Tiki Barber didn't want his NFL run to end here, not on a Saturday night against a losing team in front of thousands of empty seats. He put the New York Giants on his shoulders and led them to victory -- and probably the playoffs.
And he did it with the best game of his 10-year NFL career.
In his last regular-season game, Barber carried 23 times for 234 yards -- a career high and franchise record -- and three touchdowns on Saturday night in a 34-28 victory over the Washington Red-skins. The victory ended New York's seven-week free fall just in time for the Giants to make the postseason as a .500 team.
The Giants (8-8), who had lost six of seven and had home fans chanting for coach Tom Coughlin's firing last week, are in the playoffs for the second consecutive year -- their first back-to-back appearances since 1989-90 -- unless a highly improbable series of results yesterday allowed Green Bay to take the NFC's final spot.
With New York's win, the slim postseason hopes of Atlanta, Carolina and St. Louis were all dashed.
Barber broke a tackle in a 55-yard run -- his longest rush of the season -- and also kept his feet as he stumbled for a 15-yard score, with both touchdowns coming in the second quarter.
His crowning feat was a 50-yard run with 6:13 remaining in the game. He cut left, then right, broke Troy Vincent's tackle and outran the defense to restore a 13-point lead that slowed Washington's second-half rally.
Barber passed the 1,500-yard mark for the third consecutive season -- he has 1,662 -- and also caught three passes for 24 yards. Barber's previous best rushing game was 220 yards in December 2005 against Kansas City, which was then the franchise record.
"We needed to have a resurgence, and we had it today," Barber said. "Getting in the playoffs was our goal and aspiration. We faltered for a while, so now it's nice to have this kind of game."
Barber starred on a night when his offensive teammates were ordinary, even with quarterback coach Kevin Gilbride taking over the play-calling duties from offensive coordinator John Hufnagel. Eli Manning went 12-for-26 for 101 yards and a touchdown and no Giants receiver other than Barber caught more than two passes.
If the Giants were sputtering into the postseason, the Redskins were sputtering into infamy. Washington set the NFL record for fewest takeaways, 12, in a non-strike season after going yet another game without forcing a turnover or interception. The previous mark was 15, set two years ago by Green Bay and St. Louis.
The 5-11 record is the worst in Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs' 15-year career. He has gone 21-27 in the regular season since emerging from retirement in 2004.
Jason Campbell completed 21 of 31 passes for 220 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the Redskins. Santana Moss caught six passes for 103 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown reception on an option pass from fellow receiver Antwaan Randle El.
Ladell Betts ran for 92 yards on 20 carries, ending his streak of five consecutive 100-yard games, which tied a franchise record.
After trailing 27-7, the Redskins made things interesting with a pair of long touchdown drives. Campbell broke two tackles in a 15-yard scramble to set up a 7-yard scoring pass to Betts. A 24-yard pass to Randle El and a pair of completions to Moss led to a 1-yard run by T.J. Duckett that made the score 27-21 with 9:25 to play.