Eagles pull off a comeback for the ages
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It's OK if you didn't quite believe what you were seeing at New Meadowlands Stadium Sunday afternoon. Neither did the Eagles.
And anyway, isn't that what miracles are - events too astonishing for your senses to take in?
The Eagles, who created a miracle or two in the adjacent parking lot here, left an indelible mark on the New York Giants' brand-new stadium. They were losing a football game, and badly, for 52 minutes. Then the track meet started, and the Eagles won that in astonishing and unforgettable fashion.
Brent Celek: 65 yards for a touchdown. Michael Vick: sprints of 35, 33 and 22 yards on back-to-back touchdown drives to tie it. DeSean Jackson: 65 yards for the first punt return for a game-ending touchdown in the history of the NFL.
Was the Eagles’ amazing comeback against the Giants the greatest Birds game you’ve ever seen?
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"I can't name another one of these," Eagles coach Andy Reid said, just minutes after Jackson's 65-yard dash into the pantheon. "This is exciting. It's a great day to be a Philadelphia writer."
Trouble is, Andrew, this one feels an awful lot like fiction. How do you explain the way the Eagles fell behind by 24-3 at halftime and by 31-10 in the fourth quarter? How do you explain the way Vick took over the game in a way that should be impossible in the NFL? How does anyone explain Giants punter Matt Dodge kicking the ball directly to the most dangerous player in the stadium with just 14 seconds left?
How do you describe Jackson dropping the punt, turning around, then taking off through traffic and into open field on his right? How could Jason Avant, a wide receiver, hit Giants linebacker Zak DeOssie hard enough to decleat him and create a direct path to the end zone? How is any of this possible?
Yes, it is Christmas week. So maybe a Santa-sized head coach and an elf-sized player are capable of magic at this time of year. That's as good an explanation as any.
When Jackson completed his goofy but sort-of-brilliant, clock-killing detour along the goal line and stepped into the end zone, the Eagles had seized control of the NFC East. By the time he threw the ball deep into the corner section of bleachers, the play was already halfway to legend.
"That man is one of the most incredible athletes I've ever seen in my life," said Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel.
No argument here.
There is no fourth-quarter ecstasy without the three preceding quarters of agony. And it was brutal. Vick threw a bad interception. The Giants had him under constant pressure. The Eagles' defense allowed Eli Manning to throw four touchdown passes, including an 8-yard strike to tight end Kevin Boss midway through the fourth quarter.
A lot of television sets were surely turned off in disgust by then in the Philadelphia market. A few might have been kicked in. That's understandable. The Eagles themselves didn't think they had a real chance to win at that point.
"I honestly didn't think it was going to be possible," Jackson said. "When it was 3-to-24, it was really unbelievable for a team to come back and win. In my mind, I thought there was no way we could come back."
Vick preached defeat with honor.
"We just said to ourselves, 'Listen, we're just going to go out there and play for pride above anything else,' " Vick said. "They might beat us 49-25, but we're going to play with pride and they're going to know we were here."
It is safe to say the Giants will not forget that the Eagles were here. Not for a long time. Maybe not ever.
We still talk about the original Miracle of the Meadowlands, Herm Edwards' return of a Joe Pisarcik fumble to turn a Giants win into an Eagles milestone. Seven years ago, Brian Westbrook turned a game around in the old stadium with a punt return every bit as creative and flashy as this one.
But this one goes to the top of the list, with a bullet. The stakes were so much higher, almost playoff-level. The Eagles were looking at a very complicated road to the postseason when it was 31-10.
Four touchdowns, each more remarkable, more improbable than the one before, turned all that around. Instead of fighting for a wild-card berth, the Eagles will be hoping to avoid one altogether. With two winnable home games left, they have a chance for one of the two NFC byes and at least one home playoff game.
"We just have to win out," Jackson said. "Hopefully we can be chilling while everyone else is playing wild-card games."
That is the formula for getting to the Super Bowl. What seemed impossible just weeks ago - these Eagles playing for the Lombardi Trophy - suddenly seems a whole lot more realistic.
After watching Vick and then Jackson here Sunday, the word "impossible" just doesn't mean what it used to.