EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - The Philadelphia Eagles claimed the outright lead in the NFC East after a record-equaling performance from DeSean Jackson helped them to a 45-38 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.
The Giants (7-6), who could have forged a three-way tie at the top of the NFC with a win, came back from a 30-17 halftime deficit to lead 31-30 with 5:12 left in the third quarter.
On Philadelphia’s next play from scrimmage, big-play weapon Jackson caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Donovan McNabb, backpedalling untouched into the end zone to put the Eagles into a lead which they never relinquished.
Wide receiver and return man Jackson, who had earlier scored on a 72-yard punt return, tied an NFL record with his eighth touchdown of the season of 50 yards or more.
“DeSean was feeling it,” Eagles coach Andy Reid told reporters. “He was bugging me the whole time on the sidelines that he wanted the ball, in a good way. So we gave him the ball.”
The lightning-quick Jackson, a second-round draft pick in 2008 from little known Long Beach Polytechnic, missed last week’s game because of a concussion.
“Sitting home last week was terrible,” he said. “I told everybody I’m going to come out strong.”
Jackson, who set up Michael Vick’s one-yard touchdown run at the end of the first half with a 44-yard catch on third-and-20, said competing on Sunday night was special.
“The world’s watching,” he added. “We know what rode on this game — a chance to take over the division.”
The victory lifted the Eagles to 9-4, one game ahead of the Dallas Cowboys (8-5), who were beaten at home 20-17 by the AFC West-leading San Diego Chargers.
The game, which gave the Eagles a fourth win in a row over the Giants, was full of big plays, missed tackles and turnovers.
McNabb completed 17-of-26 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Giants signal-caller Eli Manning was 27-of-38 for 391 yards and three scores.
Philadelphia defensive back Sheldon Brown ran back a fumble recovery 60 yards for a touchdown and Giants rookie receiver Hakeem Nicks spun away from two tacklers for a 68-yard touchdown, while Domenik Hixon shook free for a 61-yard touchdown reception.
“Disappointing loss (but) we still have a lot to play for,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, whose team are still in the hunt for a wild-card berth in the playoffs.
The Giants had scored two touchdowns after the intermission to seize the lead before McNabb’s electrifying connection with Jackson.
“That was a heck of a game, I’m proud of my guys,” Reid said, before commenting on Jackson’s performance with a shake of the head.
“He’s pretty stinkin’ exciting. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
Editing by Patrick Johnston/Nick Mulvenney