Eagles believe in miracles, and make one happen
On do-or-die Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles did a little of both.
They died, then somehow got it done.
While Kansas City and Indianapolis had the luxury of some breathing room in their successful must-win outings, it’s unclear whether the city of Philadelphia has even exhaled yet.
The Eagles pulled off the most stunning comeback of the season — the biggest fourth-quarter rally in club history — erasing a three-touchdown deficit to the host New York Giants with four touchdowns in the final 7 minutes 28 seconds.
“Everybody was just saying, ‘Show your heart. Come out and fight.’ And that’s what we did,” said Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, whose team claimed sole possession of first place in the NFC East with two games to play.
As high drama goes, Broad Street upstaged Broadway, with Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson clinching the victory with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown as the clock expired. The NFL’s most explosive offensive weapon even slowed down at the end of the return and trotted along the goal line before stepping across it.
“I like to do some things for excitement,” said Jackson, who might have been wringing out the final seconds except that the clock had run out when he crossed the 20. “That’s what the fans and all the crowd pay for, so I like to bring that out.”
Never mind that Jackson was playing on the Giants’ home field, and the vast majority of fans certainly didn’t pay to see that. Regardless, it was the kind of glowing moment that will live forever in Philadelphia sports lore.
The Giants, meanwhile, became the first team to blow a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter and lose since . . . the Giants, who lost that way at Tennessee in 2006.
Maybe the most conflicted couple in America was Archie and Olivia Manning, who divided their attention between their quarterback sons Peyton and Eli. Watching from a suite at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Mannings saw Peyton lead the Colts to a playoff-hopes-saving 34-24 victory over Jacksonville, while keeping an eye on a TV as Eli and the Giants lost their heartbreaker.
For the Colts, it was either beat the Jaguars or forget about the playoffs — a lot of pressure on a team that has reached the postseason eight years in a row.
The Chiefs, looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006, tightened their grip on the AFC West lead with a 27-13 victory at St. Louis.
Had Kansas City lost, the door would have been open for San Diego — which finishes at Cincinnati and Denver — to claim its fifth consecutive division title. But with the Chiefs winning, the Chargers are left to win out and hope Kansas City stumbles at home — where it hasn’t lost this season — against Tennessee or Oakland.
On the Mark
Mark Sanchez didn’t put up head-spinning numbers in a snowy game at Pittsburgh, but the New York Jets quarterback took care of the football (no interceptions) and ran for a score — the Jets’ first offensive touchdown in 12 quarters — in a 22-17 victory. That ended New York’s two-game losing slide.
It was the first time in club history the Jets won a road game against the Steelers.
Denver quarterback Tim Tebow made a couple of big plays — notably a 40-yard touchdown run — but Oakland spoiled his starting debut with a 39-23 victory at home.
A lot of off-season effort was put into tweaking Tebow’s long, slow throwing motion. In this game, though, he didn’t throw much, completing eight of 16 for 138 yards, with 78 yards rushing.
“You’re playing against the biggest, strongest, fastest,” Tebow said, “but at the end of the day it’s still playing football.”
Three days after being blown out in San Diego, the San Francisco 49ers had reason to celebrate. With St. Louis and Seattle losing, the 49ers (5-9) are still very much alive in the NFC West.
If San Francisco were to win at St. Louis on Sunday, and the Seahawks lose at Tampa Bay, the 49ers would have the inside track on the division title because of tiebreakers.
There’s a good chance a team with a losing record will win that division, something that has never happened in the NFL’s modern era.
If shoe fits . . .
Baltimore’s Ray Rice had a huge game against New Orleans, scoring two touchdowns and accumulating 153 yards rushing and 80 yards receiving in a 30-24 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions.
“I laid my shoes over there,” Rice told reporters. “I’m going to give them to my mom for Christmas. I’m going to sign them and give them to her on top of her other gifts.”
Here’s hoping he includes a clothespin.
Sure, Dominic Raiola had a brother on the opposite sideline, but the Detroit center did a bit of gloating after the Lions’ 23-20 overtime victory at Tampa Bay. It was Detroit’s first road win in more than three years, ending a record 26-game losing streak away from home. Detroit’s last road victory came on Oct. 28, 2007, when it beat Chicago, 16-7.
The win was also a body blow to the Buccaneers (8-6), who are chasing a wild-card berth in the NFC.
“Are they still in the playoffs?” said Raiola, whose younger brother, Donovan, is a backup center with Tampa Bay. “Are they getting ready, making vacation plans now, like us? I hope so.”