Rapid Reaction: Giants 34, Panthers 28 (OT)

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

In a fitting end to one of the best games of the season, New York Giants running back Derrick Ward put his team in position to win and Brandon Jacobs powered the ball in from the 2-yard line to give the Giants a 34-28 win in overtime. Ward, who'd been largely ineffective without Jacobs in the lineup, had a career high 215 yards on 15 carries.

Jacobs wore down the Carolina Panthers with his punishing style and they couldn't catch Ward. Carolina's DeAngelo Williams had a brilliant night of his own, rushing for 108 yards and four touchdowns. The Giants (12-3) trailed, 28-20, in the fourth quarter, but they persevered and were able to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Giants won't have to leave New York -- unless they head to Tampa, which is looking like a much better bet than a week ago.

We've focused on the absence of Plaxico Burress in the Giants' two losses, but the return of Jacobs gave this team its identity back. The offensive line that had looked shaky in losses to the Eagles and Cowboys took over the game in the second half. The Giants rushed for 301 yards, and in overtime, they were able to convert a key third-and-7 by staying on the ground.

Tom Coughlin would never admit it, but doubt had seeped into his team's mind. This win should restore some of the swagger they've lost. Defensive end Justin Tuck could barely walk off the field after the game due to the effects of the flu. But he kept battling. The Panthers had a chance to win at the end of the regulation, but John Kasay couldn't connect on a 50-yard field goal. Credit the Giants' defense for not allowing Williams any running room when the Panthers were trying to get Kasay in position to win the game.

Kasay's kick had plenty of distance, but he didn't allow for the wind which pushed the ball wide left. On Sunday night, the Panthers and Giants certainly played the part of the two best teams in the NFC. Much more to come on this game in the morning.