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(Sunday, December 13th)
Final Score: Philadelphia 45, NY Giants 38
East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - DeSean Jackson caught a touchdown pass and returned a punt 72 yards for a score, as the Philadelphia Eagles gained sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a wild 45-38 victory over the New York Giants.
Jackson sat out last Sunday's 34-7 win over Atlanta due to a concussion, but came back with a sparkling performance of six catches for 178 yards, as the Eagles (9-4) won their fourth straight contest and moved a game past Dallas for the top spot in the division. The Cowboys suffered a 20-17 home loss to San Diego earlier Sunday.
Donovan McNabb finished 17-of-26 passing for 275 yards with two TDs and was picked off once. Sheldon Brown returned a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown.
"It was a knockdown, drag-out battle," said Eagles coach Andy Reid, who was given a contract extension earlier in the week. "It was a good game plan. I know they had a couple of yards, but the Eagles had a couple of yards too. It all equaled out."
The Giants (7-6) compiled 512 yards of offense, but lost for the sixth time in eight games and are on the outside looking in at the playoff race. Green Bay (9-4) and Dallas (8-5) are currently in the lead for the two wild card spots.
Eli Manning connected on 27-of-38 throws for a career-high 391 yards with three scores for New York, while Hakeem Nicks caught four passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw each rushed for a TD.
"It still matters how we end the season," said Manning. "Whether we were in first place tonight or not the next three games are going to be important and we just have to handle our business."
The Eagles have won the last four meetings, including a 40-17 drubbing in Philadelphia on November 1. This is also the first time the Eagles have beaten the Giants three straight times at the Meadowlands since capturing nine in a row from 1973-81.
"Rather than the last time we played, we did a decent job against the run," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "I think we rushed the ball alright, but the yards don't mean a lot when you don't win."
The Giants pushed ahead 31-30 with 5:12 left in the third thanks to a 61-yard TD strike to Domenik Hixon, who caught a short pass on the left side before breaking a tackle.
Just 15 seconds later, McNabb found Jackson for a 60-yard bomb. Jackson beat Aaron Ross in coverage, caught the ball inside the 20 and easily made it to the end zone.
"I just tried to motivate all the guys," said McNabb. "The way the game was going it was just uncharacteristic of us. Every now and then you need a spark and it was a great play by DeSean."
After a New York punt early in the fourth, the Eagles went on a back-breaking 12-play, 91-yard drive that finished on Leonard Weaver's one-yard TD plunge off left guard with 5:48 remaining. Amazingly, the Eagles didn't face a third down during the march that ate up nearly 7 1/2 minutes. McNabb hit Jason Avant for the two-point conversion.
The Giants pulled within 45-38 thanks to Kevin Boss' four-yard scoring reception with 1:31 to go, but the ensuing onside kick bounced out of bounds, and the Eagles took over in New York territory. The Giants were left with a pair of timeouts and used them on short running plays. Philadelphia couldn't move the chains and a Sav Rocca punt, combined with a personal foul call, pinned the Giants at their five.
Two plays later, Manning had the ball stripped from behind by Darren Howard and Joselio Hanson recovered for the Eagles with eight seconds left, sealing the victory.
That's also when the game turned ugly as both teams came together, and Philadelphia defensive end Trent Cole punched Giants center Shaun O'Hara. Both were assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and Cole was ejected.
The Eagles scored less than four minutes into the game that was played on a very wet field, as McNabb hit Brent Celek with an eight-yard TD pass. Philadelphia then capitalized on a turnover to bolt to a 14-0 lead. Jacobs was tracked down from behind by Cole, who punched the ball loose, and Brown picked it up and dashed 60 yards untouched to the end zone with 9:40 left in the quarter.
The Giants then chewed up more than seven minutes of the clock, converting a fourth down during a 15-play, 77-yard drive, but it ended on a 26-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes.
New York climbed within 14-10 with 13:07 left in the half thanks to Manning's 68-yard TD pass to Nicks. The rookie wide receiver dropped a sure TD pass earlier in the drive, but then atoned for his miscue by grabbing the ball over the middle and shedding a pair of tacklers before racing to the end zone.
David Akers kicked a 20-yard field goal with under seven minutes left in the half and Jackson's 72-yard return down the left sideline off a Jeff Feagles punt widened Philadelphia's lead to 24-10 with 4:09 to go in the half.
"I turned around and came left and they did a great job of sealing the side off for me," said Jackson. "I saw Feagles and it's just a rule to me that I don't get tackled by the kicker. So, I did a little move to get into the end zone."
The Giants came right back, though, as Bradshaw scored on a three-yard burst up the middle to cap a 67-yard drive with 1 1/2 minutes left in the half.
The Eagles then used a timely possession to extend their lead to 30-17 just 10 seconds before halftime. McNabb connected with Jackson on a 44-yard play to convert a 3rd-and-20. That moved the ball to the 24, and then the QB found Celek for a 23-yard gain to the one in a 3rd-and-10 situation. Michael Vick scored on the next play, a run to the left side, but Akers' extra point try was blocked by Fred Robbins.
Earlier in the drive, the Giants missed a golden opportunity for a turnover and possibly a touchdown. McNabb was ruled to have fumbled after losing the ball with his arm apparently going forward. The play, though, was declared dead at the Philadelphia 32, even though the Giants had a clear path to get the ball with open field ahead.
The Giants fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Moise Fokou recovered for the Eagles, but the time was ruled to have run out, although initial replays questioned that call. The play was not reviewed.
Jacobs scored on a one-yard burst up the middle on a 4th-and-goal play to cap an 11-play, 74-yard drive to open the second half, pulling the Giants within 30-24.
McNabb was then picked off by Jonathan Goff, giving New York prime position at the Philadelphia 29. On the next play, Manning scrambled for a 14-yard gain, but was ruled to have fumbled on his own upon hitting the ground and the Eagles recovered. Replay was used to determine Manning fumbled on his own, even though Brodrick Bunkley got a small hold of the QB's jersey before he broke away for a few more strides.
The Eagles host San Francisco next week, while the Giants play at Washington on Monday night, December 21...Jackson has eight touchdowns of 50 yards or more to tie an NFL single-season record. He has three punt returns for a touchdown in his career, a new franchise record. It was also the first punt return allowed for a TD by the Giants since November 13, 2005 when Mewelde Moore accomplished the feat for Minnesota...Eagles rookie receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered a torn plantar fascia in his left foot in the first half and will be out up to two weeks...Giants offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie sustained a left knee injury in the second quarter...This was the most combined points in series history...Giants wide receiver Steve Smith had seven catches for 74 yards. He has 85 catches this season, a franchise-record for a single year, surpassing the 82 by Amani Toomer in 2002...Jacobs rushed for 60 yards and Bradshaw gained 55...The Eagles had 374 yards of offense.
12/14 01:44:13 ET
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