There’s only one sports highlight that I look up on YouTube to cheer myself up, and I watch it probably 3-4 times a year. It happened 10 years ago and was authored by the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson.
Have a look.
It was a simpler time, before pandemics and before Jackson made headlines for sharing anti-Semitic social media posts.
Jackson, then in his third year, had established himself as the best breakaway threat in the game. He also was a lethal punt returner, leading the NFL with a 15.2-yard average and two TDs on returns in 2009. But the Eagles were using him less on special teams, reserving his skills for offense, where he led the league with an astonishing 22.5 yards per catch in 2010, with 6 touchdowns. But he was still available for emergencies.
This definitely qualified. The Eagles came into the Meadowlands that day tied atop the NFC East with the Giants at 9-4. They had overcome a 21-point deficit to tie the game at 31-31, with 14 seconds left on the clock.
“You know, coach Reid asked me before the game, ‘Watcha think about punt returns, what do you wanna do?’ I told him, ‘You know if we need it, if the game is tight or it’s close, put me back there.”
The Eagles, of course, have had other last-play wins on the Giants’ home turf. There was the original Miracle of the Meadowlands, when Herm Edwards returned Joe Piscarcik’s fumble on a handoff that led to all football teams universally adopting the “Victory formation” kneel downs. Less heralded, but arguably more miraculous, was the play that came on the 10-year anniversary of Edwards’ play. In overtime, the Eagles attempted a game-winning field goal. The Giants blocked it, but Eagles lineman Clyde Simmons picked it up and ran it into the end zone.
But a game had never ended on a game-winning punt return before.
There’s a good reason for that, as the only thing Giants rookie punter Matt Dodge had to do was not kick it to Jackson. But mysteriously, inexplicably, he did. It was, as Joe Buck said, “Impossible to explain.”
Jackson fields the ball at his 35, and fumbles it. He quickly recovers the ball, throwing off the timing on the coverage, and gives Jackson the time he needs to set up. He takes two steps to his right, cuts back and finds a crease, then it’s off to the races. He gets a huge block by Jason Avant near the 50, and it’s all over. Jackson does his patented, taunting run parallel to the goal line before crossing. Time expires, Eagles win. The division would be theirs, and the Giants would sit home with an identical 10-6 record.
The chef’s kiss on this play is seeing the dumbfounded look on Tom Coughlin’s face as he ran out on the field to yell at Dodge.