When DeSean Jackson took one to the house to cap off an incredible comeback by the Philadelphia Eagles over the New York Giants, it was the latest in a series of spectacular runbacks that have captivated football fans everywhere. This should be nothing new for Bay Area fans. As the punt return specialist for the California Golden Bears from 2005-07, Jackson was one of the main catalysts for a high-octane offense, and he was often making plays in the special teams game that broke open close affairs against top-notch opponents.
So here's DeSean's greatest punt returns as both a Golden Bear and a Philadelphia Eagle.
Honorable mention: 85 yard punt return at Carolina, September 13th, 2009 (Philadelphia wins 38-10)
Jackson's return here is just pure speed; the punt return coverage loses all angles and Jackson just blasts right by them. It's like they didn't know he was fast. Additional bonus points for owning the punter Jason Baker, and there was a great block by Jason Avant in support.
Honorable Mention #2: 72 yard punt return vs. UCLA Bruins, November 4th, 2006 (Cal wins 38-24)
(warning: NSFW language in the video)
It's funny; as great as this return was, the first thing I remember is future Atlanta Falcon Thomas DeCoud knocking out Korey Bosworth (okay, it's not that funny, more scary). It was a pretty monster block by the Cal safety to take out any chance of backside pursuit, although it's pretty hard to catch Jackson from behind once he gets the edge. And it is a great return. One juke and four to five Bruins are fooled out of the play. Then it's good night.
5. 68 yard punt return vs. Washington Redskins, October 5th, 2008 (Eagles lose 23-17)
In a similar move to the UCLA game, Jackson seems to recognize that all the coverage is seeping in toward the side of the field he's running to. So at the last minute, he does the little fake juke to the sidelines before turning toward the far side of the field and jetting toward his first pro punt return touchdown.
Welcome to the NFL, DeSean. Looks like you weren't too small to be a pro after all.
4. 72 yard punt return vs. New York Giants, December 13th, 2009 (Eagles win 45-38)
Jackson's previously most spectacular punt against the Giants was something beautiful to behold, as he did a little step move to the inside to take most of the men in blue with him. As they trapped the open field, they pinned him back toward the sideline, and he still found that opening to speed through for six.
However, that isn't the first time he's done a reversal of field and gotten big dividends from it.
3. 65 yard punt return vs. Oregon Ducks, October 7th, 2006 (Cal wins 45-24)
This was probably the first play when everyone first recognized that DeSean was more than just an outstanding college talent. You can't teach this type of second-level acceleration, or the ease with which he reverses field. Cutting back east-west is such a difficult skill to master, and Jackson is the master at taking the horizontal path to success, finding the proper return lane to cut through and take it to the house.
2. 77 yard punt return vs. Tennessee Volunteers, September 3rd, 2007 (Cal wins 45-31)
Jackson's last punt return for a touchdown as a Golden Bear was also his most spectacular. Vols punter Britton Colquitt went out of his way to do a little trash-talking with DeSean before this one, saying that he wasn't afraid to punt to him.
Unfortunately, for him, Jackson was in video game mode for this one.
After this play, almost every punter in the Pac-10 refused to kick to Jackson, and he only fielded eleven more punts the rest of the season as kickers went out of their way to avoid getting burned the way Colquitt did.
1. 65 yard punt return vs. New York Giants, December 19th, 2010 (Philadelphia wins 38-31)
I know Giants punter Matt Dodge got a lot of grief for line-driving it right to #10, but he really doesn't deserve that much blame since the ball was muffed at first. In fact, the fumble by Jackson might've hastened the process of the actual touchdown. Once that ball went on the ground the Giants special teams coverage lost their gap assignments and started chasing for the ball...instead of racing to make sure Jackson couldn't find an opening.
Whoops. A few monster blocks and quick moves later, Jackson was scorching into the end zone, and the Eagles had completed one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history.
Just another day in the life of DeSean. Cal fans have seen it before, and they can't wait to see it again.