Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

DeSean Jackson did WHAT?! The Bucs receiver's most unbelievable moments

It'll be another six months before we see how the Buccaneers offense operates with deep threat DeSean Jackson in the fold. Until then, here's a look at some of the most memorable moments of his nine-year career:

Sept. 7, 2008: Rams vs. Eagles

During his first nine seasons as Eagles head coach, Andy Reid never started a rookie receiver in an opener. Jackson not only ended that streak but also made an immediate impact by catching six passes for 106 yards in a 38-3 win. He became the eighth rookie since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to rack up 100 receiving yards in his team's first game.

• • •

Sept. 15, 2008: Cowboys vs. Eagles

Halfway through the second quarter of a back-and-forth contest, Donovan McNabb connected with Jackson for a 60-yard touchdown, the first of Jackson's career. Or so it seemed.

On his way to the end zone, Jackson dropped the football before he broke the plane. The Cowboys challenged, and officials overturned the score. (He made a similar mistake in high school. In the 2005 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he somersaulted as he neared the goal line and left the ball at the 1.)

While the Eagles went on to score anyway, Jackson's premature celebration remains one of the most infamous moments in NFL history — so infamous that it's referenced throughout the Academy Award-nominated Silver Linings Playbook.

In one scene, Robert DeNiro's character eviscerates his son for his failure to bring the Eagles good luck. "You spiked the f------ ball at the 1-yard line!" he yells.

The Bucs became connected to the gaffe, when, in 2015, they drafted Utah receiver/returner Kaelin Clay, who also dropped the ball at the 1. His drop, however, didn't just cost the Utes a touchdown. Oregon picked up the ball and ran it back for a score of its own.

• • •

Jan. 18, 2009: Eagles vs. Cardinals

After a 5-5-1 start, the Eagles went on to win six of their next seven games to reach the NFC championship. The Cardinals jumped out to a 24-6 lead thanks to three Larry Fitzgerald touchdowns.

Philadelphia soared back after halftime and cut Arizona's lead to 24-19. On the Eagles' first possession of the fourth quarter, McNabb rolled to the right and targeted Jackson 50 yards downfield. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie dove for the ball and tipped it but could not knock it away. Jackson juggled it for about 10 yards before securing it in the end zone for the go-ahead score.

Although the Cardinals answered and ultimately won, Jackson gained invaluable experience as a rookie.

"Just sitting on that sideline like, "Man, I just put my team in the greatest position," he said. "We're about to go to the Super Bowl. I'm just thinking about all the great things out of this play. Being that close, I actually witnessed at an early age what it took to make it, to get to the playoffs."

Tampa, by the way, hosted the Super Bowl that season.

Jackson has played in four playoff games since, all of which were losses.

• • •

Dec. 13, 2009: Giants vs. Eagles

In Philadelphia's 45-38 victory on Sunday Night Football, Jackson caught six of seven targets for 178 yards and a 60-yard touchdown. He also added a touchdown on a 72-yard punt return. No Eagles player has gained as many all-purpose yards in a game since.

He finished the season with eight touchdowns of at least 50 yards (five catches, one run, two punt returns).

• • •

Nov. 15, 2010: Eagles vs. Washington

Before Philadelphia and Washington kicked off, Jackson and safety LaRon Landry were at the center of a scuffle. According to Jackson, Landry taunted him about the concussion he suffered a month earlier, telling him, "I'm going to put you asleep again."

When the game got under way, Landry was the one who ended up on the ground. On the first play, Michael Vick launched a deep ball over the middle. Jackson blew past Landry and then walked backward into the end zone so he could take in the view.

The 88-yard touchdown pass was the longest on Monday Night Football in 15 years.

• • •

Dec. 19, 2010: Eagles vs. Giants

The Miracle at the New Meadowlands, arguably the defining moment of Jackson's career.

The Giants, despite surrendering a 31-10 lead, managed to hold Jackson in check, limiting him to three catches for 52 yards in the first 59 minutes and 46 seconds of the game.

With 14 seconds left and the score tied at 31, New York lined up to punt. On the other side of the field, Jackson awaited the kick. To Philadelphia's surprise, Matt Dodge didn't punt the ball out of bounds.

When Jackson muffed the catch, overtime appeared to be a certainty. But the Giants coverage unit overpursued, opening a return lane. Jackson shot through the crease and, aided by a punishing block from Jason Avant, went all the way for the game-winning score as time expired.

It remains the only walkoff punt return in NFL history.

• • •

Oct. 13, 2013: Eagles vs. Bucs

For the first time in his career, Jackson caught multiple touchdown passes. He finished with six catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-20 Eagles win.

• • •

Dec. 20, 2014: Eagles vs. Washington

In March, the Eagles released Jackson. A NJ.com story reported that the front office was concerned about gang ties. A CBS Philly story suggested that Jackson was a problem in the locker room and that he clashed with coach Chip Kelly.

Kelly called the release "purely a football decision." Jackson accused the organization of a "smear campaign."

Days later, Washington swooped in and agreed to pay him $24 million over three years.

The Eagles would pay, too.

In Week 16, Jackson beat the defense deep twice, catching passes of 51 yards and 55 yards, both of which preceded touchdowns. Washington's 27-24 upset, in conjunction with a Dallas win the next day, eliminated Philadelphia from playoff contention.

Jackson finished the season with a league-high eight catches that resulted in gains of at least 50 yards. Since 2008, he has 37 such catches, 60 percent more than any other player.

• • •

Dec. 7, 2015: Cowboys vs. Washington

If you were to argue that Bucs coach Dirk Koetter should NOT use Jackson as a punt returner, this game would be Exhibit A.

With less than two minutes left, the game was tied at 9. Jackson was not Washington's regular punt returner — he had returned only two punts for 2 yards since leaving Philadelphia — but coach Jay Gruden was hoping to recreate some of the Meadowlands miracle magic.

This return was just as stunning, but for all the wrong reasons. Jackson caught the ball cleanly and took it down the right sideline to the Washington 23. Facing a wall of Cowboys, he reversed course, retreating all the way to the 2. If the end zone hadn't been there, he still might be running backward.

Jackson eventually started running north and got to the 9, where the first of several Dallas players to greet him was … J.J. Wilcox, who also signed with the Bucs last week.

ESPN's Mike Tirico with the call: "And he lost the football! And it's recovered by the punter Jones! Jackson trying to do too much may have blown the game for Washington!"

The Cowboys took the lead, but they left enough time for Jackson to gain a measure of redemption. While Jackson scored the game-tying touchdown on a 28-yard pass from Kirk Cousins, Dallas prevailed when Dan Bailey hit a 54-yard last-second field goal.

Might Koetter call his number anyway?

"A guy that's done it like he has in the past, I think he's a guy you probably pick your spots with," he said. "It's a long season. … He's proven in the past that when the time is right, he's a guy you can count on to make plays."

Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.

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