It was a bitterly cold December 21st, 2008 in East Rutherford, and the Giants had lost 2 in a row for the first time since their 0-2 start in 2007 that prompted the Lt. Greg Gadson visit that sparked the team to their success that season. The NFC home field advantage that seemed like a foregone conclusion at 11-1 was now pinned in a corner by a 28-20 fourth quarter deficit to the Panthers, who had absolutely gashed their defense with 4 rushing touchdowns (3 on the first 3 possessions) and really showed no signs of letting up. The Giants’ offense had awoken and responded to this initial onslaught, but something had to be done to get that one shot at a game tying drive.
Enter the Feagon.
In a world where punting is rarely good television, if ever, #18 dropped a directional dime out of bounds at the 1. I wish I could find a video of it, but it was just perfect. You’ll have to just trust me. Pinned at their own 1 and not nearly ready to let Jake Delhomme sling it with an 8 point lead for reasons that would become painfully obvious three weeks later, that punt basically took a possession away from Carolina, and the resultant 3 and out gave the Giants the ball on the +44 yard line, and from there it became more than possible to tie the game. They did, and won in OT.
In the 22 year career of Jeff Feagles, that was the one moment where is impact hit me in person, but quite frankly, when you hear how people gush about him, maybe once is enough to be impressed. It’s not easy to be a team leader as a punter, but Jeff was voted team captain for the final 3 years of his career when it was an official capacity. His consistency in 2005 allowed David Tyree to resurrect his career as a gunner from substance abuse problems to make the Pro Bowl. If that doesn’t happen, his 6th round draft pick status probably doesn’t keep him around until 2007. His ability to drop punts inside the opponent’s 20 went hand in hand with the running philosophy that dominated the offense from the time he arrived until 2008. You don’t dominate with the run if you don’t win field position.
But his proficiency on the field largely resided in the quiet things that win football games. It was the quirky old guy with the receding hairline and huge ears that trained like a triathlete in the offseason that Giants fans fell in love with. I’ll remember all the times they had to stop a game in the 1st quarter because he had broken yet another consecutive games played streak and took a photo-op with the referee (“They’re celebrating a punter?”), how he instantly became the butt of sports blogger’s jokes when the Giants won the NFC Championship in Lambeau and he was the first guy Eli hugged (“He’s going to the Super Bowl and the first guy he hugs is the punter?”), and how even Carl got in on the act. The fact that Carl could make Jeff Feagles jokes without a backdrop was proof positive of how he was perceived by the fans. They loved him, but still knew how weird it was to love a punter, and now that he’s taken his deserved retirement from the game, we all have had time to quantify that void, and have a pretty damn good idea of how much we’ll miss him.
I mean, if Carl’s calling the punter out during a losing streak, he has to be doing something right. Right?