GIANTS wide receiver Plaxico Burress arrived at the Linc yesterday with a bum right ankle and just one touchdown catch in the last six games.
Despite the fact that Burress has been a major coverage headache for the Eagles since signing with the Giants before the 2005 season, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson wasn't overly worried about him being a difference-maker.
"We didn't think he was going to be that much of a factor,'' Johnson said after Burress
ravaged his defense for seven catches, 136 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' 16-13 win. "He'd been fairly quiet lately. But he made some plays today. We did a decent job on him sometimes, and some times we didn't.''
Burress hadn't had a 100-yard receiving performance since the fifth game of the season. Had eight TDs and averaged 16.9 yards per catch in the first six games. Had one TD and averaged 10.3 yards per catch in the last six.
The Eagles held him to four catches for 44 yards in the first half. But he erupted for three receptions for 92 yards and the Giants' only touchdown in the second half.
The 6-5 Burress beat cornerback Sheldon Brown on an inside route for a 20-yard touchdown with 5:59 left in the third quarter that put the Giants up for good, 13-10.
On the Giants' next possession, he caught a pass in front of the Eagles' other corner, Lito Sheppard, shed Sheppard's tackle attempt and turned it into a 41-yard completion that set up a 23-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal, which would ultimately be the game's deciding points.
In the fourth quarter, some more bad tackling, this time by Brown, resulted in a 31-yard catch-and-run by Burress. While the Eagles got the ball back on the next play when running back Brandon Jacobs fumbled, it was at their own 5.
Brown and Sheppard also had missed tackles last week on a pair of Seattle touchdowns in a 28-24 loss.
"He's a big guy,'' Sheppard said. "Six-foot whatever. He has good speed and agility. When you combine that all together, it's tough [to deal with].
"You definitely want to keep him inside, where your help is. You don't want to let him get on the outside because that's where he can make a lot of plays as far as jump balls and stuff. So we basically wanted to keep him in front [of us].''
Burress said he talked to Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride about exactly that early in the third quarter. Told him that Sheppard and Brown were trying to take away the outside and were giving him the inside.
"I told [Gilbride] that we had everything inside as far as slants, post or anything like that,'' he said. "The way they were playing, they wouldn't let me get outside. They were funneling me inside all day. We made the adjustment and got some big plays.''
None bigger than his touchdown catch. The Eagles blitzed quarterback Eli Manning on the play, leaving Brown in zero coverage (no safety help) with Burress on the outside.
Brown played Burress mch too soft, then was slow to react when the wideout cut inside, resulting in an easy score.
"It just seemed like Sheldon didn't react to it at all,'' Burress said.
Said Johnson: "They caught us in a bad coverage on that one, but we still should have stopped that. He got inside of Sheldon. We just weren't lined up real good. [Manning] made a good throw and good play. We had a guy in his face, too [defensive end Jevon Kearse]. That's what was disappointing about that one.''
Sheppard, who missed four games early in the season with a knee injury and has had trouble getting back to his Pro Bowl form, also played a major role in the Giants' first score.
On a third-and-15 play late in the first quarter, Sheppard gave up a 17-yard completion to wide receiver Sinorice Moss, then made things worse when he slammed Moss to the ground out of bounds and was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Eagles kept the Giants out of the end zone, but Tynes booted the first of his three field goals.
In seven games against the Eagles since signing with the Giants, Burress has 36 receptions for 633 yards and six TDs.
To the Linc's newly sodded field. It held up pretty well last week, but the players were slipping and sliding and kicking up divots yesterday.
To some of the inexcusable penalties on the Eagles.
After Mike Patterson recovered Brandon Jacobs' fumble at the Giants' 8-yard line early in the third quarter, left guard Todd Herremans was flagged for a false start and the Eagles ended up having to settle for a David Akers field goal. On their next possession, center Jamaal Jackson was called for a false start.
In the first half, cornerback Lito Sheppard got an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for slamming Sinorice Moss to the ground out of bounds after Moss caught a 17-yard pass in front of him on a third-and-15 play.
The Giants got a field goal out of that drive.
What was Donovan McNabb thinking when he elected not to spike the ball after his 19-yard completion to Reggie Brown on the first play of the Eagles' final possession? The precious seconds they squandered there could have been used later in the drive to run at least one more play and try to shorten the distance of David Akers' field-goal attempt. The Eagles, who took over on their own 11 with no timeouts and just 53 seconds left, were able to get off only four plays before they had to bring on Akers for a 57-yard try with 6 seconds left. *