Giants blow golden opportunity

New York refused Santa's gift on Christmas Eve in Washington, DC as the Giants fell to the Redskins, 35-20, failing to clinch the NFC East in the process. Big Blue now needs a victory next week in Oakland – or a Redskins loss in Philadelphia – to wrap up the division crown for the first time since 2000. However, if the Giants lose and the Skins win, Washington would capture the NFC East title.

The Giants, however, can still clinch a playoff berth tomorrow night if Minnesota loses to the Ravens in Baltimore.

"We play the way we played today and we don't deserve to be in the playoffs," Giants center Shaun O'Hara said.

More importantly than any playoff race, the Giants were awaiting news on rookie linebacker Chase Blackburn, who was carted off the field late in the third period. Blackburn was diagnosed with a neck sprain. X-rays had not come back at press-time.

"Our first concern right away is with Chase," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "There's not a lot of information. He was squeezing my hand and he was moving his legs around."

"Say a prayer for him and hope he gets back soon," Giants OT Bob Whitfield said.

Fast facts

Giants record: 10-5

This time last year: 5-10

Time of game: 3:15

Attendance: 90,477

Stat worth noting: The Giants came away with only three out of a possible 14 points in two trips into the red zone.

Stat worth noting II: Right guard Chris Snee was finally bitten by the penalty bug that has afflicted all his linemates seemingly all season. Snee jumped offsides early on and then had his holding call negate a 36-yard Amani Toomer touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

Turning point: The Redskins swung the momentum totally in their favor when Lemar Marshall, who got away with holding intended receiver Jeremy Shockey, picked off an Eli Manning pass. Marshall caught the pass at the Giants 47-yard line and returned it to the New York 20. Two plays later, the Redskins perfectly executed a halfback option. Giants safety Brent Alexander got sucked in as Clinton Portis threw a perfect strike to Chris Cooley for a 17-yard TD and a 21-10 Redskins lead with 3:15 to play before halftime.

Play to remember: With the Giants trailing the Skins 7-3 late in the first quarter, Mark Brunell dropped back to pass looking for James Thrash. Giants MLB Chase Blackburn, subbing for former Redskin Antonio Pierce, dropped perfectly into the flat, picked off Brunell's pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.

Play to forget: On the ensuing drive, the Redskins quickly reclaimed the lead. Santana Moss totally spun Will Allen around on a deep ball, which Moss collected and turned into a 59-yard touchdown. Moss beat Allen downfield about as badly as you're going to see a DB beaten.

By the numbers

1: Magic number for the Giants to clinch the NFC East.

25: Total number of false starts committed by the Giants in six road games this season.

50: The minimum number of times Kerry Collins and the Raiders are going to look to throw deep on New Year's Eve in Oakland.

80: Total number of rushing yards for Tiki Barber just one week after he set a franchise record with 220 ground yards against Kansas City.

What they said

"We're disappointed obviously but we still have a chance to win the division. We have our own destiny still in our hands." – Giants WR Amani Toomer

What went right

Much of the Giants offense came from the quick feet of kickoff returner Chad Morton. He returned six kicks for a total of 162 yards, a 27-yard average.

Even without starters Antonio Pierce and Carlos Emmons, the Giants linebacking corps held up very well. Chase Blackburn (six tackles and an INT for a TD before being injured), Nick Greisen (nine tackles and a sack) and Reggie Torbor (five tackles) were certainly not to blame for New York's defensive woes.

Amani Toomer still has it. The veteran receiver was Eli Manning's best target all game long. He caught six passes for 85 yards, including a highlight film 25-yard TD on a pass tipped by Plaxico Burress. Toomer also drew a long, 41-yard pass interference penalty on Shawn Springs in the third quarter and had a 36-yard TD nullified by a holding call on Chris Snee.

Eli Manning continues to get experience. Despite the recent terrible stretch from Manning, the Giants have to hope that he's at least learning on the job.

What went wrong

New York – and Will Allen in particular – had no answer for Santana Moss. The speedy former Jet sprinted his way into the end zone three times among his five catches for 160 yards. On his two lengthy TDs of 59 and 72 yards, Moss embarrassed Allen in one-on-one coverage.

The Giants' first play of the game was a perfect deep pass to Plaxico Burress that should have been a 50-yard touchdown. However, Burress lost the ball in the sun and was unable to come up with it.

The Giants defense allowed Washington to mount a 13-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up 7:08 on the Skins' first possession of the game.

New York's field goal troubles continued in the third quarter. Jay Feely lined up for a 29-yard field goal, but had his low kick blocked by Renaldo Wynn, preserving Washington's 21-17 lead.

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