EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Eagles' defenders talked all week about what an asset Giants tight end Kevin Boss is to New York's running game.

The inference was pretty easy to draw: If only the Birds had a tight end who could block like Boss, maybe they wouldn't be struggling to run the ball so much.

L.J. Smith outplayed Boss yesterday at least a little as a blocker, but more vividly as a pass-catcher. The Eagles ran for 144 yards to the Giants' 88, and tight end Smith caught six passes for 44 yards on a windy day, when just about everyone on the sideline lighter than Andy Reid was in danger of taking flight. Boss, manhandled at the line of scrimmage by a succession of Eagles, managed one catch for 5 yards.

"He played very well," coach Reid said of Smith, who had just 22 catches, for 192 yards, going into yesterday. "He's not feeling well today, and he came out and he pushed through it. You weren't going to get him out of the game."

Smith said he threw up at halftime, presumably not in disgust over the blocked field goal the Eagles allowed to be run back for a Giants touchdown on the final play of the half.

"That's nothing, man, being sick, you can put that on the back burner," Smith said.

Smith, signed to a 1-year franchise-tag contract, didn't seem to believe he had done anything that will rewrite the endgame of his Eagles career. Just 2 weeks earlier, Brent Celek started for Smith against Baltimore, a decision that quickly was reversed.

Asked what yesterday's game did for him, Smith said: "It's nothing for me. I'd rather catch nothing and win the game than have a great game and lose."

But, dude, you didn't lose. You had a great game, and you won.

"It is good," he allowed. "But at the same time, the headlines could be a lot different next week. I'm not even going to sit here and act like I don't know what's going on. I had a good game today, and then next week, if I don't have a good game, the headlines could be something different. I had a good game today, yes, hopefully I can keep the drive going until the end of the season."

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said: "L.J. was an important player for us today, and he did a nice job. The pass game was important [on a day dominated by running], in that we picked up some third downs."

Boss, meanwhile, indicated that the Eagles might have flummoxed the Giants' blocking scheme by changing their alignment and their emphasis, with Plaxico Burress absent from the New York wideout corps.

"They played a little more under on the front than we expected. Brought that linebacker down and created a different look," Boss said.

TV replays showed Boss literally being tackled as he came off the line a couple of times. Eagles strongside linebacker Chris Gocong said at one point, officials warned the Birds to lighten up.

"They tried jamming me on the line," Boss said. "They tried to get hands on me, make it a little tougher to get down the field."

Brownout

Wideout Reggie Brown, the team's No. 2 wide receiver coming into the season, was inactive yesterday, though healthy, after being trimmed from the offensive game plan the week before.

Brown, who was leaving the postgame locker room as reporters entered, was asked if he was surprised by the deactivation. "Not really," he said.

Asked what he thought he could do to get back on the field, Brown said: "I would say there's nothing I can do."

Two years ago, when the Jeff Garcia-led Eagles rallied to make the playoffs, Brown was a key player, but last season was mildly disappointing and this season has been a real puzzle. Brown has caught just 13 passes for 192 yards and has been a strong factor in the offense just twice, catching six passes for 79 yards at Chicago Sept. 28 and four passes for 84 yards the next week, against the Redskins. That latter game was Brown's only start of the season.

Birdseed

The Eagles lost wideout Kevin Curtis to a concussion . . . Trent Cole blocked a 47-yard John Carney field goal attempt . . . Brian Westbrook accounted for 203 yards of total offense, and now has 9,085 for his career. Yesterday he surpassed current team director of player development and alumni Harold Carmichael (9,042), becoming the franchise leader in yards from scrimmage. "I have to see Harold every day, so I'm glad I broke his record," Westbrook joked. He now has managed a career-high 14 touchdowns this seasons, six in the last two games . . . Brian Dawkins also tied a Carmichael record - Dawkins played in his 180th game as an Eagle. *