NEW YORK (CBS)—Unbelievable! Impossible! Improbable! Amazing! How else can you describe it?
The Eagles seemed all but dead at halftime. They trailed by three touchdowns to the New York Giants after two quarters, and again, with 8:17 left to play.
The Eagles scored four touchdowns in the last 7:28—including a dramatic 65-yard punt return for the game-winning score by DeSean Jackson in the game’s final seconds—to do something no one but probably the Eagles thought they could do in coming back to beat the Giants, 38-31, on Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium. Jackson’s touchdown was the first walkoff–make that runoff–punt return to win a game in NFL history.
Philadelphia now is in command of the NFC East at 10-4 and in a position to get a first-round bye in the playoffs, hosting two games against sub-.500 Minnesota and Dallas. The loss had to be devastating to the Giants, who fell to 9-5, but emotionally, they have to be absolutely spent by blowing two 21-point leads (24-3 and 31-10).
It’s the fourth time this season that the Eagles have come back to win in the fourth quarter—twice against the Giants. The 28-point fourth quarter was an Eagles team record.
The win also has to be considered the greatest regular-season victory in Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid’s 12-year tenure.
“You had two good football teams there and that was a heck of a game; I’m proud of the players and the coaches, it’s what the NFL is all about and I was happy with the way they did it,” Reid said. “I don’t know if I can remember a game like this, maybe my senior year in college at BYU against SMU and that was a couple of years ago.
“But my heart is a little weaker after this one. No one was down. They were frustrated, but no one was down. We didn’t do much that first series [of the game] and the defense tightened up and we got a couple of things going. No one ever gave up. That’s the important thing. We kept battling and battling and fighting back.”
The Jackson punt return was almost a microcosm of the game, in a sense. Jackson initially fumbled the line-drive kick from Giants’ rookie punter Matt Dodge, like the Eagles stumbled their way through the first half. Jackson seemed flustered for a second before he scooped up the loose ball, sliced through an opening and bolted through the crease up the middle of the field. No one seemed to touch him, thanks in part to a great block from Jason Avant.
Once Jackson broke free, he raised the ball in his right hand about 30 yards away from the end zone, then made a left turn as he approached the goal line and ran parallel to the end zone as time expired before finally crossing the goal line. Jackson tossed the ball into the stands … putting an exclamation point on an improbable journey.
“I was sitting there and I didn’t think they were going to kick it to me, and they did, I fumbled it, and when I picked it up, I saw a little crease and took off,” Jackson said. “This whole season, I haven’t had a big return. There was no way I was thinking we could come back at halftime.”
Reid told Jackson prior to the game he could be returning punts—if needed. He heard that familiar whistle from Reid when the Eagles held at the Giants at the New York 29 with :14 left to play.
“I wasn’t doing punt returns the whole game, but coach Reid asked me before the game about punt returns, and if we needed it, he’d whistle, and you know that whistle from coach Reid to get your butt back there,” Jackson said. “I probably would have dove in from the 12-yard line if I could, but I wanted to run along the goal line and wait until those triple zeroes showed up on the scoreboard. But when I dropped the ball, I panicked a little. That’s a good thing, because I looked up and shot through that crease. All game they were on me, they were double-teaming me and [Mike] Vick kept telling me to keep my head up that I’d get one, I’d get one.”
It was a game of two halves.
In the first half, the Giants had amassed 222 yards of total offense and 13 first downs to just 75 yards and four first downs for the Eagles. In the second half, the Eagles had 15 second-half first downs and 343 of total offense. The Eagles averaged 3.2 yards a play in the first half and 9.7 yards per play in the second half. The Eagles finished 418 yards of total offense.
Much of that centered on Vick, who was 6-for-10, for 33 yards and an interception in the first half, and 15-for-25 in the second half for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
It was as if Vick just decided to grab the Eagles and pull them on his back. Vick finished with a team-high 130 yards rushing on 10 carries—55 yards rushing on the game-tying drive.
“This was by far one of the greatest comebacks of my career; being down by such a huge deficit to come back in such a short period of time, by far one of the best,” Vick said. “I believe in myself, and my teammates. We were able to make plays when we needed to. I got a little down on myself after throwing the interception, and I had some turnovers and gave them some points.
“All I asked of my teammates and my offensive line is to play with some pride. Once we made a couple of plays down field, I saw a momentum shift. [The Giants] started playing deep. I’m living in the moment. We have a great unit. We all believe in one another. I’ve been on some good football teams, this by far is the best. It’s always great to have guys that you can depend on, smart guys who know how to play the game and have a great feel for the game. A team like that is very hard to beat.”
There may not be any doubting that now.
Eagles Notes: Despite trailing 24-3 at halftime and 31-10 in the fourth quarter, the Eagles mounted an epic comeback, capped by 65-yard punt return touchdown by WR DeSean Jackson as time expired. It was the Eagles fourth come-from-behind win in their last five games (including two against the Giants). They have outscored opponents 79-21 in the fourth quarter during that span. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the ninth time in NFL history that a team trailed by 21 points in the fourth quarter and won the game, and the first ever by the Eagles. The last time it happened was on 11/26/06, when the Titans beat the Giants 24-21 after trailing 21-0 in the fourth quarter … ESB also believes it is the only game-winning punt return as time expired in NFL history … The Eagles 28 fourth-quarter points were the most in team history … Head Coach Andy Reid won his 128th career game (including playoffs), passing Mike Ditka for 24th place in NFL history … Reid improved his December record to 35-15 (.700), including wins in 13 of their last 14 games … The Eagles won their tenth game of the year, and finished with a 6-2 road record. It marked Reid’s fifth season with at least six road victories (first since 2004) and his eighth 10-win season … Philadelphia has won its last six games against the Giants (including playoffs), tying their second-longest winning streak against New York, behind their 12-game streak from 1975 to 1981 … Reid is 24-12 against NFC East teams in their second meeting of the year (7-5 against NYG) … Reid’s Eagles are 53-2 when scoring 30-plus points (6-0 in 2010) … Jackson’s punt return touchdown was the fourth of his career. He has now scored a rushing, receiving, and punt return touchdown in each of his first three seasons, becoming just the second player in NFL history to do so (Washington’s Dick Todd – 1939-41) … With 1,112 career punt return yards, Jackson surpassed Larry Marshall (1,086) for third place in team history … Jackson also became the fourth Eagle ever to have back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns and the first since Irving Fryar in 1996-97. Mike Quick (1983-85) and Tommy McDonald (1961-62) also did so. Quick is the only Eagle to do so three straight times. Jackson’s 169 receptions are the second-most ever by an Eagle in his first three seasons, trailing only Keith Jackson’s 194 from 1988-90 … K David Akers became the first player in NFL history to score 130 points or more in four different seasons … He also became the third player in NFL history with four 30-plus field goal seasons after securing his third in a row. Chip Lohmiller (1990-92) is the only other player ever to have three-straight 30-plus field goal seasons … Akers has connected on 24 of his last 25 field goal attempts and 12 in a row … RB LeSean McCoy became the sixteenth 1,000-yard rusher in team history, the fifth under Andy Reid, and the first since Brian Westbrook in 2007 … With 1,587 scrimmage yards on the season, McCoy surpassed Duce Staley (1,570 in 2002) for the seventh-best single-season total in team history … WR Jeremy Maclin caught his team-leading ninth and tenth touchdown receptions of the season, the most by an Eagle since Terrell Owens’ 14 in 2004 … TE Brent Celek caught a career-long 65-yard touchdown. Celek has four touchdowns in the last five games against the Giants … For the eighth time in team history and the first time since 2007, the Eagles boast a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver … The Eagles have scored 412 points this season, the fourth-best in team history … Their 5,655 total net yards this season rank as the fifth-best total in team history… QB Michael Vick rushed for 130 yards, the fourth-highest single-game total of his career, and the most ever by an Eagles quarterback. It was his 11th career 100-yard game. He also scored his eighth rushing touchdown of the season, tying a career high. His 613 rushing yards this season are the fifth-highest single-season total ever by an Eagles quarterback … Vick also had three passing touchdowns and tied a career high with 20 on the season … LB Moise Fokou tallied his first-career sack, and became the 12th Eagle to bring down the opposing quarterback this season … S Quintin Mikell recorded his third interception of the season, tying a career high. It is his first time ever with an interception in back-to-back games … In his first NFL start, LB Jamar Chaney jarred the ball loose from Mario Manningham for his first-career forced fumble, which was recovered by DT Mike Patterson, leading to an Eagles touchdown … Over the last two years, the Eagles have forced 70 takeaways, which is the highest two-year total by an Eagles team since forcing 71 from 2001-02 … DT Trevor Laws notched his fourth sack of the season … The Eagles have averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in all 14 games this season, which is the longest streak in NFL history to start a season … P Sav Rocca has landed 97 career punts inside the 20-yard line, passing Sean Landeta (96) for the second-most in team history … WR Riley Cooper recovered an onside kick, the first by the Eagles since 11/25/07 at NE.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito