EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Giants Stadium, for the most part, has been a personal house of horrors for David Akers.
Going into the Eagles' 20-14 win over the Giants yesterday, Akers was just 9-for-18 in field-goal attempts there. Back in 2002, Akers missed a 35-yard attempt that would have clinched homefield advantage for the Eagles in the playoffs.
Interestingly, the swirling, 21 mph wind wasn't a player in what could have been a season-changing play.
After the Eagles executed a nearly flawless drive at the end of the second quarter, Akers lined up for a 32-yard field goal, not a troubling distance for a three-time Pro Bowler.
Donovan McNabb had managed the clock well, spiked the ball, and connected with Greg Lewis on the sideline with 7 seconds left. It subtracted 7 yards to benefit Akers' attempt.
It was a setup that seemed to have a logical ending: a three-point cap on a well-executed drive. But Giants defensive end Justin Tuck eluded Eagles blockers and got an arm on the kick. Kevin Dockery picked up the ball and motored 71 yards for a Giants touchdown as the half expired.
"We tried to hurry up and snap the ball because we thought that the wind was dying down right at that moment," Akers said. "I felt like I hit it OK, but we will have to break it down and see what went wrong.
"They call it the toughest 2 seconds for a reason. Those guys were bringing it."
Ironically, the same thing happened at the end of the first half of the Eagles' Oct. 12 game at San Francisco. A 54-yard Akers attempt was blocked and returned for a touchdown by the 49ers.
This had started off much more promising for Akers, who hit a 51-yarder at the end of the first quarter. He had been 0-for-3 from 50-plus this season, and for his career had been just 3-for-11 from 35-plus at Giants Stadium.
Akers owes his 51-yard shot to a timely call by Reid and special-teams coordinator Rory Segrest. Reid signaled for a timeout, at the request of Segrest, with just 4 seconds left in the quarter to have Akers kick with the wind instead of against it.
"I thought it was a great idea," Akers said. "Because we wouldn't have been even close going the other [direction]. It was a really smart call."
"We figured that it would be nearly impossible to make it from the other direction," Segrest said. "We wanted to give David the best opportunity to kick with the wind."
After a stalled drive midway through the third quarter, Akers had a chance to give the Eagles a six-point edge with another midrange field goal. The officials ruled that cornerback Terrell Thomas tipped Akers' 34-yard attempt but it wasn't clear that the ball was touched.
Did the wind alone shoot down Akers' kick?
"Someone said that it might have been tipped, but I don't know," Akers said. "I can't remember the last time that I was short from 34 yards. I came up short, I guess."
"Looking at the picture on the sideline, it doesn't look like he got a hand on it," Segrest said. "I just don't think he struck it the way that he would have liked to. He didn't make very solid contact."
As with most things in life, perspective is paramount. Akers says he can't see the ball until it is 20 yards downfield after he kicks it. For him, it doesn't matter if he is kicking at Giants Stadium or the Georgia Dome. The only view that counts is the one of the scoreboard.
"Believe it or not, I felt like I had a pretty good game even though my numbers looked crappy today," Akers said. "Being 50 percent in the conditions we had feels pretty good.
"It is a team game, though. This was huge for us. I am just glad that I could make the two that I did to help us."
Akers wasn't the only kicker who had a problem. John Carney's attempt at a 47-yarder early in the second quarter was blocked by the Eagles' Trent Cole.
If you remember in 2002, after Akers' miss, the Eagles clinched homefield anyway with a Green Bay loss. Things have a way of working out.
Besides, the Eagles now are 2-0 this season when a blocked kick is returned for a touchdown. *