NFL Playoffs: Eagles 23, Giants 20
By Rob Maaddi
PHILADELPHIA — The snap was there, the hold was good and the kick was perfect.
David Akers hit a 38-yard field goal with no time remaining to give the Philadelphia Eagles a 23-20 victory over the New York Giants in a wild-card playoff game Sunday.
A day after Dallas lost to Seattle when quarterback Tony Romo fumbled the hold on what could have been a go-ahead field goal, the Eagles executed the seemingly routine play that has cost teams important games in recent weeks.
Brian Westbrook had 141 yards rushing, including a spectacular, slashing 49-yard TD run in the second quarter. His 65-yard punt return for an apparent score in the third quarter was nullified by a penalty on rookie Torrance Daniels.
Jeff Garcia threw for 153 yards, one touchdown and played efficiently enough to win for the sixth time in seven starts since replacing an injured Donovan McNabb.
Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes to Plaxico Burress, including an 11-yard strike that tied it at 20 with 5:04 left.
In what probably was his last game, Tiki Barber ran for 137 yards for the Giants. A three-time Pro Bowl running back, Barber plans to retire after 10 seasons in the NFL.
The Eagles are far from finished, though.
Counted out after a knee injury ended McNabb’s season in Week 11, the Eagles (11-6) have won six straight games. They’ll play at New Orleans (10-6) next Saturday night.
The Giants overcame a second-and-30 on their tying scoring drive as Manning completed consecutive passes of 18, 14 and 11 yards to Burress.
But the Eagles drove right down the field, mixing in short passes and Westbrook runs.
That set up Akers’ winning kick, a moment with a little extra drama in the wake of the botched hold in the Dallas-Seattle game and a bad snap on a critical extra point in a late-season game between Cincinnati and Denver.
Koy Detmer, the longtime backup quarterback signed this week specifically to be the holder, had no trouble putting Jon Dorenbos’ snap down for Akers. Dorenbos replaced injured long-snapper Mike Bartrum last month.
“I just told Koy, ‘Hold it like a normal kick.’ And, I hit it nice and easy. It was fun to end the game that way,” Akers said. “Kicking balls are very, very slick. That might be something that needs to be addressed. A lot of people take the snap, hold and kick for granted. It just shows you how technical that is.”
A few players could barely watch on the sideline, preferring to let the crowd’s reaction tell them the outcome.
“It did cross my mind,” linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said of Romo’s problem in the Cowboys’ loss. “But I was confident in our special teams. We were ready to party.”
Meanwhile, the dysfunctional Giants (8-9) fell apart after a 6-2 start. They lost four in a row and six of seven before a win at Washington last week put them in the playoffs.
While the Eagles moved within one victory of their fifth trip to the NFC championship game in six years, the Giants face an uncertain offseason. Coach Tom Coughlin might not be back, Barber is retiring and the embattled Manning probably will hear more criticism after failing to win a playoff game for the second straight year.
Manning was 16-of-27 for 161 yards and two TDs.