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News » GIANTS 34, PANTHERS 28: There's just no place like home


GIANTS 34, PANTHERS 28: There's just no place like home


GIANTS 34, PANTHERS 28: There's just no place like home
Those on the road to Super Bowl XLIII will pull off at Exit 16W.


After spending most of the season as the consensus best team in the NFC, the Giants now can make that claim in an objective and subjective manner. A 34-28 overtime win over the Panthers last night determined which team clinched the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

That honor went to the Giants. More importantly, it corrected the direction of the team in December after two straight losses.

And on a night when Brandon Jacobs returned to the field to infuse toughness and intensity into the Giants, it was Derrick Ward who came up huge. He had four runs of more than 20 yards, including a 51-yard run on the Giants' second possession of OT that set up Jacobs' 2-yard touchdown run. Ward finished with 215 yards on 15 carries, and Jacobs ran 24 times for 87 yards.

John Kasay missed a 50-yard field goal with four seconds left in regulation for the Panthers, who still have work to do to win the NFC South title and the No. 2 seed.

Teams who entered the game looking so identical entered the fourth quarter separated by just one point. The Panthers extended that lead to 28-20 when DeAngelo Williams scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a 30-yard run in which Danny Clark, James Butler and Antonio Pierce all had an opportunity to bring him down. It was a play after the Panthers converted a third-and-9 with a 19-yard completion.

But after Jeff Feagles punted to the 1 and the defense kept the Panthers deep before forcing a punt, the Giants took advantage of the short field. Two third- down conversions by the Giants - one a pass to Amani Toomer and another to Kevin Boss - set up first-and-goal at the 5. After Ken Lucas was flagged for pass interference - the first penalty of the game for the Panthers and the first pass- interference call against the team all season - Jacobs bulled into the end zone from the 1.

That made it a two-point game, and the Giants went for two. Eli Manning gave a play-action fake to Jacobs out of the shotgun before finding Domenik Hixon on the left side for the deuce and a 28-28 tie.

The Giants (12-3) can sure use the week off. Jacobs, who had been nursing a left knee injury, missed a few plays with an injury to his right knee in the first half. Justin Tuck injured his right ankle in the first quarter and also was fighting flu-like symptoms after spending the day hooked up to an I.V. to replenish fluids. Barry Cofield also missed time with a knee injury and Aaron Ross had been out with a head injury.

After two straight weeks of a sluggish offense holding the Giants back, it was the defense that dug the hole in the first half. The Panthers (11-4) put 21 points on the board before they had to punt, and they did it largely without their running back wingman, rookie Jonathan Stewart, who was hurt on his second carry but later returned.

Instead, it was Williams who trampled the Giants on the way to a 21-13 halftime lead. He started the scoring for the Panthers with a 13-yard run up the middle to make it 7-3. After the Giants took a 10-7 lead on Jacobs' 2-yard run that took as many efforts as it covered yards, the Panthers re-took the lead when Williams scored his second touchdown.

The Giants could not answer that score after Madison Hedgecock was stuffed on his first carry as a Giant on third-and-1. Williams scored his third TD 4:45 left in the half to make it 21-10, but not before the Giants gave away a chance to change the complexion of the game.

On first-and-10 from the 35, Jake Delhomme dropped back and looked right before unloading a long pass down the left sideline for Muhsin Muhammad. The 35-year-old receiver had gotten behind Ross on a double move, but the pass was underthrown and Ross had a chance to intercept it. He jumped for the ball but it went through his hands and to Muhammad, who made a 60-yard reception.

NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

WHO'S IN / CLINCHED

Giants (NFC East champ) clinch No. 1 seed and first-round bye; Arizona (NFC West champ); Carolina, playoff berth; Atlanta, playoff berth.

WHO'S OUT / ELIMINATED

Detroit, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, Washington.

SCENARIOS

Giants: The Giants clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with their win against Carolina last night.

Carolina: The Panthers will clinch the NFC South title and a first-round bye with a win over the Saints.

WHO'S ON THE FENCE

Minnesota: The Vikings clinch the NFC North with a win over Giants, or a loss by Chicago vs. Green Bay or at Houston.

Dallas: The Cowboys clinch a wild card with a win at Philadelphia.

Philadelphia: The Eagles clinch a wild card with a win against Dallas and losses by Tampa Bay (against Oakland) and Chicago.

Chicago & Tampa Bay: Both are not mathematically eliminated, but need lots of help from other teams.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 22, 2008

Lorenzo Booker Name: Lorenzo Booker
#25
Position: RB
Age: 24
Experience: 2 years
College: Florida State
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