ARLINGTON, Texas -- DeSean Jackson can be one of the most infuriating players in the league. The Philadelphia Eagles' wide receiver is hell on opposing defensive backs, and he also can be a pain in the neck for his head coach.
But on Sunday night, Jackson showed why the Eagles are willing to put up with his antics. With the Eagles once again walking a fourth-quarter tightrope against a division rival, Jackson erased awful field position with a brilliant 91-yard touchdown reception. Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins made one of the worst risk-reward decisions of his short career, and Jackson made him pay.
The Eagles (9-4) held on for a 30-27 win at Cowboys Stadium and may have exorcised some demons in the process. It was the brash Jackson who famously tweeted last season that he planned to "sting" the Cowboys' rear ends in the playoffs, although he used a more colorful phrase at the time. He didn't back up that talk as the Eagles were humiliated for the second consecutive week by the Cowboys. Jackson was a nonfactor in all three losses to the Cowboys last season, but he didn't take long to change that trend Sunday.
On what looked a sandlot play on the Eagles' first play from scrimmage, quarterback Michael Vick rolled to his left and connected with Jackson for a 60-yard completion that set up their first touchdown of the game. The play was just a warm-up for Jackson, who averaged 52.5 yards on four catches and a touchdown. The Chicago Bears had frustrated Jackson two weeks ago by playing their safeties 30 yards off the line of scrimmage, but the Cowboys were more accommodating with their approach.
With the score tied 20-20 early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles started a drive at their own 9-yard line. Vick threw a "deep hitch" to Jackson near the sideline on first down, and Jenkins made his fateful decision. The Cowboys' cornerback had no shot at the interception, but he dived anyway. If Jenkins had kept his feet, Jackson probably would have ended up with a 4-yard gain. But once Jenkins gambled and missed, Jackson gathered himself with a few steps and then found a gear that perhaps no defensive back in the league has. It was almost shocking to see Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick begin to close the gap, but then Jackson's pride kicked in and he accelerated despite a foot injury that had knocked him out of the game briefly in the second half. He said he was running at "60 percent" when he realized Scandrick was closing on him.
But with Jackson, a 91-yard touchdown to win the game calls for a little extra drama. He made an abrupt stop at the 1-yard line and executed a Nestea plunge into the end zone. Asked if he even knew about the famous commercials that featured iced-tea drinkers falling into a swimming pool, the 24-year-old smiled and said, "I'm familiar with them." For his extra effort, Jackson was flagged for a celebration penalty.
Jackson said the idea just "came to him" as he approached the end zone. And it's not the first time he has made a curious decision while en route to a touchdown against the Cowboys. He celebrated by dropping the ball a yard early in a game at Texas Stadium in 2008. But even though Eagles coach Andy Reid admitted being frustrated by Jackson's improv work Sunday, it's sort of tough to crack down on a player who has just hung 210 receiving yards on the Cowboys.
"I like the 91 [yard score]," Reid said. "The fall ... that's a little Hollywood left in him."
Eagles receiver Jason Avant, who had two clutch catches on third down, delivered a stronger message.
"I was really mad at him because he knows better," Avant told me. "I love him as a little brother, but I've told him that he can't put himself above the team like that. It was detrimental to the team."
But at the end of the day, the positives far outweigh the negatives with Jackson. Most teams would give anything to have a player who needs only four or five touches to completely take over a game. On a night when Vick was once again taking a beating, it was Jackson who made the game-turning play. The Eagles have learned to live with his foolishness because they know how he strikes fear in a defense.
The Cowboys thought they had his number, but he flipped the script on them Sunday night. According to the Eagles, Jackson became only the third player in league history to post a 200-yard game on four or fewer catches. He joins Gary Clark of the Redskins (1991) and the Giants' incomparable Choo Choo Roberts (1949).
"I just didn't know he was going to take it 91 yards," Vick said of Jackson after the game. "And this is just the type of things he can do when he touches the ball."
Now, if he can just learn what to do with it after he scores.