One of three articles on the Eagles’ rivalry with the New York Giants.
1. An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
Sentence: When Jesus rose from the dead, it was a miracle.
2. an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
Sentence: The miracles just keep coming for the Eagles at the Meadowlands.
Merrill Reese believes only two miracles have occurred for the Eagles in the home stadium of the New York Giants during his long and legendary career as Philadelphia’s football announcer.
The first was on Nov. 19, 1978, when Herman Edwards returned a fumble 26 yards for a touchdown to the amazement of all watching.
The second, in Reese’s opinion, was when the Eagles rallied from a 31-10, fourth-quarter deficit on Dec. 19, 2010, to win on the game’s final play: DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Two other games – Nov. 20, 1988, and Oct. 19, 2003 – also deserve consideration. It is eerie that the second miracle occurred 10 years and one day after the first and that three of the four miracles occurred on the 19th of the month.
Here’s one opinion of how the miracles rank in terms of just how miraculous they were.
1. Dec. 19, 2010 – Eagles 38, Giants 31
The site: New Meadowlands Stadium (before it was renamed MetLife Stadium)
The situation: When Eli Manning connected with tight end Kevin Boss for a touchdown with 8:17 left in the game, the Giants held a 31-10 lead, and it looked as though they would go to 10-4 and take a one-game lead over the Eagles in the NFC East.
“And that should wrap it up,” Reese declared on the Eagles’ radio broadcast. “It’s been done, [but] it’s almost into the miracle stage.”
And then Brent Celek broke free for a 65-yard touchdown catch from Michael Vick with 7:28 remaining. And then Riley Cooper recovered an onside kick. And then Vick scored with 5:28 remaining. And then Jeremy Maclin caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Vick with 1:16 remaining.
And then, with just 14 seconds left, Matt Dodge punted. Jackson fumbled the football but quickly gathered himself and started running by Giants. At the goal line, Jackson turned his back and teased and taunted the Giants and their stunned fans by nearly running the width of the field before finally going into the end zone with no time remaining. Elias Sports Bureau determined it was the only walk-off punt return for a touchdown in NFL history.
Reese’s call: “He ran around until all the zeroes were on the clock, and the Giants fans can’t believe it. And the Eagles have just pulled off the most remarkable win I have ever seen.”
The meaning: The Giants slipped to 9-5, and the Eagles improved to 10-4, but Philadelphia really claimed a two-game lead because it had also won the first meeting the month before at the Linc. When the Giants lost to Green Bay the following week, the Eagles claimed the NFC East title. New York, despite matching the Eagles’ 10-6 record, did not make the playoffs.
Best quote: “I’ve never been around anything like this in my life,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “It’s about as empty as you get to feel in this business, right there.”
P.S. The Giants, despite going just 9-7 during the regular season, won their second Super Bowl under Coughlin the following season.
2. Nov. 19, 1978 – Eagles 19, Giants 17
The site: Giants Stadium
The situation: The Giants held a 17-12 lead and got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining after Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski threw his third interception of the game. The Eagles had no timeouts. The game was over. Quarterback Joe Pisarcik took the snap and flopped backward on first down, but Eagles linebacker Frank LeMaster blitzed and got into a scuffle with Giants running back Willie Spencer.
On second down, Giants offensive coordinator Bob Gibson ordered a running play to fullback Larry Csonka. Pisarcik’s teammates wanted him to flop again. The quarterback followed orders and handed the ball to Csonka for an 11-yard gain, leaving New York with a third and short with just 31 seconds remaining and the credits rolling on the CBS telecast.
Gibson ordered the same play, but this time, Pisarcik struggled with the snap from center, and his attempted handoff deflected off Csonka’s hip and bounced twice off the turf and into the hands of Herman Edwards, who returned the ball 26 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
Reese’s call: “And Pisarcik fumbles the football. It’s picked up by Herman Edwards … 15, 10, 5 … touchdown, Eagles! I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it. I do not believe what has occurred here, ladies and gentlemen.”
The meaning: Both the Eagles and Giants had hopes of ending long playoff droughts. Neither team had been to the playoffs since the start of the Super Bowl era in 1966. The win allowed the Eagles to improve to 7-5 and, at 9-7, they reached the playoffs for the first time under coach Dick Vermeil.
The Giants slipped to 5-7 and would not end their playoff drought until 1981, when they won a wild-card playoff game against the Eagles at Veterans Stadium. Gibson, the Giants offensive coordinator, was fired the day after the game, and John McVay, the Giants coach, was fired after the season. McVay went on to become the general manager in San Francisco, winning three Super Bowls during the Joe Montana-Bill Walsh era.
Best quote: “I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and that was the most horrifying end to a ballgame that I’ve ever seen,” McVay said.
P.S. Eagles owner Leonard Tose was in a Houston hospital recovering from heart surgery and listened to the game by phone. “What did that do to your new valve?” Vermeil asked Tose during a postgame phone conversation.
3. Nov. 20, 1988 – Eagles 23, Giants 17 OT
The site: Giants Stadium
The situation: The Eagles trailed, 17-10, entering the fourth quarter, but tied the game with 4:38 remaining when Cris Carter, with three Giants defenders around him, recovered a fumble by teammate Keith Jackson in the end zone. Not a miracle, but certainly good luck. The Eagles were also fortunate that starter Phil Simms had been knocked out of the game with a bruised shoulder by a Reggie White hit, leaving backup Jeff Hostetler behind center for the Giants during the overtime.
Safety Terry Hoage set up the second Meadowlands miracle with an interception, and the Eagles, who had been statistically dominated the entire day, lined up for a short game-winning field goal on third down. Luis Zendejas’ 31-yard attempt, however, was blocked by Lawrence Taylor. That’s when Clyde Simmons came to the rescue by scooping up the ball just behind the line of scrimmage before running 15 yards into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
Reese’s call: “The ball is spotted. The kick is blocked. It’s blocked! But it’s picked up … and running in for a touchdown … the Eagles win.”
Reese’s broadcast partner, Stan Walters, summed it up well: “The Miracles of the Meadowlands 10 years later.”
The meaning: The victory allowed the Eagles to move into a first-place tie with the Giants at 7-5 and gave them their first series sweep of New York in eight years. Both teams finished at 10-6, but the Eagles won the division because of the sweep, and the Giants were left out of the playoffs.
Best quote: “The Giants deserve all respect, but it’s our turn,” Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham said.
P.S. Cunningham accounted for all but 43 yards of the Eagles’ offense in the game.
4. Oct. 19, 2003 – Eagles 14, Giants 10
Site: Giants Stadium
The situation: Coming off a loss in Dallas, the Eagles went to Giants Stadium with a 2-3 record and Donovan McNabb, with a badly bruised right thumb, was struggling enormously. He did not get better against the Giants, who were also 2-3. McNabb completed just 9 of 23 passes for 64 yards and threw his sixth interception.
Brian Westbrook had accounted for 78 of the Eagles’ 135 yards and had scored their only touchdown when he lined up for a punt from Jeff Feagles with 1:34 remaining. The Eagles had no timeouts. Feagles inexplicably kicked the ball right at Westbrook, who scooped it on one bounce at the 16-yard line and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown.
Reese’s call: “Brian Westbrook is going … he’s going … touchdown! Brian Westbrook, 84 yards, no penalty flags. I don’t believe it. This place is in a state of shock.”
The meaning: The win at the Meadowlands started a nine-game winning streak for the Eagles, who went on to finish 12-4 and earn their third-straight NFC East title.
Best quote: “I can’t believe it,” Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. “It is another one of those can’t-believers.”
P.S. The Giants finished 4-12 and fired head coach Jim Fassel after the season. Tom Coughlin replaced him, and first-round pick Eli Manning became the New York quarterback the following season.
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