- The Pro Football Hall of Fame safety unloaded three years' worth of pain, disrespect, and disappointment with one swift blow.
"Are you serious?"
Brian Dawkins, member No. 313 of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was asked on Tuesday during a conference call with reporters ahead of his induction to name one game that stood out from his monumental career.
Just one? He selected the 2004 NFC Championship Game win over the Atlanta Falcons. And the everlasting moment from that game came late in the first half.
The Eagles held a 14-3 lead, but the Falcons were at the Philly 41-yard line. Vick took the snap from under center, dropped back, and faked a throw to the right side of the field. This did precisely what the Falcons wanted as Dawkins moved over to the hashmark opening up the middle of the field. With Dawkins apparently out of the way, Vick fired the ball down the left seam for tight end Alge Crumpler. Dawkins was able to recover and darted across the field just in time to cause a collision at the 10-yard line.
Dawkins obliterated Crumpler, who outgained Weapon X by more than 50 pounds, with a clean shoulder to the chest. Crumpler crumpled to the ground. Sure, he held onto the ball. But Dawkins unloaded three years' worth of pain, disrespect, and disappointment with one swift blow.
"After losing so many games in a row in the NFC Championship Game, the Eagles that is, for us to finally get back to that point and have the opportunity to go through that was kind of a tone-setter for what the game was going to be about," Dawkins said. "It was going to be a physical contest. We knew that going into it. We talked about it all week long."
Not only was Dawkins sick of coming so close to a berth in the Super Bowl but he was disgusted by the disrespect from outsiders who thought the game played perfectly into Atlanta's favor. The Falcons, who owned the league's best rushing attack that season, were supposed to benefit from the frigid, snowy weather that blanketed the Philadelphia region ahead of the contest. Well, that was the prevailing thought anyway.
"It just so happened that Alge felt, he got the brunt of that blow what it comes to the frustration and anger I felt," Dawkins said. "That is one of the main reasons that people look to that hit as one defining, for me it's not the hardest hit I've ever had but I think it's the most (notorious) hit I've ever had. And again I think it's because of where it was, in the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia."
The Eagles won 27-10 and Dawkins vividly remembers the emotions pouring out of everyone after finally reaching the Super Bowl.
"For us to finally get over the hump to have a chance to play in the Super Bowl after failing three times, to reach the plateau, to see the emotion that spewed out of Andy (Reid); spewed out of Jim Johnson, hugging my neck, crying, 'We did it. We did it'; seeing our families on the field, so that was a game that is the most memorable of my career," he said.
So, is there a runner-up? "A close second" is the 44-6 humiliation of the Dallas Cowboys to earn a playoff spot in the wildest way possible on the final day of the regular season. It was one of Dawkins' most dominant individual performances, but also his last game as an Eagle at Lincoln Financial Field.