DeSean Jackson's return to Eagles a rousing success in 32-27 win
The 48 hours leading up to his homecoming with the Eagles, DeSean Jackson had a hard time calming down. His nerves were racing, his jitters were jittering, and his anxiety was off the charts.
“It was a roller coaster the past 48 hours,” said Jackson, after he went out and had a game for the ages in the Eagles’ 32-27 season-opening win over the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. “I’m just happy it’s over, first game coming back to Philly.”
Jackson caught two touchdowns from more than 50 yards and ended his day with eight catches on 10 targets for 154 yards. Six of his catches came on third down, including both touchdowns, and the Eagles were 11 for 17 on third downs for a 64 percent success rate.
Clearly, he had found a way to calm himself down.
VIDEO: DeSean Jackson talks about his successful return to the Eagles
“At the start of the game it (his nerves and anxiety) went down,” said Jackson. “Literally (Saturday) night going to sleep, all (Saturday) in meetings, I was racing, I just couldn’t stay calm.
"I was overexcited like a kid before Christmas. I just know the reunion of me coming back and what I mean to this city and what the city means to me, being in green colors, and just being a part of this organization, this family, is something special to me.”
His touchdowns covered 51 and 53 yards, which moved him into second place all by himself for most touchdowns of 50-plus yards in NFL history. Jackson came into the game tied with Randy Moss at 29 games with a score from that distance. With 31, he now trails only Jerry Rice (36) for most in league history.
“When you have a guy who can through the defense and put up some points, obviously, (he) was a big momentum shifter for us,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Jackson’s first touchdown, from 51 yards with 4:19 to play in the second quarter, came after the Eagles had fallen behind 17-0, and the Linc’s boo birds beginning to creep from the woodwork.
It was his first touchdown catch for the team that drafted and brought him back in a trade this past offseason since Dec. 15, 2013, a span of 2,093 days.
“When I saw that ball go up in the air, I knew it was (a touchdown),” said Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham. “I didn’t even have to look. I was just happy that they (Wentz and Jackson) finally got that connection down. There’s going to be more to come.”
Jackson said he wasn’t the intended receiver on his first TD. It was supposed to go to Alshon Jeffery on a deep cross route.
“When he threw the ball, I just ran and caught it,” said Jackson, who caught it with safety Josh Norman in his wake.
Jackson’s second TD came with 5:07 to go in the third quarter and gave the Eagles their first lead of the game at 21-20.
“He comes up to you (after a touchdown) and kind of high-fives you a little bit and kind of whispers in your ear like, ‘Hey, let’s keep it going’ type of thing,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “That’s him. He obviously leads by example He’s great to have in the locker room, and we’re just fortunate that today was his day.”
The outcome looked bleak until quarterback Carson Wentz and Jackson began to click.
The Eagles trailed 20-7 and were booed leaving the field.
Some of Jackson’s teammates talked about him getting them fired up at halftime as a reason for the second-half turnaround, which saw the Eagles outscore the Redskins 25-7 over the final two quarters.
“DeSean gave us a little message and obviously he carried us, that offense,” said safety Rodney McLeod. “You just saw the energy shift in that second half. It started with him and we helped out as well.”
Jackson said his message stemmed from his three seasons spent in Washington, from 2014 – after former Eagles coach Chip Kelly released him – through 2016.
“I’ve been in that locker room, I know how they are,” said Jackson. “That’s not saying anything bad about them, I just know how they are. I’m sure anybody going into halftime up (13 points), they’re going to feel like they have the game won.”
There was more, though, from Jackson at halftime.
“It was it’s going to take one play,” he said. “Being down 17-0 is obviously one of the things where you have to get going. One more score will put you down 24 and I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but it’s almost impossible, so we just knew coming into the locker room, it’s the mentality. It’s all a mentality thing here.”
Some of Jackson’s nerves were released during a pushing and shoving match with cornerback Quinton Dunbar early in the game that led to a 15-yard personal foul penalty and spoiled one of the Eagles’ drives.
“I caught a play on Dunbar (earlier in the game), who is like a young brother to me, I saw him come up in the system over there,” said Jackson. “He actually came in playing wide receiver, now he’s playing DB. I just knew that matchup was big for him. I just talked to him after I caught the first pass, the next play he came back and kind of hit me and I lost it a little bit, but it happens. It’s part of the game.”
The Eagles were probably lucky that it was just a penalty and not an ejection since it appeared Jackson took a swipe at Dunbar.
When you look at the game Jackson had, the Eagles were very lucky indeed.