New England cornerback J.C. Jackson has an interception in a team-record five straight games. Steven Senne/Associated Press

The key to J.C. Jackson’s incredible interception run can be traced to his natural ball instincts.

Jackson, still filling in as the Patriots No. 1 cornerback with Stephon Gilmore injured, continued to make plays with his NFL-leading sixth interception in Sunday night’s win over the Ravens. It was his fifth consecutive game with a pick, the longest streak in Patriots history.

And like many others, Jackson’s latest interception was a result of one of his specific talents.

“He has a really good knack for finding the ball,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said. “On several of those plays, he didn’t see the ball thrown and turned and located it and obviously he has good hands and quick hands and an ability to locate and catch the ball without seeing it all the way in. Not all of his interceptions came that way, but those are the hard ones for a defensive player when they turn late and have to find the ball, and not only locate it to break up the pass but to be able to take it another step further and make a clean catch.

“Those are tough plays and he does an excellent job of that. He has very good ball awareness.”

On Jackson’s pick Sunday night, his eyes stayed locked on Marquise Brown as he kept step for step with the Ravens’ speedy wide receiver. He never saw Lamar Jackson make his pass down the right sideline, but he used Brown’s eyes to signal it was coming. He turned his head and was in perfect position to make a play on the ball.


Belichick said it’s something they work on, but some players like Jackson are just naturally gifted to make those plays.

“I think some guys have more just natural hand-eye coordination and the ability to do than others, and he’s made a number of plays for us through the years like that,” Belichick said. “Just finding the ball, locating it late and then being able to intercept it.”

EDELMAN BACK SUNDAY?: The Patriots’ offense has looked like it’s hit a rhythm over its last two games, but it could soon be adding one of its most important players back into the fold.


New England wide receiver Julian Edelman had 21 catches for 315 yards in six games before going down with his knee injury. John Froschauer/Associated Press

Julian Edelman, on injured reserve since having surgery on his knee on Oct. 29, appears to be progressing toward a return. Belichick has said that he expects Edelman to return this season, and though a timeline isn’t clear, there is optimism about the wide receiver’s status, as confirmed by Cam Newton in his appearance on WEEI radio on Monday.

Edelman is eligible to come off IR this week and potentially play Sunday against the Texans if all goes well.

“I can confirm he’s getting better, he’s getting well and for him to be everything that he is, and I know he may be listening or he may have his people listen, he’s good, man,” Newton said. “Just to see him in good spirits and knowing that we’re doing our job as a team, so when he comes back, it’s evident that he’ll have help at that position. We just need him to be healthy. …


“For him, Julian Edelman is obviously a pinnacle, I would say a person that’s on the Mount Rushmore of Patriots history over the years for everything that he has done and what he represents as a player, so I’m just anticipating the day that he comes back.”

The 34-year-old Edelman had an inconsistent start to the season, with 21 catches for 315 yards in six games before going down with his knee injury.

PICTURE OF CONSISTENCY: There’s been no more consistent player on the Patriots’ defense over the last decade than Devin McCourty. That much was clear Sunday night when the NBC broadcast displayed a graphic that revealed that the safety logged more than 10,000 snaps since 2010, most among all NFL defenders in that time period. He hasn’t missed a game for the Patriots since 2015.

His value is obviously not lost on Belichick.

“He’s incredibly reliable,” Belichick said. “Anything in the game, you’d like to have consistently, but for that position, the free safety position that handles so much communication, formation adjustments and decision-making back there – kind of the quarterback of the secondary, if you will – that’s a critical role. Not only does Devin have great durability and consistency in his play back there, but his ability to handle those game plan adjustments quickly and decisively is a big help to our defense, no question about it.”

CONNECTIONS TO CAM: The list of Patriots players linked to Newton when they were younger continues to grow. Not only did Meyers play on Newton’s 7-on-7 all-star team as a high schooler in Georgia, but so did linebacker Terez Hall and wide receiver Isaiah Zuber.

Hall, who was recently promoted from the practice squad to make his first two starts for the Patriots, said he, Meyers and Zuber went to rival high schools in the same area in DeKalb County in Georgia, but it was Newton they all looked up to.

“He’s a big influence,” Hall said. “He’s a role model coming out of Georgia, and not even just Georgia, the entire south. Cam’s a big-time star, everybody looks up to him and he’s one of the guys you want to be like. Superman, coming to college at Auburn and stuff like that, you wanted to play like Cam Newton.”

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