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Giants, Bucs look for breakthrough

Email|Print| Text size + By Fred Goodall
Associated Press / January 6, 2008

TAMPA, Fla. - One team hasn't won a playoff game in seven years, the other has gone through hard times since winning the Super Bowl five seasons ago.

The New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are counting on this trip to the postseason to be different. No more one-and-done.

"I was brought here to help this team get back to the position where we can compete in a playoff game," said quarterback Jeff Garcia, one of the big changes the Bucs (9-7) made to transform themselves from a last-place team into NFC South champions.

The Giants (10-6) will be looking for the same from Eli Manning in today's NFC wild-card game.

The top pick in the 2004 draft has New York in the playoffs for the third straight season, but he's still trying to deliver the team's first postseason win since January 2001. The Giants have lost in the opening round three times since, including the 2005 and 2006 seasons with Manning struggling at quarterback.

In his two postseason games, he's completed 26 of 45 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, with four interceptions. He was sacked five times, lost one fumble, and New York exited quickly against Carolina (23-0) and Philadelphia (23-20).

"I am just looking at the game ahead of me. I'm just going to try to play smart, put our team in a situation to win the game - whatever that is," said Manning.

The Bucs' only other playoff appearance since winning the Super Bowl five years ago ended in a first-round loss to Washington. They had the NFL's stingiest pass defense this season and hope to take advantage of Manning's inconsistency and knack for making critical mistakes.

The 27-year-old threw for 3,336 yards and 23 touchdowns and is coming off one of the best games of his career when he passed for 251 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-35 loss to the unbeaten Patriots. But he also tossed 20 interceptions, tied for the league lead with Carson Palmer and Jon Kitna.

Garcia brings a better postseason record into the game.

The 37-year-old signed with the Bucs as a free agent in March, two months after leading the Eagles past the Giants in the playoffs. He's 2-0 against New York in the postseason and 4-1 overall against the Giants.

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