EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Eagles' Jason Avant was down and briefly out on the Giants' 40-yard line, struggling to recover from his huge collision with Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie.
Avant couldn't see DeSean Jackson high-stepping to the end zone for the 65-yard, final-play-from-scrimmage punt return that stunned the New York Giants yesterday, 38-31. Unofficially, it was the first NFL game to end on a final-play punt return.
But Avant knew, he said later, that DeOssie was the last Giant with an angle, and he knew he had taken out DeOssie, so he could infer the rest, even if he was a little shaken up.
"When I saw [Jackson] break the initial wave, and I saw a lane to the right, I knew if I got [DeOssie], he was gonna score. So I just threw it in there. I knew he scored. Me being knocked out just reminded me of a dream I had of us winning on the last play, but I didn't know who it was against," Avant said.
"I thought I had a great angle. I thought I was going to stop him. I don't have eyes in the back of my head," DeOssie said, though actually, he was facing Avant when he was hit.
As chronicled elsewhere today, Giants punter Matt Dodge was supposed to kick out of bounds. But the snap was high and Dodge was worried about a blocked punt - realistically, with 14 seconds left, that's the bigger danger, not a TD return. Eagles special-teams coordinator Bobby April said the Eagles had been coming after Dodge, but not this time.
"We had rushed from that formation three times prior to that," April said. "A lot of times, people assume you're going to rush with that little time to play. The punt return is pretty tough to get . . . we went with a maximum return."
Jackson fumbled the catch of Dodge's 36-yard line drive, and for a second, you had to wonder if the Eagles were going to blow their 21-point fourth quarter comeback into a regulation loss. But Jackson picked the ball up. As sometimes happens, the delay actually helped him, putting some Giants a little too deep to recover when he accelerated into an open lane on the right side.
"When you give DeSean space, DeSean's the most creative football player - him or [Michael] Vick, one of the two," April said, laughing. "Once he kind of knows there's an alley over there, he can get there faster than they can close on him."
"When I dropped the ball, I panicked real quickly," Jackson said. "It was probably a good thing, because when I panicked, I was able to locate the ball . . . when I went [toward the ball] I saw a crease and I just shot through that crease."
April said he realized Jackson might score "when he was moving full speed about 15 yards, because I didn't see anybody in position that could catch him."
Giants tight end-turned-fullback Bear Pascoe whiffed early in the return; no one else got that close to making a tackle.
"I'm thinking, 'I've got to get is guy down. I've got to make this play.' And I didn't," Pascoe said. "He put a little shimmy on me, and that's what got him past me."
Dodge was the last hurdle cleared, and he did not present much of an obstacle.
"I saw someone take a dive at me so I kind of just kicked my feet up," Jackson said.
Jackson was far enough ahead of his pursuers to run along the goal line, making sure the final seconds expired before he scored. Reid appreciated this. The Giants did not.
"We don't like him to begin with," center Shaun O'Hara said. "I don't know how you add to that."
"Probably an historic game," April said. "There aren't too many like that in the NFL annals. That's pretty unbelievable."