Eagles’ Reggie Brown pulls in a pass as Broncos’ Andre’ Goodman defends in the second half Sunday in Philadelphia.AP photo
Eagles’ Donovan McNabb is sacked by Broncos’ Elvis Dumervil in the second half Sunday in Philadelphia.AP photo
PHILADELPHIA — Through a myriad of second-half mistakes, the Philadelphia Eagles felt their final home game of the regular season quickly slipping away.
Somehow, Jeremy Maclin pulled it right back.
Maclin’s miraculous 27-yard reception with under a minute left Sunday set up a game-winning 28-yard field goal by David Akers as the Eagles survived their sloppy second half and a furious Denver rally to beat the Broncos 30-27 at Lincoln Financial Field.
“We needed something to spark us,” Maclin said.
His toe-tapping catch – ruled a completion only by replay review – ignited Philadelphia’s sixth-straight victory and helped the 11-4 Eagles keep control of the NFC East, which they can clinch with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys (10-5) Sunday.
“We have a very big week coming up,” Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said.
They needed a big finish Sunday after blowing a 17-point lead in the second half during an emotional return by former Philadelphia fan favorite Brian Dawkins, who signed to play safety with Denver this past offseason.
But Dawkins couldn’t stop an inspiring start from the Eagles’ offense, and neither could anyone else on Denver’s defense.
Behind a marvelous performance from McNabb, who threw for three touchdowns and 282 yards in the first 38 minutes, the Eagles rolled to a 27-10 advantage.
Then Philadelphia just about rolled over while playing dead.
“Offensively, we were on fire the first half,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “Terrible the second half.”
McNabb, who hit 15 of his first 19 passes, mysteriously lost his magic touch. He lost a fumble and threw an interception in the second half, while kick returner Macho Harris fumbled twice.
That was too much opportunity for Denver to pass up.
The Broncos, working on a short field set up when Philadelphia committed two penalties on an earlier interception, pulled within 27-17 on Kyle Orton’s 7-yard touchdown throw to Jabar Gaffney.
When Harris fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, it took the Broncos just two plays to pull within 27-24, as Orton found Knowshon Moreno out of the backfield with a 16-yard scoring strike later in the third quarter.
And the Broncos got even midway through the fourth, 27-27, by converting a shanked punt from Philadelphia’s Sav Rocca into Matt Prater’s 46-yard field goal.
“We were up 27-10,” Maclin said. “All of a sudden, things backfired.”
Time for the Eagles to check if there was any gas left in the tank.
Turned out, they had just enough to make it home.
Rocca recovered to pin Denver at its own 9-yard line by booming a 40-yard punt. The Eagles defense forced the Broncos to punt away possession after three plays. Then Maclin made the play of the day.
The rookie from Missouri snagged McNabb’s 27-yard pass while leaning out of bounds, but remarkably tapped both feet inbounds before crashing onto the sideline.
“I saw the ball, stopped, and did my best to try and grab it,” Maclin said. “I felt like I got both feet in.”
“That was a pretty amazing catch,” Reid said.
The officials weren’t so sure.
The play was originally ruled an incompletion on the field, but the play quickly went to a booth replay review, which happens on questionable plays inside the two-minute warning. When play resumed, the incompletion was overturned and ruled a catch and the Eagles were on Denver’s 13-yard line with 59 seconds to play.
“It put us in great position,” Maclin said.
“He did a great job of keeping his feet inbounds,” said McNabb, who finished with 322 passing yards and broke off a 27-yard run.
Then the Eagles turned to the foot of Akers, who drilled the winning 28-yard kick with four seconds on the game clock.
“We had to find a way to win,” McNabb said.
The Eagles found anything they wanted during the first two quarters.
McNabb fired a 2-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the first quarter, tossed a 47-yard touchdown to wide-open Brent Celek in the second, and Akers hit field goals of 39 and 45 yards to give the Eagles a 20-7 halftime lead.