Tiki as valuable as anyone in NFL

Jim Finn doesn't think there's a more valuable player in the National Football League right now. That's why late in New York' key victory over Kansas City, Finn grabbed one of his coach's dryboards and wrote "MVP #21" in marker and held it up for the fans behind Big Blue's bench to see. Within seconds, the chants of "Ti-ki Bar-ber" transformed into cries of "M-V-P, M-V-P."

"It was like someone was controlling a remote control car," Finn said of Barber's record-breaking performance. "It was like he had four legs, his balance is unbelievable.

"He's carrying this team. That's what MVPs do."

And Barber very well deserves every bit as much consideration for the MVP award as anyone.

"He's the greatest back I've been around in 45 years," Giants GM Ernie Accorsi declared after the game. "MVP? You could always make a case for Peyton Manning, but I don't see how anyone in our conference can be more valuable than Tiki."

Barber, who broke his all-time career high on a 20-yard TD jaunt that capped New York's important victory, set four team records and tied another while rushing for 220 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.

"The game that Tiki had was just incredible," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He made so many plays when really not a whole lot was going on, whether we were going strong or weak. We started with a little misdirection and our guys got a little more confidence and then the run game started to come around."

His 220 rushing yards set a franchise single-game mark, two more than Gene "Choo Choo" Roberts' 218 yards against the Chicago Cardinals on Nov. 12, 1950. Barber's previous high was the 206 yards he had against Washington on Oct. 30. It was the third 200-yard game of his career. Barber rushed for 203 yards against Philadelphia on Dec. 28, 2002.

"After the last touchdown I became very aware," said Barber, who was five yards shy of the mark following that 20-yard TD run. "I told (RBs) Coach (Jerald) Ingram. Our line took great pride in it. We were packed up in the box the first couple of runs and then we spread out and that allowed me to get it. It's something I'm very proud of and I think it's something that we'll remember for a long time."

Barber increased his season rushing total to 1,577 yards, breaking the team single-season record of 1,518 he set last year. Barber has two games remaining to add to his mark. He is the first Giant in history with back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons.

"He was off the charts today," Giants center Shaun O'Hara said. "He's our Derek Jeter and our Mariano Rivera – he's our leadoff guy and our closer."

It was Barber's fifth consecutive 100-yard game, another team record. He was tied with Joe Morris (1986) and Gary Brown (1998) at four in a row. Barber has 29 career 100-yard rushing performances, 10 more than Morris, who is second in team history.

"He really is remarkable," Giants Hall-of-Famer Frank Gifford said. "He really is such a classy guy. He's breaking records that are 40 years old."

Barber's seventh rushing attempt late in the first quarter was the 1,824th of his career, tying Rodney Hampton for first place in Giants history. With an equal number of carries, Barber had 8,290 yards to Hampton's 6,897, a difference of 1,393 yards. Barber broke the record with a five-yard rush on the Giants' next possession. He finished the game with 1,846 career rushing attempts. Barber has 313 carries this season, the second-highest total of his career. He had 322 a year ago.

"He's such a clutch player," Accorsi said. "He's a remarkable player. It's amazing for a New York athlete to be under-celebrated."

Barber's two rushing touchdowns increased his career total to 49, enabling him to pass Morris (48) and Rodney Hampton atop the Giants career list.

But it was his first TD of the game that had everyone talking. Barber eluded no less than 10 Chiefs defenders, breaking several tackles along the way, en route to a 41-yard score that gave New York its first lead.

"That was one of the greatest runs I've ever seen," Accorsi said.

"He is a complete player," added Chiefs safety Sammy Knight, who had the misfortune of missing Barber twice on his scoring run. "I think it is his vision and he has gotten a lot stronger than in years past. His cutback ability is probably one of the best in the league. He showed why he is one of the top backs. He did a good job of breaking tackles today."

Barber knew the club needed him to step up and make a big play and, as usual, he delivered.

"I got behind the guys," he said of his blockers. "Plaxico was out there blocking and working hard for me and I just kept my feet moving. I joke with you guys about the physics of this game sometimes, about just getting your feet off the ground and letting them run into me so I can keep going and that's what happened. Keep your eye on the prize and you'll eventually get there."

Barber was asked if that was one of his favorite career TD runs.

"Yeah, I think so because any plethora of points along the way I was down but I kept going and guys kept working for me and eventually busted free," he said. "It was a big touchdown for us at that point in the game."

Barber also caught five passes for 29 yards. His 249 total yards were the second-highest total of his career. He had 276 total yards on Dec. 28, 2002 against the Eagles (203 rushing, 73 receiving).

But after the game, those who know Barber talked more about his exceptional personality than his on-field exploits.

"He's such a classy guy to begin with," Gifford said. "You always pull for a guy like Tiki Barber to have the kind of success that he's having. He carries it with such unbelievable grace. He's the exact type of guy that Mr. Mara had in mind for the type of people that play and represent this team."

"He's such a great person," Accorsi added. "He has a heart the size of the stadium."

Finn is Barber's closest friend on the team, and has basically been with him every step of the way the last three years.

"I'm real happy for him," Finn said. "People have been doubting him for a long time. He's always trying to prove the critics wrong. He's going to prove every last person wrong."

In all honesty, the former second-round pick originally viewed as only a third-down back already has.

So could Barber actually be crowned league MVP?

"Hey, you never know," Finn said. "It's realistic in a sense that he's playing like it."

Yes, he certainly is. And it says right here that Barber's every bit as valuable to his club as Peyton Manning is to the Colts, LaDainian Tomlinson is to the Chargers and Shaun Alexander is to the Seahawks. If not more.


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