Raiders stomp on Chargers' magic Flutie; Giants clip Cardinals

Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2001

SAN DIEGO -- Darrell Russell and William Thomas intercepted Doug Flutie's passes to kill San Diego drives and the Oakland Raiders beat the Chargers 13-6 in a wild finish Saturday to clinch their second straight AFC West title.

The Raiders (10-3) became the first team to clinch a playoff spot. The Chargers (5-9) lost their seventh straight game.

With the Raiders leading 10-6 with 11:35 left to play, Rice reached for a pass from Rich Gannon, inadvertently batted it into the air and saw it picked off by safety Rodney Harrison.

The Chargers moved to the 2 and Flutie tried to hit Curtis Conway at the goal line, but the pass was underthrown and went right to Thomas at the 3 for his second pickoff of the game. Thomas lateraled to Charles Woodson, who returned it to the Raiders 44.

That set up Sebastian Janikowksi's 31-yard field goal with 1:07 left. The Chargers moved to the Oakland 23 in the final seconds, but Jeff Graham couldn't hold onto Flutie's fourth-down pass at about the 7.

The game's only touchdown, a 40-yard pass from Rich Gannon to Rice, was set up when Russell, who's appealing a suspension for a positive drug test, intercepted Flutie's pass to kill a San Diego drive at the Oakland 12.

Giants 17, Cardinals 13

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants kept their faint playoff hopes alive Saturday with a drive reminiscent of last season's run to the Super Bowl.

Kerry Collins threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer with 25 seconds to play and the Giants snapped a three-game losing streak with a 17-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

The comeback was out of character for the Giants (6-7), who have blown four fourth-quarter leads this season.

The Cardinals (5-8) came close to making it five after taking a 13-10 lead on Tywan Mitchell's leaping 24-yard touchdown catch on a fourth-down pass from Jake Plummer with 4:04 to play.

''I felt there has been a lot of games over the last couple of weeks where we had opportunities, our offense had opportunities, and I think we just got fed up,'' Toomer said. ''It was our turn to make plays to win the game.''

Toomer, Collins, Ike Hilliard and Tiki Barber all contributed on the 11-play, 70-yard drive that still left the Giants on the outside of the playoff picture. They need to win their final three games and get help.

''When they scored, if ever there was a chance for a team to say it can't happen, that was it,'' Giants coach Jim Fassel said. ''For us to hang in there and win the game says a lot.''

Collins also threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Ron Dixon, and Morten Andersen kicked a 39-yard field goal in the game that featured a lot of inept play.

The most comical play came from Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica, who hyperextended his right knee jumping to celebrate a 42-yard field goal in the first quarter. He added a 23-yarder in the second quarter but wasn't able to handle the kickoffs.

Starting safety Pat Tillman had to do that and that allowed the Giants to take over at their 30 after Mitchell's spectacular catch gave Arizona the lead.

''When they got the touchdown, it was like, 'You've got to be kidding me,''' said Collins, who was 6-of-9 for 56 yards on the final drive and finished 14-of-32 for 147 yards. ''We all hung in there and stayed positive and did what we had to do.''

Collins started the game-winning drive with a 14-yard pass to Hilliard. After a 14-yard run by Barber, Collins kept the drive alive with a 9-yard, third-down pass to Hilliard. A 14-yard pass to Toomer got the ball to the Cardinals' 15 and Barber had an 11-yard catch on third down to give New York a first-and-goal at the 4.

Toomer, who was nearly benched after dropping three passes earlier in the game, scored two plays later on a fade pattern to the right corner of the end zone. Cardinals cornerback Renaldo Hill slipped and fell on the play.

''I'm sickened, I'm extremely sick for those players in there,'' Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said. ''They put everything they had out there and we didn't get it done.''

Arizona linebacker Ronald McKinnon said the blame should fall on the defense.

''We asked the offense to score and they score, and we didn't do it,'' McKinnon said.

The Cardinals squandered a chance to take the lead late in the second quarter when Trey Junkin launched a snap 5 yards over the head of holder Scott Player on a 23-yard field goal attempt.

Andersen added his 39-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

Notes: The Giants won the opening toss and elected to take the wind, giving the Cardinals the ball both halves. ... The Cardinals held the ball for 36:55. New York's 23:05 was its lowest possession time this season. ... Giants WR Joe Jurevicius missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. ... There was a moment of silence before the kickoff for former Giants general manager George Young, who died last Sunday. ... Giants LB Jessie Armstead had 13 tackles and three assists. Giants DE Michael Strahan had half a sack, giving him 17 for the season, five shy of Mark Gastineau's league record. ... David Boston led the Cardinals with eight catches for 84 yards, ending a five-game streak in which New York had allowed an opposing player to record 100-yards receiving.

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