Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Report Cards

The Giants can lock up their first NFC East championship since 2000 with a victory Saturday against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md. It would have been a 1,000-to-1 bet at the start of the season that the Giants would even be close to a division title, or would even be guaranteed of a winning record with two games to go, and now they are determined to take their Magical Mystery Tour to a higher plateau.

"We can be as good as we want to be," running back Tiki Barber said after his 220-yard performance last Saturday against Kansas City. "We know the best team in the conference is considered to be the Seattle Seahawks. Well, we went up there and didn't play our best game and took them to the wire (losing in overtime). We know it's eventually all going to click for us."

It would appear that the clicking process has already started. Playing without five starters, including both offensive tackles, the middle linebacker, the strong-side linebacker and the right defensive tackle, and with another player out of position (left guard David Diehl moved to right tackle), the Giants embarrassed the Kansas City Chiefs 27-17 to run their record to 10-4.

"One more and it's ours," Barber said, "and the one thing that every player would love to have is control. We can now control our destiny. We don't need any help with some team beating another one or anything like that. We just need to win and it's over."

With a victory, the Giants would move to 11-4, and while they cannot earn the home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they are still in the race with Chicago for a first-round bye.

"That would be nice," Barber said, "but the way we're playing, we can't control what anybody does except ourselves. If we get the bye, fine. If not, we just have to keep winning."

Barber's performance pushed him to new highs in terms of all-time season rushing numbers for the Giants' franchise. He set the single-season record last year with 1,518 yards; now he already has 1,577 with two games remaining. It was his fifth straight 100-yard game and second 200-yarder of the season, and he broke the team's single-game record of 218 yards, set in 1950 by Gene "Choo Choo" Roberts.


--Coach Tom Coughlin has been around the NFL since 1989, and he says watching Barber's performance Saturday was a high point for him. "It was right at the top of the list," he said, "because I'll tell you there are guys and bodies flying. In every one of his runs, he's breaking tackles and maintaining balance and coming out of piles. It was the most yards in a single game in the history of the Giants. Now, that's saying a lot."

--Right cornerback Will Allen is having an unusual season. He has played remarkably well this season, breaking up passes, denying receivers a clear shot at the ball, tackling hard and sure. But he hasn't had an interception yet this year. "The guys came to play," he said, "and we stopped thing about individual numbers a long time ago. We are all about good preparation."

--Kicker Jay Feely became the team's single-season kick-scoring leader. He had two field goals and three PATs for nine points Saturday against the Chiefs, surpassing the record of 127 points, set by Ali Haji-Sheikh in 1983. Feely now has 128 with two games to play.

--Quarterback Eli Manning's 22 touchdown passes are the most for the Giants since Kerry Collins had a similar number in 2000, and his 492 attempts are the seventh-highest single season total in team history. The record is 568 by Collins in 2002.



--Coach Tom Coughlin said that SLB Carlos Emmons, who was a Saturday afternoon scratch because he showed up with a strained pectoral muscle and had no strength in his right arm, is still a day-to-day issue. "I don't know," Coughlin said. "We'll evaluate him during the week. His strength has to come back to be able to play."

--Third-string TE Sean Berton, who has excelled on special teams, tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. "We're going through all the processes (medical exams)," Coughlin said, "but it doesn't look good." That might signal an activation of practice squad TE Wade Fletcher.

--LT Bob Whitfield, who hadn't started since 2003 in Atlanta, filled in for injured starter Luke Petitgout and was given "high grades" by the coaching staff. "He had to play, we called on him and he responded," said coach Tom Coughlin of the 34-year-old former Pro Bowl player. "Everybody on our team has the ability to play well."

--LG Rich Seubert hadn't played in any capacity since Oct. 19, 2003, when he shattered his right leg (tibia, fibula, ankle) in a game against the Eagles. But he started and played well Saturday against Kansas City. "I can't tell you how many big runs Richie has opened for me," said RB Tiki Barber. "It was gratifying to see him back on the field, especially when you understand how badly he wanted that to happen and how hard he worked."

--WR Amani Toomer (five for 69, one touchdown) has caught a total of 55 passes for 599 yards and five touchdowns this season. Last year, without a single TD catch, he caught 51 for 747 yards. Three more TD catches will equal his career high of eight, set in 2002.


PASS OFFENSE: C - QB Eli Manning is still experiencing late-season doldrums. His passes too frequently have been off-target. He overthrew at least five open receivers Saturday, but still managed to put enough together to help the team win. "He was the winning quarterback," coach Tom Coughlin said, "and that's the first thing to consider." This is Manning's first season as the starter, and he is clearly still in training for the job. His receivers have suffered lately because of his erratic play. WR Amani Toomer caught five passes, but leading receiver Plaxico Burress had only two catches and TE Jeremy Shockey had just three. There was some early pressure until the adjusted offensive line settled down, but Manning was sacked only once.

RUSH OFFENSE: A - RB Tiki Barber gained 220 yards in 29 carries, with a long gain of 55 yards and touchdowns of 41 and 20 yards. On his 41-yarder, he broke five tackles, twice confounding Chiefs SS Sammy Knight. He also caught five passes for 29 yards. His 220 yards broke a single-game team record that had stood for 55 years, surpassing the 218 amassed by Gene "Choo Choo" Roberts in 1950. The makeshift offensive line blocked particularly well for him, especially in the second half. RG Chris Snee and LT Bob Whitfield, filling in for injured regular Luke Petitgout, were outstanding. Whitfield, 34 and a 14-year veteran, got Barber the final 5 yards that gave him the single-game record when he totally dominated Chiefs DE Jared Allen.

PASS DEFENSE: B - The Chiefs didn't hurt the Giants in the air, even though QB Trent Green had acceptably good numbers. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 176 yards, but didn't get a touchdown pass. He was under pressure most of the game, ran out of trouble twice for 21 yards and was sacked once. WR Sammie Parker caught six for 87 yards as Green tried to exploit inexperienced RCB Curtis Deloatch, and often did. TE Tony Gonzalez, arguably the best in the NFL, was held to four catches for 51 yards. Free agent rookie Chase Blackburn started at MLB and was instrumental in dealing with short pass routes.

RUSH DEFENSE: C - It is difficult to stop Chiefs RB Larry Johnson, and the Giants found that to be true. He gained 167 yards in 31 carries and scored twice, but in the end he was limited to catch-up status when the Giants refused to surrender the lead. MLB Chase Blackburn had nine solo tackles, seven times standing up the 230-pound Johnson. SS Gibril Wilson, who is being used more and more as a run-support player, led the team with 12 tackles. Without injured MLB Antonio Pierce and SLB Carlos Emmons, the damage could have been considerably worse.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B - The man to watch going into this game was Dante Hall, the Chiefs' electrifying punt and kickoff return star. But he was held in check, returning five kickoffs for 107 yards and two punts for 7 yards. Giants P Jeff Feagles had a 39.0 average for three efforts while the Giants return game was fair at best - Chad Morton took back four kickoffs for 94 yards, one punt for minus-4 yards. PK Jay Feely made both field goal attempts, giving him 30 of 36 for the season, and his total of 128 points established a team single-season kick-scoring record with two games to go.

COACHING: B - Coach Tom Coughlin didn't bungle a single decision, taking penalties when they should have been taken, declining those that should have been declined. That has not been the case in recent weeks. His preparation for the Chiefs was exceptional, and so was the play-calling by offensive coordinator John Hufnagel (although with RB Tiki Barber carrying 29 times for 220 yards, his calls hardly had to be inspired). The defense was able to limit the Chiefs despite the loss of MLB Antonio Pierce, SLB Carlos Emmons and RDT William Joseph; kudos to coordinator Tim Lewis.

The Giants Beat Top Stories