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Tuesday December 23, 2008 12:18 am

NFL Xmas: Giants over Panthers

Brandon Jacobs

Well, NFL fans, do you believe you received your just rewards? Not only did the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers provide one heck of a Week 16 contest, but they gave you a little extra by taking it to overtime! The best deliver in primetime.

The first order of business for the Giants had to be getting back to a grinding run game. Brandon Jacobs was the welcome re-addition everyone thought he’d be. But how about the career-night for the explosive Derrick Ward? However, it was the balanced attack of Carolina that made the early good impression as the Panthers maintained a lead for most of the game. WR Steve Smith always looks good when national exposure is on the line.

I didn’t notice exactly when the Giants’ vaunted defense finally kicked in. Things were seemingly going Carolina’s way as I recall RB DeAngelo Williams giving Giants’ linebacker Antonio Pierce the ‘ol stiff arm en route to a 30-yard TD run. This gave Carolina a 28-20 lead. Because this score was an answer to a previous NYG touchdown drive I figured the Panthers had risen to the occasion, were making a statement, and that the game and home field in the NFC was theirs.

Not quite.

Towards the end of the fourth quarter a Jeff Feagles punt pinned Carolina at their one yard line; they went three and out, they punted and the Giants got the ball at the Carolina 44. Amani Toomer and Kevin Boss catches, plus a Carolina pass interference call, set up a Jacobs TD run. Then the Giants had to make a two-point conversion or they could kiss the NFC’s best record goodbye. But, Eli Manning hit Domenik Hixon on a slant route in the end zone. Tie game!

Carolina had a chance to win the game with nine seconds left on a 50-yard John Kasay field goal, but it got caught in the crosswinds and went wide. You could hear the whipping winds off the on-field microphones all night.

In OT the Giants almost gave up an interception, then they muffed a punt that could have been recovered by the Panthers. On the ensuing drive, Ward breaks free for 51 yards, then runs for a first down on a 3rd and 7. From the one-yard line Jacobs mashes into the end zone for the game-winner.

Aren’t you making a wish for a post-Christmas rematch between these two in the NFC championship game?  Remember, though, that it’s hard for a team to beat the same opponent twice in the same season. Remember, it was the Giants who lost to the Patriots at the end of the 2007 season, then gave them the game of their lives in the upset in Super Bowl XXLII. So, keep a chin up, Panthers.

Now some stocking stuffers…

Stocking Stuffer A: Earlier in the day, in the other “NFL semifinal game,” the Tennessee Titans beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Congratulations to QB Kerry Collins and the rest of the squad. However, did you catch LenDale White stomping on a Terrible Towel at the end of the game? That’s big-time blackboard material should the teams meet in the playoffs. What did I say about the difficulty of beating the same team twice in the same season?

Stocking Stuffer B: The Dallas Cowboys can’t win their final game at Texas Stadium? Dallas can’t win a key game to strengthen their chances for the playoffs? Did you catch Baltimore Ravens’ RB Le’Ron McClain ripping free from various Cowboy defenders to score the winning TD? Was this a “reverse-tribute” to Cowboy great RB Tony Dorsett, who was there to commemorate the end of the stadium’s days? Ouch.

Stocking Stuffer C: How about the Denver Broncos losing at home to set up a mind-wracking final regular season game match-up with the 7-8 San Diego Chargers to determine AFC champs? This is the type of Xmas gift that we go back to the store on December 26 to return! Uhhh, Santa, how about a refund on this one!

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