As part of the celebration of the NFL's 100th season, the Eagles are asking fans to vote for one of four plays as the greatest moment in franchise history. The play with the most votes will be revealed during the club's Fantennial Weekend this upcoming season. This top play, as voted on by the fans, will then be entered into a league-wide vote to identify the NFL's Greatest Moment. The first nominee, DeSean Jackson's Miracle of the Meadowlands, No. 2.
When DeSean Jackson rejoined the Eagles this year, he was joyously embraced by the Philadelphia fans. He got the loudest ovation at the Carson Wentz AO1 Foundation Softball Game and again at the team's practice at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night.
Eagles fans have a special place in their hearts for Jackson and it is easy to understand why. He is eighth in franchise history for receptions (356) and fourth in receiving yardage (6,117). He is second in punt returns (131) and punt return yardage (1,294) and he is tied with Darren Sproles for most punt return touchdowns (4).
That's a lot of production in six seasons which is all Jackson spent in Philadelphia before he began his gypsy tour of the NFL in 2014. But now he is back and while there are many great memories there is one that shines brighter than the rest.
December 19, 2010 ...
The Eagles and New York Giants were tied, 31-31, with just seconds remaining in regulation time. The Giants were forced to punt and everyone was thinking overtime. But DeSean Jackson changed all that.
Giants rookie Matt Dodge was under orders to punt the ball out of bounds. Coach Tom Coughlin did not want to take any chances by allowing the explosive Jackson to field the ball. However, the snap was high and Dodge panicked. He rushed his kick and instead of angling it toward the sideline, he hit a low line drive directly to Jackson. It was the worst kind of kick at the worst possible time for the Giants.
Jackson bobbled the ball, scooped it up, then took a few steps back. The Giants' coverage team closed in but Jackson saw an open lane. He dodged a tackler then shifted into high gear, bursting through the first wave of blue jerseys. He was in the open field with only Dodge to beat and, of course, the punter had no chance of corralling Jackson who was in a full sprint.
In the broadcast booth, Merrill Reese and Mike Quick provided a memorable call. Reese clicked off the yard lines – "He's at midfield, he's at the 40, the 30 ..." – while in the background Quick could be heard saying "Oh ... oh ... oh ..." It was part disbelief and part jubilation.
There is a great photograph shot from field level of Jackson, fully in the clear, with the Giants' sideline as a backdrop. There are several men in Giants attire looking on, stunned. Next to them is FOX sideline reporter Pam Oliver with her mouth open in utter shock.
As he neared the end zone, Jackson turned and ran parallel to the goal line for several strides before finally stepping into the end zone to complete the first walk-off punt return in NFL history. It went in the books officially as a 65-yard return and a 38-31 Eagles victory.
"I knew nobody was going to catch me," Jackson said. "I just wanted to do something for excitement. That's what the fans pay for."
The FOX TV cameras replayed a shot of Coughlin throwing his play sheet to the ground in a rage. He ran onto the field to confront the rookie punter. His face was even redder than usual.
"Sometimes you try so hard to do something, in this case kick the ball out of bounds, and you just lose your head," Dodge said. "That's kind of what happened. I had plenty of time. I just didn't execute. There's nothing more you can say. You can't give the most explosive returner in the game a line drive in that situation."
"Every time DeSean touches the ball, you think he is going to do something big," said quarterback Michael Vick.
On the radio, Quick referred to the play as "Miracle of the Meadowlands, number two." The original Miracle was the Herman Edwards touchdown on a fumble recovery in 1978. But this Eagles win was an even bigger miracle because they overcame a 21-point deficit in the final eight minutes.
Vick was held to 33 yards passing in the first half but he accounted for 233 yards (142 running, 91 passing) in the last eight minutes. The Giants were so shell-shocked by the ending, they went straight to the locker room. They didn't stay around to shake hands and congratulate the winners which disappointed Vick.
"I have a lot of respect for the New York Giants," he said, "but for them to walk off the field at the end didn't show great sportsmanship. They were the ones doing all the talking (prior to the game)."
The Giants weren't talking afterward but DeSean was.
"I know what I'm capable of doing," he said. "My fans know. If you ask all of my fans, I think they'll tell you I'm one of the best in the game. Not to sound cocky, but I feel unstoppable."
An award-winning writer and producer, Ray Didinger was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. His play about the late Tommy McDonald, Tommy and Me, opens Friday at the Fringe Arts Theatre.For ticket information, go totheatreexile.org.