After missing the first game of his NFL career in last week's win over the San Francisco 49ers, rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was anxious to get back on the field and make an impact this week.
He certainly left an imprint on the 30-27 victory over the visiting Denver Broncos, but perhaps it was Maclin's ability to practice that led to his clutch, acrobatic 27-yard catch along the sideline that set up the game-winning 28-yard David Akers' field goal.
"We have a little drill we do every day in practice to make sure we keep our feet in bounds going to the sideline (with wide receiver's coach David Culley)," Maclin said after that game.
Even though this is the first year in Maclin's football-playing life that two feet are required to be established in the field of play to determine possession, he tip-toed the sideline like he had been doing it his whole life.
On 2nd-and-8 from the Broncos' 40-yard line, the rookie from Missouri caught Donovan McNabb's pass and gracefully tucked the ball into his chest and balanced on his toes to establish control.
"Jason (Avant) was on a corner (route) and I was on a go (route)," Maclin said. "I saw the ball thrown and I didn't know, it was either a throw to Jason or a throw back-shoulder to me, and I saw the ball and I had to make sure I kept my feet in and make sure I caught the ball."
At first, the play was ruled an incomplete pass by the sideline official. But after an official review, since the play took place with under two minutes left in the game, referee Mike Carey overturned the call on the field and ruled the play a 27-yard completion, placing the ball on the Broncos' 13-yard-line.
"I was standing right next to it and you think you see both feet in," said head coach Andy Reid. It was tough because one foot came down, and the other foot came up, and then went back down. That's a tough, tough call there.
"It was a pretty amazing catch ... It was a heck of a job by (Maclin) right there."
So did Maclin have any doubt that he had made the play?
"No, not at all," he said.
But the ballet catch wasn't the only play Maclin made on the evening. The rookie finished with 92 receiving yards on six catches after a one-week absence with a torn plantar fascia.
On the season, Maclin has 52 catches for 712 yards, ranking second in both categories among rookie receivers. Moving forward, he has established himself as a versatile and well-rounded receiver who figures to form a potent receiving duo with DeSean Jackson for years to come.
"That was a big play," said safety Quintin Mikell. "I haven't seen too many rookies come into the league and make catches like that in critical situations. He had great concentration and it was a great job."
For Maclin, his final catch was the stamp on his return from injury and a sign of what to expect in the future.
"It sucks sitting on the bench and watching your team go out there and play," Maclin said. "It just comes down to being reliable and that's what I pride myself on, being reliable to Don (McNabb) in key moments."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 9:55 p.m., December 27