Time Runs Out for Giants Against Eagles
A spectacular play the Giants hadn’t practiced since training camp nearly kept their expiring postseason hopes alive on the final play of a hard-fought battle with division rival Philadelphia but it fell a few yards short of the mark. After 2000’s surprising Super Bowl appearance, the play called “86 Lambuth Special” served as a fitting metaphor for the Giants’ disappointing, oh-so-close 2001 season, in which they missed the playoffs by losing three games in the last minutes by a total of just five points to the Eagles and the Rams.
Going into this 15th game of the year, 7-7 New York trailed the 9-5 Eagles by two games, but a victory in Philadelphia would keep the Giants’ postseason hopes alive. October’s 10-9 loss to the Eagles at the Meadowlands had broken the Giants’ nine-game winning streak over Philadelphia; it was the first time Jim Fassel had lost to the Eagles or to their coach, Andy Reid. With control of the division on the line the night before New Year’s Eve, tempers were short and players from the opposing teams got into a scuffle during warm-ups, 45 minutes before the game even started. The Eagles opened the game with a 72-yard drive that culminated in a five-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to Chad Lewis. The remainder of the first half was a hard-hitting defensive contest, in which Michael Strahan continued his mastery over Eagles tackle Jon Runyan by constantly harrassing McNabb. Strahan had 3.5 sacks in the first half and had many big plays throughout the game.
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The Giants evened the score at the outset of the second half with a flea flicker in which Tiki Barber took a handoff from Collins and tossed the ball back to the quarterback, who then hit Amani Toomer for a 60-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, a 30-yard Ron Dayne run led to a 25-yard field goal, giving the Giants a 10-7 lead going into the exciting fourth quarter.
The Eagles took the lead back in the first minute of the final quarter on a 57-yard bomb from McNabb to speedster James Thrash. The Giants answered with a field goal to draw within a point; they then drove 81 yards and scored on a 16-yard run by Dayne. New York went for two, and Tiki Barber’s successful two-point conversion gave the Giants a 21-14 lead with 2:43 to play.
McNabb responded by driving the Eagles 67 yards in six plays, including a 32-yard reception by Thrash, with Lewis again catching the scoring pass with 1:49 remaining. Philadelphia used all their timeouts and forced a three-and-out from the Giants. Starting at their 29-yard line with 58 seconds left, the Eagles marched 54 yards in seven plays to the Giants’ 17, where David Akers kicked a 35-yard field goal to take the lead with seven seconds to play. The key plays on the drive were a 25-yard strike to Thrash and a clock-stopping five-yard delay-of-game penalty against Michael Strahan for not letting Donovan McNabb get up after Strahan tackled him just one play before the field goal.
Down 24-21 with seven seconds left, it appeared the Giants had no hope after the touchback on the ensuing kickoff gave them.
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