The sad part of the tale for Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson is that he got another chance. And another one. And another one.

Jackson
And now he deserves no more, after news Wednesday that the NFL has suspended Jackson again for violating the NFL's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. It's sad because he keeps doing this to himself. It's sad because whatever he's doing with his personal life now has such a hold on him that he's tossed away a precious career, one that could have set himself and his family up for life.

Now, it's no longer about football for him -- and, in truth, it hasn't been for a while. Rather, it's about beating a far tougher opponent than what he faced on the field, one that could destroy him. Yes, Jackson has made bad choices. Yes, he put himself on this path. But do you really think this is the path he wants? Being suspended four times by the NFL, causing anguish for his family and personal embarrassment? Taking drugs puts your life on a slippery slope; you can choose to do them for a while and then, after a while, they choose for you.

My colleague Mike Jones pointed this out on Twitter earlier Wednesday, but it's true: When asked in May about changes he had made to his lifestyle, Jackson really didn't have a lot to say. It would have been easy to say he stopped going to certain areas, or that he'd been in rehab, or he stopped hanging around certain people. He did talk about having to change his lifestyle. The problem is, issues with drugs become a shadow, something that's impossible to outrun without a lot of work or help.

When he returned, the Redskins were not expecting a lot from him unlike when they signed him in 2012 and anticipated him being a starter. They were left with an ineffective Madieu Williams when Jackson was suspended that August.

Now they have Ryan Clark, who was firmly ahead of Jackson on the depth chart. He's reliable, available and a leader. The only way Jackson would have bumped him from the lineup is if Clark's play had slipped. Or if Jackson had somehow regained some past glory.

I also thought it was a little odd that Jackson was not in great shape when he returned. I would have thought he'd have been working hard to get ready and take this last chance seriously. It wasn't as if he was grossly out of shape, but he admitted that staying in shape wasn't at the top of his priority list. No, it most certainly shouldn't have been. But it should have been part of an overall package of turning his life around.

Again, it's a shame. Jackson did this to himself, and he knows it. He didn't let fans down, he let himself down. And, yes, while I know some do not have any sympathy for him, he still warrants it. You know him as a player; he's more than that. His career is over. But his fight continues.
IRVING, Texas -- Rod Marinelli likes what he saw from his Dallas Cowboys defense in the spring.

The defensive coordinator liked that he has more players along the defensive line. He likes the linebackers’ “movement skills.” He likes how cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne can play man-to-man. He likes the growth J.J. Wilcox made at safety opposite Barry Church.

[+] EnlargeBarry Church and Morris Claiborne
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsDallas defensive backs Barry Church and Morris Claiborne didn't have much to celebrate during 2013.
But there’s something else Marinelli likes about the group.

“I think there’s something to prove a little bit,” Marinelli said. “Not something to prove from last year, but there are some guys coming here off the street with something to prove. There are some guys in contract years with something to prove. There are some guys coming out saying, ‘I want to be a better player,’ who have something prove.

“You get that many guys wanting to prove something, then you can become better. Right now what I like is how hard they’re going after their craft.”

Last season was a mess for the Cowboys' defense. It has been referenced so many times this offseason that “32nd-ranked defense” has been tattooed on everybody. The Cowboys gave up 6,279 yards in 2013 a year after giving up a franchise-record 5,687 yards. Five quarterbacks had four-touchdown games against the Cowboys. Two times in a three-week span, they allowed more than 620 yards. The New Orleans Saints had 40 first downs.

“It definitely bothers us,” Church said. “I’m speaking for myself, but it definitely bothers me. But there’s nothing we can really say or prove different. We were 32nd in the league and we weren’t that good on the defensive side of the ball. This year, the only way we can counter that is by playing good and becoming one of the better teams in the league at taking the ball away and against the run and the pass.”

It’s not just the players. The tag falls on the coaches, too.

“Nobody wants to look at last year and take ownership of that, but we have to,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said. “And we’ve got to get better from there, and we cannot let that happen again.”

Oh, and now the Cowboys have to show they can be better in 2014 without the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks, DeMarcus Ware, who was cut, last year’s leader in sacks, Jason Hatcher, who signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins, and their best playmaker, Sean Lee, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in organized team activities.

But the sense is that Marinelli likes it this way. He had ubertalented defenses with the Chicago Bears with guys like Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. He won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with guys like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, John Lynch and Ronde Barber.

He doesn’t have an Urlacher, Sapp, Brooks, Briggs, Rice or Lynch with this group.

He has Henry Melton, whom he coached to the Pro Bowl with the Bears, trying to prove he can come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has Bruce Carter trying to prove he is a big-time player in a contract year. He has Claiborne, a former sixth overall pick in the draft, trying to prove he is not a bust. He has Carr trying to prove he is worth the five-year, $50 million contract he received in 2012. He has George Selvie trying to prove he was not a one-year wonder after putting up seven sacks last season. He has Tyrone Crawford trying to prove he can come back from a torn Achilles.

He has low-cost free agents such as Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Amobi Okoye trying to prove they can be prime-time players. He has Justin Durant trying to prove he can be a middle linebacker and Kyle Wilber trying to prove he can be a strongside linebacker. He has Rolando McClain trying to prove that a player who has retired twice in the past year has the desire to keep playing. He has DeMarcus Lawrence trying to prove that a second-rounder can make an impact as a rookie. He has Wilcox trying to prove he can play strong safety.

He has guys like Church and Scandrick trying to prove that they can put up solid seasons in back-to-back years.

So much to prove. So much to forget.

“The first thing you do is you take it as coaches and players and you take accountability for it,” Marinelli said. “And no excuses. Now we look forward. Now it’s about the expectations of this group and with expectations you have to execute. It’s that simple. That simple, yet that hard.”
John RigginsManny Rubio/USA TODAY Sports
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This is the third of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. We've already featured Darryl Grant's interception return for a touchdown in the 1983 NFC Championship Game and Darrell Green's punt return to beat the Chicago Bears in a 1988 playoff game. Please vote for your choice as the Redskins’ most memorable play.

Score: Redskins 27, Dolphins 17
Date: Jan. 30, 1983 Site: Los Angeles Coliseum

To understand the moment, why it carried the weight that it did, it’s important to first look back. Like to the 1950s, when the Redskins posted two winning seasons. Or the 1960s, when they could score but not win. They managed a winning record once, in the final year of the decade. This despite several Hall of Famers on offense.

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The Redskins had not won a title of any kind since 1942. They had only reached the postseason seven times since that year (and five since 1945). Yet the fans showed up time and again, knowing what always awaited them in the end. Even when Washington had reached Super Bowl VII, it lost to undefeated Miami.

There was hope, though, with new coach Joe Gibbs, who led the team to an 8-1 mark in the strike-shortened 1982 regular season (his second in charge). Then three double-digit playoff victories put Washington into Super Bowl XVII.

But no titles ever come easy, and the Redskins trailed Miami 17-13 when they took over the ball at their own 18 early in the fourth quarter. They drove to the Dolphins’ 43, where they faced fourth-and-1 with 10 minutes, 10 seconds remaining.

John Riggins and the Redskins’ run game already had posted good numbers. So everyone had to know what would happen next: a handoff to Riggins. The Dolphins used a six-man front, which meant the play would either be stuffed or a huge one. The Redskins got the latter as tackle Joe Jacoby buried linebacker Kim Bokamper and fullback Otis Wonsley helped seal the end.

That left Riggins one-on-one with corner Don McNeal. Mismatch. Riggins swatted him away and the man nicknamed The Diesel chugged toward the end zone, running for the lead and a place in history. Diesel horns blared in the stands, a signature sound that season. And it became a run that is mentioned seemingly every Super Bowl week. It was the first of three Super Bowl victories under Gibbs, giving Redskins fans a taste of success that had eluded them forever.

For Riggins, it enabled him to post a Super Bowl record 166 yards rushing and then to make this statement after a congratulatory phone call from President Ronald Reagan: “At least for tonight, Ron’s the president, but I’m the king.” Decades of frustration had ended for Redskins fans. They, too, finally felt like football royalty.
Herm EdwardsAP Photo/Burnett
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Giants history. On Monday we looked at David Tyree's "helmet catch" from the Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots, and on Tuesday we looked at the Lawrence Taylor sack that broke Joe Theismann's leg in 1985. Please vote for your choice as the Giants' most memorable play.

Score: Eagles 19, Giants 17
Date: Nov. 19, 1978 Site: Giants Stadium

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The fourth-place Giants had taken a 14-0 first-quarter lead on the third-place Eagles. And in spite of a comeback, the game appeared won when the Giants intercepted the ball inside the two-minute warning. Fans headed for the exits as Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcick knelt to the ground on first down in an attempt to run out the clock. But instead of giving up the game, the Eagles banged away at the middle of the Giants' offensive line in an attempt to force Pisarcick to fumble. Because of that, the Giants decided not to run the kneel-down play on second down, and instead had Pisarcik hand the ball off to running back Larry Csonka, who picked up 11 yards and set up a third-and-2. One more kneel-down would have won the game for the Giants.

Instead, on third down, offensive coordinator Bob Gibson called another handoff to Csonka. But the exchange between Pisarcick and Csonka wasn't clean, and the ball came loose. Eagles defensive back Herman Edwards, who was blitzing on the play, picked it up and ran it back 26 yards for a stunning touchdown and an Eagles victory.

It was the fourth straight loss in what would be a six-game losing streak in the second half of a 6-10 Giants season. Gibson was fired the next day. The Eagles would go on to finish 9-7 and reach the playoffs, and since the winners write the history books, "Miracle at the Meadowlands" became the name by which the play would forever be called by everyone but Giants fans. They refer to it, simply and grumpily, as "The Fumble."
Bob Lilly and Bob GrieseAP Photo
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This is one of three finalists for the most memorable plays in Cowboys history. We already discussed the Troy Aikman-to-Alvin Harper pass in the 1992 NFC Championship Game and the Hail Mary from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson.

Please vote for your choice as the Cowboys’ most memorable play.

Score: Cowboys 24, Dolphins 3
Date: Jan. 16, 1972 Site: Tulane Stadium

The Cowboys were known as "Next Year's Champions" after losing the 1966 NFL championship to the Green Bay Packers, the ’67 title game (better known as the Ice Bowl) to the Packers and Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts.

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But the Cowboys quickly put to rest any doubt that they would win Super Bowl VI against the Miami Dolphins.

After taking a 3-0 lead, the Cowboys forced Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese into retreat mode. Larry Cole had the first chance at Griese but jumped in the air, allowing the quarterback to escape. Briefly. And in reverse. Eventually, Bob Lilly, Mr. Cowboy, was able to bring Griese down for a 29-yard loss.

Doomsday had dominated, and with their 24-3 victory, the Cowboys were “This Year’s Champions,” becoming the first team to win a Super Bowl the year after losing one.

The Cowboys lost Super Bowl V to the Colts on a Jim O’Brien field goal that led Lilly to flinging his helmet in disgust. A year later, Lilly had his championship moment.

The sack remains the largest negative play in Super Bowl history. The Cowboys are the only team not to allow a touchdown in a Super Bowl. A Miami offense built around Larry Csonka, Paul Warfield and Jim Kiick was shut down. Csonka and Kiick had 40 yards rushing each. Warfield had 39 receiving yards, with 23 coming on one play.

Roger Staubach was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl VI with two touchdown passes, completing 12 of 19 passes for 119 yards. But it was the defensive dominance, highlighted by Lilly’s sack, that brought Tom Landry and the Cowboys their first championship.
DeSean JacksonDrew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images
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This is the last of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. In the previous two days, we featured the first Miracle at the Meadowlands against the Giants in 1978 and Wilbert Montgomery's touchdown in the 1980 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Eagles' most memorable play.

Score: Eagles 38, Giants 31
Date: Dec. 19, 2010 Site: New Giants Stadium

When Kevin Boss scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning, the New York Giants had a 31-10 lead with 8:12 left in the fourth quarter. That gave the Giants, according to the formula, a 100 percent win probability for that game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

When Michael Vick hit tight end Brent Celek for a 65-yard touchdown a couple of minutes later, the Giants’ win probability stayed at 99.9 percent. When Vick ran 4 yards for a touchdown with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants still had a 97.8 percent chance to win the game. Even after Vick tied it with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin with 1:16 to play, the Giants had the ball with a chance to win. But two incomplete passes and a sack later, New York had to punt with 14 seconds left.

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You get the point. The Giants had the game in the bag. The Eagles came back from 100 percent dead in the water and won it thanks to what was quickly dubbed Miracle of the New Meadowlands, for the new Giants stadium had just opened across the parking lot from the site of Herman Edwards' 1978 miracle fumble recovery.

This time around, the winning play itself was almost as improbable as the three-touchdown spree that set it up. Giants punter Matt Dodge was kicking from his own 29-yard line. All he had to do was avoid Eagles return man DeSean Jackson. Instead, Dodge kicked it right to Jackson, who fumbled the punt, picked it up at his own 35-yard line and started to run. He didn’t stop until he was approaching the goal line, where Jackson changed his course of approach to make sure the clock ran down to zero before he crossed the line.

"I was thinking to myself, like, 'They're not going to kick it to me,'" Jackson said. "I was thinking he was going to kick it out of bounds. But it got to me. From there, I just used my instincts and my speed to get into the end zone."

The 65-yard return ended a 28-point Eagles comeback rally and gave them a tiebreaker edge on the Giants for the NFC East title. That meant Jackson’s return contributed to the last of Eagles coach Andy Reid’s nine playoff appearances with the team.

An era was ending, but it was delayed by Jackson’s improbable return and the Eagles’ statistically impossible comeback.

The guy coming off the record-setting season opted for the same trainer as the one just trying to hang on. Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon wants to build on 2013; Chris Neild wants to make the roster. And Mike Barwis worked with both toward that goal -- as the series, "American Muscle," will highlight.

Neild
Barwis, a senior advisor to the New York Mets and a consultant for the Miami Dolphins, has long worked with Neild and became a strong admirer years ago. This past offseason was the first time he worked with Garcon, who wanted to improve his explosiveness with route-running.

Barwis worked with a number of other pros, including Seattle Seahawks corner Richard Sherman and Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, both of whom also will be part of the series that begins at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday on the Discovery Channel. Garcon will be part of a later episode, though Neild will be on Wednesday night.

Neild spent nearly two months working out with Barwis, who said Garcon's stay was considerably shorter because what he wanted to achieve was more specific. But Neild also has worked with Barwis since his freshman season at West Virginia.

"Chris is blood to me," Barwis said. "He's an absolute warrior. His mentality is incredible. He's one of the major aspects of the premier of our show. ...You won't find a lot who are tougher and work harder than Chris."

For Neild, spending so much time with Barwis could make the difference in making the roster. He's already lasted three seasons, but if the Redskins keep six defensive linemen as they've done in the past, then Neild has work to do. He's not as versatile as some of the other defensive linemen because he's just a nose tackle.

But Barwis, who said he has trained more than 500 Olympic and professional athletes in his career, said Neild stands out.

"He always makes the chemistry better," he said. "He's the soldier. He's the one who will fight. He gives everything he has to be good. ...That type of attitude and charisma is what builds championship teams."

Garcon
Garcon
They focused on helping Neild with the demands of the position, with the need to take on two blockers with regularity. Neild benches more than 450 pounds and squats better than 600. They worked on nutrition, supplements as well as balance and functional training to better control your body; increasing the ability to play with leverage, working on increasing explosiveness through plyometrics, among other means.

"It's a lifestyle," Barwis said.

Garcon's stint wasn't as involved. Barwis said he wanted to refine his speed and running mechanics. He did not want to get specific with what Garcon did, but, in general it could involve minute details. For example, Barwis works on his clients on where their toes should be pointed when their foot is off the ground (up; leads to better explosion when you hit the ground). Or on where his body should be when you cut.

"Pierre was a very disciplined guy and a very hard worker," Barwis said. "Very coachable. He's a guy that stays focused. He's soft spoken and he gets after it. He's a great leader by example, does what he has to do and works hard.

"He's a tremendous athlete. The thing that's neat to me is when you get top athletes like that and they still want to be better and are still focused on how to make themselves two steps quicker. The kid is saying, ‘I'm not satisfied with having a record year.'"
IRVING, Texas -- Things are quiet at Valley Ranch these days. Most members of the Dallas Cowboys are on vacation, enjoying their final few weeks of downtime before training camp begins in Oxnard, California.

Everybody loves the fact it’s quiet, but things can change at any moment. Every team fears the 2 a.m. phone call, like every parent fears them.

So far, things have been quiet. But it could have been so much different had the Cowboys taken a different path in recent drafts.

Gordon
Gordon
The Cowboys wrestled with the idea of taking wide receiver Josh Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft. They put in a midround bid for him only to be jumped by the Cleveland Browns, who took him with a second-round pick, in the selection process.

Coach Jason Garrett spoke with Baylor coach Art Briles numerous times about Gordon in the evaluation process. The Cowboys liked Gordon’s ability even if he didn’t play football in 2011 after transferring from Baylor to Utah. They felt they could help with the off-field issues that bothered Gordon and could fashion a similar plan to the one that helped Dez Bryant.

On July 5, Gordon was arrested and charged with driving while impaired after speeding down a street in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was already facing a year-long suspension for failing a drug test and is reportedly scheduled to meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this month.

Manziel
The Cowboys also passed on Johnny Manziel with the 16th pick in the first round of this year’s draft. The Texas A&M quarterback seemed to be a Jerry Jones dream, but the Cowboys' owner and general manager listened to his football people and drafted guard Zack Martin.

Manziel has been in headlines ever since he won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman with the Aggies. This offseason he has been a frequent visitor to Las Vegas, and many photos have been taken and distributed of his time there.

The Browns have asked Manziel to calm down his off-field life, but Johnny Football hasn't slowed down. He has done nothing wrong other than failing to realize perception is reality when it comes to quarterbacks.

This isn't to congratulate the Cowboys for what they didn't do because they would have taken Gordon if no other team had put in a better bid and would have taken Manziel if they did not have so much money committed to Tony Romo.

But it shows you just how much luck can be involved in decisions.

The Cowboys could very well be getting the late-night calls the Browns are receiving. Every team could.

Training camp can't get here fast enough -- for every team.
Darrell GreenAP Photo/Fred Jewell
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This is the second of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. We already featured Darryl Grant's interception return for a touchdown, and on Wednesday we'll feature John Riggins' game-winning touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII. Please vote for your choice as the Redskins' most memorable play.

Score: Redskins 21, Bears 17
Date: Jan. 10, 1988 Site: Soldier Field

Redskins cornerback Darrell Green had burst onto the scene in a much different situation. Dallas running back Tony Dorsett sped down the field, and as anyone knew at the time, no one caught him from behind. Then Green did just that, a rookie coming out of nowhere -- shot like a bullet -- to tackle Dorsett. Green denied Dorsett an 83-yard touchdown run, tackling him at the 6-yard line and forcing a Cowboys field goal.

It didn’t matter that Dallas ended up winning the game. Green announced himself to the NFL, flashing his speed and creating a memory. But it wasn’t as big as the one he created in 1988 in a much tougher spot: a first-round playoff game at Chicago.

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By then, Green was an established corner, having earned a third Pro Bowl berth that season. The Redskins were an established power.

But they had a rough assignment: win at Chicago for a second straight year in the playoffs. This time they faced bitterly cold conditions. Former defensive end Charles Mann once said the Vaseline he had applied froze to his body that day.

Chicago, just two seasons removed from Super Bowl glory, led 14-0. But the Redskins rallied to tie the game, and, with 11:40 left in the fourth quarter, Green started a punt return for the ages. He retreated to the Redskins' 48-yard line to field Tommy Barnhardt’s punt and started up the right sideline.

Out of the corner of his eye, Green spotted Cap Boso diving at his legs around the 34. Green then created the memory: He hurdled Boso, then cut back inside and, within a few yards, grabbed his left side. He clutched his side for the final 30 yards en route to a 52-yard game-winning punt return.

Green had torn his rib cage on the return and could play only one more snap. But his efforts on this play led to not only a 21-17 win but also a moment that was hard to top in Redskins history. A week later, he defended the final pass at the goal line in the NFC Championship Game victory over Minnesota. But his play against the Bears was more impressive. It required vision, athleticism and toughness. In a Hall of Fame career, it’s hard to believe one moment can stand out. The return against Chicago did.
Lawrence Taylor and Joe TheismannGeorge Gojkovich/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Giants history. On Monday we looked at David Tyree's "helmet catch" from the Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots. Wednesday, we will look at the Joe Pisarcik-Herman Edwards "Miracle at the Meadowlands" play from 1978. Please vote for your choice as the Giants' most memorable play.

Score: Redskins 23, Giants 21
Date: Nov. 18, 1985 Site: RFK Stadium

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Lawrence Taylor surely had sacks of which he was prouder -- sacks that helped win games, sacks that helped win playoff games, etc. But the one everyone remembers is the one that ended the career of Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann.

Everyone remembers this one because they remember what it sounded like and, unfortunately, what it looked like. This was a "Monday Night Football" game being watched all around the country, and the gruesome details of the play stick in the memory of anyone who happened to be watching.

It was early in the second quarter with the game tied, and the Redskins called a flea flicker. Theismann handed the ball to running back John Riggins, who ran up toward the line before turning and flipping the ball back to Theismann. The Giants were not fooled. Harry Carson got there first, but Theismann wriggled away from him only to find Taylor waiting. Taylor brought him down, Gary Reasons jumped on the pile, everyone nearby heard a loud "crack" and, suddenly, Taylor was up and waving to the Redskins sideline for someone to come in and help Theismann.

The TV replays were horrendous, clearly showing the bone protruding through the skin of Theismann's leg. Theismann left the field on a stretcher, giving way to Jay Schroeder, who would lead the Redskins to a fourth-quarter comeback victory later that night. But the play stands among the most memorable in the history of both franchises. From the Giants' end, it has come to symbolize Taylor's ferocity as the best defensive player in NFL history. But, while both he and Theismann, who never played again, obviously remember the play, each has said in the intervening years that he has never watched the replay.

Taylor had greater moments as a Giant. For example, fans undoubtedly remember him ripping the ball out of Roger Craig's hands in the 1990 NFC Championship Game. And he helped deliver two Super Bowl titles. But there's little doubt that, if you're making a "most memorable plays" list, the devastating 1985 sack that wrecked Theismann's career meets the criteria.
Wilbert Montgomery AP Photo
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This is the second of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in Philadelphia Eagles history. We’ve already featured "The First Miracle" at Giants Stadium in 1978, and tomorrow we'll go over "Miracle II," DeSean Jackson's 65-yard return against the Giants. Please vote for your choice as the Eagles' most memorable play.

Score: Eagles 20, Cowboys 7
Date: Jan. 11, 1981 Site: Veterans Stadium

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The hatred Eagles fans feel for the Dallas Cowboys blossomed in the 1970s, when the Eagles were perennial losers and the Cowboys ascended to “America’s Team” status. That loathing raised the 1980 NFC Championship Game to mythic proportions for the fans packed into Veterans Stadium on a frigid January Sunday.

Going to a Super Bowl would be a first for the Eagles. Getting there at the expense of the Cowboys would mean everything to Eagles fans, while losing would be that much harder to swallow.

Wilbert Montgomery was injured and was not on the field for the first play of the game. But he ran out for the second snap at the Dallas 42-yard line.

Quarterback Ron Jaworski took the snap and handed the ball to Montgomery. He cut to his right, where a huge hole had been opened. Montgomery broke through and was gone. Just like that, the fans in the stadium and, just maybe, the Eagles themselves believed victory was possible.

The Cowboys came back and tied the game at 7. But the Eagles' defense held firm, creating turnovers and preventing America’s Team from ever getting control of the game. On a day the wind and cold made throwing the ball difficult, Montgomery racked up 194 yards on 26 carries.

The Eagles would get smashed by the Oakland Raiders 27-10 in the Super Bowl. That made Montgomery’s performance against the Cowboys, especially that touchdown run, the high-water mark of the Dick Vermeil era in Philadelphia.
Roger Staubach and Drew PearsonAP Photo/Bill Kostroum
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This is one of three finalists for the most memorable plays in Dallas Cowboys history. We already discussed the Troy Aikman-to-Alvin Harper pass in the 1992 NFC Championship Game. On Wednesday, we will include Bob Lilly's sack of Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI.

Please vote for your choice as the Cowboys' most memorable play.

Score: Cowboys 17, Vikings 14
Date: Dec. 28, 1975 Site: Metropolitan Stadium

What if Roger Staubach didn't grow up Catholic? Would "Hail Mary" be part of today's lexicon?

With 24 seconds left in a 1975 divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys had the ball at midfield and needed a miracle. They had dominated statistically, but the Vikings had a 14-10 lead.

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As happens many times before iconic plays, smaller plays get overlooked, but to just get the ball to midfield for the Hail Mary, Staubach and Drew Pearson connected on a fourth-and-16 pass at the sideline that by today's rules would have likely been ruled incomplete or overturned on replay. On first down, a Staubach check-down to Preston Pearson was off. Had the pass been complete, the Cowboys might not have gotten off another play because they didn't have a timeout.

With 32 seconds left, Staubach mentioned in the huddle a double-move route Drew Pearson used against the Washington Redskins earlier and to do it again on this play. Pearson took a couple of steps to his left, then sprinted down the right sideline to create separation.

Staubach pumped to his left after taking the shotgun snap in hopes of moving safety Paul Krause away from the sideline. As he pumped, Staubach said he nearly lost the ball, causing the pass to be underthrown.

And here's where allegiances matter. Vikings players, coaches and fans will forever believe Pearson pushed cornerback Nate Wright. Cowboys players, coaches and fans will forever believe Wright slipped.

Wright went down. Pearson pinned the ball against his right hip and backed into the end zone. Replays show Krause pointing at Pearson, expecting a pass interference penalty. An orange flew past Pearson in the end zone, and soon he was surrounded by celebrating teammates after heaving the ball over the scoreboard.

"It was just a Hail Mary pass; a very, very lucky play," Staubach said after the game.

Staubach's Hail Mary was answered ... and born.

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick likes to please. He especially likes to please his quarterback, Tony Romo.

As Frederick enters his second season with the Cowboys, he has one goal.

“I’m going to try and do as much as I can to take as much as I can off Tony that he was doing before for the offensive line,” he said. “Not necessarily because I was a rookie or this or that, but because, if I can see it better, that’s going to take one thing off his plate and that’s going to help the team as a whole.”

Frederick
Romo
Part of Romo’s responsibility is setting the protections with calling out the middle linebacker. The offensive line follows the assignment. If Frederick can take that responsibility away from Romo, then Romo can worry more about the coverage.

When Romo and Frederick watch film of practices or games, they discuss what worked and didn’t work, what they might do differently the next time.

“I think what really has helped is going through the season last year,” Frederick said. “It’s literally about situations. You can talk about as many situations as you can think of and still see 50 more. It’s about being in situations and maybe you make a mistake. Maybe last year I’d change the Mike (linebacker call) on something and he would rather have kept it. After it happened, he told me, ‘OK, this is what I would’ve done.’ Now in the next situation I can do it.”

It’s not just about making Romo’s life easier. If Frederick can do more, he makes it easier for his fellow linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Doug Free, Ronald Leary or Mackenzy Bernadeau.

“The more I can communicate, the better Zack’s going to be able to do, the better Tyron is going to be able to do, the better Doug’s going to be able to do,” Frederick said. “When that happens, everybody can move faster and play faster and they don’t have to think. If I can think more than I did last year, then it makes it less that everybody else has to think about.”

There is a physical adjustment Frederick has made this offseason, too.

“Hand placement has been a big thing for me,” Frederick said. “In college it’s just about getting it done. If you’re strong, you have a better opportunity because no matter where you grab usually you can just hold on. But in the NFL with the great talent we play against and even here in who we practice against every day, you really have to focus on where you’re playing your hands and an inch can make a huge difference.”
When it comes to rules against performance-enhancing drugs, the NFL’s system works.

It works for the league, which gets to suspend a few players each year and maintain the illusion that it is doing everything possible to crack down on PED use.

It works for fans who want to enjoy the games without thinking too much about the long-term damage being done to the men who play them. They’re tested for steroids, right? And didn’t the league just pay a bunch of money to take care of the concussion guys?

Johnson
  It works most of all for the players, whose union has proved that its main concern is ever-escalating salaries and not protecting the health of its membership.

How do we know the system works? Look at recent events. In the span of just a few days, two of the top four players selected in the 2013 draft were implicated in PED use. That is an astonishing turn of events, by any rational measure. And the general reaction from the public so far? A collective shrug of the shoulders.

It started when the Philadelphia Daily News reported last week that Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, would be suspended for a positive PED test. The league still has not taken punitive action against Johnson.

Joseph
Jordan
  A few days later, Miami Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2014 season. Jordan was the third pick in the 2013 draft.

Now it is important to note that NFL policy does not require any announcement of exactly what banned substance is at issue. Without more facts, we can’t really put together a full picture of what the players were using and what they were trying to achieve.

Bear in mind, the NFL and its players are at a permanent impasse that has prevented any kind of testing for human growth hormone. It is an impasse, you can be sure, that will be broken the moment something has replaced HGH as the substance of choice for elite athletes.

The bottom line is, we don’t know what Jordan or Johnson were doing or what their goals were. All we can really be reasonably certain of is that they accomplished what they set out to do and that NFL justice isn't going to change that.

As the third pick in the draft, Jordan received a contract with $20.75 million guaranteed, including a signing bonus of about $13.7 million. His punishment for failing a drug test is a four-game suspension. That means he will lose 4/17 of his 2014 salary, which is $495,000. That’s a penalty of $116,470.

Consider those numbers again. Jordan will lose $116,470. His total gain, allegedly from using PEDs to make himself a high first-round pick, is $20.75 million. That’s a pretty good return on investment.

Johnson, who started all 16 games plus a playoff game at right tackle last year, is guaranteed just under $20 million in his contract. His penalty, too, would be $116,470. That is a pretty good deal. It is also a very strong argument for players to use whatever means necessary to get to the highest level of their sport. The penalty just does not offset the possible benefits.

And that’s when there is a penalty. With no HGH testing and with all the other schemes for cheating that are being carried out in labs around the country, there is no way to guess how many PED users are going unpunished in the NFL and every other major sport.

Baseball’s sad history on this matter is all too well known. But the NBA has almost no history of catching cheaters in a sport that is all about size, strength and speed. The NHL may have the weakest record of any of the four major sports. And don’t even bother with golf, NASCAR or other sports that have managed to avoid scrutiny altogether.

The NFL was, perhaps accidentally, ahead of the curve compared to other sports when the public was forming opinions about the PED epidemic. The league was catching and suspending players years before baseball even acknowledged that steroids might provide some advantage to players. For fans, who have other things to think about, the NFL seemed to be at least trying to weed steroid users out of its game. That was good enough.

And it still is, for the most part. And so the system continues to work. Throw a couple of high first-round picks onto the list of cheaters, and everyone can continue going about their business. The system continues to work.

For the league, for the fans and for the players, it works. Actually eradicating PEDs would require a much different approach. This one looks good and sounds good and doesn’t cause too much trouble. It does exactly what it’s designed to do.
David TyreeJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Giants history. In the next two days, we'll feature Lawrence Taylor's sack that broke Joe Theismann's leg in 1985 and the Joe Pisarcik-Herman Edwards "Miracle at the Meadowlands" play from 1978. Please vote for your choice as the Giants' most memorable play.

Score: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Date: Feb. 3, 2008 Site: University of Phoenix Stadium

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Which is the most memorable play in Giants' history?

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What's forgotten about this play is that Giants quarterback Eli Manning was as close to being sacked as a quarterback can possibly be without actually being sacked. The Giants trailed the undefeated New England Patriots 14-10 with a little more than a minute left in Super Bowl XLII. It was third-and-5 on the Giants' 44-yard line, the eighth play of a drive on which the Giants already had converted a fourth down and would later need to convert another third. The play broke down and it appeared as though the Giants would have to pick up a long fourth down to keep their hopes of the upset alive. But Manning slipped out of the grasp of New England defensive end Jarvis Green, stepped forward in the pocket and fired the ball over the middle, where little-used Giants wide receiver David Tyree and Patriots defensive back Rodney Harrison were jumping for it at the same time.

Replays would show that Tyree caught the ball with both hands but that Harrison's hand got there too and knocked Tyree's left hand off the ball. As the two fell to the ground together, Tyree pinned the ball against the forehead of his helmet with his left hand, then managed somehow to get his left hand back on the ball and maintain possession all the way to the ground.

The result was a miraculous 32-yard gain and a first down that kept alive the Giants' chances. Three plays later, Manning found Steve Smith to convert a third-and-11, and on the play after that, he connected with Plaxico Burress for the 13-yard touchdown catch that gave the Giants the 17-14 lead.

The Giants kicked the ball back to New England, but with only 29 seconds left on the clock, Tom Brady couldn't get the ball out of his own end, and the Giants secured the third, and most astounding, Super Bowl title in their history. Tyree's catch was improbable enough to fit the moment. No one thought the Patriots, who carried an 18-0 record into the game and would have been only the second team in NFL history to finish a season undefeated, would lose. Most expected this to be a coronation of the best team in the history of the game. Manning, Tyree and the Giants did everything they possibly could to deny it.

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