EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Eagles coach Andy Reid predicted a heavyweight fight during the week as his team prepared for last night's game against the New York Giants.
He couldn't have known that his featherweight receiver returning from a concussion would throw so many haymakers in a wildly entertaining 45-38 victory that allowed the Eagles to take over sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
DeSean Jackson caught six passes for a career-high 178 yards and returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown as the Eagles won their fourth straight to improve to 9-4. The win pushed the Giants (7-6) two games behind the Eagles.
Dallas (8-5) lost at home to San Diego and fell into second place.
Jackson's biggest reception of the game came with 4 minutes, 57 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Giants had just scored on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Domenik Hixon to take their first lead of the night at 31-30, and the Eagles' answer couldn't have been more immediate.
Donovan McNabb, flushed out of the pocket, found Jackson wide open for a 60-yard touchdown that allowed the Eagles to regain the lead for good.
It also gave Jackson his eighth touchdown of the season of more than 50 yards, tying an NFL record that he shares with the Chicago Bears' Devin Hester and Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch of the Los Angeles Rams.
After Jackson's touchdown, the Eagles' defense, torched for much of the evening by both Manning and the Giants' running duo of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, came through with consecutive stops and the Eagles managed to go back up by 14 when fullback Leonard Weaver scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
While Jackson was clearly the headline act for the Eagles' explosive offense, he was by no means a solo act.
McNabb completed 17 of 26 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
Michael Vick, fresh off his successful homecoming in Atlanta, made some vital contributions, including a 1-yard touchdown run just before halftime.
The night started perfectly for the Eagles.
After they won the coin flip with a call of heads, McNabb led the offense on a six-play, 67-yard touchdown drive to open the game.
Actually, it was McNabb and Vick.
The two quarterbacks combined for three completions in as many attempts on the opening drive. Vick had the longest completion, connecting with Jackson for a 32-yard pass at the New York 7-yard line.
Two plays later, McNabb dumped a screen pass to Brent Celek and the Eagles' tight end bulled his way 8 yards into the end zone for the game's first score.
The second score came less than two minutes later, and it was a true gift this holiday season. As he was being stopped at the line of scrimmage from behind by defensive end Trent Cole, Jacobs fumbled the football. The loose ball bounced off the foot of Giants tight end Kevin Boss and straight into the hands of cornerback Sheldon Brown, who had a clear path to the end zone for his second touchdown in as many weeks.
This wild and crazy evening was officially under way.
New York countered with the game's next 10 points, thanks to a 15-play drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes and a 68-yard touchdown pass from Manning to rookie Hakeem Nicks on a five-play drive that was a personal nightmare for Quintin Mikell.
After being called for consecutive illegal-contact penalties, including one on a third-and-11 play, Mikell whiffed on a tackle attempt after Nicks caught the pass from Manning just past midfield. Once the Giants' rookie receiver shook off Mikell, he had a clear path to the end zone.
The Eagles answered with 10 special-teams points to build their lead back to 14.
After the Eagles failed to capitalize on a first-and-goal situation from the New York 2-yard line, David Akers kicked a 20-yard field goal and the defense followed with a rare stop that led to another magical moment by Jackson.
After fielding a 41-yard punt near the Eagles' sideline, Jackson took a few steps to his right, then picked up blocks from Moise Fokou and Dimitri Patterson that gave him a chance to head down the left sideline. Jackson raced past punter Jeff Feagles and was home free for a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown.
His night wasn't close to being finished, but the Eagles' double-digit lead wasn't close to being comfortable either.
And the touchdowns just kept on coming.
The Giants, with an eight-play, 67-yard drive, cut the Eagles' lead to seven on a 3-yard touchdown run by Bradshaw with 1:30 left in the first half.
That was more than enough time for the Eagles to counter with a touchdown of their own.
McNabb, who did a masterful job of avoiding the Giants' pass rush the entire evening, stepped up in the pocket and connected on a 44-yard pass to Jackson at the New York 24-yard line.
Vick finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run around left end, giving the Eagles a 30-17 lead at the half.