The New York Giants had already clinched a playoff berth, so their Sunday night game against the Carolina Panthers only determined seeding, not inclusion in the postseason party. And maybe that was in the back of their minds during the first 30 minutes of the game. New York scored 10 first-half points but also watched Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams rack up three rushing touchdowns to give the visitors a 21-13 lead at intermission.
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New York's offense showed signs of life in the third quarter, driving 84 yards on 12 plays to make it a 21-20 contest. That lasted approximately three minutes before Williams broke several tackles on his way to rushing touchdown No. 4, pushing the Panthers' lead to eight points. The Giants came back, methodically running the ball down Carolina's throat, until running back Brandon Jacobs scored from one yard out. Eli Manning then found Domenik Hixon on the two-point conversion to tie the game 28-28 with 3:21 to go,
The Panthers drove to the Giants' 27 before John Casey just missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt in the waning seconds of regulation. Derrick Ward would take over in extra time, literally carrying the Giants down to the Panthers one-yard line before Jacobs sealed the victory with his third touchdown of the game. When the Giants were down that close in sudden-death conditions, Jacobs said no one was thinking field goal.
"The game's on the line, it's overtime, I'm thinking touchdown," he told NBC's Andrea Kremer after the game. "Nothing else but touchdown."
Ward told NewsChannel4's Bruce Beck that his team simply wanted it more.
"We played like we were desperate and we came away with the No. 1 seed in the NFC," he said.
Who Will Replace Burress?
The win breaks a two-game losing streak and with homefield advantage wrapped up, New York can use the extra week to continue their search for the player(s) who will replace Plaxico Burress. To date, Domenik Hixon isn't cutting it. Also a concern: pass blocking. The offensive line has been one of the toughest units in the league for most of the year, but has struggled with injuries and a lack of consistency in recent weeks. Manning took a beating against the Cowboys and Sunday, the Panthers continued the trend.
And for all the talk of Manning's maturation, he's just another quarterback running for his life when the offensive line doesn't pass block and the wide receivers don't get open. On the up side, Jacobs returned to action and played well, teaming with backfield mate Ward to rush for more than 300 yards.
Last year, the Giants peaked as they entered January, and maybe tonight's game will serve the same purpose for the defending world champions.
Who's Saying What?
Fans were either courageous or crazy for braving the bitter cold at Giants Stadium Sunday night. Here's what some who watched from the warmth of the living room had to say on Twitter after the game.
topar: In the end, Giants stadium tonight made 20 degrees feel hot. Good teams find ways to win tough games.
thekytikat: Heck ya! Giants take it in over time!! Awesome! Jacobs! Ward! that was awesome! Ward is giving mad propz to the O-line. they rocked it.
Gelf13: That Giants game WORE ME OUT! GO G-MEN!
goldielocks1976: That Brandon Jacobs something kind of beautiful. Go Giants love them to death! Off to bed I go. Sweet dreams.
JonahFalcon: is ecstatic at the 301 rushing yards by the Giants.
realestate28: i seriously HATE the giants and ALL of their bandwagon riding fans! just last year they were booing shaggy (eli) and now they love him! fake
ottocedeno: could have been the most entertaining giants game yet this season. get your playoff tickets