Jackson wins the game
"There's no way they punt the ball to DeSean Jackson."
"Because he could return it for a touchdown, and they wouldn't take that chance. They'll just punt it out of bounds. I'm sure the coach is telling the punter that if he punts the ball to Jackson, he will kill him.
"I can't believe they punted to him. Oh crap, he fumbled. OK, he's got it back. Go! Go! Go! YES! YESSSS! What are you doing? Get in the damn end zone! YES! YESSSSSS!!!!! YESSSSSSSS!!!!!"
And so went "The Miracle at the Meadowlands, Part Four."
For those unfamiliar with the other Miracles (and due to all the media coverage of them today, you shouldn't be):
1978 - The Giants were leading by 5 with less than a minute remaining; the Eagles were out of timeouts. Instead of a game ending kneel down, the Giants QB Joe Pisarcik attempted to hand the ball off, but fumbled in the process. The ball was scooped up by Eagles defensive back Herm Edwards who ran it in for the game winning touchdown.
1988 - With the game in overtime, the Eagles were attempting a game winning field goal. The kick was blocked, but bounced right into the arms of Eagles lineman Clyde Simmons who ran it in for a 23-17 victory.
2003 - The Eagles had gotten very little out of their offense all day and were trailing 10-7. But with less than two minutes remaining, Brian Westbrook returned a punt 84 yards for the game winning touchdown.
And now, DeSean Jackson has officially christened the new Meadowlands stadium with a miracle of his own. This was the first time a team has ever won a game on a punt return with no time remaining.
Midway through the fourth quarter, nobody would have thought that Jackson would even have a chance to win the game. He had just fumbled (although replays showed that it shouldn't have been a fumble), and the Giants used the turnover to score another touchdown and go ahead 31-10.
It should have been over. I thought it was over. Michael Vick had other ideas.
When the Eagles got the ball back, the Giants unwisely tried to cover TE Brent Celek (having an awful game up to that point) with a lineman, and the result was a long touchdown strike that gave the Eagles a small bit of hope.
For some reason, the Giants seemed unaware that the Eagles might try an onside kick. Without much opposition, the Eagles executed it perfectly. Vick quickly led the team down the field and ran in another touchdown to bring the Eagles within a touchdown.
The Giants gained a couple of first downs on their next possession and forced the Eagles to use their timeouts. But finally the Giants drive stalled, and they punted the ball away. The Eagles had the ball deep in their own territory, but with about three minutes remaining, they had plenty of time to go down the field.
It turned out, they didn't even need that much time. Using both his arm and legs, Vick quickly drove down the field, tying the game with a pass to WR Jeremy Maclin.
At this point, I was worried that they had scored too quickly, as the Giants would have time for a potential game winning score. But partially thanks to a Giants false start, as well as a huge sack by Trevor Laws, the Giants had to punt the ball away with 14 seconds remaining.
And the rest is history.
With the improbable victory, the Eagles merely need to win one of their remaining two games to clinch the NFC East.
What Went Right
Battered and frustrated by the Giants defense all day, midway through the fourth quarter, Michael Vick seemed to say, "Screw this, I'm taking over."
People can rightfully talk about how he has improved as a passer, but the real reason he is so dangerous is because he can also run the ball like no other QB in the league.
That was my biggest complaint about Donovan McNabb. On days when the passing game wasn't working, he could still make it work by using his legs. But McNabb either didn't realize this, or was so determined to not be a "running quarterback" that he wouldn't use his running ability to take over when the Eagles were struggling.
The defense had some issues, but in the fourth quarter, they made some big stops and forced the Giants to keep giving the ball back to the Eagles.
The Giants rushing attack had been tearing opponents up recently, but yet the Giants did little damage on the ground and couldn't put the game away when they needed to.
The special teams carried the team to victory. The punt return and onside kick were both huge plays.
What Went Wrong
All of the Eagles' weaknesses were on full display. The offensive line had problems with the Giants pass rush. Once again, I could complain that these problems might be alleviated by running the ball more, but that's kind of like complaining that it is cold outside. Complain all you want, but it isn't likely to change anytime soon.
The Eagles were especially shaky. Asante Samuel doesn't appear to be at full strength, and Dmitri Patterson has been showing why he's never had a starting job before. He had an especially bad game.
Adding to their problems, it looks like free safety Nate Allen is going to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Bad Andy Reid Coaching Move of the Week
Quite a lot to choose from in this game.
You could start with the Eagles looking unprepared for the Giants pass rush for most of the game, or a lack of adjustments as the game proceeded.
I also want to call attention to a situation which is sure to be overlooked considering everything else that happened. Late in the third quarter, the Eagles were at midfield facing a third and long. With the Eagles trailing, I felt they would have been best served running the ball on third down and hopefully setting up a manageable fourth down. Instead, they threw long, missed, and punted.
Seemed like a huge opportunity wasted.
Of course, that doesn't compare to Reid's inexplicable non-challenge of the DeSean Jackson fumble. Even knowing Reid's horrible track record in challenges, Jackson had obviously been touched, and the play should not have been ruled a fumble.
The McNabb Report
Apparently, since the Redskins have been eliminated from the playoffs, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has seen enough of McNabb and wants to evaluate what backup QB Rex Grossman can do.
It's not like Grossman is a young QB with star potential. He's a six-year veteran who had a chance with the Bears, and he largely failed. It's never good when a team makes the Super Bowl, and everyone says that they made it in spite of their QB.
To his credit, Grossman played pretty well. Although he did throw a bad interception at the end of the game with the Redskins attempting a comeback.
Before the season, I thought that Shanahan would be able to tailor the Redskins offense around McNabb, and they would have some success. But it seems more and more apparent that Shanahan never really wanted McNabb, and the move was probably owner Dan Snyder's idea.
Did any Redskins fan think it was likely that in week 16, former starter Patrick Ramsey might have a starting NFL job and McNabb would not?
It looks like McNabb will be elsewhere next year. I'm guessing he'll head to Arizona where he will be near his home and where the team is desperate for a quarterback.
Elsewhere in the NFL
The Jets halted their collapse by holding off the Steelers' attempt at a last minute comeback. The Jets maintained their hold on the last AFC Wild Card spot, while the Steelers failed to clinch the AFC North.
The Ravens are currently the conference's other wild card team as they emerged victorious against the Saints. Despite the loss, the Saints are still in control of a wild card spot.
Eagles Next Opponent
The Vikings take on the Bears in a game that has been shifted to the University of Minnesota's field due to the now well-publicized damage to the Metrodome roof.
It would help the Eagles greatly if the Vikings could beat the Bears. But considering they'll be led by untested QB Joe Webb, it doesn't seem likely.
It is still unknown who the Vikings QB will be for the game next week. It seems doubtful that Brett Favre will come back, but the game is in prime time, and we all know that Favre would probably love another farewell showcase.
Regardless of the QB, stopping RB Adrian Peterson will be the Bears' biggest concern.
The Eagles had no business winning this game. They were outplayed, outcoached, and made some huge mistakes. And yet, thanks to Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson, they won.
While it worries me that the team has several huge weakness, it is also reassuring that they are able to compensate for them.
I also think that a dramatic win can sometimes boost a team's fortunes. Often times in the NFL, a team will pull off a miraculous win, and it will be a springboard to future success. The team starts to believe that they are great, and as a result, they play great.
At the very least, this team can never be counted out. They have pulled off three straight wins where they were trailing in the second half. You have to think that the Eagles now believe that no matter the score, they still have a chance to win.
Now, the Eagles just need to take care of business at home against a couple of non-contenders. If they do so, a playoff home game—and possibly a bye—await them.
Originally published on my blog: Stranger in a Strange Land