Tony Romo

Brian Dawkins' top 10 plays before his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction

Brian Dawkins' top 10 plays before his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction

The hardest thing about making a list of Brian Dawkins’ greatest plays is narrowing it down.

There are just so many of them.

Acrobatic interceptions. Massive hits. Huge sacks.

For 13 years, Dawkins played safety at an elite level for the Eagles. On Saturday night in Canton, Ohio, he’ll take his rightful spot alongside the greats in the history of the game when he’s enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Here are 10 unforgettable plays that helped get him there.

10. Welcome to the league, Cliff Russell

The Eagles finished the 2003 regular season with a 31-7 win over the Redskins, and late in the game, Tim Hasselbeck completed a short pass to a young wide receiver named Cliff Russell, who was playing in his third NFL game. Russell caught the ball in space and tried to juke Dawkins, but Dawk met him, stuffed him and then lifted him up and body slammed him to the ground. Russell only caught five passes in his career but is part of every Brian Dawkins highlight reel.

9. Picking off Romo

The Eagles led the Cowboys, 16-7, early in the fourth quarter of their 2006 game at Texas Stadium when Tony Romo, on a 2nd-and-3, spotted Terrell Owens near the back of the end zone. But Dawkins leaped high in the air, reached up, snagged the ball and tumbled to the ground just in bounds. It was one of the most athletic interceptions of Dawk’s career, and the Eagles went on to win, 23-7, with Jeff Garcia outplaying Romo.

8. Doing it all

It was his only career catch and it came on a fake punt against the Texans. The Eagles led 20-7 in the third quarter and faced a 4th-and-7 at their own 43-yard line. They lined up in punt formation, but instead of snapping the football to Sean Landeta, Mike Bartrum snapped to Brian Mitchell, who shoveled the ball to Dawkins. He took off through the confused Texans for a 57-yard touchdown. Dawkins that day became the only player in NFL history with an interception, sack, reception and touchdown in the same game. It was the Eagles’ second-longest pass play of the season.

7. Going airborne

In the third quarter of the Eagles’ playoff win over the Vikings in Minneapolis in 2008, the Eagles were clinging to a 16-14 lead with the Vikings driving inside Eagles' territory. On a crucial 3rd-and-6, Dawk sped past Matt Birk — a six-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman — and as Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson prepared to throw, Dawkins flew through the air and smacked his right arm, freeing the football for a strip-sack. The Vikings recovered the fumble but were forced to punt, and they never scored again. The Eagles won, 26-14.

6. Embarrassing the Cowboys

One of the highlights of that wild 44-6 win over the Cowboys on the final day of the 2008 season — that along with three other fortuitous results improbably propelled the Eagles into the playoffs — was Dawk’s savage hit on Marion Barber in the third quarter. The Eagles already led, 34-3, but the Cowboys were on the Eagles’ 12-yard line when Romo hit Barber on a short pass inside the 5-yard line. Dawkins jarred the ball loose from Barber, and Joselio Hanson recovered and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. It remains the second-longest fumble return in Eagles history and the longest ever against the Cowboys. Dawk also forced a Tony Romo fumble in that game that Chris Clemons returned 73 yards for a TD.

5. Getting the best of L.T.

One of the most underrated plays of Dawkins’ career came late in the 2001 season when the Eagles faced the Chargers at the Vet. With the game tied at 7 late in the first quarter, the Chargers had a key 3rd-and-1 inside the Eagles’ 40-yard line, and QB Doug Flutie handed off to Hall of Fame tailback LaDainian Tomlinson. But Dawk was there to stuff L.T., knock the ball out of his hands, scoop it up and return it 49 yards for the only fumble recovery return touchdown of his career. Dawk actually out-ran L.T. all the way to the end zone. It was the only fumble of L.T.’s brilliant career that was returned for a touchdown.

4. Blasting Michael Vick

Technically, the play never happened. Don’t tell Michael Vick. Late in the third quarter of the Eagles-Falcons 2002 playoff game at the Vet, the Falcons had a 2nd-and-10 on the Eagles’ 20-yard line, trailing, 13-6. Vick, who joined the Eagles seven years later, took off like a rocket up the middle and was nearing the end zone when Dawkins launched himself violently into Vick’s midsection. Vick actually tumbled down into the end zone, where both Vick and Dawkins lay motionless for a couple minutes. Vick was even briefly replaced by Doug Johnson. As it turned out, a holding penalty on Falcons left guard Travis Claridge nullified the touchdown, and the Falcons wound up not scoring on that drive. Dawkins later intercepted Vick, and the Eagles had a 20-6 win.

3. Stripping Big Ben

The Eagles led the Steelers, 12-6, with 3½ minutes left in their 2008 Week 3 matchup at the Linc, and the Steelers had a 3rd-and-15 inside their own 25-yard line. Ben Roethlisberger dropped back and was getting ready to unload the football when a blitzing Dawkins literally flew through the air past right guard Kendall Simmons and batted the ball out of Big Ben’s right hand. Dawk immediately turned and recovered the ball, and an Akers field goal four plays later gave the Eagles a two-possession lead with 2½ minutes to go on their way to a 15-6 win over a 12-win Steelers team.

2. Picking off Favre

In the Eagles-Packers 2003 playoff game at the Linc, the legendary 4th-and-26 conversion and a David Akers field goal sent the game into overtime, where the Packers got the ball after an Eagles three-and-out. Dawk picked off Favre at the Eagles’ 31-yard line on the Packers’ only snap of overtime, then returned it 35 yards to the Packers’ 34 — the second-longest overtime interception return in NFL postseason history. Four plays later, Akers hit the game-winner, and the Eagles were off to the NFC Championship Game.

1. Crumpler crumpled

Just say the name Alge Crumpler and Eagles fans know exactly what you’re talking about. Brian Dawkins’ bone-crunching hit on Crumpler changed the course of the 2004 NFC Championship Game at the Linc between the Eagles and Falcons and is really Dawkins’ signature play from his 16-year Hall of Fame career. Crumpler actually hung on for a 31-yard gain after getting walloped by Dawkins, and Warrick Dunn scored from 10 yards out for Atlanta on the next play. But the tone of the game had been set. "They did score there," Dawk said. "But it didn't matter. We had made a statement. I had delivered a message." Dawkins hit Crumpler so hard, he sent the 260-pound five-time Pro Bowler flying through the air and into a motionless pile on the ground. Dawkins would probably be suspended for a month if he made that hit today. "I knew it would be a big hit," Dawkins said. "I could see it coming because he never saw it coming.” The Falcons never scored again and gained only 69 yards on their next six possessions, and the Eagles won, 27-10, to advance to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville. "To hit somebody, really hit somebody, there has to be something that's not right inside you. Because you're doing something a normal person would not do.”

Here’s my complete chapter on the Dawk hit on Crumpler from The 50 Greatest Plays in Eagles History.

More on Brian Dawkins

Rob's Rants: Sixers' issues, weak Week 7, Romo a future coach?

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Rob's Rants: Sixers' issues, weak Week 7, Romo a future coach?

Fresh off a weekend that saw the Sixers drop two ugly games and an NFL Week 7 card that stunk to the high heavens, we are locked and loaded with plenty of ammunition and a prediction mixed in for the latest Rob's Rants. 

Sixers' start
I'm not in panic mode like some Sixers fans after their 0-3 start. They've played three teams that finished seeded 1, 4 and 3 respectively last season in the Eastern Conference in the Wizards, Celtics, and Raptors. Two of those games were on the road.

They have a difficult early schedule and won 28 games last season. However, there are some troubling early trends. Let's start with Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. There's great debate among some regarding Fultz's ugly looking shot. Ugly may be too kind. There are those who believe a shoulder injury is the cause of his changing his form. And there are others who fall in the camp that it's in his head, nothing physical.

Count me in the latter corner. As overly cautious as this organization has been since the Process started, there is no way they would put him out there if this was anything remotely serious. My guess — and it's just that — is that either Fultz or someone in his camp decided to tinker with his form for whatever reason. Why? I have no idea. Things were going pretty well for him. First overall pick, averaged 23.2 points per game in his lone year in college. He shot 47.6 from the floor and 41.3 from three-point range. His shot wasn't broken. His range, vision and handle are what made him the ideal fit in the Sixers' minds to play here alongside Ben Simmons. And they gave up a lot of to move up two spots to get him.

Fultz needs to go back watch his college highlight reel and forget about what's taken place since summer league action. The fact that he and Simmons refuse to shoot anything 12 feet or beyond in an NBA game is a massive issue.

The flip side of the duo's reticence to pose an outside threat is Joel Embiid's allergic reaction to going inside. He shot the ball pretty well last season from three (36.7 percent). We've seen the soft touch and the range, especially for a 7-foot-2 behemoth, and it's a nice complement to his game. But he's fallen way too in love with the jumper in general. He's 0 for 10 from three and shooting just 35 percent overall. That should never happen. Embiid blamed his teammates for not getting him the ball in the post after the Celtics loss. Sorry, big fella, it's not on them, it's on you to get to the block to get fed. Take advantage of that incredible combo of size and agility. Shooting threes and ill-advised drives where you turn the ball over need to stop. This one may be easier to correct than Fultz.

Two other bones to pick. The Sixers have been outrebounded in all three games, including the two Embiid played. That's want, that's effort. Whether we like it or not, Embiid is going to miss games — be it back-to-backs, coach's decision or whatever. The team can't just lay down like it did Saturday in Toronto. A 36-point defeat is unacceptable and embarrassing now that they have an actual NBA lineup, unlike years past. It's not panic time, but it is time to see more from this team.

Weak 7
I love the NFL, it's my favorite sport. Even when the Eagles don't play like the last two weekends, I still thoroughly enjoy the Sunday action. But there is no way to polish this turd of a Week 7. The large majority of the games stunk, flat out. In 10 of the 14 games, the average margin of victory was 18.7 points. Three teams were shut out and three more scored seven or fewer points. You had matchups such as Jaguars-Colts, Chargers-Broncos, Bears-Panthers, Rams-Cardinals, Cowboys-49ers. You get the picture. Even Sunday night's matchup between last year's Super Bowl combatants, the Falcons and Patriots, turned into a dud. I get that because of injuries and underachieving, they can't all be instant classics. But this was bad. Even the NFL Redzone couldn't quell the stink coming off this dreck. The troubling thing is it wasn't just this past weekend, there's far more bad than good out there. People can blame player protests or cord-cutting for the ratings being down but maybe it's as simple as the product is not as good.

Coach Romo
As much as it pains me to say, Tony Romo is a good announcer. He is insightful, on top of the game and has juice. Does he over-talk at times? Yes. There's an art as both a play-by-play and color analyst to letting things breathe sometimes and Romo needs to learn this. This is only his first year. With time, he'll grasp this concept if he chooses to continue down this road. But the more I listen, the more I think his future is not in the booth but back on the field. Not as a player, but as a coach. His ability to predict and read defenses and his feel for situational football lend me to think coaching will be in his near future. He is beloved by Jerry Jones, and if the Cowboys fall short of the postseason this year or next, it would not surprise me a bit if Jones convinced him to take over the Cowboys. Jones has the deepest of pockets, so money will not be an issue.

NFL Notes: Texas Legislature fetes former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo

NFL Notes: Texas Legislature fetes former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Legislature is honoring retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, praising his character and humble roots almost as much as his football accomplishments.

Romo appeared Wednesday before the Texas House, which halted work so lawmakers could take photos with him. Romo was also appearing before the state Senate.

State Rep. Richard Raymond, a Laredo Democrat, wore a Romo jersey and state Rep. Jeff Leach, a Plano Republican, donned a Cowboys helmet.

Romo recently retired to become a CBS game analyst, and Raymond says he thinks Romo will be better TV commentator than any ex-player -- even fellow ex-Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman.

Romo was born in California, grew up in Wisconsin and played college football in Illinois. He played for the Cowboys from 2003 to 2016.

Court rejects ex-NFL star Sharper's rape sentence appeal
NEW ORLEANS -- A federal appeals court has dismissed former NFL star Darren Sharper's appeal of his sentence for drugging and raping women.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' two-sentence order Wednesday came almost a month after prosecutors filed their brief. The court granted a prosecution motion to dismiss.

Sharper's lawyers contended that U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo did not adequately explain the consequences of Sharper's guilty plea.

Sharper had pleaded guilty or no contest to criminal charges in state courts in Arizona, California, Nevada and Louisiana, and in federal court in New Orleans.

A nine-year sentence was expected. But Milazzo said that was too light. She gave Sharper a chance to withdraw his guilty plea, then sentenced him to 18 years and four months in prison.

SUV in Aaron Hernandez trial pulled from auction website
BOSTON -- The SUV prosecutors say Aaron Hernandez was in when the ex-NFL star killed two men is no longer up for auction.

Westford Auto Sales owner Buddy Clair tells The Boston Globe that eBay pulled the ad on Tuesday night. Clair was handling the sale of the Toyota 4-Runner on behalf of the owner, a car dealer who leased the vehicle to Hernandez as part of a promotional agreement.

An eBay spokeswoman tells WPRI-TV the listing violated the company's offensive materials policy.

Prosecutors had alleged Hernandez was in the SUV's passenger seat in 2012 when he shot at the men's car after an encounter at a Boston nightclub. He was acquitted April 14.

Hernandez was serving a life sentence in the killing of a man in 2013. The former New England Patriots tight end killed himself in his cell days after the acquittal.