Yellow Alert

Returning to Seattle reminded the Giants of the penalty epidemic that was one of the foremost factors in costing them what would've been an impressive victory at Qwest Field late last season.

Then again, the Giants didn't need another reminder. They've reminded themselves and everyone else in pretty much each game since their terrible 16-penalty performance against the Seahawks last Nov. 27 that it wasn't all that much of an aberration. The Giants remain one of the most penalized teams in the NFL in Tom Coughlin's third season as head coach, despite that he was expected to instill discipline in a team that committed what was then a franchise-record 127 infractions during Jim Fassel's final season in 2003.

Only two teams were whistled for more than the 19 penalties the Giants accrued during the first two weeks of this season. And there isn't evidence that they learned a whole lot from that pathetic penalty party against the Seahawks. They were flagged for nine or more penalties in five of their seven regular-season games between their trips to Seattle, although they won five of those games.

They've worked feverishly throughout Coughlin's tenure to reduce penalties, but they were on pace prior to their Week 3 meeting with the Seahawks to establish a franchise penalty record for the second straight season (152).

"It's very important for us to eliminate the penalties," tight end Jeremy Shockey said, "and stop shooting ourselves in the foot."

While the Giants have made it crystal clear that this is easier said than done, Shockey offered the same seemingly simple solution most of his teammates suggested.

"We just have to stay focused," Shockey said. "The first thing is focus when you get to the line of scrimmage. By the time you get to the line of scrimmage, you're worried about your play, you're worried about the guy you're blocking, you're worried about this and that. The next thing you know, a guy flinches and you flinch. So I just think you've just got to keep your poise and concentrate on the task at hand. If you just do that, you'll be all right."

Maintaining concentration has become particularly problematic on the offensive side of the ball, where the majority of flags thrown against the Giants have landed this season.

Thus far members of the offense have been flagged for false start, holding, delay of game, illegal snap, illegal block and pass interference violations.

"A lot of guys are trying to do too much," center Shaun O'Hara said, "and sometimes penalties come because of it."

They've been penalized too much since Coughlin was hired.

They committed nine fewer penalties (118 for 977 yards) during Coughlin's first season than they did in Fassel's last season, but were still the 10th most penalized NFL team in 2004. They showed even less discipline last season, when they were whistled for 143 penalties, the third highest total in the league, which cost them 1,115 yards. Only Oakland and Arizona were penalized more than the Giants in 2004 and 2005.

If Coughlin's history is an accurate indication, this problem probably won't be minimized anytime soon. The Jaguars averaged 119 penalties for 947 yards during Coughlin's first four seasons as Jacksonville's head coach. They improved in his final four seasons, when they averaged 92 penalties per season and 713 yards lost.

Getting the Giants' below 100 penalties per season might be a tougher task for Coughlin, though, because officials are calling more penalties these days. While dissatisfied that the problem persists, a defensive Coughlin also has been quick to note that the Giants' opponents haven't always been rule-abiding groups, either. The Eagles were called for 10 penalties, one more than the Giants, when the Giants staged their unfathomable comeback in Philadelphia on Sept. 17.

"I've watched various games and I've had a chance to watch Monday night games and Sunday night games, and there's flags all over the place," Coughlin said. "All I can do is tell you that we worked as hard as we can to not have penalties and to not hurt ourselves. … Everybody, I think, is fighting like crazy to get control of this. To know the rules is one thing. And then to constantly be aware of them without taking away anybody's aggressiveness, that's the next step. Knowing how the officials are calling the game (comes next). I think as we move forward and continue to focus on this, hopefully we can make some improvements."

Most of Coughlin's players have noticed that officials are blowing their whistles with more frequency, but they're not sure who deserves the blame.

"I don't know if it's that players are getting that careless," guard Chris Snee said, "or they're just watching closer to get every little penalty."

The outspoken Shockey didn't hesitate to fault overzealous officials for becoming penalty happy, though.

"I've seen a bunch of phantom penalties already (called) on our team," Shockey said. "It's kind of bad. We get fined for hitting the quarterback, we get fined for (other stuff). I think the referees should get fined for calling the wrong (penalties), because that hurts the play."

Even weeks later, one particular penalty sickens Shockey. It was called against receiver Tim Carter late in the fourth quarter of their season-opening game against the Colts. Carter caught a 19-yard pass that moved the driving Giants to their own 37-yard line. But it was negated when an official called Carter for an offensive pass interference infraction against Colts cornerback Nick Harper, one replays repeatedly proved he didn't deserve.

That flag forced the Giants, down 23-21 with about four minutes to play, into a third-and-11 situation from their own 9. Eli Manning made a terrible throw on the next play and Harper's interception eventually led to a victory-clinching, 32-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri with 1:16 remaining in the game.

"The one (against) Indianapolis that they called on Tim Carter, that hurt us," Shockey said. "They should be (held) more responsible for their personal calls, as we are for our conduct on and off the field."

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