ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)—Neither rain, sleet nor snow—and not even Bills tight end Kevin Everett’s inspirational return to Buffalo—could prevent the New York Giants from clinching a playoff berth Sunday.
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 ball, 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 6:12 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 touchdown.
The Giants (10-5) won their seventh straight road game to establish a single-season franchise record. And they avoided what could’ve been a must-win finale against the league’s top team, the New England Patriots, next weekend.
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.”
The Bills (7-8) had plenty to play for even though they were eliminated from playoff contention following an 8-0 loss at Cleveland last weekend. That’s because of Everett, the tight end who addressed the team before the game in his first visit to Buffalo since sustaining a severe spinal cord injury in the Bills season opener against Denver on Sept. 9.
Everett is now walking on his own while continuing his rehab in Houston. It’s a remarkable recovery for someone doctors initially feared would never walk again.
“There’s no way I could deny it, it was certainly an inspiration to see him,” coach Dick Jauron said of Everett, who watched the game with friends and family from a suite at midfield.
The Bills seemed to ride the emotion of Everett’s speech in the first quarter, when Buffalo gained 122 yards and scored on each of its first two possessions. Nothing much else went right after that as the Bills managed 122 yards the rest of the game.
The Bills again proved they’re incapable of beating a playoff contender. Six of Buffalo’s eight losses this year have come against teams that have qualified for the postseason.
“It gets disappointing as the year goes on,” defensive end Chris Kelsay said. “It’s another year we’re not going to the postseason. I’m getting frustrated.”
He was particularly unhappy with Buffalo’s run defense.
“If you can’t stop the run, then they’re not going to throw the ball,” Kelsay said. “It’s our job to get them off the field. And we didn’t do that.”
Jacobs, who returned briefly after hurting his ankle, said the injury isn’t major, and he expects to play next week. … Lynch finished with 70 yards rushing to give him 1,010 this season, becoming the fourth Bills rookie to break the 1,000-yard plateau, and first since Greg Bell had 1,100 in 1984. … Bills Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters did not return after hurting his groin in the second quarter. Without him, Buffalo allowed three sacks, ending a three-game run without allowing a sack. … The Giants made the playoffs for the third straight year, tying the team record.