Monday, December 8, 2008

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. | Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and the desperate Philadelphia Eagles proved more of a headache for the New York Giants than all the chaos surrounding Plaxico Burress.

Westbrook ran 30 yards for a touchdown and caught a 40-yard score from McNabb, and the Eagles’ defense limited the Giants to 211 total yards in a 20-14 victory Sunday that ended the Super Bowl champions’ seven-game winning streak and temporarily delayed them from clinching the NFC East. The Giants clinched later Sunday after the Cowboys’ loss to the Steelers.

“I just think we kind of beat them,” said Eagles tight end L.J. Smith, who has six catches for 44 yards. “It’s tough to say. That’s one of those: ‘How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll?’ Who knows if the distractions hurt them and helped us? I don’t know.”

The statistical edge was all Philadelphia (7-5-1), which won its second straight game.

McNabb finished 19-for-30 for 191 yards on a windy day during which the Eagles controlled the ball for almost 35 minutes. Westbrook was the workhorse, gaining 131 yards on a season-high 33 carries and catching six passes for 72 yards. The defense limited New York’s league-leading rushing game to 88 yards.

“This was a big win,” Westbrook said. “But we’re in a position now where we have to win them all.”

The defending Super Bowl champions came up empty on offense and defense after a week of scrutiny and media hype following the suspension for the rest of the season of Burress, who accidentally shot himself in a New York nightclub.

It also didn’t help that there is an ongoing investigation into the role of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce in the aftermath of the incident in which Burress shot himself.

“It’s a great story,” defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. “I’m glad you can use it, but it’s a dead issue with us.”

Giants coach Tom Coughlin also downplayed the distraction theory.

“We didn’t play well,” he said. “We didn’t play the way we had been playing. We’re a better football team than that. As far as all those other things go, that’s all speculation.”

Pierce, who talked to investigators in the office of the Manhattan district attorney Friday, was nowhere to be found on Westbrook’s 30-yard run. He also was three steps behind on a crossing pattern on the clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“It was just a bad game,” said Pierce, who had a game-high 15 tackles.

Giants running back Brandon Jacobs left the game after a 5-yard run in the third quarter with an injury to his left knee and walked off the field without a limp after getting medical attention.

Eli Manning also didn’t have Burress as a target.

In his place, Domenik Hixon dropped a sure 50-yard pass with New York trailing 3-0 in the first half.

“I should have caught the ball,” said Hixon, who had three catches for 30 yards.

New York scored late in each half. Kevin Dockery returned a blocked field goal 71 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half, and Manning (13-for-27 for 123) found Darcy Johnson for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds to go.

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