Philadelphia 24, NY Giants 21

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Donovan McNabb staged two scoring drives in the final minutes Sunday, the second one resulting in a 35-yard field goal by David Akers with seven seconds left that gave the Philadelphia Eagles the NFC East championship with a 24-21 victory over the New York Giants.

The Eagles had to sweat out the ensuing kickoff, however, as the Giants nearly scored on a lateral from Tiki Barber to Ron Dixon -- who raced 57 yards before he was knocked out of bounds by safety Damon Moore at the Philadelphia six as time expired.


The win not only clinched the first division crown for Philadelphia (10-5) since 1988, but also enabled the Eagles to eliminate their NFC East rivals.

"For us to come out against an NFC East rival and play the way we did is something special," McNabb said. "It (NFC East champs) sounds good to us."


"It's as good as it gets, playing our biggest rival, a team that has beat us soundly over the last few years," said Eagles tight end Chad Lewis, who had two touchdown catches.

Going into this season, the Giants (7-8) had won nine straight games against the Eagles. But Philadelphia swept the season series this year, beating the Giants in October by a point when McNabb hit James Thrash with an 18-yard touchdown with 1:52 left.

Thrash again was a prominent player in the rematch, catching seven passes for 143 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown, a 32-yard reception on Philadelphia's tying drive and a 25-yard catch on the winning drive. He victimized Giants rookie cornerback Will allen on his three pivotal receptions.

"He was banged up this week with a high ankle sprain and did not practice a lot, but he sucked it up and came out and played a heck of a game," Eagles Coach Andy Reid said.

After Ron Dayne scored on a 16-yard run to give the Giants a 21-14 lead with 2:43 left, McNabb directed a six-play, 67-yard drive in just 54 seconds.

Following the 32-yard pass to Thrash to the New York seven, McNabb threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chad Lewis, tying the game at 21-21 with 1:49 remaining. It was the second touchdown of the game for Lewis, who had seven receptions for 74 yards.


"I'm glad that they threw me the ball," Lewis said. "It's something that we talked about all week, that Donovan was going to go to me."

Philadelphia's defense, which has yielded the fewest points in the NFL, then came through with a three-and-out, giving the ball back to McNabb with 58 seconds left.

Taking over at its own 29, Philadelphia again got a big play from Thrash, who caught a 25-yard pass to the New York 46.

McNabb threw a nine-yard pass to Todd Pinkston and ran for four yards to the New York 33. Giants defensive end Michael Strahan was called for delay of game as he prevented McNabb from getting off the ground after the four-yard run and was penalized five yards.

"That's ridiculous," Strahan said of the penalty. "The referee said I was holding him (McNabb) down. If you're going to call that, you've got to call everything."

With the ball at the New York 28 and 21 seconds left, McNabb raced up the middle for 11 yards to the 17, setting up Akers' winning kick.

"They pretty much had the middle open," McNabb said of his scramble. "They were coming with an all-out blitz and I had a good spot to get down, pick up the first down, keep the clock moving and set us up for the field goal."


Earlier, Akers was short on a 43-yard attempt in the first half, snapping his streak of 17 consecutive field goals.

"I didn't miss the first one. It went straight and it just dropped short," Akers said. "I can't help that the wind knocks it down. Going the other way (with the wind), I had a good sense (on the winning kick). Just make good contact with the ball, especially from 35 yards. Just make sure it went straight."

McNabb completed 21 of 39 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. He has passed for 3,233 yards, making him the first Eagles quarterback to have back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons since Randall Cunningham (1988-90).

"He stepped up and did a heck of a job under as much pressure as you are going to have," Reid said. "He hung right in there and took control of the huddle, with his throws and when to run it and when to dump it off and take his shots down the field."

Despite his mistake for delay of game, Strahan again shined for the Giants, registering 3 1/2 sacks to increase his season total to 21 1/2 and eclipsing the club record of 20 1/2 by Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.


"I never thought of it," Strahan said of the team record. L.T.'s the best Giant ever. I appreciate everything he's ever taught me."

Strahan has one game left to surpass Mark Gastineau's NFL record of 22 sacks for the New York Jets in 1984.

Strahan has especially flourished against Jon Runyan, victimizing the Eagles right tackle for 7 1/2 sacks in his last three games against Philadelphia.

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