The New York Giants already had beaten Philadelphia twice this season, and they sent a message from the opening kickoff that they were not about to lose to the Eagles in the NFC divisional playoff game.
Ron Dixon ran the opening kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown, easily fielding David Akers’ 67-yard punt and threading himself through the Eagles defense to give the Giants six points just 17 seconds into the game.
It was all downhill from there for the Eagles, who were 7-1 in their last eight games but who were just 2-for-15 on third-down conversion attempts and fumbled three times today at the Meadowlands.
The NFC East champion Giants (13-4) outscored the Eagles 77-to-35 in their three meetings this season and extend their winning streak to nine games against Philadelphia (12-6). With today’s win, the Giants advance to next week’s NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings, who eliminated the New Orleans Saints on Saturday.
Strahan Pumps Up Defense
The Giants won this game by shutting down Donovan McNabb. The second-year quarterback was the hero in the Eagles’ wild-card win last week over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with two passing touchdowns and one rushing score. But today, McNabb was sacked six times, intercepted once and held to 181 yards passing.
A key to that defensive effort was defensive end Michael Strahan, who played brilliantly with three tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. He led a Giants defense that held the Eagles to just 46 yards rushing all afternoon.
New York cornerback Jason Sehorn made a juggling interception of McNabb with 1:40 left in the first half. After tipping the pass, Sehorn fell on his back but kept the ball in the air before finally grabbing it and scrambling 32 yards for the score.
“I’ve never seen a guy bat one around like that and physically get up with the guy trying to get him and make a play,” said Gaints coach Jim Fassel of Sehorn’s circus-like catch. “That shows what kind of athleticism he has, but it also shows how hungry a player is.”
Giants Offense Looks Limp
The Giants scored neither of their touchdowns on offense and put forth an anemic effort at moving the ball. They compiled just 237 yards in total offense today.
Quarterback Kerry Collins went 12-for-19 with 125 yards passing and was sacked once. The Giants also fumbled three times and struggled on third down, converting just twice on 13 tries.
Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne, who usually provide a 1-2 punch at running back, gave more of a light slap at the Eagles defense. Barber, playing with a small cast to protect a broken left arm, rushed for just 35 yards on 15 carries while Dayne plodded ahead for 53 yards on 17 tries. The Giants had 112 total yards rushing.
Amani Toomer, who had nine receptions in the Giants’ commanding win over the Eagles in October, pulled in just two catches today for 23 yards and fumbled once.
Brad Daluiso hit 37- and 25-yard field goals for the Giants.
McNabb connected with Torrance Small on a 10-yard touchdown play following a blocked punt by Jason Bostic to score the Eagles’ first and only touchdown with 2:01 left in the game.
Akers made a 28-yard field goal for the Eagles’ first points of the game with 30 seconds remaining in the first half. But he missed a 30-yarder in the third quarter as the Eagles came up empty handed on what was one of their most promising scoring drives following Mike Bartrum’s recovery of Toomer’s fumble on a punt at the Giants’ 32-yard line.
ABC Radio contributed to this report.