“They wanted it more than we did,” Jacobs said. “We couldn’t match their intensity. I don’t think ours was high enough. I have no idea why.”
The Giants went from nearly unstoppable through their first 11 games (10-1) to vulnerable in their last five (1-4). The hot start was what propelled the Giants to the No. 1 seed and guaranteed home field throughout the playoffs. But, their play in Sunday’s NFC divisional championship game was no exception to how they fared down the stretch.
“We felt like we had a great opportunity to come in here and win today,” head coach Tom Coughlin, who took most of the blame, said. “We did some things very well, to be honest with you, but that’s certainly not enough.”
Eli Manning and the Giants offense struggled all afternoon. Manning was 15-for-29 with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Tight end Kevin Boss led all receivers with three catches for 52 yards.
On the ground, Jacobs ran for 92 yards off 19 carries. The free agent, who reiterated his confidence that he’ll return next season, said he wasn’t concerned that he didn’t touch the ball more.
“That was the game plan that coach called so I can’t really say whether I thought I’d have more carries,” he said. “I didn’t really think about it coming into the game.”
On two separate drives the Giants went for it on fourth down, and on both the Eagles defense made huge stops. Those are the types of opportunities the Giants couldn’t afford to miss, but did.
Kicker John Carney, who was 3-for-5 (the misses came on 46 and 47 yarders) on field goal attempts, took some of the blame. Regardless, the six points still wouldn’t have been enough for the Giants.
“I certainly could have done a better job to help us win,” Carney said. “I can’t speak for other aspects of the team, but I didn’t do my job today.”
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb (22-for-40, 217 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) got the Birds on the scoreboard with a 1 yard run up the middle at the start of the second quarter. The Giants followed with a safety.
With the wind swirling atop the Giants Stadium turf, the game turned into a field goal contest between Carney and the Eagles’ David Akers. Unlike the Giants’ All Pro, Akers made all of his kicks, none longer than 36 yards though.
Running back Brian Westbrook was a non-factor for the Eagles. Westbrook, who ran all over the Giants for 131 yards and two touchdowns in their last meeting on Dec. 7, only rushed for 36 yards on 18 attempts.
McNabb assured his team a place in the NFC championship game with a 1 yard touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek at the start of the fourth quarter. He said there’s only one thing that sticks out in his mind from playoff games of the past.
“The thing I most remember is the kneel down. We kneeled today, and I hope we do it next week,” McNabb said. “You don’t remember some of the touchdowns or first downs, but the end of the game is what sticks in my mind the most.”
Philadelphia’s offensive line excelled against the Giants’ defense this season. They didn’t allow one sack in all three of their match-ups, including Sundays. It’s that type of play that has propelled the Eagles to one game away from the Super Bowl.
Giants’ running back Derrick Ward, who missed all of last year’s playoffs with a broken leg, said despite the loss, he took a lot from the game. His goal is to experience the postseason again.
“It was great, man. The fans were outstanding, cheering, yelling, screaming,” Ward said. “It was everything that I dreamed about and it’s just going to make me work even harder in the off-season to get back there next year.”
Ward won’t be the only one working hard. Unlike last season, the players have an extra three weeks of free time before next season.
Enough time to make some more happy memories at Sesame Place.