EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As he walked to the interview room following the Miracle At The New Meadowlands, Part 1, DeSean Jackson leaned in and asked the question nobody really had an answer for: "How in the world did we just do that?" Jackson spoke for everyone when he said that as the Eagles scored 28 unanswered points in the final 7 minutes, 28 seconds to stun the Giants 38-31 on Sunday and take a one-game lead in the NFC East.
"Seriously," said Jackson. "How did that happen?"
The third-year wide receiver played a huge part in it, of course. His 65-yard punt return on the game's final play provided the winning points and set off a wild, crazy, see-it-once-in-a-lifetime celebration as the Eagles whooped and hollered and soaked in the moment as the stadium emptied.
Whoooooooooo hoooooooooooo! Can you believe what just happened? We have seen our share of incredible games in this Eagles-Giants series, but erasing a 31-10 deficit to a 9-4 (now 9-5) New York team in a matter of half a quarter and ending on Jackson's incredible sprint into the end zone may very well take the cake.
The win lifts the Eagles to 10-4 and gives them a magic number of 1 to clinch the NFC East. There are higher goals, of course, as there should be for a team that has so much heart, has so much firepower, has so much poise that, hey, maybe anything is possible with this team.
"Any time you have Michael Vick," said cornerback Asante Samuel said, "you are always in the game. Look at this team! We will never quit!"
The Eagles trailed 31-10 with 8:17 to go in the game after Eli Manning tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the game. The Giants fans were chanting "Eagles suck, Eagles suck" and the scene was just terribly depressing. And then, somehow, it all changed.
"We made some plays and I could see their defense starting to back off a little bit," said Vick, amazing again as he completed 21 of 35 passes for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns, with an interception, and a dazzling 10 rushes for 130 yards and a big, big, big touchdown in the fourth quarter.
A 65-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek opened the floodgates. He caught the pass just as safety Kenny Phillips honed in for an interception and gained a great block from Jeremy Maclin to complete the big score. That was one touchdown, and it made it 31-17. There was still a long, long way to go.
Special teams continued the momentum, as David Akers bounced an onsides kick high off the turf, and wide receiver Riley Cooper went up and caught it, and the Eagles had the football at their 43-yard line with 7:27 to play. A completion to Jackson gained a first down in Giants territory. Vick then ducked under pressure on a Giants blitz from safety Deon Grant to gain 35 yards to the New York 9-yard line. Three plays later, Vick took a snap in the shotgun and raced left into the end zone for a touchdown and, oh boy, it was 31-24 with 5:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Two touchdowns in two minutes and the game was on again at the new Meadowlands. The fun was just beginning.
The defense allowed two first downs, but then got off the field and forced a Giants punt that Maclin caught for a fair catch at the 12-yard line. With 3:01 remaining, with no timeouts to go, the Eagles took over. And the video game that is Michael Vick continued.
Two incompletes put the Eagles in a third-and-10 hole. No problem. Vick ran for 33 yards to the New York 45-yard line and the Eagles were pushing. The Giants defense, meanwhile, was exhausted. A completion to Jason Avant gained 13 yards. A Vick run -- does he ever get tired? -- picked up 22 yards to the New York 20-yard line with two minutes on the clock. Vick to Celek picked up 7 yards to the 13. Then Vick threw to the left side for Maclin, who made the catch and spun away from the grasp of cornerback Terrell Thomas to score a touchdown, tie the game and completely hush the Giants faithful.
New York's offense came on the field after the kickoff was returned to the 36-yard line and Manning threw two incomplete passes and then was sacked by Trevor Laws with 14 seconds remaining on the clock. Fourteen ticks. Ball on the 34-yard line. Time to punt. No way in the world would the Giants kick to Jackson, not with memories of Brian Westbrook's 2003 punt return for a touchdown dancing like a Midnight Green ghost in the hallways of the new stadium. Not with the thought of Jackson getting his hands on the ball one year after he torched the Giants with a punt return for a touchdown last season.
No way the Giants would kick to Jackson.
"I didn't think they would," said Jackson. "I sure was glad they did."
Jackson stood back at his 35-yard line, gesturing to the crowd, welcoming the football. He wanted it. All the great ones do.
Punter Matt Dodge was directed by head coach Tom Coughlin to kick the ball out of bounds and not give Jackson a chance to do any damage. It didn't quite work out the way New York hoped. Dodge's punt was low and wobbly and Jackson muffed it, picked it up and ran to his right. Then he went left. He made two Giants miss. From there, a crease opened -- Omar Gaither knocked out three Giants with a single block -- and Jackson hit it, gaining speed .. could he? ... would he? ... a great block from Avant to blow up Zach DeOssie and Jackson walked in. Well, he actually ran down the goal line until the clock went to zero and then he scored.
And it was over. And it was bedlam. And it was another football miracle against the Giants.
"You know," said Vick, "we are not going to stop coming after you. Nobody is going to give up here. This was a huge win for us. Huge. We have more to do, games to play, but this was a special win."
The Eagles had 173 total yards of offense after three quarters and gained a remarkable 245 yards in the final quarter. They scored four straight touchdowns and won a game despite a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit for the first time in franchise history. Vick accounted for four touchdowns and compiled a passer rating of 97.6.
Oh, there were concerns in the game. The defense had trouble getting off the field and was absolutely awful in third-and-long situations. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson was picked on throughout the game, but to his credit he kept battling. The four-man pass rush is a major concern and end Trent Cole was again unable to get to the quarterback. Safety Nate Allen is lost for the remainder of the season with a torn patellar tendon, a sad ending to a promising rookie season.
New York's approach of blitzing Vick and forcing him out of the pocket worked beautifully for 52 minutes. Vick threw an early interception and both Maclin and Jackson lost fumbles after receptions.
All of those concerns will be addressed and worked on and, hopefully, corrected. For now, as the Eagles took their convoy of buses down the New Jersey Turnpike on Sunday night, all anybody cared about was the win and its massive implications. Yeah, it was miraculous. It was improbable. It was just great, in the end. The special players on this team made special plays, leaving the Giants in the dust as the Eagles took one large step toward owning the NFC East title, and potentially, a whole lot more.