PHILADELPHIA - A grueling running attack that churned out 219 yards carried the New York Giants to a 36-31 win over Philadelphia last night in a game they could not put away until they stopped an Eagles drive in the final two minutes.
Linebacker Chase Blackburn nailed Brian Westbrook for no gain on a fourth-and-one from the Eagles' 45 with 1:48 left as the Giants won their fourth straight and improved to 8-1. That gives them a two-game lead over the Washington Redskins and three-game leads over Philadelphia (5-4) and the Dallas Cowboys with seven games to play.
"They are resilient," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "They fight, they don't get down. Even when it's dark, they hang in and fight for one another."
Blackburn said he had a good angle on Westbrook (14 carries, 27 yards).
"I came downhill pretty clean because the defensive line made a good push," he said. "I hit him a yard behind the line and didn't think he'd make it."
The second half provided the Giants with several opportunities to put it away, but they kept finding ways to keep the Eagles in the game. A 3-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs - which had to withstand a replay challenge on a possible fumble - with 9:30 left enabled the Giants to open a 36-24 lead.
But the Eagles came right back with a 71-yard march, with Donovan McNabb finding Kevin Curtis in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown with 5:30 left. The extra point cut the lead to five points.
Philadelphia moved the ball from its 16 to its 45 before Blackburn made the big defensive stop. The Giants then ran out the clock.
A Giants third-quarter 69-yard drive to a go-ahead touchdown was prolonged by a Coughlin challenge to an illegal-forward-pass penalty against Eli Manning. Manning was flagged for being over the line when he launched a 17-yard pass to Kevin Boss, but upon review referee Terry McAulay ruled Manning's back foot was behind the line and the play was legal.
"I have to listen to [coaches] upstairs," Coughlin said. "Eli was sure and upstairs was pretty sure."
A chance to add another TD went by the boards on the Giants' next possession when Derrick Ward was stopped for a 5-yard loss on third down, prompting a 28-yard field goal by John Carney and a 30-24 lead.
A 37-yard return of the second-half kickoff by Quintin Demps gave the Eagles the field position to turn a 20-17 Giants' halftime lead into a 24-20 Philadelphia advantage. It took McNabb just six plays to drive his team to the end zone, completing a 17-yard pass to DeSean Jackson and handing off to Correll Buckhalter for 20 more. He capped the march with a 7-yard fade pattern TD pass to Hank Baskett over cornerback Aaron Ross just 3:36 into the second half.