Dec 312006
 

Victory Over Washington All But Assures Giants of Playoff Spot: In a contest that basically amounted to a playoff game for the Giants, New York defeated the Redskins 34-28 at FedEx Field in Maryland. The victory all but assures the Giants of a playoff spot either against the Eagles in Philadelphia or the Cowboys in Dallas next weekend (the Giants will face the winner of the NFC East).

The Giants finished the regular season at 8-8 and will likely be a playoff team despite a 2-6 finish and not having a winning record.

“This is a soap opera to its fullest,” said LB Antonio Pierce. “This is New York at its prime right here. Hopefully, we’ll go out on top and do everything right. We finally got to the playoffs, and that was our ultimate goal. We’re in the playoffs, and we’re 0-0, and I like that better than anything else.”

The hero of the game against Washington was HB Tiki Barber who rushed for a career high and franchise record 234 yards (on 23 carries for an average of 10.2 yards per rush). Barber also rushed for three touchdowns, including scoring runs of 55 and 50 yards.

“There are certain things that motivate you, push you,” Barber said. “It’s partly because of the circumstances of this game, my last one. Most important, we had to win to keep playing.”

“That’s why he’s Tiki Barber,” Pierce said. “He sets his own goals and standards. His way of living is different from everybody else’s, and he shows it. He plays with a lot of heart and determination. Today he put this team and this offense on his back and did everything he could for us to win.”

Barber passed the 1,500-yard rushing mark for the third consecutive season – he finished the 2006 season with 1,662 yards – and also caught three passes for 24 yards. Barber’s previous best rushing game was 220 yards in December 2005 against Kansas City, which also was the franchise record.

The Redskins received the football first and moved from their own 27-yard line to the Giants’ 18-yard line on their first possession. A hit by LB Brandon Short on HB Ladell Betts forced a fumble that DT Fred Robbins recovered and advanced 67 yards down to the Redskins’ 12-yard line. But the Giants could not punch the football in and were forced to settle for a 34-yard field goal.

The Redskins took the lead on their second possession as they drove 80 yards in five plays. The touchdown came on a trick play – a pass by WR Antwaan Randle El to WR Santana Moss for 48 yards. On the play, Moss got away from CB Corey Webster and CB Sam Madison misplayed the football.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants drove 42 yards for a touchdown to regain the lead 10-7 with Barber scoring from 15 yards out. QB Eli Manning kept this drive alive by finding WR Plaxico Burress for 14 yards on 3rd-and-9. The Giants forced the Redskins to punt again. And the Giants took advantage with an impressive 9-play, 97-yard scoring drive that gave the Giants a 17-7 advantage. Manning hit FB Jim Finn for nine yards on 3rd-and-8 and Burress for 12 yards on 3rd-and-7. Three plays later, Barber was off to the races for 55 yards and the touchdown.

After another punt by the Redskins, the Giants started their final possession of the first half at their own 28-yard line with just about three and a half minutes to go before intermission. The Giants were able to drive 59 yards in 12 plays, including converting on three third-down conversion attempts to set up a successful 31-yard field goal. The Giants were ahead 20-7 at halftime.

The Giants received the football to start the second half but were forced to punt. The defense then came up big as errant pass by Redskins’ QB Jason Campbell was deflected by CB Kevin Dockery and intercepted by S Jason Bell, giving the Giants the football near midfield. After a 31-yard pass interference penalty was called against WR Tim Carter, Manning found Carter for six yards and the touchdown to give the Giants a 27-7 cushion.

But at this point of the game, the Redskins regained momentum. Washington drove 69-yards in 11 plays to score on a 4th-and-4, 7-yard touchdown pass to Betts. The score was now 27-14. After a holding call and a three-and-out by the Giants, Redskins moved 66 yards in nine plays to make it a 6-point game at 27-21 with nine and a half minutes to go in the game.

The Giants then temporarily regained momentum by going 75 yards in five plays, with Barber scoring from 50 yards out to give the Giants a 13-point margin once again. But for the third Redskins’ offensive possession in a row, the Giants’ defense could not hold and surrendered another touchdown drive, this one 68 yards in eight plays. The Giants only led by six points with just under three and half minutes to go in the game.

The Giants could not pick up one first down and were forced to punt. However, the defense finally held, forcing four straight incompletions as the Redskins turned the football over on downs. SS Gibril Wilson deflected the last 4th-and-10 attempt. The Giants then picked up one first down and ran out the clock inside the Redskins’ 5-yard line.

Eli Manning finished the game 12-of-26 for 101 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions. Burress was held to two catches and 26 yards. The other starting receiver, Carter, had two catches and 14 yards. The starting tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe, caught one pass for eight yards. The Giants’ defense surrendered 393 total net yards to Washington (265 yards passing, 128 yards rushing).

“It really doesn’t matter what you did in the regular season,” said Burress. “It’s the playoffs now and it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle), OG/OC/TE Rich Seubert (shin), WR Michael Jennings, WR Darius Watts, HB Robert Douglas, DT Titus Adams, CB Frank Walker, and QB Tim Hasselbeck (third quarterback).

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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