Eagles top Giants, reclaim NFC East lead
By BARRY WILNER, AP Football Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Dynamic DeSean Jackson danced his way into the record books, and had time for a chest bump with his coach, too.
Jackson scored on a 72-yard punt return and a 60-yard pass from Donovan McNabb, sparking the Philadelphia Eagles to their most points this season in a 45-38 shootout victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night.
Coach Andy Reid didn't see the punt return, but has seen plenty of stunners from the second-year receiver/kick returner already. He sure didn't mind being part of one of Jackson's celebrations.
"He loves playing," Reid said. "When the games are on the line, he wants the ball and we'll give it to him."
Added Jackson: "Coach Reid, that's my dude."
Jackson missed last week with a concussion, but was in sensational form in boosting Philadelphia (9-4) into the NFC East lead. Jackson has eight touchdowns of 50-plus yards this year, tying the NFL mark.
"I said I was going to come back strong," Jackson said. "I told the team I was going to come back strong."
New York (7-6) also had its share of big plays, including TD passes of 68 and 61 yards by Eli Manning in a game marked by shoddy tackling on both sides. But the Eagles, whose previous high in 2009 was 40 points in a Nov. 1 rout of New York, prevailed despite being outgained 512-374.
With Dallas (8-5) losing to San Diego, Philly is looking back at the rest of the division. Just as Jackson did to the Giants when he caught a long pass and boogied backward into the end zone late in the third period for a 37-31 lead.
A 91-yard drive capped by Leonard Weaver's 1-yard run - yes, the Eagles can score short ones, too - clinched Philly's fourth straight victory over New York, including a divisional round playoff game in January.
"They battle," Reid said of his team. "It's a tribute to the players."
The Giants made it tight when Kevin Boss caught a 4-yard TD pass with 1:31 to go. But they couldn't stage a final comeback and Reid won his first game after receiving a contract extension through 2013.
The Giants were primed to take the lead midway in the third quarter when McNabb's pass was intercepted by Jonathan Goff. From the Philadelphia 29, Manning scrambled left for a first down, slid headfirst and lost the ball, recovered by Sean Jones. New York challenged that Brodrick Bunkley caused Manning to stumble when he tugged his jersey before the quarterback took two more strides before going down, but the call was confirmed by video review.
New York did go in front 31-30, though, when Domenik Hixon, who returned a punt 79 yards in last week's win over Dallas, broke two tackles for a 61-yard, catch-and-run score. McNabb and Jackson simply shrugged and, one play later, combined for the 60-yard TD.
Jackson tied the long-TD mark set by Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch in 1951 and equaled by Devin Hester in 2007.
"We have to know where he is at, he is one of their big plays guys and if we want to eliminate that we have to know where he is all the time," Giants cornerback Corey Webster said. "We didn't do a good job of that tonight."
Michael Vick got into the act, too, hitting Jackson down the middle for 32 yards to set up McNabb's 8-yard TD pass to Brent Celek that opened the scoring.
Four plays later, it was 14-0 as Trent Cole stripped the ball from behind Brandon Jacobs and it bounced fortuitously to Sheldon Brown, who scooted 60 yards without a Giant in sight.
While Philly was striking quickly, the Giants' first scoring drive covered 77 yards, 15 plays and more than seven minutes. It netted Lawrence Tynes' 26-yard field goal.
Then, safety Quintin Mikell almost single-handedly gave New York a touchdown. Twice he was called for illegal contact on Hakeem Nicks, including one ball the rookie dropped while open behind everyone. Then, he and Asante Samuel missed tackles on a short pass that Nicks turned into a 68-yard score, sprinting the final 57 yards after the defensive backs couldn't wrap him up.
Vick made a key 5-yard run on third down on Philadelphia's next scoring drive, and he almost had a TD pass. But Reggie Brown dropped a tipped ball in the end zone, and David Akers kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead.
Then came Jackson's scintillating dash on the punt runback, setting a franchise record with his third such return for a TD.
"He got us, man," Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. "We had a plan but ... we just couldn't cover him."
Still, the teams were only getting started scoring. Ahmad Bradshaw's 3-yard run got the Giants within seven before they were hurt by Jackson again. He got free for a 44-yard reception on third-and-20. Celek's 23-yard reception - New York struggles covering tight ends, too - set up Vick's 1-yard sweep into the end zone for a 30-17 halftime edge.
Jacobs' 1-yard run got the Giants closer, and Hixon's romp gave them the short-lived lead.
"I thought we fought hard," said Manning, who threw for 391 yards. "We still had opportunities and we didn't respond the way we needed to. We needed to hit our big play and didn't."
The Eagles did, of course, with Jackson the star. He had six receptions for 178 yards to go with the long punt return.
"It was a huge game. Sunday night, it gets no better than this," he said. "The world was watching. We knew what rode on this game."