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Solid effort lifts Giants over Pats 31-23

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Aug. 31, 2006) -- The New York Giants gave coach Tom Coughlin a perfect 60th birthday present against the New England Patriots, putting the finishing touches on an undefeated preseason.

For Giants fans who believe in omens, the last time New York went unblemished in the preseason was in 1990, the last time it won the Super Bowl.

Backup halfback Brandon Jacobs rushed for 130 yards and scored on runs of 57 and 2 yards as the Giants (4-0) defeated the Tom Brady-less Patriots 31-23 at Giants Stadium.

James Sims scored on a 3-yard run, Jay Feely had a 29-yard field goal and Tim Hasselbeck threw a late touchdown for New York. The defending NFC East champions will open the regular season here a week from Sunday against the Colts in the much-anticipated matchup of Peyton and Eli Manning.

Heath Evans scored on a 1-yard run and rookie Stephen Gostkowski added three field goals for the Patriots (2-2), who gave Brady the night off. Patrick Cobbs added a late TD run for the AFC East champions, who open their season on Sept. 10 at home against Buffalo.

For the most part, both teams played their starters only one series. There was only one major scare. Giants Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan went down on the first series in obvious pain after a tackle. It looked serious for a minute, but the team later said he was kicked in the groin.

The only problem was a leg injury sustained by Patriots backup linebacker Barry Gardner. He was taken off the field on a golf cart, but the team never disclosed the nature of the injury.

Manning finished 4-for-5 for 35 yards, while Jared Lorenzen 10-for-15 for 116 yards. Patriots starter Matt Cassel was 15-for-28 for 196 and one interception.

New England's first-team offense didn't miss Brady, at least on the opening series. Cassel moved them 67 yards in 14 plays, with Evans capping the drive on fourth down.

The most memorable play of the drive was Strahan going down and being trampled and kicked at the Giants 19.

The Giants offense tried to answer, but a 51-yard field goal attempt by Feely was blocked by Roosevelt Colvin.

Jacobs tied the game early in the second quarter, following fullback Tony Jackson through a hole on the left side and rambling 57 yards for a touchdown.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick provided a novelty on the next series and put punt-returner Troy Brown at quarterback. Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn forced halfback Cobbs to fumble on the second play and Carlos Emmons recovered.

A 15-yard end-around by Michael Jennings helped set up Feely's field goal.

Lorenzen, trying to win the Giants' backup job from Hasselbeck, fumbled a shot-gun snap late in the first half and New England safety Artrell Hawkins recovered. Gostkowski tied the game at 10 with a 29-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

Jacobs and Sims ran for TDs in the second half and Hasselbeck threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darcy Johnson.

Gostkowski added field goals of 54 and 25 yards in the second half, finishing the preseason 9-for-9 as Adam Vinatieri's replacement.

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