EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Bobby April couldn't celebrate at first. He was looking for flags.
After DeSean Jackson's 65-yard game-winning punt return touchdown to give the Eagles a very improbable 38-31 win over the Giants on Sunday, the Eagles' special teams coordinator wanted to make sure that the points were going to count.
"I was making sure this great play wasn't going to get called back," April said.
Jackson was never supposed to touch the ball in the first place. Numerous Eagles said in the locker room after the game that Giants rookie punter Matt Dodge was told by head coach Tom Coughlin to punt the ball out of bounds. Instead, Dodge did the worst thing possible – he booted a low, line drive that provided space between Jackson and the Giants special teams unit.
"When you create space for DeSean, he can be really creative with that football," April said. "That's what we're always preaching."
Jackson fumbled the ball, but had enough time to pick it up. He ran backwards and that allowed cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and Trevard Lindley to seal off one side. Jackson's ability to stop-and-start so quickly accelerated him past a diving Duke Calhoun. From there, Jackson raced right through the middle of the field and wide receiver Jason Avant nailed long snapper Zak DeOssie to provide the final bit of daylight needed to get into the end zone. In fact, Jackson eluded Giants running back Danny Ware to run off the final few seconds to make sure the game was over.
"Jason Avant had a spectacular block," kicker David Akers said. "That really broke it open for DeSean to hit it on the outside right there."
Linebacker Akeem Jordan said that seeing Jackson back to return the punt inspired the special teams unit.
"Everybody knew they had to block their man. We were just trying to get it close enough, at least, so David could kick the field goal," Akers said. "We all turned around and saw that 10 was back there. I think everybody looked at each other and knew how explosive he is."
But that wasn't the only watershed moment for the Eagles special teams unit. It was an onsides kick earlier in the fourth quarter that shifted the momentum in the Eagles' favor.
Head coach Andy Reid told April to be ready for the onsides kick after Jeremy Maclin scored the first of his two touchdowns in the third quarter. After Michael Vick's 65-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek made the score 31-17, Reid sought out April.
"Are we ready for it?" Reid asked.
"I said, yeah. Absolutely. The guys are prepared," April said. "He said let's do it."
The Giants presented the perfect front. It was a five-man wall for the Eagles to the left of Akers against two Giants defenders. Akers said that he has to do everything in his power not to give it away. And even though the Eagles work on this in practice, they do not do it before the game. Akers said that he aims the ball just wide of the number 40, which is where it needs to travel before the Eagles can recover it. And sure enough, Riley Cooper came up with the kick in the air.
"Because it's artificial (turf), it got a good bounce," Akers said.
April said that Patterson and linebacker Jamar Chaney made the key blocks which allowed Cooper to come up with the ball.
"It ended up being a real pivotal play. We scored on that series. It went to seven," April said. "What a comeback! What a comeback!"
Strong safety Quintin Mikell said that was the turning point in the 21-point come-from-behind win.
"When we got that onsides kick, you could see the momentum start to shift," Mikell said. "You could see they were tensing up. We were cutting loose. We weren't worried about anything. We were just playing ball."
Once April saw no flags on the field following Jackson's game-winning score, he was finally able to celebrate - like the players and fans who could not believe what everyone had just experienced.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 7:45 p.m., December 19