The order was to do anything but punt to the Philadelphia Eagles' DeSean Jackson. Coach Tom Coughlin wanted New York Giants punter Matt Dodge to kick the ball out of bounds, denying the speedster a chance to return the ball in a tie game on the final play of regulation on Dec. 19, 2010 at MetLife Stadium.
Six years later, it's still hard to not think about the first punt return for a touchdown to end a regulation game in NFL history every time the Eagles head to MetLife Stadium to face the Giants, as they do Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX).
The memory is of Dodge kicking the ball to Jackson, who returned the punt 65 yards for a touchdown. However, what also needs to be remembered is how the Giants got themselves into such a spot, allowing Michael Vick to throw two touchdown passes and run for another as Philadelphia scored 28 points in the final 7:28.
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The score was tied at 31 in the final minute as the Giants prepared to punt. Eagles coach Andy Reid told Jackson before the game he would whistle if he wanted the wideout to return a punt.
“I knew the whistle was from Coach Reid, who said, ‘Get your butt back there,' ” Jackson told reporters. “Even when I was on the field, he kept whistling at me.”
However, the image that lingers is of Dodge's punt and Coughlin's reaction. Overreaction?
There were 14 seconds left in the game when Jackson dropped back to return the Dodge punt. Troy Aikman foreshadowed the impending doom on FOX when he said, “I don't think Tom Coughlin real comfortable asking Matt Dodge to directional kick.”
Dodge was wearing a glove that day to previous trouble handling snaps, but he got the kick away cleanly. Jackson had a pair of gloves, too, which didn't help as he bobbled what was a line drive. However, he picked up the ball and took off through the Giants special teams for a game-winning touchdown.
“Somebody told me that Coach Coughlin ran on the field and tried to get his kicker because he was just so (ticked) that his kicker punted the ball to me,” said Jackson, who was bothered by a foot injury. “That just shows how mad he was at that punter.”
Jackson was correct, as Dodge recalls.
“Any time anything like that happens you're kind of in shock at first about what just happened,” Dodge said. “I knew I screwed up. … I remember running toward the sideline, and I actually I ran straight to Coach Coughlin. I was like, 'If I'm going to get beat up for this I might as well get it out of the way.'
“He wasn't crazy pissed off at me — I mean he was — but he wasn't like dog-cussing me. He was just like, 'Why didn't you kick it out of bounds?!' You can get the idea of what he said.”
A ground-level view of the return and subsequent celebration:
I’ve never been around anything like this in my life,” Coughlin told reporters after the 38-31 loss. “It’s about as empty as you get to feel in this business, right there.”
“I’ll take full responsibility for the last play. Wth him back there, you don’t punt the ball to him.”
Dodge saw irony in the play because he had been having a strong game to that point.
“I was having one of my better games of my short career leading into that last punt, so it's ironic that the game ended that way,” Dodge told FOX Sports earlier in 2016. “We forced a couple of fair catches, we had a couple inside the 20, and I was feeling really good. We were dominating.”
Eagles tight end Brent Celek summed the ending up perfectly.
“I have never been a part of anything like this game,” he told reporters. “When we came into the locker room, it was almost like we won the Super Bowl.”