Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is undoubtedly a “Love him if he’s on your team, hate him if he’s not” kind of player.
This afternoon, the third-year man from Cal-Berkley enhanced that reputation with a 65-yard punt return touchdown as time expired to give the Eagles a 38-31 comeback victory over the New York Giants as well as control of the NFC East.
It’s not so much that Jackson, a wiry 5’10, 175-pound speedster, has a flair for the big (and as today’s game showed, dramatic) play, it’s his showboating antics that get a rise out of his opponents and detractors and adoration from his teammates and fans. He has become something of legend among a small but boisterous population that I follow on Twitter (@CJStarchild if you care to tag along for the ride), and they have taken to affectionately describing Jackson’s antics as “coon behavior.” Granted, that word brings out a lot of mixed emotions as does another ethnic slur that begins with the letter “N,” but considering Jackson’s outlandish stunts the last two weeks against division opponents, it’s almost prophetic.
Sunday night, December 12. Cowboys Stadium. The Eagles start inside their 10 tied at 20 and the Cowboys are closing in on them. Michael Vick (who is MVP, case closed), threaded a perfect pass to Jackson along the left sideline and outran the Cowboys secondary to the one-yard line, where he stopped, turned and fell into the end zone to complete the backbreaking play. The Eagles went on to win 30-27, setting up this afternoon’s showdown with the Giants.
This game already became one for the ages, due to a Vick-led Eagles rally from 21 down to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles forced the Giants to punt with 14 seconds left. With a rookie punter and Jackson back to receive, it was almost inveitable that he would do this.
Some will argue that Jackson was just being a douche in running along the goaline, others will say he was smartly trying to run the clock out. I personally think it’s a mix of both, but that is what some folks consider to be showing up the other team and embarassing his teammates, coaches and fans in the process. Some think Jackson is going to get himself crippled by pissing off everyone in the league, but they’ll have to catch him first, and no one seems to be able to do so just yet.
I also believe that DeSean Jackson exudes a brand of (and I hate this word with a passion) swagger than has not been seen in the city of Philadelphia since the heyday of Allen Iverson with the Sixers.
Iverson and Jackson are almost so similar it’s eerie – small outspoken guys playing a large man’s game but with the singular talents to take their lithe frames into battle and come out a winner most nights. The only difference is that A.I. was a soloist, a one-man gang toiling with substandard teammates night in and night out but never gave up and left it all on the floor each time.
Jackson isn’t even the best player on his own offense, yet he still manages to make big plays (mostly thanks to Vick’s freakishly accurate and strong arm) that give the Eagles a chance to win. Sunday’s walk-off punt return was huge in that it gave the Eagles a season sweep of the Giants and a one-game lead for the division championship with two games left to play. It was everything Jackson embodies: Speed, cockiness, swagger and electricity – stuff that legends are made of. And fortunately for Eagles fans, the legend of DeSean Jackson is just getting started.