NY Giants 10, Philadelphia 7 (OT)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Matt Bryant's 39-yard field goal 5:10 into overtime Saturday gave the mistake-prone New York Giants a berth in the chase for the Super Bowl with a 10-7 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

New York's Tiki Barber fumbled the ball away three times and almost ruined his own career day, but the Giants earned a reprieve when Philadelphia's David Akers missed a potential game-winning field goal in the final moments of regulation.


The win was the fourth straight for the Giants (10-6), who sealed their third playoff berth in six years under Coach Jim Fassel.

The loss may have cost the Eagles (12-4) a chance at homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Green Bay Packers (12-3) will earn the homefield edge if they beat the New York Jets on Sunday.


Barber rushed for a career-high 203 yards, but his third fumble of the day almost cost the the Giants (10-6) the game. That fumble was was recovered by Eagles rookie safety Michael Lewis at the New York 26 with 4:34 left in the fourth quarter.

But the normally reliable Akers, who had converted 30 of 33 field goal attempts this season, missed a 35-yarder wide right with 1:12 left.

"The gamut of emotions I ran through today were unbelievable," said Barber, who played the role of workhorse with 32 carries and eight catches for 73 yards. "As well as I ran the ball today, it is the fumbles that will stick with me. They're known for hitting hard and stripping the ball and they got me today."

"Two words - I missed," Akers said in his brief address to the media.

"He's (Akers) reached that point now where he's been so consistent over the past few years that to see him miss anytime is shocking," said Koy Detmer, Akers' holder.

Even Barber was expecting Akers to give Philadelphia (12-4) the lead.

"I was thinking after my fumble they're going to kick a field goal and then we're going to go back out there and win it," Barber said. "David Akers missing that field goal was our luck."


Philadelphia won the coin flip in overtime and Brian Mitchell returned the kickoff 32 yards to the Eagles' 45. But three plays later, safety Shaun Williams intercepted Jay Feeley's deflected pass over the middle at the New York 37.

The officials missed an obvious face mask penalty against the Giants on Williams' interception, one of a number of questionable calls and non-calls that marred the game.

It was Philadelphia's first turnover of the game after the Giants had committed four.

"I'd like to see the replay on that one," Feeley said of the pass intended for Chad. "That is the toughest one to swallow. I threw it there knowing that Chad was being held. That is why I went there in the first place."

After getting the turnover, Giants Coach Jim Fassel called Barber's number four straight times and the star back justified his coach's faith by gaining 28 yards. A 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on cornerback Troy Vincent also helped as the Giants drove to the Philadelphia 20.

Vincent was penalized for pushing rookie receiver Daryl Jones out of bounds after a seven-yard run by Barber.

"Everyone was asking me if (Ron) Dayne should go in and I said `Nope, he's (Barber) the guy who got us here, he's the guy who's going to stay in and win it with us," Fassel said. "He came up to me after the game and put his arms around me and said, `Coach, thanks for sticking with me.'


"I told him that it wasn't a hard call for me. I love the young man. He's won a lot of games for me."

The Giants fumbled again when quarterback Kerry Collins lost control of the ball handing off to Barber, who recovered at the Philadelphia 23. Two plays later, Bryant hit the winning kick. He missed a 36-yard field goal in the third quarter.

"After the first one, I just told myself to wipe the slate clean, start over and here we go," Bryant said. "That's what I had to do, just trust in myself."

Philadelphia would still gain the homefield edge throughout the playoffs if Green Bay loses to the New York Jets Sunday. No matter the outcome of that game, the Eagles will have a week off and will host at least one playoff game.

"The guys will get some time off here and they understand that the playoffs are a new season now," Eagles Coach Andy Reid said. "We fought hard here today, but we just have to put it out of our mind and move on."

It is expected that the Eagles will have star quarterback Donovan McNabb available for their first playoff game. McNabb missed the last six games with a broken ankle and Philadelphia was without him before Saturday.


The Giants certainly were delighted not to have to contend with McNabb, who rushed for more than 100 yards in their first meeting of the season. Feeley is a pocket quarterback, making it easier for New York to concentrate on 1,000-yard rusher Duce Staley, who managed just 28 yards on 17 carries.

Staley had 126 yards in the first meeting.

"We knew they were going to come out and dink and dunk the ball," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. "Run the ball with Duce, throw it five yards, throw it three yards. So they didn't do anything we didn't expect. We played the game that we needed to play."

New York held the Eagles to nine first downs and more than doubled them in total yards, 461-209. But the Giants committed more turnovers than they had in their previous three games and had two apparent touchdowns called back due to questionable holding penalties.

"Usually, when you lose the turnover battle, you lose the game, but we battled our way through it," Fassel said. "I'm not happy with the turnovers, but I'm happy that we kept on fighting. This team has a lot of fight, and I'm extremely proud of them."


Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey had another big game for the Giants, catching 10 passes for 98 yards, including a leaping seven-yard touchdown grab over Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins with 8:08 left in the fourth quarter.

"Everybody counted us out at 6-6, but here we are in the playoffs," said Shockey, who finished with 74 catches to break Mark Bavaro's single-season club record for tight ends.

Collins completed 25 of 35 passes for 256 yards and eclipsed Phil Simms' single-season team mark for passing yards with 4,073.

"We realize we were fortunate today with our turnovers and penalties, but here we are and we have another game next week," Collins said.

Feeley, who was 4-0 as a starter, went 13 of 25 for 150 yards. Two of those completions for 55 yards came on Philadelphia's first possession. He hit tight end Jeff Thomason with a 20-yard pass over the middle and connected with Staley for 35 yards.

On the next play, James Thrash scored a 20-yard touchdown off a double reverse from fellow receiver Mitchell, giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead just 2:14 into the game.


The Giants responded as Collins hit Shockey with a 22-yard pass and Barber gained 22 yards on a sweep around right end to the Philadelphia eight. But two plays later, Collins tried to hit Shockey, who was double-covered in the end zone, and Michael Lewis picked off the pass for the first of New York's four turnovers.

The Giants squandered their next scoring threat in the second quarter. Collins connected with Shockey on a 24-yard pass to the Philadelphia six. He hit fullback Charles Stackhouse with an apparent six-yard touchdown pass, but it was nullified by a holding penalty against right tackle Mike Rosenthal.

Two plays later, Barber had the ball stripped by linebacker Levon Kirkland and defensive end Brandon Whiting recovered at the Philadelphia four with 3:34 left in the half.

On New York's first possession of the third quarter, Barber fumbled again after an eight-yard run and Kirkland recovered at midfield.

But Barber atoned by rushing four times for 62 yards, including a 39-yard scamper, on New York's next possession, a drive that stalled at the Philadelphia 18. Bryant sent a 36-yard field goal attempt wide right with 3:42 left in the third quarter.

The Giants finally ended their frustration with a 13-play, 80-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes and resulted in Shockey's touchdown catch. During the drive, Collins connected with Amani Toomer for an apparent 43-yard touchdown, but it was nullified by a holding penalty on guard Rich Seubert.


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