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Giants lose, still clinch

Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and the desperate Philadelphia Eagles proved more of a headache for the New York Giants than all the chaos surrounding Plaxico Burress.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and the desperate Philadelphia Eagles proved more of a headache for the New York Giants than all the chaos surrounding Plaxico Burress.

Westbrook ran 30 yards for a touchdown, caught another 40-yarder from McNabb, and the Eagles limited the Giants to 211 total yards in a 20-14 victory Sunday that ended the Super Bowl champions' seven-game winning streak and momentarily prevented them from clinching the NFC East.

"I just think we kind of beat them," said Eagles tight end L.J. Smith, who has six catches for 44 yards. "It's tough to say. That's one of those: 'How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll?' Who knows if the distractions hurt them and helped us? I don't know."

The statistics were all Philadelphia (7-5-1).

McNabb finished 19-of-30 for 191 yards on a windy day that the Eagles controlled the ball for almost 35 minutes. Westbrook was the workhorse, gaining 131 yards on a season-high 33 carries and catching six passes for 72 yards. The defense limited New York's league-leading rushing game to 88 yards.

"This was a big win," Westbrook said after the Eagles won their second straight game. "But we're in a position now where we have to win them all."

The Giants (11-2) won the division title anyway, when Pittsburgh beat Dallas later Sunday.

However, this is going to remembered as the game the Super Bowl champions came up empty on offense and defense after a week of scrutiny and media hype following the suspension of Burress for the rest of the season in a wake of nightclub shooting.

It also didn't help that there is an ongoing investigation into the role of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce in the aftermath of the incident in which Burress shot himself.

"It's a great story," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "I'm glad you can use it, but it's a dead issue with us."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin also downplayed the distraction theory.

"We didn't play well," he said. 'We didn't play the way we had been playing. We're a better football team than that. As far as all those other things go, that's all speculation."

Pierce, who talked to investigators in the office of the Manhattan district attorney Friday, was nowhere to be found on Westbrook's 30-yard run. He also was three steps behind on a crossing pattern on the clinching TD in the fourth quarter.

"It was just a bad game," said Pierce, who had a game-high 15 tackles.

It didn't help that Eli Manning didn't have Burress to throw to.

In his place, Domenik Hixon dropped a 50-yard pass right in his hands with New York trailing 3-0 in the first half.

"I should have caught the ball," said Hixon, who had three catches for 30 yards.

New York scored late in each half. Kevin Dockery returned a blocked field goal 71 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half, and Manning (13-of-27 for 123 yards) found Darcy Johnson for a 1-yard TD pass with 20 seconds to go.

The loss opened up the NFC race again. Until Sunday, the Giants were the dominant team. The Eagles gave everyone hope, beating the Giants at their own game: Defense and ball control.

"It was one of those days where their defense didn't play as well as they had in the past and we played very well," Westbrook said.

The Giants, who had overcome the retirement of Michael Strahan, a season-ending preseason knee injury to Osi Umenyiora and a suspension and hamstring injuries to Burress earlier this season in going 11-1, did almost nothing right in the first half.

The one play they got right was the blocked field goal at the end of the first half with Philadelphia looking to extend a 10-0 lead.

With David Akers kicking into a swirling stiff wind, defensive end Justin Tuck got a hand on the ball, knocking it toward midfield. Dockery picked the ball up, stumbled forward in breaking a tackle attempt by Eagles guard Todd Herremans, regained his balance and scooted into the end zone for a score that prevented the Giants from being shut out in the first half for the first time since 2004 against Washington.

The officials held a conference in the end zone and let the score stand.

Until then, the first 30 minutes were marked by Giants' mistakes, particularly by the offense, which never got anything going after an ill-advised end around by rookie Mario Manningham lost 12 yards on their opening drive.

Hixon, who had been outstanding in filling in for Burress on three other occasions, dropped the long pass moments after Akers kicked a 51-yarder on the final play of the first quarter.

Rookie safety Kenny Phillips missed a third-down tackle early on a 77-yard drive that Westbrook ended with a 30-yard run on a play that first appeared to be stuffed at the line.

Even the sure-handed Steve Smith dropped a fourth-down pass on a play from the Eagles' 42.

Even when the Giants scored on the blocked field goal, there were mistakes. Pierce was called for two penalties that kept the drive moving.

Notes: Giants CB Aaron Ross injured an ankle in the first half and didn't return. ... Giants HB Brandon Jacobs left in the third quarter with a knee injury that isn't believed to be serious. ... On his 40-yard TD catch, Westbrook surpassed Harold Carmichael (9,042) as the Eagles career leader in yards. ... Philadelphia WR Kevin Curtis left with a concussion. ... Philadelphia stopped the Giants on all four fourth-down attempts.

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