It was the low point in one player’s brilliant career and the high point in another player’s non-descript career.
Opening day 2004, and the Eagles were in the closing stages of a 31-17 win over the Giants at the Linc.
In his first game with the Eagles, Terrell Owens had caught three touchdown passes from Donovan McNabb, and with the Eagles up 31-10 in the fourth quarter, the Giants removed starting quarterback Kurt Warner from the game and inserted rookie Eli Manning for his NFL debut.
With 21 seconds left, the Giants had a 3rd-and-12 on the Eagles’ 19-yard line. Manning dropped back and was standing at about the 20-yard-line looking for a receiver when he started drifting to his right.
Manning looked left and drifting right and didn’t see that Eagles defensive end Jerome McDougle was bearing down on him from the right at full speed.
McDougle put his helmet down, and drove himself into Manning’s midsection before Manning even saw McDougle.
As Manning’s head snapped viciously to the left, he was hit again by linebacker Keith Adams and then slammed to the turf by defensive tackle Darwin Walker as the ball popped free.
It was a while before he moved.
“I thought he was dead,” his dad, Archie Manning, told reporters after the game.
The careers of McDougle and Manning headed in somewhat different directions after that play.
McDougle, the 15th pick in the 2003 draft, recorded only two more sacks the rest of his career. On one of them, against the Buccaneers in 2006, he was called for 30 yards of penalties on the same play as the sack.
All Manning’s done since then is win two Super Bowls. On Sunday night at the Linc, he’ll make his 19th career start against the Eagles.
But he’ll never forget that hit from McDougle, who actually finished his career with a brief stint with the Giants in 2008, where he and Manning exchanged pleasantries about the hit.
“Yeah, that was definitely the hardest hit I've taken in my career,” Manning said Wednesday in a conference call with Philly writers.
“My coaches and even my brother said, ‘At least you know you can take any hit in the NFL. That won't be a problem. You won't have to be nervous about that.’
“I got that one out of the way in my first NFL game, kind of my welcome to the NFL, I guess. Fortunately, that's been the biggest one that I've taken in my career.”