Giants, Barber rush to East title
By JANIE McCAULEY
By JANIE McCAULEY
OAKLAND, Calif. — Plaxico Burress looked up to the big screen and saw Tiki Barber running like mad, and Burress saw an opportunity.
He pushed away a hapless defender, making sure Barber reached the end zone with ease.
Barber and Burress, the Giants' playmaking duo, provided the big plays New York needed to win the NFC East and secure a home playoff game.
Burress had that key block on Barber's franchise-record, 95-yard touchdown run, then hauled in a career-best 78-yard catch and run for a touchdown, and they both made quarterback Eli Manning look good in the Giants' 30-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders last night.
"I think the people of New York are happy," Burress said. "We came out here and handled our business and now we can go home and give those guys one playoff game. They're going to be rowdy."
Barber ran for 203 yards and Jay Feely kicked three field goals, including a 47-yarder early in the fourth quarter to help New York (11-5) win its first division title since Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins led the Giants to the 2001 Super Bowl.
Collins had a solid game against his former team, which made him expendable when the Giants traded for Manning on draft day in 2004. He didn't have a turnover for the first time since Oct. 2 against Dallas.
"Nothing is ever easy," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "Obviously we had some big plays tonight, and we needed them."
Randy Moss had seven receptions for 116 yards with TD catches of 15 and 44 yards for his first multi-touchdown game with Oakland, and finished his first Raiders' season with 60 catches for 1,005 yards. The passing game looked much better than in recent weeks, but in a sequence that summed up their season, the Raiders couldn't score with four chances from the 1 after getting a first down with 3:44 left trailing by nine.
Barber's touchdown run helped him move into the NFL lead in rushing with 1,860 yards — 53 more than Seattle's Shaun Alexander, who finishes the season today at Green Bay. Barber's career-long run broke the franchise-record 91-yard TD run by Hap Moran in 1930.
"It's a play we run all the time," said Barber, who gave the team a scare when he tweaked an ankle late. "We have a lot of confidence. I'm just playing good right now, and I know it."
Barber also had six catches for 60 yards and Burress finished with five receptions for 128 yards as the Giants won the division on the road and earned a home playoff game after losing 35-20 at Washington last week.
For John Mara, the Giants' chief operating officer, this was a long time coming.
"You always go into the season hoping for the best," Mara said in New York's mellow locker room. "I legitimately thought we could be a playoff team this year, but I can't say I expected to win the division."
Chad Morton had a 58-yard punt return that put the Giants on the 3 late in the third quarter, setting up Brandon Jacobs' 1-yard scoring run two plays later that made it 27-14. Moss answered with his second TD.
Manning was shaky at times a week after having a rough game at Washington. He finished 12 of 24 for 204 yards and was sacked twice.
This might have been the final game for embattled Raiders coach Norv Turner. The Raiders (4-12) lost their final six games and eight of nine.
Turner wouldn't address his status after the game. He was disappointed the Raiders couldn't score from the 1 in the closing minutes.
"With Zack (Crockett) in there, I like our chances of making it," Turner said, "but we just didn't get it done."
Collins, eager to have a good game against his old team, was 26 of 48 for 331 yards and three touchdowns. It also might have been his last game in silver and black, although he said he might be willing to re-negotiate his contract to stay.
"I don't think my mind-set was any different tonight than for any other game," Collins said. "I really tried to finish this on a positive note. Obviously, playing against the Giants was a pretty big deal for me."