PHILADELPHIA, NOV. 15 -- The New York Giants still have a playoff hope because reliable backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge threw for 298 yards, Raul Allegre kicked field goals of 53 and 52 yards and the team came back from deficits of 10 and seven points today to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 20-17.
But the Giants, already playing without Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms, lost the heart of their running game, Joe Morris, and the league MVP, Lawrence Taylor.
Simms is almost ready to play. Morris probably could have returned after straining a sternum muscle and bruising his collarbone in the first quarter.
But when Taylor had to be helped up the stairs outside the locker room an hour after the game with a right hamstring injury, the playoff hopes of the 3-6 Giants may have limped out with him.
Taylor chased down Philadelphia quarterback Randall Cunningham a yard short of a first down at the Giants' 23 with 25 seconds to play. It was a play that either badly strained or tore the hamstring.
"Cunningham can really run," Taylor said. "He's got five gears. I ain't got but four." Taylor, who has rehabilitated every injury of his seven-year career quickly and never missed any of 105 games because of injury, likely will miss next Sunday's game in New Orleans. He said the injury is "not bad," which didn't seem to be the case.
Club security guard Tim Burke and a locker room security guard helped him hop and he was pulled up the stairs to the team bus. One of the team doctors cautioned against making a quick judgment on Taylor. "You can't tell. There's no book on him," he said.
So, the Giants must play at New Orleans (6-3) and Washington (7-2) the next two Sundays, and they probably must win both games to have a chance at a wild-card playoff spot, and they probably will be without Taylor. The Giants are two games behind the last NFC wild-card spot. Minnesota and Dallas, both 5-4, are tied for that position.
"Until we win the next two," guard Billy Ard said, "the playoffs are still a wing and a prayer."
But this was a big victory for the Giants. The Eagles (4-5) are one of the most improved NFL teams with one of the best defensive lines and the most elusive quarterback.
It was a game, early on, that the Giants appeared to have no chance to win. They trailed by 10-0 after the Eagles' first two possessions, on Cunningham's four-yard scramble and Paul McFadden's 25-yard field goal. They tied it by halftime on a 36-yard pass from Rutledge to Lionel Manuel and Allegre's 53-yarder.
In the third quarter, the Eagles, who rushed for 191 yards, scored on an eight-yard pass from Cunningham to Keith Byars. The Giants rallied on George Adams' one-yard touchdown run over the left side on fourth and goal with 39 seconds left in the third quarter.
With 11:12 left in the game, Allegre's 52-yard field goal was six inches inside the right upright. The Giants then stopped drives at the Eagles' 41, the Eagles' 40 and the Giants' 23.
With 11 seconds to play, McFadden missed a 39-yard field goal wide left.
"We were knocked down on our backs," said defensive end Leonard Marshall. "We put it together when it counted. We came back. I think that says a lot about our team."
The Eagles had won three in a row by scoring 37, 28 and 31 points. They seemed ready to break into the wild-card stratum. "This is a shame," said Eagles tight end John Spagnola. "This team is very close to becoming very good, and going into overtime and maybe winning against the Super Bowl champions would have meant a lot to this year."
The Eagles, controlling play early, ran 34 of the game's first 40 plays. In that span, the Eagles had a 16:48-2:53 advantage in time of possession. "We had a real shaky start," Giants Coach Bill Parcells said. "It seems like we were digging out of a hole all day."
The Eagles drove 91 yards for their first score -- the longest drive this year against the Giants -- and Adams fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive. Then the Eagles drove 39 yards for McFadden's field goal.
Then, on the Giants' third offensive play, Morris made his only run of the game -- he lost two yards -- and was hurt. He sat out the rest of the game. But he sounded like a man who could have played. "It's Bill's decision," he said curtly. "I'm fine." N.Y. Giants 7 3 7 3 20 Philadelphia 10 0 7 0 17 First Quarter
P -- Cunningham 4 run (McFadden kick), 4:34
P -- FG McFadden 25, 8:21
NY -- Manuel 36 pass from Rutledge (Allegre kick), 14:38 Second Quarter
NY -- FG Allegre 53, 12:48 Third Quarter
P -- Byars 8 pass from Cunningham (McFadden kick), 7:02
NY -- Adams 1 run (Allegre kick), 14:21 Fourth Quarter
NY -- FG Allegre 52, 3:48
A -- 66,172
Giants Eagles First downs 17 22 Rushes-yards 28-116 39-191 Passing yards 268 146 Return yards 15 17 Passing 16-30-2 17-34-1 Sacked-yards lost 4-30 6-31 Punts-average 3-38 8-36 Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-0 Penalties-yards 6-48 5-45 Time of possession 27:53
RUSHING -- New York: Rouson 12-61, Adams 12-29, Rutledge 3-28, Morris 1-minus 2. Philadelphia: Cunningham 1
PASSING -- New York: Rutledge 16-30-2, 298 yards. Philadelphia: Cunningham 17-34-1, 177.
RECEIVING -- New York: Bavaro 7-102, Manuel 4-105, Adams 3-31, Baker 2-60. Philadelphia: Quick 3-32, Toney
MISSED FIELD GOALS -- New York: Allegre, 47, 41. Philadelphia: McFadden, 50, 39.