|After picking up the Eagles with a last-second field goal, kicker David Akers gets a lift from Nick Cole. (RUSTY KENNEDY/ASSOCIATED PRESS)|
Winning kick a snap for Eagles
PHILADELPHIA -- Some of his teammates couldn't watch David Akers when he lined up for the winning kick, preferring to let the crowd's reaction tell them the outcome.
Given recent events around the NFL, nobody could blame them.
The fans' roar gave them the news -- snap, hold, and kick were perfect this time as 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 yesterday.
A day after Dallas lost to Seattle when quarterback Tony Romo fumbled the hold on what could have been a go-ahead field goal, snapper Jon Dorenbos and holder Koy Detmer executed the seemingly routine play that has cost teams important games in recent weeks.
"Koy said, 'Those posts look big, don't they?' " Akers said. "I said, 'Don't worry. We're going to be celebrating in a minute.' "
Brian Westbrook, playing through stomach cramps that often sent him to the sideline, had 141 yards rushing, including a spectacular, slashing 49-yard touchdown 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 and one touchdown and played efficiently enough to win for the sixth time in seven starts since replacing the 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 his last game, Tiki Barber ran for 137 yards for the Giants. A three-time Pro Bowl running back, Barber is retiring 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) Saturday night.
The Giants overcame a second-and-30 hole on their tying 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's 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.
Detmer, the longtime backup quarterback signed this week specifically to be the holder, had no trouble putting the snap down for Akers. Dorenbos replaced injured long-snapper Mike Bartrum last month.
"Being a holder for the amount of time I've been, you realize there's nothing given," Detmer said. "None of them are guaranteed. You have to make it happen."
While the Eagles moved within one victory of their fifth trip to the NFC Championship game in six years, the Giants (8-9) face an uncertain offseason. Besides Barber, coach Tom Coughlin might not be back, and the embattled Manning (16 of 27 for 161 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 interception) probably will hear more criticism after failing to win a playoff game for the second straight year.
"I'm not concerned," Coughlin said about his future.
The Eagles went ahead, 17-10, late in the second quarter on Garcia's 28-yard TD pass to Donte' Stallworth. Akers kicked a 48-yard field goal -- the longest in the playoffs in team history -- to give Philadelphia a 20-10 lead with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
On the Eagles' fourth possession, Westbrook electrified the frenzied crowd at Lincoln Financial Field with a highlight-reel run. He burst through the line, bounced outside, cut back inside at the 20, reversed direction at the 15, and sprinted toward the pylon to tie it at 7.