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Giants Finish Like Champions : Pro football: Hampton’s rushing, Simms’ passing beat Oilers, 24-20, and let New York end its whimper season with a bang.

From Associated Press

The New York Giants played like NFL champions Saturday.

Rodney Hampton rushed for a personal-best 140 yards and scored a touchdown and Phil Simms completed a team-record 15 of 17 passes as the Giants defeated the Houston Oilers, 24-20.

The loss prevented the Oilers (11-5) from clinching a first-round bye in the playoffs and getting a franchise-record 12th victory. Houston still will get the first-round bye if the San Diego Chargers beat the Denver Broncos today.

If not, the Oilers go back to work next week, something they didn’t do well against the Giants (8-8), a team that floundered in its first season under Coach Ray Handley.

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“This hurts, no doubt about it,” Oiler guard Mike Munchak said. “We’re in the playoffs, but we’re not happy today. We’d like to have clinched the bye.

“We’ve accomplished a lot this year. We won the division (AFC Central). If we have to play one more game to get to the Super Bowl, we’ll have to play an extra game.”

The Giants ended a three-game losing streak in their final game. They shut down quarterback Warren Moon most of the way with a two-man defensive front and a ball-control offense that was reminiscent of last season’s Super Bowl victory over the Buffalo Bills.

“I don’t think there was that much of a disparity in our play from last year,” Giant center Bart Oates said.

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“It was just a play here and a play there. We make those plays, and we’re in Houston’s position (in the playoffs).”

New York had scoring drives of 80, 65, 59 and 62 yards while gaining 383 total yards. The Giants committed only one turnover and had only four penalties for 30 yards. Turnovers and penalties had hurt them all season.

Simms’ team-record completion percentage of 88.3 produced 200 yards and a 12-yard touchdown to Howard Cross. The previous Giant record for accuracy in a regular-season game was Jeff Hostetler’s 28 for 34 (82%) this season against the Dallas Cowboys.

Hampton, a second-year pro, carried 28 times and scored on a two-yard run. He finished the season with 1,059 yards.

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“It’s tough,” Hampton said. “I feel good about the 1,000 yards, but not about the season. Next year we’re going to come out and be a better team.”

New York took a 17-6 halftime lead on Hampton’s touchdown on the first series, Simms’ scoring pass to Cross and Matt Bahr’s personal-best 54-yard field goal late in the second quarter. A four-yard touchdown run by Lewis Tillman made the score 24-6 before Houston came back in the fourth quarter on a six-yard run by Moon with 6:06 to play and a five-yard scoring pass from Moon to Ernest Givens with 1:28 to play.

Oiler wide receiver Haywood Jeffires caught his fourth and final pass of the game on the last scoring drive and became the fifth player in NFL history to catch 100 passes in a season. He finished with 100 receptions for 1,181 yards.

“We did not play well enough,” Moon said.

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