Saving his Best for Last

C'mon, who out there is even the least bit surprised? Of course Tiki Barber was going to get the job done in convincing fashion – on the grandest of stages. All the Giants have been since his arrival in 1997 is what Barber has made them. His first 1,000-yard season? Yup, they went to the Super Bowl. And basically any Giants success since then Barber has set up with his heroics.

The Washington Redskins as we know them have been around since 1937. Yet never have they given up 234 rushing yards in a single game. Before last Saturday night, that is. Before Barber, once again, single-handedly lifted the Giants on his back and carried them across the finish line in a must-win victory that snuck New York into the back door of the playoffs. Heck, the Giants, based on superb seasons by Barber, have now qualified for the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1989-90.

"That's why he's Tiki Barber," Antonio Pierce said. "He sets his own standards. His way of living is different from everybody else's."

Barber ran roughshod over the overmatched Redskins, rolling up a career-high 234 yards, in Landover, Md. to send New York to a 34-28 victory.

"He was unbelievable, he's such an unbelievable back," said David Diehl, who started at left tackle for the first time this season. "He's a great threat."

Diehl said it was just business as usual for Barber.

"He didn't really have to say anything special," he said. "We all knew this could be his last game."

Barber saw to it that it wasn't. Harry Carson lent Barber his Super Bowl XXI ring during the week as motivation. Barber obviously took it to heart. He averaged more than 10 yards per carry and caught three more passes for 24 yards. When a play needed to be made, he made it. It was typical Barber, the three-time Pro Bowler and best running back in the history of the New York Football Giants.

Barber was brilliant from the start, rolling up 137 yards and a pair of scores before intermission. But it was after the break, when once again the Giants defense failed them, when he really had to step up and get the job done.

"That's the nature of the NFL," Barber explained. "Nothing is ever easy. The defense wasn't holding. They couldn't get off the field, they gave up a couple touchdowns. We went right to the offense and said we can win this ourselves – we have to. We continued to pound on them and make big plays and put the final nail in the coffin ourselves."

The drive after Washington closed within 27-21 in the middle of the fourth quarter, Barber took over. He started the march with a 10-yard run, then finished it four plays later with a 50-yard scoring run around left end. Barber had excellent success running to his left against Washington, easily his best performance behind that side of the line since Luke Petitgout was injured in midseason.

"I do my job very well, and I know that," Barber stated. "When you get the right circumstances, when you get Jim Finn listening to me when I tell him to stay on his path, when you get Chris Snee and David Diehl opening holes on the left side to allow me to keep on going for touchdowns, big things happen."

"That was just Tiki," Finn said. "I don't think it had anything to do with it being his last game. That's what he does. He changes the game, makes plays and takes it over."

There were those who questioned whether or not Barber had checked out late in the season, whether or not he still had the desire to give his all as his career was creeping to a close. You know who you are, and you ought to be ashamed. We told you repeatedly that was one of the most foolish things we've heard in years. Then Barber went out and proved it unlike anyone has proven anything around Giants Stadium in years.

"I have a method, a madness to what makes me great," Barber said. "Unless you've walked miles in my shoes or done the things I've done…

"There are certain things that motivate you and push you. It's partly because of the circumstances surrounding this game; it's my last one (near) Virginia. I think most importantly we had to win to keep going."

And Barber did everything in his power to ensure the victory – once again.

"It was an outstanding football game," Tom Coughlin said. "It certainly was very timely, wasn't it?"

What a difference a play-caller makes. With Kevin Gilbride making the decisions on offense for the first time this season, New York broke through in a big way, snapping a six-losses-in-seven-games skid. Barber capped his final regular season contest in style, posting a trio of TDs, including 55- and 50-yard scoring jaunts. Barber had little help, but didn't need it as he put this one in the win column for Big Blue.

"He had a fabulous game," Eli Manning said. "You have to give him a lot of credit."

Even New York's opponent couldn't help but be impressed by number 21, who clearly hasn't slowed down one step as he leads his team into the playoffs this weekend.

"He definitely is a great player," Redskins LB Rocky McIntosh said. "He went out with a bang."

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