Giants, Eagles to meet in playoffs

January 4, 2009 7:05:10 PM PST
If there was one team that was going to get the New York Giants' attention in the NFC semifinals, it was the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia embarrassed the defending Super Bowl champions 20-14 at Giants Stadium in a game that really wasn't that close.

Andy Reid's team will bring one other scary factor up the New Jersey Turnpike on Sunday when they face New York (12-4): the Eagles appear to be this year's version of the Giants.

They are playing well at the right time, just as the Giants did in their improbable run to a title last year.

"I think the Eagles are the hottest team in the NFL right now," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said after Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Vikings 26-14 in the NFC wild-card game. "They may be the sixth seed, but they sure aren't playing like it."

The Eagles have resurrected themselves after a brutal 36-7 loss to Baltimore on Nov. 23, a game in which quarterback Donovan McNabb was benched. They won their next four and, after a loss to Washington in the penultimate game of the season, they clinched a playoff berth with an impressive 44-6 win over Dallas.

"We know them well, which is a good thing, but they know us well, too," Tuck said. "I'm glad this game is going to be at home because I know our fans will be into it. It's going to be the tough NFC East battle you'd expect, and we are really looking forward to it."

The Giants, the NFC's top-seeded team for the playoffs, outlasted the Eagles 36-31 in their first meeting in Philadelphia on Nov. 9 in a game in which Eli Manning and the offense gained 401 total yards. Brandon Jacobs rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns and Manning passed for 182 yards and two scores, including one to the now-suspended Plaxico Burress.

The second meeting - a little more than a week after Burress shot himself in the thigh in a New York City nightclub - was dominated by the Eagles' defense and halfback Brian Westbrook, who accounted for 203 yards from scrimmage.

New York was limited to 211 yards total yards. Jacobs was forced out at halftime after aggravating a knee injury and the Eagles held the ball for almost 35 minutes with Westbrook scoring on a 30-yard run and a 40-yard pass from McNabb.

The only thing that kept New York in the game was a blocked field goal that Kevin Dockery returned for a touchdown. The Giants' other TD was a meaningless one scored in the closing seconds.

"The Eagles are a very good football team that has done a tremendous job of battling back during the latter part of the season," Manning said. "Obviously, we had two very tough regular-season games against them."

The good news for the Giants is that they have had an extra week off to get ready and recover.

Jacobs hasn't played since Dec. 21 and a lot of the starters, including Manning and Tuck, were lifted at halftime in the regular-season finale against Minnesota, a game New York lost on a last-second field goal.

"Last week was good for us," Manning said. "We got some good work in during those two practices, but it's good that we now know who we are playing. We are excited to get to work this week. We need a good week of practice and preparation because it's about execution at this time of year, especially against a team we face twice a year in games that always seem to come down to the fourth quarter."

The extra week off didn't help the Cowboys last season, when the Giants surprised them in the NFC semifinal.

This will be the fourth postseason game between the Giants and Eagles.

Philadelphia won the last one in an NFC wild-card game on Jan.

7, 2007, in Philadelphia. David Akers kicked 38-yard field goal on the final play to give the Eagles a 23-20 win.

New York beat the Eagles 20-10 in the NFC semifinal on Jan. 7, 2001, en route to the Super Bowl.

The teams first played each other in the postseason on Dec. 27, 1981, when the Giants upset the Eagles 27-21 in a wild-card game at Philadelphia.


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