- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — Re-signed last week by the Philadelphia Eagles specifically to hold on kicks, Koy Detmer did yesterday what Dallas’ Tony Romo couldn’t do Saturday in Seattle with the game on the line.

He held on to the football.

Aided by Detmer’s hold, David Akers kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired to give the Eagles a 23-20 win over the New York Giants in an NFC wild-card game at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles advance to play at New Orleans on Saturday.

“These are the moments you miss when you’re away,” said Detmer, who spent all or parts of nine seasons with the Eagles before being released during training camp only to return when coach Andy Reid wanted a more reliable option at holder.

The Eagles had seen a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead evaporate when the Giants tied the score with 5:04 remaining on Eli Manning’s 11-yard pass to Plaxico Burress.

Philadelphia answered by moving 46 yards — including 33 yards rushing by Brian Westbrook — to get into field goal position.

“Those goal posts look pretty wide, don’t they?” punter Dirk Johnson told Akers on the sideline.

“We’re going to be celebrating in a minute,” Akers responded.

And the Eagles flooded the field moments later after Akers’ third field goal. He earlier kicked a 48-yarder that is the longest in Eagles playoff history.

Referring to Romo’s drop that allowed Seattle to escape with a 21-20 win, Akers said: “It shows you how technical the game is with the line blocking, the good snap, a holder that can get it down and finally the kicker making it at the end.”

The third-seeded Eagles, who won their sixth straight game, advance to the NFC divisional round for the fifth time in six years. Second-seeded New Orleans (10-6) defeated the Eagles 27-24 on Oct. 15.

“It’s going to be the ultimate challenge, but we look forward to it,” quarterback Jeff Garcia said.

The Giants lost in the opening round for the third straight time. New York already is searching for a new general manager to replace the retiring Ernie Accorsi, and coach Tom Coughlin could take the fall for a dismal second half that saw the Giants lose seven of their last nine games, including yesterday’s setback.

Coughlin would not comment on his status.

The loss also likely ended the career of running back Tiki Barber, who gained 137 yards on 26 carries. Barber has said he plans to retire after this season.

“For a long time, I thought not winning a Super Bowl would define my career,” he said. “But I’ve come to the realization that my legacy that, through the ups and downs, everybody knew what they were getting from me on Sundays.”

Barber was upstaged by the sensational Westbrook, who carried 20 times for 141 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown. He started the game-winning drive with an 11-yard carry and then gained 13 yards on an outside play to get closer to Akers’ range.

“We knew we had to create some lanes, and the offensive line did a great job coming together to open some holes,” Garcia said. “As inconsistent as we were offensively, when the time counted, we did what we had to do.”

The Eagles averaged 6.0 yards a carry largely because of Westbrook, who has become Philadelphia’s top offensive weapon with quarterback Donovan McNabb sidelined with a knee injury.

“Anytime you win a playoff game, it’s rewarding, and it doesn’t matter if you rush for 20 yards or 100 yards,” he said. “We’re doing it a little differently [offensively], but we’re still playing Eagles football.”

Had they lost, the Eagles would have been punching themselves in the gut. Up 20-10 against a struggling Giants offense, Philadelphia couldn’t close.

The Giants pulled to within 20-13 on Jay Feely’s 24-yard field goal that capped a 65-yard drive early in the fourth quarter. Their tying drive was 13 plays and 80 yards, an even more impressive march considering they faced a first-and-30 following three straight penalties. Manning hit Burress for gains of 18 and 14 yards to get the first down, and then Burress beat Roderick Hood — subbing for the injured Lito Sheppard (dislocated elbow) — for his second touchdown of the day.

Philadelphia entered as the only team in the conference riding more than a one-game winning streak, having won five consecutive games to clinch the NFC East. But the Eagles started slowly against a Giants team that barely made it into the postseason.

The Giants scored on their opening drive when Manning connected with Burress for a 17-yard score. The Eagles went three-and-out on their first three possessions, gaining only 5 yards.

But New York couldn’t capitalize on the field position advantage. The Giants started first-half drives at the Eagles 49, their own 48 and the Philadelphia 46 but punted all three times.

Late in the first quarter, the Eagles got going, scoring 20 of the next 23 points on Westbrook’s touchdown, two field goals by Akers and a 28-yard score from Garcia to Donte Stallworth.

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