On Wednesday night, ESPN aired the 2011 ESPY awards, awarding many athletes for various categories. One of the most exciting awards has to be the “Best Game” ESPY award. This year’s contestants included Auburn beating Alabama in the Iron Bowl, Butler’s upset against Pittsburgh in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Thunder beating the Grizzlies in triple overtime during the NBA Playoffs, and finally, the game that has become known as “The Miracle in the New Meadowlands.”
The Eagles’ week 15 game against the Giants took the ESPY, and rightfully so. While the week 15 game may not have had the importance of a Bowl Game or a March Madness Game, it was still very important to the NFC Playoff picture. Both teams heading into the game sat at 9-4, fighting for the NFC East’s position in the playoffs.
In thirty-three degree weather, the Eagles met the Giants in the New Meadowlands riding a 5 game win streak against Big Blue. The Eagles must have come in too confident since they had the Giants number in the previous 5 meetings. After the first quarter, only a Manning to Manningham touchdown hookup stood between the two teams. The second quarter is when the Giants took control, scoring seventeen points to the Eagles’ three. After only one half of play, the Eagles headed into the locker room stunned by a 24-3 handling.
During the third quarter, the margin stayed at 21 until there was just under four minutes remaining. Michael Vick connected with Jeremy Maclin on an eight yard touchdown pass, making the likelihood of an Eagles’ comeback, that much more possible.
With the rest of the time in the third quarter running out, Eagles coaches and fans started to chalk it up as a loss, the players though, would never give in. The Eagles were driving down the field, and DeSean Jackson, who was held quiet in the first three quarters caught the ball and began up field. The ball in DeSean’s hands is more dangerous than in anyone else’s. But not this time. DeSean fumbled the ball and the Giants recovered. Even after numerous replays of what looked to be contact between Goff and DeSean and DeSean telling Coach Reid that he was down, Andy decided to hold on to his challenge flag. The Giants took advantage and would take advantage of the Eagles misfortune. What seemed to be the dagger, an eight yard touchdown from Manning to Boss with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, expanded the lead back to 21 and vanished all hope of a comeback for all spectators.
Michael Vick and the Eagles offense took the field, hoping to just put a few points on the board and delete what looked like a blowout. After a quick strike of 65 yards from Vick to Celek with a huge block thrown in from Maclin, 7:28 remained and the Birds were down by fourteen.
Tom Coughlin looked for the Eagles to put out the “hands” team for an onside kick attempt. To his surprise, the Eagles looked to be satisfied with kicking it off to the Giants and relying on the defense to come up with a stop. This was not the case. David Akers stepped up and kicked a textbook onside kick which landed perfectly in Riley Cooper’s hands.
From that point on, it was the Michael Vick show. A 38 yard run by Vick put the Eagles on the six yard line with 6:44 left. On a third and goal attempt, the ball was trusted to Michael Vick again who took the ball out of the shotgun and easily crossed the goal line with an off-tackle run. The score, now 31-24, was in striking distance for the Birds.
The Eagles would get the ball back after miscommunications between Eli Manning and his receivers with an attempt to tie it, with 2:50 left. Michael Vick, again, took control. With three huge gains from Vick runs, the Eagles again were in the red zone. Jeremy Maclin, lined up on the left side alone, ran a simple curl route. Vick connected with Maclin, who caught the ball on the five, shed a tackle from Antrel Rolle and high stepped into the end zone. The Eagles were tied after erasing a 21 point Giants’ lead.
The Giants got the ball back with only 1:16 remaining. The Eagles were out of timeouts and if they wanted to, the Giants could have easily just taken their chances and gone into overtime. They wouldn’t be satisfied with that. On a third down and ten attempt, the Eagles defense swarmed Manning and got the sack. But the clock was running down and Philadelphia had no chance to stop it. Eventually, the play clock ran out and only fourteen seconds remained.
Clearly, Matt Dodge would come in, punt the ball out of bounds, and let Vick and the Eagles offense attempt a Hail Mary. Not so fast. Matt Dodge got a high snap from the long snapper and panicked. Dodge kicked a low line drive straight to DeSean Jackson. At first, DeSean bobbled it and simultaneously, Eagles fans took a deep breath. Without hesitation, Jackson picked up the ball, saw his seem, and took off. Using his stunning speed, Jackson was past all but two Giants. DeSean’s current best friend, Matt Dodge, dove to tackle Jackson. Jackson simply put his hand on Dodge’s facemask, and Dodge hit the turf. Jason Avant, who was lead blocking to Jackson, laid a huge block on Zak DeOssie and sprung DeSean free. The leagues’ most dangerous big play threat took the ball, raised it in the air, and ran across the sideline to make sure the clock was run out.
The Eagles had completed the Miracle at the New Meadowlands with the first-ever walk-off punt return touchdown. Tom Coughlin screaming at Matt Dodge and DeSean Jackson raising that ball in the air will serve as constant reminders of the Eagles’ legendary game. Now, an ESPY award has also immortalized the Miracle at the New Meadowlands.
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