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Giants overcome mistakes to sink Eagles

12/29/2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- After spending four quarters trying
to give away a wild-card berth, the New York Giants got one anyway
-- courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Matt Bryant kicked a 39-yard field goal 5:10 into overtime, and
the Giants capped a late-season run to the postseason by beating
the Eagles 10-7 Saturday.

"This was a reflection of our whole season,'' said Giants
safety Shaun Williams, whose interception set up the game-winning
kick. "A lot of bad things happened but we just kept fighting.''

The Giants (10-6) overcame four turnovers, including three lost
fumbles by Tiki Barber, and a missed field goal in winning their
fourth straight. Barber ran for a career-high 203 yards in helping
the Giants return to the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Coach Jim Fassel's team also was very lucky on a day it also
lost two touchdowns because of holding penalties.

Eagles Pro Bowl kicker David Akers missed a potential
game-winning 35-yard field goal attempt with 1:16 left in the
fourth quarter, a try set up by Barber's third fumble.

It not only cost Philadelphia (12-4) the game, it may end up
costing the NFC East champions home-field advantage for the
playoffs.

"We can take this game and get rid of it and look to the
playoffs,'' said Eagles linebacker Levon Kirkland. "I think you
need to take care of your own business. Wherever the NFC title game
is, we'll go down there and take care of business.''

Philadelphia, which got a 20-yard TD run by receiver James Thrash on a double reserve on their first series, still can clinch
home field if the New York Jets beat the Green Bay Packers on
Sunday on the same Meadowlands field. It should not have come down
to that.

"I have one word for you,'' said a testy Akers, who was already
dressed when the media got to the locker room. "I missed. That's
all I have to say to you.''

When asked to explain what caused only his fourth miss of the
season, Akers asked reporters whether they spoke English.

"I told you I missed,'' he added, later adding, "Have a
merry!''

There was much more merriment in the Giants locker room after
they tied the game on a 7-yard fourth-quarter TD catch by Jeremy Shockey and then won in overtime.

This was a team written off a month ago after consecutive losses
to Houston and Tennessee.

But the Giants responded with wins over Washington, Dallas,
Indianapolis and now Philadelphia, the last one ending the Eagles'
six-game winning streak.

"Everyone was down on us when we were 6-6 and for our team to
believe the way we do in each other just shows we're going to be a
tough team to beat in the playoffs,'' receiver Amani Toomer said.

Turnover aside, the Giants may have played their best game of
the season in beating the Eagles.

New York outgained Philadelphia 461 yards to 209 and held the
ball for 39:06.

Barber carried 32 times in setting a career high for rushing
yards. Collins completed 25 of 35 passes for 256 yards against a
defense that came in ranked second overall. Shockey finished with
10 catches for 98 yards, and he provided the emotional lift the
Giants have lacked for years.

Shockey tied the game at 7 midway through the fourth quarter
when he outleaped Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins on a 7-yard fade
pattern.

The Eagles won the toss in overtime and took the ball.

On the third play, A.J. Feeley's pass was tipped and intercepted
by Williams at the Giants 37 with 13:43 left.

New York took over and Barber ran around right end for 7 yards.
At the end of the play there was a late hit by Troy Vincent, and
the 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the Eagles 41.

Barber had a 10-yard run, then another heart-stopping fumble at
the Philadelphia 23, but he recovered it himself.

Two plays later, Bryant, who had bounced a PAT off the right
upright after the Shockey TD, kicked the game-winner, sending the
sellout crowd into a frenzy.

"I told myself just relax, trust yourself,'' Bryant said. "I
caught a big chunk of turf and I hit it good.''

Still without Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia did little on offense
after Thrash scored on the first drive. Feeley was 13 of 25 for 150
yards and that one big interception, on a play in which the
officials seemed to miss a holding penalty against Giants
linebacker Brandon Short.

The Eagles had 65 yards rushing, compared with the 295 yards
they gained in a 17-3 win over the Giants in late October.

Shockey almost single-handedly tied the game with three big
catches during New York's 13-play, 80-yard drive that consumed
nearly seven minutes.

The last two catches were highlight-film material. He caught a
20-yard pass over the middle and was immediately leveled by Eagles
safety Michael Lewis. Shockey simply jumped up and windmilled the
ball to the ground.

A 19-yard pass from Collins to Barber and a 10-yard run by
Barber helped move the ball to the Eagles 7. On second-and-goal,
Collins lobbed a pass to the left corner, and Shockey outjumped
Dawkins for the touchdown.

The Giants had squandered their first three trips into the red
zone with Collins throwing an interception on the first and Barber
losing a fumble on the second. Bryant missed a field goal on the
third.

Game notes
Shockey finished the regular season with 74 catches,
breaking Mark Bavaro's team single-season record of 66 for a tight
end. ... Collins finished the season with 4,073 yards passing,
breaking Phil Simms single-season mark of 4,044 yards set in 1984.
... Eagles DE Hugh Douglas had Philadelphia's only sack, giving him
51.5 with the team, third on the Eagles' career list. ...
Philadelphia had 56 sacks this season. ... Barber also had eight
catches for 73 yards, giving him 276 total yards. ... Lewis stopped
the Giants' opening drive with an interception in the end zone. It
was the first Collins' pass picked off in 129 attempts dating to
Nov. 24 vs. Houston.

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