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Barber lifts Giants to 34-28 win over Skins

LANDOVER, Md. (Dec. 30, 2006) -- Tiki Barber put the ultimate exclamation point on the New York Giants ' season of turmoil with a franchise-rushing record, a dominating performance that virtually assures his career will last at least one more week.

In his last regular-season game, Barber carried 23 times for 234 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-28 victory over Washington. The win ends New York's seven-week free fall just in time for the Giants to make the postseason as a .500 team.

"This is a soap opera to its fullest," linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "This is New York at its prime right here. Hopefully, we'll go out on top and do everything right. We finally got to the playoffs, and that was our ultimate goal. We're in the playoffs, and we're 0-0, and I like that better than anything else."

The Giants (8-8) had lost six of seven, and fans were chanting for coach Tom Coughlin's firing last week. Coughlin said he had several "heart-to-hearts" this week with his players, and they responded by putting New York in the playoffs for the second consecutive year -- its first back-to-back appearances since 1989-90 -- unless a highly improbable series of results Sunday allows Green Bay to take the NFC's final spot.

"We won a game, and we got into the playoffs," said Coughlin, who grew a little testy when reporters asked whether he was coaching for his job. "Is that good enough?"

But Coughlin's team is there solely because of Barber. He broke a tackle in a 55-yard run -- his longest of the season -- in the second quarter and kept his feet as he stumbled for a 15-yard score later in the half. His crowning feat was a 50-yard run with 6:13 left in the game. He cut left, then right, broke Troy Vincent 's tackle and outran the defense to restore a 13-point lead.

"There are certain things that motivate you, push you," Barber said. "It's partly because of the circumstances of this game, my last one. Most important, we had to win to keep playing."

Barber passed the 1,500-yard mark for the third consecutive season -- he has 1,662 -- and also caught three passes for 24 yards. Barber's previous best rushing game was 220 yards in December 2005 against Kansas City, which also was the franchise record.

Barber starred on a night when quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride handled the play-calling duties in place of offensive coordinator John Hufnagel. Eli Manning went 12-for-26 for 101 yards and a touchdown, and no receiver other than Barber caught more than two passes.

"That's why he's Tiki Barber," Pierce said. "He sets his own goals and standards. His way of living is different from everybody else's, and he shows it. He plays with a lot of heart and determination. Today he put this team and this offense on his back and did everything he could for us to win."

If the Giants could be accused of sputtering into the postseason, the Redskins simply sputtered into infamy. Washington set the NFL record for fewest takeaways in a non-strike season -- 12 -- after going yet another game without forcing a turnover or interception. The previous mark was 15, set two years ago by Green Bay and St. Louis.

The Redskins' 5-11 record is the worst in Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs' 15-year career. He's 21-27 in the regular season since emerging from retirement in 2004.

"A long, hard, tough year for us," said Gibbs, who met with owner Dan Snyder before addressing reporters. "Dan and I were in there talking right now. We're going to start with me and him, and spend quite a bit of time together, starting tomorrow. I think I know quite a bit about some of the things I want to do, and some of the things we want to try to fix."

Jason Campbell completed 21 of 31 passes for 220 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the Redskins. Santana Moss caught six passes for 103 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown reception on an option pass from Antwaan Randle El, the ex-Pittsburgh receiver's first touchdown pass since last season's Super Bowl.

Trailing 27-7, the Redskins made things interesting with a pair of long touchdown drives. Ladell Betts caught a 7-yard scoring pass, and a 1-yard run by T.J. Duckett that made the score 27-21 with 9:25 to play.

But Barber answered with his 50-yard run, a much-needed score given that the Redskins came back to cut the deficit to six on Mike Sellers ' 1-yard touchdown reception with 3:22 remaining.

The Redskins got the ball back with a chance to win in the final minutes, but Giants safety Gibril Wilson broke up a pass on fourth-and-10 end Washington's last threat.

"Once we got rolling in the second half and I got into the flow of the game, it seemed like we were unstoppable at one point," Campbell said. "Losing at the end really hurt."

Notes: Injuries: Giants CB Corey Webster (hip); Redskins LB Warrick Holdman (shoulder) and CB Ade Jimoh (concussion). ... Campbell was shaken up in the second quarter and was replaced by Mark Brunell for two plays. ... The Giants benched struggling LT Bob Whitfield and gave Grey Ruegamer his first start of the season. Ruegamer started at LG, with David Diehl moving to LT. ... New York backup QB Jared Lorenzen took his first NFL snap, converting a third-and-1 with a sneak in the second quarter. ... Redskins WR Brandon Lloyd was inactive because of bronchitis. ... KR Rock Cartwright set the Redskins season record for return yards (1,541), passing Brian Mitchell's 1,478 in 1994. ... Redskins S Adam Archuleta, who voiced frustrations over playing time this week, saw his first snaps on defense in eight weeks. ... Betts was held to 92 yards, ending his streak of 100-yard games at five, which had tied a franchise record.

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