No luck for hopeless O

<b>LANDOVER, Md. -</b> There were 37 seconds left in the first half and the Giants offense hadn't done a thing all day.

But New York decided to stick to its lackluster game plan and make it a complete half of ineptitude as QB Eli Manning stuck the ball in Tiki Barber's gut and watched the speedster plow up the middle for a measly yard to run out the clock. The strategy, supposedly, if you're losing 21-0 why take chances?

Somewhere even Chuck Knox was grumbling. On a day when the Giants needed a win badly to stay in a Wild Card playoff hunt with the Rams, their offense showed less enthusiasm than Dick Cheney being asked about Halliburton.

After the 1st quarter, the Giants' alleged secret-weapon, fullback Jim Finn, was the leading receiver with 2 catches for 8 yards. By the half, Manning completed an admirable 8-of-11 for 44 yards. Unfortunately, the Giants employed a rarely used horizontal passing game, which yielded short-chuck completions; the longest was 11 yards to Amani Toomer. Hilliard led the team at the half with 3 catches for 13 yards.

"We're not shocking people," said Barber glumly after the game, when a reporter asked him if the Giants offense was predictable. "We're not making big plays, we're not even making regular plays."

Coach Tom Coughlin, as usual, simplified the offense's pathetic performance. "You can't run the football if you can't … compete."

Giants guard Jason Whittle, one of the Giants responsible for Barber's 38-yard rushing day, said the Redskins came to stop the run and more than succeeded.

"They had an eight-man line a lot, but that's no excuse," Whittle said. "We have to find a way to run the ball, pound it in there . . . We didn't do it today."

The Redskins blitzing defense crushed the Giants. In fact, even though the Skins are just 4-8 and the victory was the team's first at FedEx Field since opening day, they played like a team hungry for the playoffs.

"It wasn't just a matter of pride, but attitude too," said Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn. "When you look at the Giants success on offense, it's been because of Tiki Barber. He's having his best year, so we were going to stop him whether it was running or catching screen passes."

For former Giant Cornelius Griffin the victory meant a lot more than being on the cover of the Redskins game program. "They beat us that first game and we had some turnovers and they had that big score over the top (Kurt Warner's 38-yarder to Tim Carter)," he said. "So we poured our hearts into it and we knew we were going to get them this time. We knew it."

They got them by strangle-holding the Giants offense to just 7 first downs and just 19:31 of total possession.

With the Redskins controlling the clock for 40:29 of the 60 minutes, the Giants offense was more rested than Hugh Hefner. Unfortunately, they played like they had bed bruises.

"We were trying to run the ball, but we couldn't get that going," said Manning, now 0-3 as a starter. "They were stacking eight, nine players in the box. We tried to run the ball, but we couldn't get that . . . we just didn't get into a rhythm and make consecutive good plays."

Or any plays that looked good at all.

Game Notes

Barber Bottled Up: Coming into the game with 1,154 yards and a gaudy 5.2-yard average, Tiki Barber instead put up Ron Dayne-type numbers. Not in carries, but yards. In the first half, Barber ran 9 times for just 19 yards. His longest carry was 2 yards. He finished the day with just 38 yards and a pitiful 2.3 average.

Feagles flogged: For the second straight week, Jeff Feagles had a punt blocked. This time it came with 3:09 left in the second quarter when Redskins cornerback Walt Harris slapped it away. Forty-eight seconds later, Ramsey extended the lead to 14-0 on a 9-yard TD pass to tight end Robert Royal. For the day, Feagles punted five times for just a 30.2-yard average.

Ward Up: The game's only bright spot came with 5:38 left in the third quarter. After Redskins kicker John Hall booted a 46-yarder to extend the lead to 24-0, Giants rookie Derrick Ward returned the kickoff 92 yards for the Giants only score. "The play was designed to start from the left and bounce right, but I saw a great hole because of great blocks by Ron Dayne and Marcellus Rivers," Ward said of his first NFL touchdown. "I just saw a crease and just hit it."

Closing time: With 8:15 left, after Manning's 4th down pass to Amani Toomer hit the ground, many Redskins fans hit the parking lot leading 31-7. The rest stayed to savor the blowout.

Ramsey Rolls: Playing second fiddle to Mark Brunell through the first part of the season, QB Patrick Ramsey rolled the Redskins to his first victory this season as the starter. The 3rd-year pro tossed 3 touchdowns in a 19-for-22, 174-yard day and a blistering 139.2 rating.

Nothing Defensive: The only defensive outpouring came after the game when the Giants defensive players, understandably, weren't too happy to answer questions. The team made the 4-8 Redskins, who hadn't scored more than 18 points all season, look like the Indianapolis Colts. Clinton Portis, who had averaged just 3.9 yards a carry going into the game, strutted his stuff with 148 yards and a Broncos-like 4.8-yard average. He even donned his special boxing championship belt as the game ended.

Bye, Bye Playoffs: Remember when the Giants were 5-2? John Kerry was still a presidential hopeful. Now with five-straight losses, the Giants are sliding faster than Jason Giambi's Hall-of-Fame chances. With upcoming games against tough Ravens and Steelers defenses, young Manning and the Giants are all but finished.

Inactives: Rookie Chris Snee woke up Sunday morning with swollen glands below his chin and was a last-minute inactive. Wayne Lucier replaced him at right guard. Rookie safety Gibril Wilson missed his third-consecutive game with a neck injury. DT Norman Hand was out with a groin pull. William Joseph started in his place. Newly signed DT Damane Duckett was also inactive. Other inactives: LB T.J. Hollowell, RB Mike Cloud, WR Willie Ponder and QB Jesse Palmer.


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