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QB Garcia looking to beat Giants again in postseason

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Facing Jeff Garcia in the playoffs has meant one thing for the New York Giants: 24 hours later it's time to clean out their lockers and start thinking about next season.

The well-traveled 37-year-old quarterback has broken the Giants' hearts in two of their last three postseason games. He rallied San Francisco from a 24-point, second-half deficit to a 39-38 win over New York in January 2003, and he led Philadelphia to a last-second 23-20 win a year ago.

Garcia trifecta?

</center> Tampa Bay QB Jeff Garcia will go for his 
 third playoff victory in three chances against the Giants Sunday. The 37-year-old QB rallied the 
49ers from a 24-point, second-half deficit to 
 a 39-38 win over the Giants in January 2003, and he led the 
Eagles to a last-second 
 23-20 win a year ago. Can he do it again? 

YARDS: 331

TD/INT: 3/1

YARDS: 153

TD/INT: 1/0

Garcia will get a chance to hand the Giants their fourth straight first-round playoff loss and fifth overall Sunday when he leads the Buccaneers (9-7) against New York (10-6) in Tampa.

"I don't think that I really look at those games as feeling like I -- or believing that I -- have an edge up on the Giants," Garcia said Wednesday. "It is not like that at all. I feel like what we did those days we were able to make enough plays to win the football game, but it is going to be a battle."

Garcia has frustrated the Giants with more than his strong, accurate arm. His legs have been just as important, whether it's scrambling for a first down or buying time for a receiver to get open.

"He is one of those guys like the little kid in the back yard," Giants seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan said. "He just makes things happen and makes plays out of improbable situations. And that is going to be a challenge for us up front. The defensive line has to get to him and pressure him."

The Giants haven't done that against Garcia, registering two sacks in the two games.

Meanwhile, Garcia has completed 44 of 75 passes for 484 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in the postseason contests.

It's important to note that while he has changed teams in recent seasons, he has always played in a West Coast-type offense. He gets rid of the ball quickly and once he gets into a rhythm, he is tough to stop.

Garcia is careful, too. He has thrown 13 touchdown passes and only four interceptions in 327 attempts this season. His 94.6 quarterback rating is seventh best in the NFL.

"We are going to have to make sure that we hit him, hit him often, pressure him," Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "We don't want him to have happy feet because that is actually when he is at his best. You want to try to make sure we can contain him and keep him in the pocket."

Logically, one would think that the Giants, who have not won a playoff game since winning the NFC title in January 2001, might have an advantage against Garcia because they are using a new defensive system this year.

The flaw in that theory is that the blitz-heavy package new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo brought over from Philadelphia is the same one Garcia practiced against every day last season with the Eagles.

The Giants still feel they have a slight edge.

"This is a different group than he saw last year," safety Gibril Wilson said. "I think we have proven we are way better than we were, and we're going to continue to get better."

Defensive lineman Justin Tuck said the line has to keep Garcia in the pocket and get hands up against the 6-foot-1 quarterback to obscure his vision.

"We definitely have the athletes to rush him on the edge and make him step up to me and Fred (Robbins) on the inside," said Tuck, who alternates between tackle and end. "We can purposely do things and let him run and have a spot. We can do a lot of things to combat what he does with his feet."

Still, Garcia has found ways to succeed, especially on third down. The nine-year veteran, who was given last week off to rest his sore back, has hit 57 of 100 passes for 686 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in third-down situations.

"He is such a creative guy," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "He can get out of trouble. He can make a creative play. He can throw it sidearm, he dives for a first-down; a great competitor; loves football. Those are the kind of guys that I like and hopefully we can keep him upright."

Garcia, whose home in California is less than a mile from Strahan's house, is savoring this trip to the playoffs, knowing it might be among his last as a pro.

"I don't know if they are tired of seeing me, but it is always a great game," he said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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