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Eli Manning earns first playoff win as Giants down Bucs

Sunday, January 6, 2008


AP Football Writer

TAMPA, Fla. -- The New York Giants' rousing road show powered through Tampa Bay. Now it heads to the only place where it flopped: Dallas.

The Giants moved to 8-1 away from home with a dominating 24-14 NFC-wild-card playoff victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday. New York has won every road game since falling in its season opener against the Cowboys, and it gets a chance to diminish that blemish in a much bigger matchup next Sunday, with the winner going to the conference title game.

As for concerns the Giants (11-6) left too much of themselves on the field in futilely trying to stop New England's perfect season on Dec. 29, well, forget it. After a lackluster first quarter, New York bullied the NFC South champions, who lost three of their last four regular-season games, including the final two when coach Jon Gruden rested many starters.

It was the first postseason win for quarterback Eli Manning, who efficiently outplayed his counterpart, Jeff Garcia. Manning went 20-for-27 for 185 yards, with almost all the damage coming after a forgettable opening period in which New York had minus-2 yards of offense.

The oft-criticized Manning should draw nothing but praise for his performance, which included touchdown passes of 5 yards to Brandon Jacobs and 4 to Amani Toomer. The score by Toomer was his seventh catch of the day and completed a clinching 92-yard, 15-play drive.

New York's defense was led by cornerback Corey Webster's interception and fumble recovery, and Michael Strahan's nine tackles and a sack. Tampa Bay (9-8) gained only 166 yards before a late 88-yard drive made it 24-14.

Jacobs also had an 8-yard TD run for the Giants, while Lawrence Tynes kicked a 25-yard field goal.

Earnest Graham ran for a 1-yard touchdown and Alex Smith had a 6-yard scoring reception for the Bucs, who have not won a postseason game since the Super Bowl in January 2003.

The first quarter was so lopsided that the Giants never picked up a first down. Meanwhile, Garcia, who beat the Giants in two previous playoff starts against them, led the Bucs on a 54-yard, 10-play march. It was highlighted by Graham, who capped it with a 1-yard TD run. Graham gained 41 yards on the drive.

But when the second quarter arrived, the visitors woke up. Manning found Toomer for 17-, 10- and 13-yard gains before Jacobs avoided Derrick Brooks to tie it on his 5-yard reception.

Six minutes later, New York led as Jacobs scored on an 8-yard run. Manning completed all four passes on the 65-yard drive, including a 21-yarder to Steve Smith on third down.

By halftime, the flag-waving Bucs fans had been silenced by the power running and precise passing of the Giants, who were up 14-7.

It got worse immediately for the locals when Micheal Spurlock, the only Buc to return a kickoff for a touchdown in their four decades, fumbled his runback to open the second half. Webster recovered at the Tampa 30 and the Giants got to the 4 before Tynes made his field goal.

Webster contributed again moments later to foil a good Tampa Bay drive. He shadowed Joey Galloway to the end zone and picked off Garcia's weak pass.

The Bucs, who led the NFC with a plus-15 turnover margin, were minus-2 in a span of 8:50 of the third period and never recovered.

Garcia wound up 23-of-39 for 207 yards and two interceptions.

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