|by Ryan Messick
The Eagles created their third Miracle at the Meadowlands, shocking the Giants 38-31 after trailing by 21 points with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. After Michael Vick orchestrated three touchdown drives in 7:07, the Eagles’ defense forced the Giants to punt with 14 seconds remaining. DeSean Jackson hadn’t been returning punts throughout the game due to a foot injury he suffered last week, but he knew he might be called upon late in the game.
“I got that whistle from him,” Jackson said, referring to head coach Andy Reid. “He whistled, and I looked up ‘cause you know that whistle’s from Coach Reid, and he said ‘Get your butt back there!’ So I went back there man, and even when I’m on the field I’m looking and he keeps whistling at me. He’s whistling and whistling and I’m looking at him on the sideline, he’s like ‘Look it in, look it in, make sure you’re good.’
“I’m like, ‘Coach, I got this man.’”
Jackson didn’t quite look it in, but he definitely got it. After muffing Matt Dodge’s punt, Jackson made NFL history. He scooped the ball up at his own 35-yardline moving backwards, came to a complete stop, then jolted to life. Jackson split the coverage unit and raced 65 yards to the Meadowland’s North end zone as time expired. It was the first punt return for a touchdown to win a game with no time remaining in league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Like Herm Edwards and Brian Westbrook before him, Jackson stunned the Giants on their own field.
“It was a dream come true,” Jackson said. Reid didn’t seem too disappointed that Jackson didn’t look the ball all the way in.
“I guess my coaching point didn’t help,” Reid deadpanned. “But you know, it was just slow enough to make it work. He had a few seams and the people that needed to converge on him when he fumbled it converged, and that’s not something we work on, but it worked out okay.”
It worked out just well enough for the Eagles to put together the biggest fourth quarter comeback in franchise history, score the most fourth quarter points in team history and become just the ninth time in NFL history that a team trailed by 21 points in the fourth quarter and came back to win.
Still, Jackson’s heart-pumping, or heart-stopping touchdown, depending on your perspective, wouldn’t have been possible if not for the work of Michael Vick in the last eight minutes and change.
Things seemed to hit rock bottom in the middle of the fourth quarter after Reid failed to challenge the ruling of a fumble by Jackson at the 50-yardline. Replays showed that the receiver was down by contact, but Reid tucked the red flag back into his pocket. Seven plays later, Eli Manning connected with Kevin Boss for an eight-yard touchdown, Manning’s fourth of the game. It left the Eagles down 31-10 with 8:23 left, and visions of an NFC East title were fading fast.
“I didn’t do a very good job on that challenge,” Reid said “I should have challenged that one, I believe, people were telling me from the replay. I goofed.”
“Whatever amount of points we was down, I didn’t know, I lost track,” Vick said. “I just knew we needed three touchdowns to get back into the game.”
Philadelphia needed to regroup in a hurry, as New York was blitzing the Birds offense into oblivion.
“They play a lot of Cover Zero, which is all-out blitz,” Vick said. “It can be good at times, but it can also hurt you.
“We just adjusted to it and then we got to a point where we was just like, ‘Look, regardless of what they do it’s not going to be about them, it’s about us. We’ll take it one play at a time and put the ball in the end zone.’”