Shaun O'Hara and the rest of the offense had trotted over to the sideline to discuss a few things. They'd just had a weak three-and-out capped by a sack of Eli Manning and called a timeout to punt the ball away with 14 seconds left. They were getting ready for overtime.
"You think that's the worst-case scenario," O'Hara said of relying on a coin toss in an extra period to essentially decide the NFC East. He had no idea how much worse it could get.
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DeSean Jackson took a line-drive punt, muffed it, picked it up, eluded a pair of tacklers and returned it 65 yards - about 90 yards if you count the distance he traveled parallel to the goal line in an effort to rub it in a little - to score the winning touchdown with no time remaining in the Eagles' 38-31 win over the Giants Sunday.
The Giants had led 24-3 and 31-10 before allowing 28 points in the final 7:28 of the fourth quarter. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jackson became the first player in NFL history to score a game-winning touchdown on a punt return on the final play of the fourth quarter.
The victory all but clinches the NFC East title for the Eagles (10-4), who are a game ahead of the Giants (9-5) and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with two wins over them this season.
The punt return was just the punctuation on a historic collapse by the Giants. They went ahead 31-10 with 8:17 left on Manning's fourth touchdown pass, an 8-yarder to Kevin Boss, but gave up four TDs and had only 23 yards of offense after that.
"I've never been around anything like this in my life," Tom Coughlin said. "It's about as empty as you get to feel in this business right there."
Although there are some mathematical loose ends regarding tiebreakers, if the Giants win in Green Bay on Sunday, they'll almost certainly clinch a playoff spot. The Packers' loss to the Patriots means that no matter what happens Sunday, the Giants cannot be eliminated before the Week 17 finale.
The final eight minutes of the game whooshed by in a blur, much the way Michael Vick and Jackson ran past would-be tacklers. It began with Vick throwing a 65-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek with Justin Tuck - yes, that Justin Tuck - in coverage and Kenny Phillips coming up and whiffing at the point of the catch at about the Giants' 40. That allowed Celek to run the remaining yards untouched. "I feel that's where the game changed, I really do," Phillips said. "I wish I could take it back. I can't."
The Eagles then recovered on onside kick - one the Giants were woefully unprepared for even though Coughlin said the players were warned about the possibility - and Vick scrambled 35 yards to set up his 4-yard touchdown run that made it 31-24. Vick ducked a blitz by Deon Grant on the long run and cut inside a blitz by Antrel Rolle on the touchdown.
"Even with pressures off the edge, he gets outside of it," Coughlin said of Vick, who gained 130 yards on 10 carries, passed for 242, threw for three touchdowns and ran for one.
The Giants had a chance to ice the game with a field goal, to make it 34-24, but a false start by David Diehl pushed the Giants back out of range. Manning and Derek Hagan were not together on reading an Eagles blitz on third-and-8 from the 40, and a pass fell incomplete. The Giants then punted to the Eagles, who began at their 12 with no timeouts remaining and 3:01 left.
Vick then slipped out the escape hatch, getting outside Aaron Ross and Michael Boley for a 33-yard run. Later, he scrambled up the middle for 22 yards. Then Vick hit Jeremy Maclin on a 13-yard touchdown pass - with Terrell Thomas missing an open-field tackle - to tie the score at 31 with 1:16 left.
On the Giants' final offensive series, Manning threw two incomplete passes and was sacked before Matt Dodge kicked the ball to Jackson and Jackson kicked right back. He joined Brian Westbrook and Herman Edwards as Eagles who capped unbelievable comebacks against the Giants at the Meadowlands.
"Just shock, just unbelievable, just kind of 'how did that happen?' " Manning said of his emotions after the game. "You're up 21 in the fourth quarter feeling pretty good about your situation, and then all of a sudden, just everything went downhill. Everything that could probably go wrong went wrong, and you can't have that."
The result wiped out any positives the Giants might have been feeling about Manning's performance or Mario Manningham's 113-yard, two-touchdown receiving day. Manning has thrown a career-high 28 touchdown passes but his interception against the Eagles gave him 20, tying his career high in that category.
The last time he threw 20 interceptions in a season, the Giants won the Super Bowl, and they certainly haven't been eliminated from that pursuit yet. Silver linings will take a while to recognize after this one, though.
"I think it's probably going to take a day or so to really have this sink in and understand what just happened," Boss said. "Right now, I'm still in disbelief."