X's and O's

<b>QUARTERBACK</b> <br> While trying to avoid the blitzing Bengals, Eli Manning made a bad throw toward TE Jeremy Shockey that FS Kevin Kaesviharn would've returned for about a 90-yard touchdown had he caught it on a third-and-six play from the Bengals' 10 midway through the fourth quarter.

Manning made a quality soft throw to Shockey, who had beaten Kaesviharn, for a 27-yard gain in the second quarter. The reception led to a 31-yard FG by K Steve Christie that tied the game (10-10). Manning threw passes high, low, long and short in tossing eight straight incompletions in the first quarter. Bottom Line: Manning wasn't Pittsburgh good, but wasn't Baltimore bad, either.

RUNNING BACKS

FB Jim Finn blasted MLB Landon Johnson up the middle to help spring RB Tiki Barber for a 12-yard run late in the first quarter. Finn also sealed off WLB Brian Simmons to create a hole that enabled Barber to run for 21 yards through the right side late in the third quarter. Bottom Line: Barber, Finn and Ron Dayne (six carries, 33 yards) all played well.

RECEIVERS

Split end Amani Toomer caught two passes for first downs (11, 16 yards) on a drive that ended with a 41-yard FG by Steve Christie that put the Giants ahead 19-17 early in the fourth quarter. TE Jeremy Shockey used his body instead of his hands and dropped a Manning pass on a third-and-nine play from the Giants' 49 with 4:18 left in the first quarter. Third WR David Tyree caught two passes for first downs, including a 25-yarder. Bottom Line: They were efficient, but far from spectacular.

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT Luke Petitgout was whistled for a false start that moved the Giants back five yards, to Cincinnati's 10, on a third-and-one play late in the fourth quarter. RDE Justin Smith pushed back Petitgout, who was flagged for holding three players earlier, and wrapped up Manning for a nine-yard sack on a third-and-12 play from the Bengals' 14 early in the fourth quarter. LG Jason Whittle and C Shaun O'Hara blew open a huge hole that enabled RB Ron Dayne to run untouched for an 11-yard gain in the second quarter. Bottom Line: The offensive front allowed only two sacks.

DEFENSIVE LINE

LDE Osi Umenyiora showed persistence in pursuing RB Kenny Watson, whom he dragged down from behind and stopped from scoring a touchdown at the Giants' 1 late in the third quarter. RDT William Joseph slipped C Jerry Fontenot to penetrate the Bengals' backfield and drop RB Rudi Johnson for a two-yard loss on a fourth-and-one play from the Giants' 37 early in the third quarter. Bottom Line: This undermanned unit stifled Johnson (19 carries for 31 yards).

LINEBACKERS

With the Giants up 19-17, WLB Nick Greisen deftly stripped Johnson as he was tackling the tailback midway through the fourth quarter. SS Brent Alexander recovered the fumble, got to his feet and returned the ball 29 yards to Cincinnati's 28. Aligned in the middle of the field, Greisen changed lanes and beat RT Willie Anderson for an eight-yard sack of Kitna late in the second quarter. Reserve SLB Reggie Torbor used a sound swim move to blow by LT Levi Jones for a six-yard sack that made K Shayne Graham attempt a 42-yard FG in the second quarter, instead of a 36-yarder. Bottom Line: Greisen continued to play superb football.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Reserve CB Curtis Deloatch fell for an inside fake by WR Chad Johnson, who went to the corner of the end zone for the game-winning four-yard touchdown with 44 seconds left. LCB Will Allen permitted Johnson to catch three consecutive passes (two for first downs) on a third-quarter drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown by RB Rudi Johnson. RCB Frank Walker should've held up, but instead blasted Kitna a couple seconds after he released an incomplete pass with 4:04 left in the first half. The 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty moved the Bengals to the Giants' 35. Earlier, Allen allowed WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh to slip from his grasp at the point of reception in the first quarter and Houshmandzadeh ran for 13 additional yards, to the Giants' 5-yard line. Cincinnati scored on the next play, when Kitna perfectly placed a pass to Johnson, whom Walker had covered closely. Bottom Line: Chad Johnson certainly enjoyed himself.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P Jeff Feagles stopped PR Keiwan Ratliff from scoring what would've been a 66-yard, game-winning touchdown with 2:05 left in the game. The Bengals instead began their final drive at the Giants' 24 after a 42-yard return. Why backup CB Curtis Deloatch was running directly at Ratliff after he had already called for a fair catch in the first quarter is beyond us. Deloatch tried to hold up, but barreled over Ratliff and was assessed a 15-yard fair-catch interference penalty. Consequently, the Bengals began that drive on the Giants' 46. The last two of five returns by KR Willie Ponder went for 29 and 35 yards, respectively. K Steve Christie connected on all five FG attempts to help keep the Giants close throughout the game. Bottom Line: The late punt coverage breakdown proved costly.

COACHING

Tom Coughlin made a poor personnel decision in benching RCB Will Peterson for the start of the game. Peterson should've been fined for being late to a meeting early last week or benched altogether. Instead, Coughlin took his best corner out of the starting lineup and allowed the Bengals to attack Frank Walker, Peterson's replacement. Worse yet, Coughlin inserted Peterson in nickel situations. Why not just start him? Bottom Line: Unfortunately for the team's decision-makers, there's no way this eight-game losing streak can be blamed on Jim Fassel.


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