Phil Sheridan: On this night, No. 10 is No. 1

DeSean Jackson can't get a grip on this pass, as Cowboys defender Mike Jenkins covers him in the third quarter.
DeSean Jackson can't get a grip on this pass, as Cowboys defender Mike Jenkins covers him in the third quarter.
Posted: December 13, 2010

ARLINGTON, Texas - DeSean Jackson stopped, turned, extended his arms, and fell backward into Eagles-Cowboys lore forever.

Eleven months later, Jackson finally did "sting" the Cowboys' backsides.

The wiry little wide receiver is a perplexing combination, as infuriating as he is exhilarating. That Twitter boast last year was just one example. If he wore a different uniform, Philadelphia fans would despise his brashness and his petulance. But all is forgiven when No. 10 gathers in a short pass, as he did in the fourth quarter of a tie game Sunday night, and turns the corner.

"He's always doing things like that," running back LeSean McCoy said. "The kid's only 165 pounds, but he's a special talent."

No argument there. Few players change a football game all by himself like that. Brian Westbrook used to be able to do it. Michael Vick certainly has shown that he can do it. But Jackson turning that corner was as breathtaking as anything you've seen in this improbable season.

And he did it with one bad wheel. After the game, Jackson was limping badly. He spent a long time in the trainer's room getting treatment on his foot.

"They wanted me to come out of the game and get it X-rayed," Jackson said. "But I couldn't leave my team like that. I wanted to stay out there. I got to make a big play, so it turned out."

It is worth savoring the play, at least up until the moment Jackson drew a mustache on it with his antics at the end.

The Eagles were at their 9-yard line after yet another special-teams penalty. Jackson was split out to the left. Vick took the snap and fired a quick pass to his left. Cornerback Mike Jenkins gambled. He lost. The ball sailed just beyond the reach of his diving hand.

Jackson caught it and turned. He danced a few steps along the sideline, very nearly stepping on the white paint, then engaged that higher gear. Everyone in the stadium knew instantly that he was gone.

"I'm happy for the kid," Vick said. "He challenged me tonight. He demanded the football, and look what he did when he got it."

It was a great play by a great player. And then Jackson turned it into a bit of farce. He looked back, saw that safety Terence Newman wasn't close enough to be a threat, and did his little fall into the end zone.

It was stupid. Andy Reid made sure to let Jackson know that after he collapsed on the sideline and hit the oxygen tank.

"I was upset," Vick said. "It was unnecessary. I guess it was him having fun. I guess when you run 91 yards, you can do what you want. But it hurt us."

Jackson said after the game that he just got carried away "having fun out there. I don't want to take away the energy that I bring, but I have to be smarter than that."

At least Jackson carried the ball into the end zone with him this time. NBC was quick to dig out his rookie-year lowlight, dropping a ball just before he crossed the goal line in the old Texas Stadium.

Things are never dull with this guy. Jackson was the target of a postgame tirade by Reid in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. Since being knocked out of a game with a concussion earlier this year, Jackson has been playing with a little less abandon. That's entirely understandable, but it's a tough way to get through an NFL season.

Running through all of this, of course, is the fact that Jackson is due for an enormous new contract. He'd already have one if not for the looming NFL labor problems, which make it hard for the Eagles and other teams to do that kind of business.

Just when he seems to be a lot of bother, though, Jackson does something to remind you that he's more than worth it.

He opened this game with a rerun of the first play the Eagles ran in their rout of Washington. This 60-yard strike set up the Eagles' first touchdown.

"That was big," Vick said. "It set the tone for the game. We showed them we were going to keep being aggressive."

Jackson hurt his foot on a third-quarter punt return. He chose to stay in the game. The Eagles are very glad he did. With a showdown against the Giants next Sunday, the Eagles could not afford to let this game get away from them. They just couldn't.

Thanks to Jackson, they didn't.

He caught that short pass and got to the corner, and that was that. Jackson turned nothing into one of the biggest plays of the season. It was a beautiful thing for 90 yards and a joke for 1, but like Jackson himself, it was worth the trouble.


Follow columnist Phil Sheridan

on Twitter: @SheridanScribe.

Read his blog at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/philabuster or his recent columns at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

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