ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Neither rain, sleet nor snow could prevent the New York Giants from clinching a playoff berth yesterday.
A rediscovered running attack and an opportunistic defense carried the Giants past the Bills and the elements in a 38-21 win.
"I'm very proud," said running back Brandon Jacobs, who scored twice and finished with a career-high 145 yards. "I'm proud of my team. I'm proud of the defense. It means a lot."
Even coach Tom Coughlin could shrug off his sourpuss public persona for a moment, cracking a joke about the Gatorade bath he received on the sideline.
"It was the chunks of ice that gave me some mixed thoughts on the intention there," Coughlin said, smiling.
The game began with a pelting rain and winds gusting at more than 30 miles per hour, and ended with flurries and wind gusts above 50. The conditions contributed to the teams committing four turnovers each and not mounting much of a passing attack.
Good thing the Giants had a plan to run the football, something they were criticized for failing to do in a 22-10 loss to the Redskins last week. They rushed for 291 yards, their most since they had 351 on Nov. 29, 1959, against Washington.
Jacobs' two scores, including a powerful 43-yard run, rallied the Giants from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit. And when he left the game with a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter, New York kept running the ball, with backup Ahmad Bradshaw scoring an 88-yard touchdown that put the Giants up, 31-21, with 6 minutes, 12 seconds left.
New York's defense did the rest as Kawika Mitchell intercepted Trent Edwards and returned it 20 yards for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter. Corey Webster then sealed the victory by scoring on a 34-yard interception return 22 seconds after Bradshaw's TD.
The Giants (10-5) won their seventh straight road game to establish a single-season franchise record. And they avoided what could have been a must-win finale against the New England Patriots.
Even quarterback Eli Manning could shrug off a performance in which he went 7 of 15 for 111 yards with two interceptions and two lost fumbles.
"We've won some tough games, done a good job, and it's a relief," Manning said. "We all knew we wanted to do it this game."