JASON AVANT really, really wanted to at least reach out and touch the ball, this being fourth down and kind of important and all, but he couldn't.

Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce, who had hitched a ride on Avant's back as Donovan McNabb's pass darted toward Avant, also pinned the receiver's arms, for good measure. Not surprisingly, the ball bounced off Avant and/or Pierce, incomplete.

It wasn't clear whether a catch would have quite given Avant the 6 yards he needed, on a play that began on the Giants' 44, but then again, pass interference is an automatic first down, so it didn't matter. And then, it did.

As the entire Lincoln Financial Field crowd gasped in dismay, the Giants' offense took the field, with a minute and 57 seconds remaining in what became a 16-13 win over the Eagles. No flag.

"It was definitely interference," Avant said afterward. "No explanation . . . When there's no laundry on the field, that's the worst thing, because you're powerless as a player. If they don't call it, they don't call it.

"I didn't even get a chance to touch it . . . I got pushed forward into it. His arms were wrapped around my arms; I couldn't even get my hands up to catch it."

Eagles coach Andy Reid spent the ensuing TV timeout on the field, in discussion with the officiating crew, to no avail, of course.

In 9 years here, Reid has never detailed an officiating beef in his postgame news conference. He came about as close yesterday as he ever has.

"I can't get into it," Reid said. "You could tell by my reaction. Go back and look at it. It's on film."

Pierce said: "I don't really care. It didn't get called. It's irrelevant. It's one of those plays like Franco Harris' [Immaculate Reception] catch - 'Did he catch it or not?' We got the win, and that's all that matters."

"I was sick, I was sick off of that call," Eagles linebacker Takeo Spikes said.

On a day when both teams lost replay challenges, referee Ron Winter's crew seemed extremely unpopular. What might have been an incomplete pass to Giants running back Brandon Jacobs was ruled a fumble, recovered and returned to the New York 8 by defensive tackle Mike Patterson. Then, on the Eagles' first snap after the call was upheld on review, guard Todd Herremans was called for a false start, starting a series of events that led to settling for a field goal. Herremans maintained afterward that he went with the snap, did not move early.

"It was huge to have them go backwards," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, lauding his defense.

The Eagles' frustrations extended into their final, last-gasp drive, when precious seconds ticked off before McNabb could spike the ball, at the Eagles' 48, with 12 seconds left, because Giants corner Sam Madison was holding Brian Westbrook down behind the play.

"I thought he had his shirt caught in my helmet or something, but that wasn't the case," Westbrook said, after becoming the first Eagle with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Duce Staley, who was honored at halftime yesterday, did it in 1998 and '99. "He continued to try to press his elbow in my neck. The ref shouldn't allow that type of thing to happen at the end of the game."


Eagles right guard

Shawn Andrews

and tight end

L.J. Smith

were to undergo knee MRI exams today. Andrews returned to the game after his injury, but Smith did not, after earlier suffering a rib injury and returning . . . For an unspecified reason, left guard

Todd Herremans

sat out the first series in favor of sub

Nick Cole

, who also ended up playing a while for Andrews . . . The Eagles have four three-point losses and a four-point loss, if you're scoring at home . . .

Brian Westbrook became the Eagles' fourth-leading all-time rusher, with 4,565 yards, surpassing Randall Cunningham. Westbrook's 12th touchdown of the season moved him one behind his career high, set in 2003 . . . Four times in the last five games, Eagles opponents have had first-and-goal inside the 5 and failed to score a touchdown . . . Trent Cole's two sacks gave him 11.5, the most by an Eagle since Hugh Douglas managed 12.5 in 2002 . . . David Akers is one point behind Bobby Walston's franchise record of 881. Akers has made 19 field goals in a row from inside 40 yards . . . Brian Dawkins missed a few series with cramps, including the Giants' lone touchdown drive. *