The scenario became possible with an explosive and surprising blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, which provided the Giants with as many victories (10) as they had in the past two seasons combined.
Now it's the Redskins, probably the final stepping stone to the
Giants' first division title since they won the NFC in 2000 en route to
Super Bowl XXXV.
The only major concern, aside from injuries that kept several
starters out of the Chiefs game, is the continuing lack of progress
being shown by Eli Manning at quarterback. He is perilously close to
sinking below a 50 percent completions ratio (he has completed 259 of
492 attempts) and has 22 touchdowns with 16 interceptions -- with five
interceptions in his last three games.
But he still shows the occasional flash of being special, and it is
more logical to remember that he has not yet completed his first full
season as a starting quarterback.
The Giants' chances at Washington also will rest on whether the
Giants can get any of their regulars back -- including linebackers
Carlos Emmons (pectoral strain) and Antonio Pierce (high ankle sprain);
defensive tackle William Joseph (high ankle sprain); and offensive
tackles Kareem McKenzie
(hamstring) and Luke Petitgout (back spasms).
But they'll have running back Tiki Barber, who had 220 yards in 29
carries against the Chiefs and has now gained 1,557 for the season --
breaking his team career record (1,518) with two games remaining.
The Giants shredded the NFL's top-ranked defense against the run in a
27-17 win over the Chiefs on Saturday. Running back Tiki Barber's 220
yards accounted for all but 3 yards of the Giants' rushing total. Barber
broke the team rushing record (218, Choo Choo Roberts, 1950 vs. Chicago
Cardinals) and included two touchdowns and a long gain of 55 yards. He
even caught five passes for 29 yards, accounting for 249 yards of
offense from scrimmage.
Amani Toomer caught five passes for 69 yards including a spectacular
31-yard TD that was so acrobatic it had to be reviewed to be sure his
knee didn't touch the ground at the point of the catch. It didn't.
"I just willed myself not to let the knee get to the ground," he
said. "When you want something badly enough, you work hard enough,
you'll get it."
The Giants used a rookie free agent, Chase Blackburn, to start for
Antonio Pierce at middle linebacker, and he responded with what coach
Tom Coughlin termed "a smart, self-contained performance" that included
nine solo tackles. There were two new O-line starters and one (left
guard David Diehl) who switched positions (to right tackle). Bob Whitfield (left
tackle) and Rich Seubert (left guard) were the newcomers.
--LT Luke Petitgout, who sat out Saturday's game with a back injury,
will be evaluated this week to see if he can play Sunday. "We warmed him
up and he felt good, but still had the question mark about how he could
perform and how long he could perform," coach Tom Coughlin said. "So, he
was a guy that we made active. We felt like in case we got in trouble
there, he could give us a few snaps, but he really didn't warm up as
well as I was hoping he would."
--RT Kareem McKenzie (strained hamstring) missed Saturday's game, but
coach Tom Coughlin said he hoped he would be ready to play against
--LG Rich Seubert, who hadn't played since Oct. 19, 2003, when he
suffered a horrifying spiral compound fracture of his right tibia,
fibula and ankle in a game against the Eagles, made it all the way back
and started against the Chiefs. "I feel so good for him, it is so
emotional and inspirational," TB Tiki Barber said. "He has proved that
when you work hard and then harder and harder, you can achieve."
--LT Bob Whitfield, in his first start since 2003 in Atlanta, played
well against the Chiefs. He provided the block that gave RB Tiki Barber
the 5 yards he needed near the end of the game to set the team's
single-season rushing record. "I just held my block and held my block
and waiting to see where the little guy was," he said. "I was happy to
be the one, happy to be on this team."
--The team saluted the "12th man," the Giants Stadium crowd, which
has often been accused of polite cheering and applauding. "They were
gigantic," coach Tom Coughlin said. "The 12th man was back, and we
--MLB Chase Blackburn, the rookie free agent who started for Antonio
Pierce, was still in a state of disbelief after the win over the Chiefs.
"I am so excited and so happy I just can't believe it really happened,"
he said. "I need to think about this." Blackburn had nine solo tackles.
He was signed out of Akron, where he was the roommate of QB Charlie Frye, drafted in the third round by Cleveland.
--RB Tiki Barber resented the use of the phrase "jigsaw puzzle" to
describe the battered and re-tooled O-line. "Maybe in your mind it's a
jigsaw puzzle," he said with a smile. "This is a line that we knew
coming into camp was going to work for us, and going into this game we
were supremely confident that it was going to be effective."
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