Rather than try to write some elegant piece on the greatness of Brian Dawkins, let’s just share some memories. I’ll start with a few of mine.
* Dawk was a good player from 1996-98, but it wasn’t until 1999 that he really looked like a special player. He picked off passes in the first 3 games of the year. New Defensive Coordinator made takeaways a major point of emphasis and Dawk delivered. In the fourth game of the year, Dawk had a pair of FFs. He picked off a pass vs Miami and ran it back 67 yards for a TD. He later recorded 1.5 sacks. It became clear that Dawk wasn’t a typical Safety.
* Dawk has had a ton of big hits. My personal favorite comes from 1999. In a 33-7 loss vs the Carolina Panthers, Dawk hit RB Fred Lane down near the goal line. He hit him like a ton of bricks. Lane was short and thick. This wasn’t a WR out in space. Dawk crushed Lane. Best hit I ever saw Dawk lay on a guy. Check this video at the :35 mark…
* In 2002 Dawk scored a TD vs the Texans on a fake punt. That was a fun play.
* Dawk’s INT in the 4th/26 game was an easy play. He could have fair caught that ball from Favre, but it was great when you saw the ball coming down to him. You knew Dawk would make the pick. That led to the winning FG in overtime.
* Dawk had an INT and some big hits in the NFC title game of 2004. What a magical day that was.
* The Eagles were 5-6 in 2006. McNabb was hurt. Garcia took over and the Eagles won the last 5 games. In that stretch, Dawk had 3 INTs, 2 FFs, a sack, and he broke up 6 passes. Clutch.
* 2008 had a couple of signature moments. In Week 3 vs the Steelers, Dawk had a strip sack of Big Ben late in the game that sealed the 15-6 win. That was an awesome defensive struggle. The season finale was probably something that our buddy BountyBowl would describe as football porn. The Eagles faced the Dallas Cowboys with a Wildcard berth on the line. The defense was dominant in the 1st half, holding Dallas to 80 yards and 3 points. The offense built a 27-3 lead. That’s when the fun started.
Dallas drove down the field to start the 3rd quarter. Dawk forced a fumble that Chris Clemons ran back 73 yards for a TD. Dallas drove back down the field and it was deja vu all over again. Dawk forced another fumble. Joselio “MmmBop” Hanson ran it back 96 yards for a TD. That made the score 41-3 and it was party time.
Here are my notes on Dawk from that game:
Dallas did run into a buzz saw. That saw was wearing #20 and named Brian Dawkins. His energy and emotion were clearly infectious. Dawk spent the whole afternoon celebrating and getting fired up. The more emotional he got, the wilder the crowd got. The wilder they got, the more emotional he got. Gotta love a scene like that.
He made plays as well. Emotion means nothing if not backed up on the field. His 2 FFs were huge. Both were run back for scores. You could see the other players reacting to Dawk. It felt as if they couldn’t lose for his sake as much as their own.
DAWK – Great game. Had 5 tackles, a sack, and 2 FFs. Both fumbles came in the RZ and both were run back for TDs. Dawkins played every snap like his life depended on it. His numbers don’t tell the whole story. He hit every Cowboys player he could. Tashard Choice had a short run up the middle. Dawk flung himself at Choice even though he could clearly see the runner was going down. Dawkins wanted to get a shot in every chance he could. He wanted to send a message to Dallas players: go home. Dawkins wasn’t getting in late hits or cheap shots. Nothing even close. He was just finding someone to hit on every possible snap. Made a physical tackle of Bennett after a short catch. First FF came on a delay blitz. He saw the blockers and weaved through them to get to Romo and knock the ball out. Huge play. That basically ended the game. Came over to tackle Barber after a short catch in the left flat. Dawk knocked the ball out as he was taking Marion out of bounds. The ball just laid on the 4-yd line. Hanson got it and went to town.
* Here are my game notes from the last win Dawk had as an Eagle, when we beat the Giants in the playoffs:
DAWK – Had 10 tackles. Played like a madman early in the game. Was running around and diving into every Giant possible. A couple of the hits were close to being late, but Dawk didn’t draw any flags. He did piss off Derrick Ward with one hit. Blitzed on opening 3rd down and forced a quick throw. Made a good tackle of Jacobs on the opening drive when he was forced to cutback to the middle of the field. Stopped the big guy for only 2 yards. Got a solid shot on Steve Smith after a catch on 3rd down moved the chains. Dawk was okay in coverage. He was a little slow in getting to the sideline a couple of throws, but both were incomplete. He was a step slow in getting to Smith on a deep ball, but the pass was a foot or two too far. Missed a tackle of BJ in the open field. Made the tackle on Ward’s 3rd down draw play that set up 4th/inches. Didn’t make a clean tackle, but hit him with enough force to stop him short. Made a good tackle of Ward after he tried to cutback on a run up the middle. Flew up on a run play and popped Jacobs to get him down after only a yard gain.
* I don’t know if you guys saw this story, but it is very touching. Dawk and Gary Papa after the Giants game.
* My final note on Dawk…seeing him get up in the spring at his ceremony at the NovaCare and try to talk about Jim Johnson is something I’ll never forget. JJ was special to Dawk, and vice-versa. They had a great relationship and really helped make each other into big names. Without JJ, Dawk is just a good FS. Without Dawk, JJ’s schemes would not have been nearly as successful. You could really see all of this as Dawk broke down. He was talking about a man he loved, not just a coach. Great, touching moment.