Hot Topic and Player Notes: Giants

Two weeks ago, when the Giants lost that thriller to Seattle in overtime, they were credited with being valiant, courageous and with having played a remarkably close game that they should have won -- three times -- against a superior opponent.

So the next week they return home, stand off the Dallas Cowboys in a battle for first place in the NFC East, and all of a sudden they are a team in trouble.

Why? Because the offense faltered and sputtered against Dallas, and in this case, the offense is Eli Manning, the young quarterback.

He was missing passes Sunday. He was over throwing and under throwing. He was making poor decisions. His receivers, especially wideout Plaxico Burress, didn't help much. Burress ran a wrong route in the Cowboys' end zone and on another pattern didn't move back for the ball, allowing a defender to swat it away.

A reserve wide receiver, Tim Carter, dropped a sure first down and perhaps a long, long gainer. He is the fastest player on the team -- and has hands like anvils.

But it ultimately comes back to Manning, and the danger here is to be too critical of a kid who hasn't yet completed his first season as a starting quarterback. It seems as though he has been behind center for a long time, but it was only the last seven games in 2004 and the 12 played so far this season.

"I still have a lot to learn," said Manning. "My recognition of defenses is getting better. I am learning to read my receivers, to anticipate them. But it isn't all there yet. I know I can get a lot better."

Based on what he has already shown, if he indeed gets "a lot better" there will be "another Manning" on the horizon.


--While the Giants suffered no serious injuries in the Dallas game, the hard truth is that DT William Joseph (elbow) is still at least a week away, and RCB Will Peterson (lower back), according to coach Tom Coughlin, "is close to being shut down for the season."

--RB Tiki Barber needs 72 yards per game to surpass what had been his career high for a season, 1,518. He set that last year and currently has 1,233 with four games to play.

--QB Eli Manning saw his streak of throwing at least one touchdown pass for 12 consecutive games come to an end vs. Dallas. During the run he had moved into second place on the team's all-time list, but fell three short of tying Y.A. Tittle.

--RB Brandon Jacobs, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound rookie, scored his sixth touchdown of the season, a 1-yard slam up the middle vs. Dallas. It was retribution in a way. "I got that chance (from the 3-yard line) when we played them down there," he said, "and I fumbled. We lost the game (16-13 in OT) and I have been blaming myself."

--WR Tim Carter, the first reserve, dropped a certain touchdown pass and has had a history of that in his almost four-year career. He is the fastest player on the roster and, at 6-feet and 200 pounds, has the body. But other players are wondering how long his chances will continue.

--TE Jeremy Shockey, who has 50 receptions for 733 yards and seven touchdowns, has the chance to record the team's top season numbers for his position. He already has more than any tight end in team history (74 in 2002) and will need eight per game for the next four games to equal WR Amani Toomer's record of 82 (2002).

--PK Jay Feely made one and missed one against Dallas, making it four missed field goals in his last five attempts. He missed the last three he tried the week before vs. Seattle, any one of which would have won the game. "It's nothing mechanical," he said. "I'm just in a slump."

--DE Osi Umenyiora leads the NFC with 11 sacks, 1.5 more than the Giants' other end, Michael Strahan. They have the most sacks of any two ends on any team in the league. There is growing speculation that both will be named to the Pro Bowl, which would be a first -- two defensive ends from one team in the same year.

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