Rookie LB cuts to the Chase

Only an hour before game time, Chase Blackburn received some big news. No, he wasn't going to be partaking in his usual 20-something special teams plays. On this day, the rookie free agent from Akron was going to be New York's starting middle linebacker in a crucial late-season contest with all sorts of playoff implications.

And he answered the bell in surprising fashion. After an understandable slightly shaky start, Blackburn finished the contest as the game's second-leading tackler, posting nine total stops.

"Chase did an unbelievable job, he did an outstanding job," Giants coach Tom Coughlin stated. "I knew he would be physical and hit you and that's basically what we needed to have."

"Overall I played all right," Blackburn said.

The game was especially sweet for Blackburn, who estimated that he usually gets only 20 to 30 practice reps a week, because his mother and brother were in town visiting from Ohio.

"That made it really special," he said. "It was incredible for them to get to see me."

Magic number's 1: With the victory, the Giants improved to 10-4 and retained their lead in the NFC East. It is their first 10-win season since 2002, when New York finished 10-6 and went to the playoffs as a wild card. The Giants can clinch their first division title since 2000 by winning either of their last two games, at Washington and at Oakland.

"That's all you want at this point in the season is to be able to control what you do and I know from experience in 2000 that if you keep winning at this point in the year it pays enormous dividends once you get to the playoffs," Tiki Barber said.

Hall-of-Famer Frank Gifford likes what he sees from his former club.

"It almost seems predestined," Gifford said.

Terrific Toomer

Amani Toomer turned in the key play of the game when he amazingly kept his balance while fighting off two defenders en route to a crucial 31-yard TD catch-and-run that extended Big Blue's fourth-quarter lead to 20-10.

"I just wanted to keep my feet – you say you will things to happen – I just wanted it to happen so badly, especially after the ball that I should have caught," Toomer said. "I felt bad about that so I just wanted to come back and do something special for the team."

Toomer's TD grab was the 43rd of his career, tying him with Gifford for third on the team's all-time list. Joe Morrison is second with 47 and Kyle Rote is first with 48.

Big stand: Many Giants pointed to the club's defensive stand early in the second period as one of the most important moments of the game.

The high-powered Chiefs offense had already driven 79 yards and had a first-and-goal from New York's 3-yard line. However, Big Blue stopped Larry Johnson short of the goal line on three consecutive plays – with tackles by Osi Umenyiora, Kendrick Clancy and a combined stop by Nick Greisen and Chase Blackburn – and Kansas City was forced to settle for a minimal 3-0 lead.

"We had first and goal and we had to settle for a field goal," lamented Chiefs QB Trent Green. "That is definitely frustrating. It probably gave their defense some confidence being able to stop us on first and goal and holding us to a field goal."

"It was huge," Coughlin added.

Emmons late scratch: With the Giants linebacking situation already in disarray, New York learned shortly before the game that Carlos Emmons would be unable to play due to a pectoral injury.

"I practiced all week long," Emmons said. "Late in the week, I aggravated it when I extended my arm to catch a ball. By (Saturday) morning, I was really having problems when I extended my arm. My strength is good as long as my arms are in tight, but when I extend, I lose strength."

Emmons originally injured his pec on Oct. 23 against Denver and missed the next three games as a result.

After the game, Coughlin was asked about Emmons' prognosis.

"I would have no idea right now," he said. "I think it's more or less of a strength thing. If he can come around and get back to the point where his strength improves, then I'm sure he'll get the green light."

With Nick Greisen already subbing in the middle for the injured Antonio Pierce, out with a high ankle sprain, the Giants found themselves tremendously shorthanded. Greisen slid back over to weakside LB in place of Emmons and rookie free agent Chase Blackburn was inserted at MLB.

In addition to Pierce and Emmons, the rest of New York's inactives were CB Frank Walker, RT Kareem McKenzie (hamstring), WR Jamaar Taylor, WR Willie Ponder and DT William Joseph (ankle). Jared Lorenzen was the third quarterback.

Line shuffle: Rich Seubert received his first start of the season at LG as David Diehl moved out to right tackle to start for McKenzie. While Luke Petitgout was active, it was only in case of emergency. Bob Whitfield started in his place at left tackle. Only C Shaun O'Hara and RG Chris Snee remained in their usual spots.

Seubert made his first start and played on the offensive line for the first time since Oct. 19, 2003, when he suffered a severely fractured right leg against the Eagles. Seubert, who missed the entire 2004 season, had been active for one game this year, at Seattle on Nov. 27, when he played only on special teams.

"Those guys hung in there and did a great job and that's the reason that talented people are here in a backup role," Coughlin said. "(Bob) Whitfield played really well. (Rich) Seubert, I was really pleased for Rich. Can you imagine him having an opportunity to play again after what he has been through and I'm really, really happy for him."

Extra points

The Giants finished 7-1 at home, their best home record since the 1990 Super Bowl champions were 7-1. New York also topped New Orleans at Giants Stadium in what was considered a ‘road' contest…

Jay Feely's nine points increased his season total to 128, moving him past Joe Morris (126 in 1985) and Ali Haji-Sheikh (127 in 1983) and giving him the highest single-season scoring total in franchise history…

The Giants have scored 40 touchdowns, their highest total since they had 41 in 1988…

The Giants now lead their series with Kansas City, 9-2, including a 6-0 mark in Giants Stadium…

Tom Coughlin fell to 1-7 on replay challenges this season after losing an appeal in the first quarter…

Backup tight end Sean Berton left the game in the first quarter with a sprained knee and did not return.


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