Inside Slant, Matchups, Quotes, Injuries, Etc

For the second time in just three weeks, and just prior to another critically important NFC East Division game, against Philadelphia, the Giants organization suffered a death in the family when co-owner Bob Tisch succumbed to inoperable brain cancer late Tuesday night.

His death came exactly three weeks after that of NFL and team patriarch Wellington Mara, who passed away - also from cancer - on Oct. 25.

Tisch, one of the nation's most successful businessmen whose holdings exceeded the double-digit billions and who had previously been U.S. Postmaster General, died in his Manhattan residence without regaining consciousness. He was first diagnosed with the disease in the spring of 2004.

John K. Mara, eldest son of Wellington and the team's chief operating officer, said: "To lose Bob Tisch so soon after we lost our father is especially heartbreaking for the Mara family. He not only was a great business partner, he was a dear friend to our family and to me personally. Our organization benefited greatly from Bob's contributions over the past 15 years. We will miss him terribly, and we will never forget everything he did for our family, our team and the numerous charitable causes to which he was devoted."

Tisch purchased the 50 percent ownership of the team that was controlled by Tim Mara, nephew of Wellington and son of the late John V. Mara, just months after the team won Super Bowl XXV in 1991. He instituted long overdue business practices and saw the value of the team escalate to a reported $960 million (Forbes magazine) under his financial guidance.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue expressed his sympathy: "Bob Tisch was a superb businessman with great integrity and a deep love for his Giants. Both the team and the NFL benefited enormously from Bob's financial acumen, consensus-building and experience as a public servant. Bob was extremely generous in investing in people and the game of football itself. His 'Take the Field' program is just one example of his legacy. If you had Bob and his wife Joan as your friends, you know that you were part of something special and could count yourself as fortunate."

The reference to the "Take the Field" program should be explained. Tisch found athletic fields and playgrounds that were more than just run-down in the city of New York, and with his own money and by soliciting contributions from the business world, he rebuilt those areas into state-of-the-art playgrounds.

"It was one of the most innovative and beautiful efforts in athletics in this country," said Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi. "But in addition to all those things, in addition to his brilliance and dynamic New York presence, his was the soul of a good and decent man who cared about people and did countless deeds to help those less fortunate, acts which never received notice."

John Mara and Tisch's sons, Jonathan and Steven, will assume management of the franchise.

SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 141st meeting between the two old NFL rivals, and the Giants lead the series 73-65-2. The Eagles have won the last four meetings and seven of the last eight, sweeping the home-and-home affair in 2003 and 2004. The Giants won 17 of the first 20 meetings between the inaugural season, 1933, and 1942.


--The Eagles' starting quarterback will be Mike McMahon, once a Rutgers star, and teammate and best friend of the Giants' center, Shaun O'Hara. "Mike is a great athlete," O'Hara said of his buddy, "and one of the most athletic quarterbacks I've ever seen. He can make plays on the run, and he can make as many plays with his feet as with his arm. But he has a great arm, too."

--Wide receiver Plaxico Burress was asked if the team is running out of emotion to play these "special" games, since the emotional reading was off the charts for the game after Wellington Mara died when the Giants beat the Redskins 36-0. "No, at this level (the NFL) you have got to stay fired up. In fact, this (the passing of co-owner Bob Tisch) might electrify us a little more."

--Defensive end Michael Strahan, whose deal with the team is that he speaks to the media only on Thursdays (and after games, of course) was approached on Wednesday. "What day is this?" he asked the questioner, a smile on his face. "Wednesday," came the reply. "Did you forget I only talk to you guys on Thursdays?" he said. A few minutes later he was seen doing a TV interview, and when the original rejected media guy passed, he looked up and said: "Wow, is it Thursday already?"

--That the Giants are allowing less than three touchdowns a game is not lost on middle linebacker Antonio Pierce. "We have been playing very well with just a few exceptions," he said, referring to the entire San Diego blowout (45-23) and the final drive last week that allowed the Vikings to get in position for the game-winning field goal in the final seconds. "This is still a defense that will get better."

--Defensive tackle William Joseph is out for four to five weeks with a dislocated elbow, which will move either veteran Fred Robbins or the younger Kenderick Allen into the starting job. "We may deal with it situation by situation," coach Tom Coughlin said.

--The Giants are sixth in the NFL (and third in the NFC) in defense vs. the rush, while the Eagles are 31st in the league (and 15th in the NFC) in rushing. "Doesn't mean a thing," strong safety Gibril Wilson said. "They have good running backs and a big offensive line. It's a game-to-game thing."

BY THE NUMBERS: Running back Tiki Barber has gained 855 yards in 175 carries, while the entire Eagles offense has managed 650 yards in 180 carries. Barber has six rushing TDs; the Eagles have four.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Every Friday he was here, and we all looked forward to it. The day we did the trade for Eli Manning (April 2004), he sat on the couch in my office all day until we got it done. He knew every detail, and he liked it (the trade) a lot." - General manager Ernie Accorsi on the interest Bob Tisch took in the team.


The Giants may have veteran SLB Carlos Emmons back (partially torn right pectoral muscle) but it is problematic whether or not he starts. He has missed the last three games, and his replacement, second-year LB Reggie Torbor, has been outstanding. Still, to put a veteran in the lineup is always preferred by coaches.

The offense is looking for a reliable third receiver, and with the absence of David Tyree (elbow), that commodity has been hard to find. The latest to get a chance is Jamaar Taylor, and he dropped two passes last week. But there is a chance that Tyree will be ready. He is practicing and says he feels much better. His return also will be a boon to the special teams; he was the first alternate to Ike Reese (then of the Eagles) for the last Pro Bowl.


--The offensive line is rounding into shape with maturation rather than replacement, and none of the players has made more of an improvement than LG David Diehl. He was the right tackle two years ago as a rookie, the right guard last year and now the left guard, and he still hasn't missed a game, having run his streak to 41 straight games.

"Our job is to be anonymous," he said. "The running back knows who got him the hole. The quarterback knows who made the block and protected him. If you are a real offensive lineman, that should be enough for you."

--Sixth-year DT Fred Robbins, who is listed as 325 pounds (must be a goal weight) should become the starter with the loss of William Joseph for four to five weeks. Joseph dislocated his elbow against Minnesota last week, and his arm is in a cast.

--QB Eli Manning's first taste of the NFL was against Philadelphia in the opener last season. He came in for Kurt Warner when the game was all but over and didn't distinguish himself, completing three of nine passes for 66 yards. But on his first-ever play in the NFL, he handed the ball to RB Tiki Barber, who ran 72 yards for the team's final TD in a 31-17 defeat.

--WR Amani Toomer, whose nine NFL seasons have all been spent with the Giants, reflected on the coincidence of co-owner Bob Tisch's death three weeks after the death of co-owner Wellington Mara. "Each man died right before an important division game," he said, "and I know each man would have said not to pay too much attention to him, just get ready to win the game."


--Giants LDE Michael Strahan will get another chance to go against one of those tackles who should wear "Property of Michael Strahan" T-shirts, Jon Runyan. Strahan has always handled Runyan well, and this year, after a loss of some 15 pounds, the 255-pound Strahan, a 13-year veteran, is even quicker, something the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Runyan hasn't been able to handle.

--The Giants secondary will get a break in not having to deal with the suspended WR Terrell Owens, but whether wideouts Greg Lewis and rookie Reggie Brown can be handled might dictate the outcome of the game.

--Giants MLB Antonio Pierce and SS Gibril Wilson will try to take TE L.J. Smith out of the offense. He has 42 catches and 417 yards.

--The Giants' fast-changing defense will show sub QB Mike McMahon several looks and formations in the hope of confusing him. McMahon, starting for Donovan McNabb, has thrown only six passes this season, completing three.

INJURY IMPACT: The loss of RDT William Joseph will hurt, especially if his backups, Fred Robbins and Kenderick Allen, don't perform well. Joseph, the No. 1 draft pick in 2003, was finally playing up to his billing when he dislocated his left elbow last week vs. Minnesota.

But the Giants should regain the services of SLB Carlos Emmons and WR David Tyree, and the latter also excels on special teams.

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