Barber rushes for 234 as Giants hold on

New York all but assured of playoffs

Gibbs encouraged

Giants 34 Redskins 28

December 31, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun reporter

LANDOVER -- The Washington Redskins were the team trying to salvage one last morsel of satisfaction out of their long lost season, and the New York Giants were the team trying to hang on to their quickly unraveling playoff hopes.

Playing for the postseason still trumps playing for pride, even to a team in the midst of a tumultuous second-half collapse.

Tiki Barber, who has announced that he will retire after the season, did his best to extend what could be a Hall of Fame career for at least another game, possibly saved coach Tom Coughlin's job and gave Joe Gibbs one last nightmare in a wild 34-28 defeat for the Redskins last night at FedEx Field.

Barber rushed for a career-high and franchise-record 234 yards on 23 carries. He scored three touchdowns, including a 55-yarder in the second quarter and a 50-yarder after the Redskins closed a 20-point deficit to six with 9:25 left in the fourth quarter. It was only the second victory in the past eight games for the 8-8 Giants.

While Barber had his second game over 200 yards against the Redskins, and scored three touchdowns against Washington for the second time this season, Ladell Betts finished with 92 yards on 20 carries, failing to set a team record with what would have been his sixth straight game over 100 yards.

The victory all but wrapped up a wild-card spot for the Giants, and the defeat finished off the worst season in Gibbs' Hall of Fame career. At 5-11, the Redskins equaled the record that led to Steve Spurrier's resignation - and Gibbs' return - after the 2003 season.

"A long, hard, tough year for us," said Gibbs, who is 21-27 in regular-season games since coming out of retirement.

Still, Gibbs said he was encouraged with the way his team competed over the past month after realistically being knocked out of the playoff hunt with a 3-7 start, as well as the development of second-year quarterback Jason Campbell since taking over seven games ago for veteran Mark Brunell.

Campbell was knocked out briefly in the second quarter - Brunell was booed when he came on the field - but returned for a strong second half. After throwing an interception that led to the 20-7 halftime deficit growing to 27-7, Campbell grew up.

In engineering a pair of long touchdown drives that cut Washington's deficit to 27-21 with 9:25 remaining, Campbell completed nine straight passes for 112 yards. For the game, Campbell was an efficient 21 of 31 for 220 yards and two touchdowns.

"I think that what Jason did tonight was make a statement, to me and to the fans and to his teammates, too," Gibbs said. "He got a pretty good shot there in the first half. I felt that he was competing in the first half, too. He got tagged. He came back in the second half and showed confidence and competed and gave us a chance to win."

Said Campbell, who admittedly blacked out momentarily after helmet-to-helmet contact from Giants linebacker Brandon Short, "We just got into a rhythm. I got into a zone and it was one of those situations where you feel like no matter what you do on offense or what they do on defense, they can't stop you."

But after cutting what had been a 34-21 lead for the Giants on Barber's 50-yard touchdown run to 34-28 by leading the Redskins on a nine-play, 68-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Mike Sellers, Campbell couldn't produce his first last-minute victory in the NFL.

Not that he didn't have a chance. After the Redskins stopped the Giants - and Barber - on downs, Washington got the ball back at its 22 with 2:18 remaining. Campbell threw short to Betts on first down, overthrew David Patten on second down and missed Patten streaking over the middle on third down.

Finally, on fourth down, a pass that appeared to be headed for Antwaan Randle El for a first down around the Giants' 40 was tipped away at the last moment by safety Gibril Wilson. The Giants eventually ran out the clock, and the Redskins had their long lost season come to an end.

"I think that we probably learned a lot about ourselves down the stretch there," said Gibbs, who is expected to return next season. "A bunch of guys - some of them young guys - made statements about what they can do for our team, and that's a good thing for us. I was proud of the way they fought tonight."

In the end though, last night's game looked a lot like the entire season. The defense got shredded, this time by Barber, because too many players missed tackles or made costly penalties, including a pass interference by Kenny Wright just before Barber's last touchdown.

"The first couple of years we played tough defense, and we've got to get back to that," Gibbs said.

The Giants likely will be headed to the playoffs, pending the outcome of several games today.

The Redskins will be headed for a long and interesting offseason.

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