EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's easy to make the comparison.
Brian Westbrook's 84-yard punt return against the Giants at Old Giants Stadium in 2003 with just over a minute remaining gave the Eagles a "miraculous" come-from-behind win. That win was said to have saved the season as the Eagles went on to be victorious in nine straight games and eventually finish with a 12-4 record, the NFC East title and homefield advantage in the playoffs.
Well, Sunday's win over the Giants featured yet another punt return touchdown that may have saved the season. DeSean Jackson's game-winning 65-yard punt return as time expired – the first game-ending punt return in NFL history - capped off a 28-point fourth-quarter rally as the Eagles erased a 31-10 deficit and won 38-31 in regulation at New Meadowlands Stadium. A loss would have put the Eagles one game behind the Giants with just two games left. The Eagles would not have controlled their own destiny and have had to rely on other teams just to make the playoffs.
Now, the Eagles lead the Giants by a game and by virtue of sweeping the season series they essentially have a two-game lead with two games left on the schedule.
Asking the two Eagles who were on that 2003 team to think about Westbrook's touchdown then and Jackson's score now, both David Akers and Quintin Mikell agree that the latest version is the more miraculous version.
"This just blows (2003) away. That one with Westbrook was the greatest game that I had been a part of coming back, but it's a matter of scoring 28 points in eight minutes. I've never seen anything like that," Akers said. "In my opinion, was it the Bills that was the greatest comeback with Frank Reich? This has to go down as the greatest comeback in NFL history, especially with all of the meaning behind it."
For Mikell, the reason this one stands out is because of how much the Eagles had to overcome to get the win.
"That was a big win, but this is way bigger. Everything that could go wrong went wrong," Mikell said. "We kept fighting. We did everything we could. We had injuries. We had turnovers. We had missed assignments on defense. We had missed tackles. They were just killing us. We just kept fighting. To come out with the win in a big game like this, against the Giants, division championship-type game, playoffs on the line. This was big."
The Eagles could very well finish with a 12-4 record. Next Sunday, the Eagles will get the Minnesota Vikings on a short week. The Vikings, who play the Bears on Monday night, could very well be without quarterback Brett Favre and are not in the playoff picture. The Eagles end the season at home against the Dallas Cowboys. And just like in 2003, the Eagles could seize the NFC East division title and possibly a first-round bye.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 6:50 p.m., December 19