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Eagles make sure Giants can't defend NFC title

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Nobody is booing Donovan McNabb now.

McNabb threw three touchdown passes, David Akers kicked a
35-yard field goal with 7 seconds left, and the Philadelphia Eagles
clinched their first NFC East title since 1988 with a 24-21 victory
over the New York Giants on Sunday.

"For all those people who talked bad about us, we are the NFC
East champions no matter how you look at it," said McNabb, who was
jeered by Eagles fans when he was drafted No. 2 overall in 1999,
and has been criticized throughout the season.

The Giants were eliminated from playoff contention a year after
reaching the Super Bowl, but not before they nearly won a third
straight game in the final minute.

After Akers' kick, New York had time for one play from its 20,
and Kerry Collins threw a 14-yard pass to Tiki Barber, who
lateraled the ball to wideout Ron Dixon. With blockers leading him
down the left sideline, Dixon made it all the way to the Eagles 6,
before Damon Moore made the game-saving tackle.

What do the Giants need to do in the offseason to get back to being a playoff team?
The Giants need to improve in several areas.

On offense, they need to get younger at left guard and left tackle. They need a tight end. Quarterback Kerry Collins needs to have a better year in terms of his decision-making. Ron Dayne needs to be more consistent running the ball.

On defense, the Giants' young cornerbacks need to mature in a hurry; you saw against the Eagles how they can be exposed. They have ability but need to improve and gain experience.

ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.


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"I really thought I was going to get in," Dixon said.

The Eagles (10-5) trailed 21-14, but scored 10 points in the
last 2 minutes, including McNabb's 7-yard touchdown pass to Chad
Lewis to tie the score.

Philadelphia will play Tampa Bay at Veterans Stadium in the
first round of the playoffs for the second straight season. The
teams also play next week to complete the regular season.

It's the third time New York (7-8) has failed to reach the
playoffs the year after going to the Super Bowl.

"Coming off a successful season it's hard to repeat again, but
to not make the playoffs is disappointing," Giants coach Jim
Fassel said.

Giants defensive end Michael Strahan had 3 1/2 sacks in the first
half, breaking Lawrence Taylor's team record for sacks in a season.
Strahan has 21 1/2 sacks -- a half-sack from Mark Gastineau's NFL mark.

Ron Dayne's 16-yard TD run with 2:43 left gave the Giants a
19-14 lead. Barber ran in for the 2-point conversion to make it
21-14.

But McNabb drove the Eagles 67 yards in 54 seconds, capped by
his touchdown toss to Lewis with 1:49 left.

After the Giants went three-and-out, Philadelphia got the ball
at its own 29 with 58 seconds left.

McNabb completed a 25-yard pass to James Thrash, hit Todd
Pinkston for 9 yards, and ran 11 yards to set up Akers' 35-yarder.
Strahan helped the Eagles by holding McNabb down after the run,
resulting in a delay-of-game penalty that stopped the clock and
gave Philadelphia 5 yards.

McNabb finished 21-of-39 for 270 yards passing.

"Donovan stepped up and did a great job in as much pressure as
you can have," Eagles coach Andy Reid said.

The Eagles had lost nine straight to New York before a 10-9
comeback victory Oct. 22.

On Sunday, McNabb connected with Thrash on a 57-yard TD pass 49
seconds into the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a 14-10 lead.

Thrash beat rookie cornerback Will Allen on a deep route down
the right sideline, stretched his arms for a fingertip catch and
high-stepped into the end zone.

"It was a perfect pass," Thrash said.

Morten Andersen's 25-yard field goal with 2:38 left in the third
gave the Giants their first lead -- 10-7. Andersen hit a 32-yarder
to cut it to 14-13 with 8:44 left.

The teams didn't wait until the game started to get at each
other. During warmups, a scuffle broke out between some Giants and
Eagles special teams players, including returner Brian Mitchell and
wide receiver Dameane Douglas.

"It was just guys jawing at each other," Akers said.

After the Giants went three-and-out on the opening possession,
the Eagles drove 72 yards on nine plays, capped by McNabb's 5-yard
TD pass to Lewis. McNabb was 6-of-7 for 68 yards as the Eagles
scored a TD on their first possession for just the second time this
season.

New York tied it 7-7 on a 60-yard TD pass from Collins to Amani
Toomer on its first play of the third quarter. Collins lateraled to
Barber, who tossed the ball back to Collins. Toomer got wide open
across the field, caught the ball at the 20 and easily ran in.

When the Giants tried that flea flicker in practice on
Wednesday, Barber and Collins botched it. It turned out to be their
longest play of the season.

Game notes
After the game, Fassel presented New York Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani with a U.S. flag carried by troops in Afghanistan. ...
Eagles DT Hollis Thomas didn't play after breaking his foot in
pregame warmups. ... Thrash's touchdown was his first in six games.
... Collins was 22-of-39 for 301 yards, one TD and no
interceptions.

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