EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Just call it the great escape.
Michael Vick engineered it. DeSean Jackson capped it. And the Philadelphia Eagles have control of the NFC East firmly in their hands because of it.
Jackson scored on a 65-yard punt return on the final play of the game and the Eagles scored 28 points in the final 7:28 to stun the New York Giants 38-31 and take over first place in the NFC East.
Emphasizing his candidacy for the MVP award, Vick threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in the incredible late rally that all but clinched the division for the Eagles (10-4) and left Giants coach Tom Coughlin so angry he threw his notes as Jackson backed into the end zone.
Philadelphia has swept the season series with New York (9-5) and only needs to win one of its final two games or have New York lose one of its two.
Atlanta clinched a playoff spot with the Giants’ loss.
Jackson’s winning return came as the game seemed headed for overtime. Matt Dodge lined up to punt with 14 seconds to play and the rookie got off a line drive kick that Jackson bobbled at his 35. Once he regained control, Jackson broke threw the initial line of coverage and sped down the right sideline. It was apparent he was about to score, but instead of simply going into the end zone, he danced along the goal line before going in with zeros showing on the clock.
Coughlin fired his notes on the field and the Eagles jumped on each other in a celebration they never could have expected. They were victimized by Eli Manning’s four touchdown passes, including an 8-yarder to Kevin Boss with 8:17 to play for a 31-10 lead.
For Giants fans it brought back memories of “The Fumble” by Joe Pisarcik, the giveaway that allowed another group of Eagles to steal a late win when all New York had to do was take a knee.
This loss could cripple the Giants’ playoff hopes. They need to win at Green Bay and Washington to clinch a postseason berth and the Packers game will be crucial, especially because the final playoff spot might come down to head to head with New York and Green Bay.
Vick started the comeback with a 65-yard scoring pass to tight end Brent Celek on which the Eagles caught defensive end Justin Tuck in coverage.
New York fell asleep on the ensuing kickoff and Riley Cooper recovered David Akers’ onside kick, a play on which the kicker may have been offside. A 13-yard pass to Jackson and a 35-yard run by Vick set up the quarterback’s 4-yard TD run with 5:28 to go, cutting the lead to 31-24.
New York had a chance to run out the clock, getting to a second-and-6 at the Eagles 36. However a procedure penalty forced a punt and the Eagles tied the game with an eight-play, 88-yard drive that featured scrambles of 33 and 22 yards by Vick. He eventually capped the series with a 13-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin with 1:16 to go.
Maclin also caught an 8-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
The Giants dominated the opening half, outgaining the Eagles’ top-ranked offense 222-74. Vick was under constant pressure, sacked twice, hit about a half-dozen other times and limited to six completions for 33 yards and only his fifth interception of the season.
Manning was given time by his line and made the most of it, leading New York on touchdown drives of 71, 73 and 8 yards, the last coming when Maclin lost a fumble late in the half and safety Kenny Phillips returned the ball to the Philadelphia 8 with :09 to go.
Manning found Nicks in the right corner 4 seconds later for a 24-3 halftime lead.
Manningham, limited all week in practice because of a hip flexor, showed up big-time on game day, catching touchdown passes of 35 and 33 yards to open a 14-3 lead.
Philadelphia’s defense set up its first three points. Darryl Tapp tipped a pass and Quintin Mikell intercepted at the Giants 45. An 11-yard scramble by Vick and a personal foul gave the Eagles a first down at the 19. They got a 34-yard field goal by Akers.
Manning made up for the mistake on the next series, capping a 73-yard drive with the 33-yard pass to Manningham, who motored the final 20 yards after Dimitri Patterson slipped.