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NFL

Overtime win lifts Giants into playoffs

INT sets up Matt Bryant's 39-yard field goal, beating Eagles 10-7.

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 29, 2002


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Nobody felt more relieved than Tiki Barber.

"The gamut of emotions I ran through today was unbelievable," the Giants running back said after Saturday's 10-7 overtime win against the Eagles at Giants Stadium.

Until placekicker Matt Bryant made a 39-yard field goal with 9:55 left in overtime, a career day by Barber had been tempered by the three balls Philadelphia's defenders pried out of his hands during the do-or-die game that put the Giants in the playoffs.

"I told Matt after he kicked that field goal that it takes a lot to make me cry," Barber said. "But when that thing went through, I couldn't help myself.

"Fortunately we got away with this one."

New York fumbled seven times total, threw an interception in the end zone and Bryant missed a field goal in the third quarter. Yet it managed to do what was necessary, against the NFC's top team that now appears beatable, to continue a late-season surge into the postseason.

The Giants must wait until today to learn who and where they play next weekend. As either the No.5 or 6 seed, they could play the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.

"No matter what people say, no matter the circumstances, no matter what happens, we come back and we fight," said New York coach Jim Fassel, whose team has won four straight and seven of its past nine. "It sounds so simple, but it's harder to do than you think. But that's why we're standing here going to the playoffs right now."

That and a few mistakes by the Eagles before 78,782 white-towel waving fans.

Entering with a six-game winning streak and playing for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, Philadelphia did little after scoring on its first drive.

Kicker David Akers sliced a 35-yard field-goal attempt wide right with 1:16 remaining, and quarterback A.J. Feeley, who led the Eagles to four consecutive wins after both Donovan McNabb and Koy Detmer went down with injuries, threw an interception on his team's only drive in overtime.

"We didn't take advantage of opportunities that we were given," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I think both teams had opportunities, and we put ourselves in a position where we had field position and weren't able to capitalize on it like you need to."

Philadelphia's defense kept the Giants out of the end zone until the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Kerry Collins was intercepted in the end zone by strong safety Michael Lewis on the Giants' first drive and Barber, who carried the ball 32 times for a career-high 203 yards, fumbled at the 3-yard line with 3:52 remaining in the first half.

It was a rookie who helped New York tie the score in the fourth quarter.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey made a leaping catch, stealing Collins' pass from the hands of Eagles free safety Brian Dawkins for his first touchdown at home this season with 8:08 remaining in regulation. Selected to play in the Pro Bowl, Shockey stood up and heaved the ball into the stands and off a facade in the west end zone.

He finished with 10 catches for 98 yards.

"It's over when we say it's over," Fassel said. "And that is what this team showed. ... I told them it was going to take all 60 minutes. I didn't realize it would take more."

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