DeSean Jackson recorded the 18th 100-yard recieving day of his career, catching seven passes for 132 yards and touchdown. (USA Today Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – His buddy basically dared him to do it. When DeSean Jackson hauled in a touchdown in the fourth quarter, he couldn’t help himself.
And so he danced.
Giants fans have seen that particular move a lot over the last few years, except the receiver who performs the familiar celebration usually wears a blue, No. 80, New York jersey. Not this time. Not on Sunday. Instead of Victor Cruz doing his patented salsa dance in the end zone, it was Jackson who let the rhythm move him.
Jackson said he had a lot of fun doing it. The MetLife Stadium crowd wasn’t nearly as pleased and, not surprisingly, booed quite a bit.
“I had one of my friends tell me they wanted me to do that who didn’t really like the dance that [Cruz] always does,” Jackson said after catching seven passes for 132 yards in the Eagles’ 36-21 win (see Instant Replay). It was the 18th game of Jackson's career in which he’s gone over 100 yards, moving him into fourth place on the Eagles’ all-time list. “Me and him are great friends. Nothing toward [Cruz]. I just had to pay homage to one of my friends who wanted me to do that.”
Showmanship aside – and it was a great bit of theater – the touchdown came at a critical point in the game. The five-yard pass from Nick Foles to Jackson gave the Eagles a 15-point lead with just over eight minutes to go in the game. Jackson set up his one-man end zone fiesta by putting a shifty double-move on Prince Amukamara that left the Giants’ cornerback badly out of position.
“It was actually a good play call,” Jackson said. “We knew all throughout the week in the red zone, they played press coverage and played up on receivers. That’s a double move we have in our arsenal. Great call. Right time. I just credit Chip [Kelly] for making that call. And Nick Foles made a great throw and gave me a chance to make my move and still be able to make a play on the ball.”
Press coverage is something Jackson talked about all week. In the run-up to the game, he said he “prays” for defenses to play him man-to-man. The Broncos and Chiefs did some of that and it worked out well for Denver and Kansas City. In those two games, Jackson totaled just five catches on 13 targets for 97 yards and no touchdowns. That was after he started the season by grabbing 16 passes on 24 targets for 297 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games.
His outing against the Giants was every bit as good as those early-season efforts. Jackson, who was targeted a team-high 12 times against New York, made several big plays on Sunday. In addition to the touchdown, he hauled in a 56-yard reception from Michael Vick in the second quarter. It was Jackson's 19th career catch of 50 yards or more. That’s the most in the NFL since 2008. (To put it in perspective, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is second over that span with 16.)
Jackson also drew a big pass interference penalty against Amukamara in the third quarter. That moved the Eagles from their 20-yard line to their 47-yard line. The Eagles kicked a field goal at the end of the drive.
“Obviously, DeSean, if you’re going to put him in [man coverage], he drew a pass interference penalty on our sideline that was big,” Kelly said. “And then trying to get him uncovered in a couple different manners – he’s a threat no matter where he is on the field. If you’re going to play man coverage, it’s just going to happen a little bit quicker. I thought he did a really good job of giving himself an opportunity to make plays. We had some good run after the catch from him. And we also had that big touchdown at the end with that double move.”
After the win, Jackson stood in front of his cramped locker at MetLife Stadium and talked about what a big day it was – for the team and himself. He tried (and failed) to suppress a grin when he was asked about the Giants’ game plan and how playing him man-to-man is a gamble.
“We wanted to stress that we’re not going to let teams play us like that,” Jackson said. “It’s always a great thing when you can make teams pay for playing you like that.
“The biggest thing is getting the opportunities. We might not always be able to go out there and have big games and big numbers and things like that for myself. But as long as we’re able to get opportunities and looks, that’s what matters the most. I feel like they did a good job keeping me involved and calling plays for me to go out there and make the defense suffer for playing me in press coverage. [Sunday] was one of those days we were able to make them pay for that.”