ARLINGTON, Texas - DeSean Jackson spent the last week playfully debating Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy over who is the fastest Eagle. That question remains unresolved, but Jackson at least showed he is faster than anyone on the Dallas Cowboys' defense.
All the evidence needed came on Jackson's scintillating 91-yard fourth quarter touchdown Sunday night, punctuated by a stylish - but penalized - celebration that put his team ahead and swung a game that was in danger of slipping away from the Eagles.
His play provided an artistic flourish to a Texas slugfest that the Eagles pulled out, 30-27, securing at least a share of first place in the NFC East on a day when several other contenders in the conference lost.
"It's an honor to be in the position I'm in, especially after the way we left here last year to get kicked out of the playoffs," Jackson said, referring to two embarrassing defeats in Texas at the end of last season, games in which he was shut down.
Jackson's touchdown was the longest score of a career marked by big plays, and contributed to a 216-yard night. He had 210 receiving yards on just four catches, and 6 yards rushing, the third-most total yards in Eagles history. It was the largest receiving total in NFL history on four or fewer catches, and only the third time any receiver has gone over 200 yards on four or fewer receptions.
Jackson said he was ailing after hurting his foot on an earlier punt return and only at "60 percent" on that play.
Cornerback Mike Jenkins went for the ball, leaving Jackson to make one cut around a final defender and simply outrun everyone else. He needed oxygen after the run, but had enough energy to draw an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty with a swaggering pose and elegant splash into the Cowboys' deep blue end zone.
"I didn't think I was going to make it. I was seeing guys coming closer and closer," Jackson said.
On a night when Michael Vick was hammered and had his first multiple-turnover game in nearly four years, Jackson led the Eagles' attack, opening the game with a 60-yard catch on the first play from scrimmage and setting up the Eagles' second touchdown with a 37-yard catch and sprint.
With the defense providing its typical up-and-down performance - allowing 27 points and a Dallas rally, but coming up with a big fourth quarter interception - it was often ugly again in Texas. But in the end it was ugly the Eagles could live with as the team enters its stretch run. The Eagles iced the game with a power rushing display by the offensive line and LeSean McCoy, who finished with a career-high 149 rushing yards.
After the game, even Jackson's teammates were stunned. "Four for 210?" wide receiver Jason Avant questioned when reporters relayed Jackson's statistics.
The Eagles thought Jackson could have a big game heading into the week, knowing that the Cowboys liked to challenge him at the line of scrimmage, giving him an opportunity to get beyond the defense.
"He challenged me throughout the entire game," Vick said. "He demanded the football, he wanted to be involved."
About the only problem the Eagles had with Jackson was his celebration, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff.
"I want to beat him up right now. We'll deal with it in practice," Avant said.
Coach Andy Reid gave Jackson a talking to on the sideline.
"I wish he wouldn't have," Reid said of the splash. "That's a little Hollywood left of him."
"I get caught up just out there having too much fun and that's one thing I'm not going to take away from my game. I like the energy, I like doing the things I do to get my team pumped up," Jackson said. "Just got to be smart. The penalty was obviously a bad idea."
Dimitri Patterson picked off Jon Kitna on the Cowboys' next play from scrimmage, setting up a field goal that gave the Eagles the winning points.
The Eagles had been hit hard and slowed down for much of the game Sunday night in their third visit to Cowboys Stadium, right until Jackson turned a short pass into a score.
Late in the third quarter, it looked as if there might be another Eagles disappointment in Dallas. The evident flaws that contributed to a Cowboys rally - an inconsistent defense, leaky pass protection - are causes for concern, and Dallas led by 20-17 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys were the fourth consecutive team to test Vick's tolerance for abuse. DeMarcus Ware blasted him from behind. Anthony Spencer smacked him to the ground on a play near the sideline that Reid thought should have drawn a penalty. Orlando Scandrick blitzed in untouched and hammered Vick. (The Cowboys' Tashard Choice still asked for his autograph on the field after the game.)
Vick threw interceptions on back-to-back drives at the end of the second quarter and the start of the third, his first multiple turnover game of the year, and his first two-interception game since Dec. 24, 2006. Vick had no turnovers through the first nine weeks of the season, but has five in the last four games. He has been intercepted in each of the last three games and lost a fumble against the Giants four weeks ago.
The Eagles lost their defensive signal-caller, middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, to a dislocated right elbow early in the second quarter, possibly for the rest of the regular season. He was replaced by rookie Jamar Chaney, who had played almost entirely on special teams.
Guard Todd Herremans - who caught his second career touchdown pass - was asked if running out the clock was the most satisfying thing for an offensive lineman. He said it was gratifying, but added, "Winning is the most satisfying thing."
Read "Birds' Eye View," by Jeff McLane and Jonathan Tamari, at http://go.philly.com/birdseyeEndText