Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Report Cards

Having played their best game of the season, the Giants are trying to deal with the fact that they also lost. They dropped a 24-21 overtime decision at Seattle, and they had every chance to win the game before doom finally struck.

Jay Feely, who had made 23 of 25 field goals to that point through 10 games, missed three in a row -- including two in overtime. Any one of the three would have won the game and sent the Giants home with an 8-3 record and a growing reputation as one of the best teams in the NFC.

"I think they are just that," Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom said. "I don't know of another team that played us so hard. It was a great game, and we just happened to win it. I have a very strong feeling we're going to see them in the playoffs."

The Giants did play with an intensity that was unfamiliar to the team the past few years, but there were more mistakes than had been present in that span as well.

Try an NFL-record 11 penalties for false start (five by left tackle Luke Petitgout, a veteran of six years). The missed field goals were, in the end, forgivable, but even they seemed to be a part of the overall destiny, at least for this one game.

Now the Giants, who are 7-4, return home to host the 7-4 Dallas Cowboys in the battle for NFC East supremacy. Washington and Philadelphia are all but out of the running, and with the Cowboys holding an earlier victory over the Giants, this is not only for the division lead but to eliminate one of Dallas' tiebreaker edges.

"I can't say that this was a game lost by one person," coach Tom Coughlin said in defense of Feely. "We all made mistakes, and we were able to get past them and create several chances to win the game. We didn't. That's on all of us."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Giants had 16 penalties at Seattle, their highest total since 1948. The 11 false-start flags were a team high, and no one in team history ever had five before, so give that record to left tackle Luke Petitgout. "It was embarrassing to me, to my family and to my team," he said, while admitting that "a certain percentage" of the reason was the incredible noise generated by the Seattle home fans, which has become a trademark whether they play inside (Kingdome) or outside.

--With all the penalties, it comes as a mild surprise that only two of the offensive linemen were flagged at all. In addition to Petitgout's five false starts, left guard David Diehl had three plus a holding call. Right tackle Kareem McKenzie, right guard Chris Snee and center Shaun O'Hara played flawlessly.

--The Giants became the third team in the NFC East to play an overtime game Thanksgiving weekend. Dallas previously lost to Denver, and Washington lost to San Diego. The Eagles were the only division team to win.

--Running back Tiki Barber on the Seahawks: "If that is the best the NFC has to offer, what does it say about us?"

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--RB Tiki Barber gained 151 yards at Seattle, moving his season total to 1,118 and putting him within range for a personal season high. He needs slightly more than 80 yards in each of the next five games to surpass last year's 1,518.

--DE Osi Umenyiora continues to become a Pro Bowl player in progress. He had eight tackles against Seattle and two sacks, giving him 10 for the season. He also forced a fumble.

--Rookie CB Corey Webster, who started at Seattle for ailing (and less than outstanding) RCB Curtis Deloatch, led the team with 10 tackles and batted away a deep pass to WR Bobby Engram. But he did give up a touchdown toss to 6-foot-6 WR Joe Jurevicius (Webster is barely 6 feet) on the goal line.

REPORT CARD VS SEAHAWKS

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Second-year QB Eli Manning is becoming more and more proficient in an almost unbelievably short amount of time. He completed 29 of 53 passes for 344 yards and a pair of TDs, and according to several in the huddle -- like RB Tiki Barber -- "He is more of a leader than he was at the start of the season; he is in charge of the huddle, absolutely." Manning is also making stars out of his receivers (and they are doing that for him, too). TE Jeremy Shockey caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a TD as well as a pass for a two-point conversion. WR Plaxico Burress had six catches for 109 yards. Amani Toomer, the slotback receiver, caught six for 62 and an acrobatic touchdown grab. The offensive line, when it wasn't busy with false starts, provided Manning with more than sufficient time to throw.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The Seahawks were difficult to run against for the first 10 games of the season, but the Giants managed 166 yards on the ground. All but 15 of them belonged to Barber, who carried 26 times for 151 yards. It was his second-highest production of the season, behind only the 206 he gained last month against Washington. The line blocked exceptionally well for the running game (again, discounting the inordinate number of false-start flags), and much of the straight-ahead blocking plaudits must go to the right side of the line, RT Kareem McKenzie and RG Chris Snee.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Seahawks were allowed to complete 21 of 37 passes for 249 yards, and QB Matt Hasselbeck threw 14 completions to his pair of Penn State wideouts, Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Engram. Jurevicius, a former Giant, had eight catches for 137 yards and both TD passes. Engram added six catches for 34 yards. The Giants got one interception, by FS Brent Alexander, but there were too many incidents of missed coverage and late-arriving defenders, especially on a key 38-yard completion to WR D.J. Hackett in overtime that led to the winning field goal. Rookie RCB Corey Webster, in his first NFL start (for Curtis Deloatch) led the team with 10 tackles and a pass defensed. LCB Will Allen played his best game of the season with nine tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass defensed.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- It is said that San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Seattle's Shaun Alexander are the two best running backs in the NFL. The Giants probably would vote for Tomlinson. He had 196 yards and three touchdowns against them earlier in the season, but Alexander, the league's rushing leader, was "limited" to 110 yards on 31 carries -- and had just 16 yards on seven carries in the first half. "I got hit harder than any time this season," he said after the game. The defensive ends, Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan, were focused on Alexander all day. Umenyiora had eight tackles, Strahan six. MLB Antonio Pierce rushed the gaps for most of the game and walked away with five tackles (of Alexander) and a 9-yard sack. He also caught Alexander in the backfield three times for minus-4 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Of course, the rating goes down due to PK Jay Feely's three missed field goals, any one of which would have won the game. His misses came from 40, 54 and 45 yards, and he called two of them "absolutely possible" and the longest one "one that I could have made." His kickoffs, as well, were not sailing into the end zone with the frequency he had established earlier in the season. Six of them were returned for 118 yards by Seattle's Josh Scobey. P Jeff Feagles appeared in his 283rd consecutive game, breaking the NFL record held by Minnesota's Jim Marshall. He punted seven times for a 37.3 average (34.4 net). Chad Morton took back four kickoffs for 101 yards (25.3 average) and returned six punts for 50 yards.

COACHING: B-minus -- The team was prepared to play the Seahawks, and coach Tom Coughlin's usual game-starting goal was met -- stop the opponent's rushing game regardless of the proficiency of the passing game. Alexander was, by and large, held harmless. That was a plus. But the often shoddy pass coverage led to a few Seattle drives that hurt, including the pass to Duckett that set up the winning field goal.

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