As the research analyst for NFL Network's NFL RedZone, Elliot Harrison watched all 267 games in the 2010 season. We asked him to rank the 20 most memorable.
"That's one of the most incredible football plays I think I've ever seen."
One of my colleagues said that to me about the play that decided the outcome of our top game of 2010. The thing is, this comment came five months after the Eagles' DeSean Jackson essentially ended the playoff hopes of the Giants while invigorating the Packers' aspirations. Oh, and he put his own team in the driver's seat.
Jackson is just one part of the story. The other?
It's Football 101: the punting game. The most underrated aspect of pro football cost the Giants a spot in the playoffs.
Tied at 31 with just 14 seconds left in regulation, Giants coach Tom Coughlin just needed his punter to kick the ball away from the most explosive athlete east of Derrick Rose. It should have been simple for rookie Matt Dodge to do: Directionally kick the ball, sacrificing distance for safety. And, by all means, DON'T allow the return man to get his hands on it, especially when that guy is Jackson.
Let's just say Dodge wasn't "Ram tough." Because he couldn't have lofted it better to Jackson if he was hitting shallow fly balls to junior high kids.
Dodge's gaffe almost came off brilliantly when the Jackson initially muffed the punt. But within seconds Jackson scooped it up, knifed through several defenders and was off to the races.
During a 2008 wild-card game, Chargers punter Mike Scifres single-handedly destroyed the Colts' offense by pinning it deep in its own territory five times. There was nothing Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning could do about Scifres that day. But this aspect of the punting game -- avoiding a dangerous return man -- had the stench of Chris Kluwe trying (and failing) to kick away from Reggie Bush in 2008.
To use a baseball reference: Intentionally walk him!
Honestly, this game should not have reached the point where Dodge's kick had any meaning. The Giants built a 31-10 fourth-quarter lead with a little more than eight minutes remaining, mostly on the strength of Eli Manning's four touchdown passes and some costly Philly turnovers.
Facing a 21-point deficit, Michael Vick set up the drama at the end by rushing for 94 yards and tossing two touchdown passes during the final eight minutes alone. A successful onside kick during the 28-point Philly run further underlined the value of special teams.
It was the most special of plays, however, that sealed the "Miracle at New Meadowlands" as our top game of 2010.
Play of the game
Dodge looked like he at least tried to directionally kick the ball. Play of the game? Let's call it the play of the season.
Boneheaded play(s) of the game
Each of the Eagles defensive backs earned this honor during the first half. Manning looked like Elle McPherson, as nearly every throw was a 10. In the second quarter, Manning went nine of 12 for 105 yards and two touchdowns, converting seven first downs on his way to a 140.6 passer rating. Philly's secondary made up for leaving guys wide open by not tackling. Exhibit A: the first of Mario Manningham's two touchdown receptions.
OK, besides Jackson's punt return, we're going with more than a can't-miss play for the game of the season. How about a can't-miss quarter? The Eagles' fourth-quarter rally, in statistics:
Why is this game No. 1 of 2010?
The "Miracle at New Meadowlands" featured a 21-point comeback, some superhuman Vick runs in a fight for the NFC East title and maybe the most memorable punt return in NFL history.
When deciding which game would ultimately be ranked as the top overall, I couldn't ignore the one glaring fact this Eagles-Giants game carried that the others didn't: Everyone remembers this game, and will for years to come.
Let's talk about it
So many of you have accurately predicted No. 1 game in the comments for some time now. You guys all watch a ton of football and felt this was one of the best three hours you spent in several football seasons, with the ribbon on top being a redonkulous ending. And I couldn't agree more.
That said, I might have missed a few. So let's chat about it.