SPORTS

Giants' Tuck seeks payback against Eagles for nightmare loss

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Giants Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck said he was haunted by a nightmarish loss last year to the Philadelphia Eagles and yearns to make amends in their National Football League rematch this Sunday.

With under eight minutes to play, the visiting Eagles exploded for 28 unanswered points, including a punt return for the winning touchdown on the final play of the game, to propel themselves into the playoffs and shatter New York's season.

"Last year will linger with me until I die," Tuck told reporters about the 38-31 loss to the Eagles. "Everybody in our locker room feels like we owe the Eagles a little something and that's going to be a big game for us."

The Eagles have won the last six meetings between the longtime rivals, but it is last year's stunner that will be on the minds of the players when they clash Sunday at 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) in Philadelphia.

The Giants and Eagles entered that December game tied for the NFC East division lead with 9-4 records and New York led 31-10 midway through the last quarter before Michael Vick used his strong arm and thrilling running style to tie the game.

Philadelphia completed the comeback in stunning style when lightning-quick wide receiver DeSean Jackson fielded a punt and burst through the Giants on a thrilling 65-yard touchdown dash on the last play of the game.

Vick is considered questionable for Sunday's game after the quarterback suffered a concussion during last week's loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Tuck said he hopes Vick will be fit to play.

"You always want to beat teams at their best," said Tuck. "And me, personally, I love to play against him. I think he brings the best out in us, too.

"Maybe we go down there and he's not in there and we think, 'Oh we've got this thing won.' If he's playing we know we've got to be on our toes. That's not a shot at whoever would play if he doesn't play."

With back-up quarterback Vince Young nursing an injury, Mike Kafka would be in line for a possible start against the Giants after filling in last week after Vick was hurt.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said regardless of who calls the signals for Philadelphia, he expects a tough game between the teams, who both enter the contest with 1-1 records.

The teams have played 152 times since 1933, with the Giants holding a 79-71-2 advantage despite their recent failures.

"These teams have been playing each other for a long, long time. There is passion and all kind of things involved," Coughlin said on Wednesday.

Eagles coach Andy Reid agreed.

"Every one is a blood bath," Reid said about the series between the teams. "It has been a knockdown drag out heavyweight fight."

Philadelphia cornerback Asante Samuel said the Giants rivalry is different from other rivalries.

"It is a lot of intensity," said Samuel. "It is a lot of trash talking and a lot of guys on the field that just hate each other. They just want to beat each other's head in."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)