struggling so badly, particularly against the run, just a few weeks ago — was just happy to contribute to a victory.

"Just being out there with my team, getting the momentum going. We just lift each other up," he said.

As for his verbal jousting with Sherman, Jackson said it all came to a head on Saturday.

"I had to put him in a headlock," the jovial Jackson said.

Jackson won that battle and the Packers won Sunday's game. How sweet.


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