|Brandon Jacobs leaves the Eagles' Quintin Mikell in his wake during a first-quarter run. Jacobs rushed for two touchdowns. (Tom Mihalek/Associated Press)|
Giants stay firmly in charge
Victory expands lead in NFC East
PHILADELPHIA - If there was any doubt the New York Giants rule the NFC East, the Super Bowl champions erased it last night.
Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes, Brandon Jacobs had two TD runs, and the Giants held on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 36-31, and distance themselves from the pack in the NFL's toughest division.
The Eagles had the ball at their 45 with 1:55 left, but Brian Westbrook was stopped by Chase Blackburn on fourth and 1.
"It was exhilarating," Blackburn said of the clinching tackle.
The Giants (8-1) are two games ahead of the Washington Redskins and three in front of the Eagles (5-4) and Dallas Cowboys. New York is 3-0 against its division rivals, but has only one other win against an opponent with a winning record.
"It's great to win here," coach Tom Coughlin said. "It reinforces everything we believe about team, supporting each other and finding a way to win the game."
Perhaps the Giants' easy first-half schedule - their first eight opponents are a combined 27-44 - was a reason oddsmakers made the Eagles a 3-point favorite.
Miffed by the prognosticators' pick, the Giants proved them all wrong. They did get help from the referees on two close calls in the second half.
Jacobs lost the ball at the goal line on his 2-yard TD run that made it 36-24. The Eagles challenged, but officials upheld the play.
The Giants went ahead, 27-24, two plays after a reversed call gave them a first down at the Eagles' 3. Manning's 17-yard pass to Kevin Boss on third and 10 was initially ruled illegal because he appeared to release the ball from beyond the line of scrimmage. Replays showed Manning's back foot was behind the line, Jacobs ran in from the 3 for the go-ahead score.
"I think the way the rule is written, it was worth taking a shot at it," said Manning, who urged Coughlin to challenge the call.
"If you have one toe on the line of scrimmage, then it's a legal pass. I thought it was worth the risk."
Donovan McNabb had three TD passes for the Eagles, but the Giants shut down Westbrook, who was held to 59 total yards.
McNabb's 2-yard TD toss to Kevin Curtis on fourth down cut it to 36-31 with 5:30 left.
The defense stopped the Giants on the ensuing possession and the Eagles took over at their 14 with 3:14 and one timeout remaining. But they couldn't put together a winning drive.
The Eagles took a 24-20 lead on McNabb's 7-yard TD pass to Hank Baskett on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Manning led the Giants to three straight scoring drives after throwing an interception on the third play from scrimmage and New York built a 17-7 lead.
But a fumble by Jacobs helped the Eagles get back in it. Jacobs lost the ball while hurdling Asante Samuel as Chris Gocong delivered a hard hit. Mike Patterson recovered it at the Giants' 44.
McNabb hit Jason Avant over the middle for a 10-yard TD pass to cut it to 17-14.
Late in the second quarter, Sam Madison intercepted an underthrown pass by McNabb and returned it 21 yards to the Eagles' 14. That led to a 26-yard field goal by John Carney.