LONDON — As time slowed to a photographer’s single frame and Josh Jacobs took flight, his elevated physique three-quarters horizontal to the turf, both arms wrapped around a football cradled to his belly, his left shoulder leaning slightly inward so as to minimize contact, the flashbacks were instant.
How appropriate that the names of Jacobs and Marcus Allen were so intimately connected Sunday — one a rookie running back for the Raiders, the other one of the greatest players in franchise history to play the position.
Jacobs did what really nobody does and, for it, the Raiders earned a 24-21 win against the Bears at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
He would rush 26 times for 123 yards and two scores against one of the NFL’s stingiest run defenses, the final touchdown being that decisive jump with 1:57 remaining, the sort of successful vault that Allen executed so often during his Hall of Fame career.
It is where you believed the comparisons would and should end, and yet afterward Jacobs was informed that he had surpassed Allen’s team record for most rushing yards by a rookie through five games.
He’s now at 430.
“I said earlier this week that we would stick with what we do best and that’s to be physical,” Jacobs said. “Just to finish it how we did was a huge testament to our team.”
It wasn’t lost on most that on a day Jacobs was so critical to his team winning, Bears star edge rusher Khalil Mack was overly pedestrian with three tackles, a fumble recovery and no sacks.
Jacobs was selected No. 24 overall in April, one of two first-round draft picks received from the Bears when Oakland traded Mack to Chicago last year.
“I’ll let the fans worry about that stuff,” Jacobs said. “(Mack) is a Hall of Fame player. You can’t compare me to guys like that at this point in my career … I actually thought that I had lost the game for us. That play was all on me.”
He spoke of the team’s first drive after halftime, the Raiders leading 17-0 and facing second-and-4 from their 31 when Derek Carr audibled at the line.
Jacobs either didn’t hear it or believed it a different call. Regardless, he thought it was a straight handoff, but Carr turned and pitched the ball into the ground.
Once it bounced even deeper into Raiders territory and was recovered by Mack, the Bears had life and scored two plays later to cut the Raiders’ lead to 17-7.
But that’s also what made Jacobs so impressive Sunday — how he reacted both above and below the shoulders.
He returned twice in the first half from injury and still managed 11 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown before intermission. Then, he committed the serious gaffe that put Chicago in a game it really hadn’t been part of for over 30 minutes.
He responded by rushing for 60 yards over the next two quarters and the game-winning score.
The Bears allow just an average of 83 rushing yards per game.
“He’s a resilient kid,” said offensive lineman Richie Incognito. “The fumble could have rattled him, but he kept punching back. The kid is a great runner and has a great head on his shoulders.”
Few running backs have been good against the Bears of late, never mind great.
Consider: Jacobs joined Saquon Barkley, Frank Gore and Latavius Murray as the only players to run for 100-plus yards against Chicago the past three seasons.
But this is also everything the Raiders wanted when drafting Jacobs out of Alabama, an every-down productive back whose play would do far more talking than his mouth.
It has been said Jacobs is living the impossible dream, the once-homeless kid existing out of his father’s car and rundown motels, the three-star prospect who had little interest from power programs until Nick Saban watched some tape a few weeks before signing day, the one who has always seemed to be running angry against his past.
A month ago, Jacobs was just another against-the-odds inspiring story.
Now, he’s breaking records of the best leaper of all in Raiders history and running wild against the team nobody runs against.
“My whole goal after (the fumble) was to get us back in the game and help us win the game,” Jacobs said. “I’m just glad my teammates still believed in me.”
One single frame, his elevated physique three-quarters horizontal to the turf, both arms wrapped around a football cradled to his belly …
The comparisons are ridiculously unfair, and yet the flashbacks instant.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.