So much for the best days of Brian Dawkins being behind him.
He proved he can still reach down and come up with moments like Sunday’s, when one play by Dawkins changes everything about the game.
This time, it was a superhuman play that secured victory for his Philadelphia Eagles.
Dawkins soared high through the air in the fourth quarter, when surrendering a touchdown could have beaten the Eagles. When he swooped down on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with 3½ minutes left in a six-point game, Dawkins recorded a sack, forced a fumble and made the recovery – all on the same play. In the process, he knocked Roethlisberger from the rest of the game with a hand injury while setting up the final field goal of a 15-6 victory for the Eagles.
“You don’t think,” said Dawkins, who finished with seven tackles against the Steelers. “You just do it. As I got off the block, the (running) back tried to block me. The next thing I knew, I was in the air.”
Guys who are ready for retirement don’t do those things.
“He’s a warrior, man,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “He’s a tough-minded guy. I know he’s getting old. He knows he’s getting old. You guys know he’s getting old. But he comes out, and man, he just plays.”
I’ll be the first to admit that after watching Dawkins get embarrassed by Pittsburgh’s Santonio Holmes on a preseason touchdown, the only game I thought he should be playing this year was checkers. Or golf.
So did a lot of other people last week, after Dawkins was torched and taunted on Monday Night Football by Terrell Owens, a former teammate turned receiving star for the despised Dallas Cowboys.
“He had a bad week, like I did,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. “It was good to see him come back. He’s a good football player.”
Don’t think Dawkins didn’t hear all those people whispering that he’s done.
He is a six-time Pro Bowl player who has been one of the great free safeties in the NFL during his 13-year career, maybe the best safety the Eagles ever had. According to Eagles stats, Dawkins has 33 interceptions and 33 forced fumbles for 66 disruptive plays over his career, and that doesn’t even describe the way Dawkins has disrupted offenses with his mere presence.
But he is 34 years old, less than three weeks away from turning 35. Dawkins isn’t quite as fast as he was in his prime, and doesn’t make game-changing plays nearly as often as he once did.
But if he can still create havoc every once in awhile, like he did Sunday by taking the last real chance away from the Steelers and securing the game for the Eagles, then Philadelphia still needs him leading their secondary.
“Everybody said on the sideline, ‘That’s the old Dawk right there,’ ” said Juqua Parker, who made 2½ of Philadelphia’s nine sacks Sunday.
It was Dawkins, though, who made the last one, leaping over all obstacles to make one more play – the most dramatic one and maybe the biggest one – for his team.
“I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again,” Dawkins said. “I don’t know what a 34-year-old is supposed to play like or feel like. I play the way I play. I give what I can to my team.
“I know what I can do on a football field.”
After Sunday, so does everyone else.