EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As a general rule, if you're going to give up 512 yards to the Giants, it's best to have DeSean Jackson on your roster. The Eagles' wide receiver has been turning heads for two seasons, but on Sunday night he showed the nation why he's become the most explosive player in the league.
He's the ultimate X-factor on a team that is once again peaking at the right time. And this season, the Eagles may even leave themselves some breathing room. With a 45-38 win in their final trip to Giants Stadium, Philadelphia took sole possession of first place in the NFC East. The Eagles almost seemed to be toying with the Giants before finally pulling away in the fourth quarter.
And in the biggest game of the season to this point, Jackson was by far the best player on the field. Even the stoic Andy Reid can't suppress a smile when he's asked about his precocious star. Jackson isn't much for sideline decorum, so he's often in Reid's ear offering up helpful suggestions such as, "They can't cover me, coach!"
On this night, Jackson scored on a 72-yard punt return and a 60-yard reception. He averaged 44.8 yards on his first five touches of the game and the Giants' defensive backs looked even more helpless than usual. It seemed appropriate that Jackson tied a record for most touchdowns in a season of 50 yards or more (with eight). Jackson is now one of three players to hold the record; the other two are the Bears’ Devin Hester ('07) and former Los Angeles Rams great Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch ('51). Jackson does everything with a flair, so it's about time we give him his own catchy nickname.
When it appeared the Giants had settled things down in the second quarter, Jackson fielded a punt at his 28-yard line and immediately retreated several yards to his right. Giants special-teams aces Domenik Hixon and Bryan Kehl converged on Jackson, but they left him a tiny escape route along the sideline and he raced 72 yards to the end zone. There's a gear that Jackson has that pretty much eliminates any angle a defender might have.
"That return was disgusting," said Eagles tight end Brent Celek, who added his seventh touchdown of the season Sunday. "There's no player like him in the league. There are some great receivers out there, but no one's as quick and fast as him."
Before the game, word spread through the Eagles' locker room that the Cowboys had lost to the Chargers. Several players admitted the good news gave them an extra spark in jumping out to a 14-0 lead during the first six minutes. But unlike the Eagles' win at the Linc last month, the Giants refused to go away in Sunday's game. With 5:12 left in the third quarter, Hixon got loose for a 61-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 31-30 lead. On the sideline, Reid said that Jackson was "bugging" him about wanting the ball.
On the next play from scrimmage, quarterback Donovan McNabb dropped back in the pocket and had an eternity to survey the field. With each passing moment, everyone's eyes looked for Jackson, who was in the process of running away from Giants safety Aaron Ross. McNabb delivered a perfect pass and Ross' dive came up empty. Jackson punctuated the 60-yard touchdown by running the final 10 yards backward.
"I feel like I'm kind of the big play, the go-to receiver at crucial moments," said Jackson after the game. "So I went to Donovan, coach Reid and Marty Mornhinweg and I told them, 'Just put the ball in my hands.' They were doing some single coverage a couple times and I was like, 'There's no way they can single coverage me.' "
Jackson missed last week's win over Atlanta while recovering from a concussion, but he said he felt fine leading up to Sunday's game. Reid still marvels at how calm Jackson seems to be in big games.
"New York's a pretty big venue," said Reid. "But [with Jackson], it's like we're playing in the backyard. He loves playing the game."