Donnie Jones' 70-yard punt Sunday was the longest by an Eagle since Randall Cunningham booted one 80 yards in 1994. (USA Today Images)
Donnie Jones tried to treat it as just another punt.
The Eagles entered the fourth quarter with a 24-0 lead over the Redskins. Now, with 3:37 left, it was 24-16, and Jones was punting from the Eagles' 26 after a replay reversed a third-down conversion by Nick Foles.
Jones' first punt of the afternoon was a 54-yarder that Brad Smith and Brandon Boykin combined to down at the Redskins' 2.
The Eagles needed his last punt to be just as good. Or even better.
They needed a Randall-esque 91-yarder.
And they almost got it.
Jones launched a rocket that sailed over returner Nick Williams, who drifted back a bit and watched it dribble out of bounds at the Redskins' 4 for a 70-yard punt.
"At that point in the game, it was a huge play," Jones said after the Eagles improved to 6-5 and took over sole possession of first place with a 24-16 victory (see Instant Replay).
"You have to try and stay mentally calm in that situation and just go out and execute. You try to look at it as just another punt. Of course in that situation, if you let all those thoughts play into your head, it's going to distract you from going out and doing your job, so as a unit I thought we executed really well."
It's the longest punt by an Eagle since Randall had an 80-yarder at Dallas in 1994 (the 91-yarder was at the Meadowlands in 1989). Jones kicked it at the 15, and it sailed 67 yards in the air before landing at the Redskins' 18.
"As soon as I hit it, I knew [I hit it well]," Jones said. "A lot of times those balls, when they come off your foot, you never feel them. It was kind of one of those. As soon as I hit it, I looked up and just saw it take off as a spiral. The guy didn't field it. We got a great bounce, and it rolled out at the 4."
Jones watched the ball bounce from the 18 and again at the 11 before dribbling seven more yards.
"A lot of times you're at the mercy of the bounce," Jones said. "So as I saw he was not going to make a play, I said just please hit and kick forward, and it did. It went out at the 4, so it was a big play."
Jones' net punting average this season (40.9) is tops in team history, and his gross (45.4) is third. The 10-year vet entered the day tied for fifth in league history in net yards per punt (39.1) and seventh in gross punting average (45.5). He finished the day with a net of 50.7, a franchise single-game record (since the stat became official in 1976).
The Eagles are Jones' fifth team. He began his career with Seattle, spent two years with Miami, then five with St. Louis and last season with Connor Barwin in Houston. Speaking with reporters postgame, Barwin was glad when someone finally asked him about Jones' punt. Brandon Boykin's interception will finish all the highlight packages (see story), but it might not have occurred had it not been for Jones' punt.
"That's like a 12th defender on the field. I can't believe people aren't talking about that," Barwin said.
"That's incredible. I played with Donnie last year. He's one of the best in the league. Who knows what happens if they have to go 60 yards instead of 95. I'm happy we didn't have to find out."