Luke lost for season?

Luke Petitgout and the Giants offense received the unkindest break of all. New York's starting left tackle, who was playing the best football of his career, fractured his left leg during the first half against Chicago and is likely going to be lost for the season.

However, neither Tom Coughlin nor Petitgout would admit that Petitgout is definitely out for the season. With any luck, Petitgout will have only a slight fracture and could return by season's end.

"I don't know what the diagnosis is right now," said Petitgout, who was on crutches after the game.

In Petitgout's absence, veteran Bob Whitfield takes over the starting left tackle spot. In his two years with the Giants, Whitfield has pretty much played well whenever called upon. Rookie fourth-round pick Guy Whimper moves into the backup role.

However, Whitfield was unhappy with his play after replacing Petitgout.

"I gave up two sacks," he said. "I lost that game."

But now that he knows he's in the lineup for good, Whitfield said he expects big things.

"You need a shutdown left tackle to go to the Super Bowl and I'm going to be that guy," Whitfield said. "I look forward to this opportunity to lead the O-line and lead the team."

Adding insult to injury, Petitgout was mistakenly called for a holding penalty in the third quarter, well after he had left the game. The refs meant to finger Whitfield.

Kicking himself

Give Tom Coughlin credit. He made a pretty foolish decision and immediately stood up and blamed only himself for it. The play that we're talking about, of course, was the missed 52-yard Jay Feely field goal that Devin Hester returned 108 yards for the game-clinching TD early in the fourth quarter.

"The score was 24-20 when it was my decision to go for the field goal, and from that point on we were behind the eight ball," Coughlin said. "We turned the ball over again and never really got ourselves back into position to have a chance to win."

Coughlin said his club was at an immediate disadvantage once Hester corralled the ball due to the personnel on the field.

"It's very difficult to cover field goals," he explained. "It's very difficult to cover field goals because you don't have… the people are not obviously the kind of people that do coverage for you. Two ends, two wings – the two wings were OK, but that's one of the risks you take is that you know the coverage isn't going to be that good. The field goal is short and…again that's my call and no one else's."

"It's hard when you have a speed guy like that and all offensive linemen down the field trying to catch him," Antonio Pierce said. "When you saw that guy sitting back there all alone, you know what's going to happen."

Feely, who made a 53-yarder in the same direction during warm-ups, said he told his coach that he could make it.

"He asked me and I told him I could make the kick," Feely said. "I hit it well. I thought I made it originally, then it just died."

But Coughlin would have none of it, insisting on taking full blame for the costly decision.

"I chose to go for it and that ended up being the determining factor," he said.

Defenseless defense

While no one would use it as an excuse, the Giants defense was basically in shambles by the time Sunday night's game ended. They entered the contest without their starting Pro Bowl DEs – Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. Because reserve end Justin Tuck remained out, they were forced to move unproductive DT William Joseph outside, where he started at LDE. At linebacker both outside players – Brandon Short and Carlos Emmons, who was already playing in place of opening day starter LaVar Arrington, who's out for the season – were unable to go and were replaced by rookie Gerris Wilkinson and Reggie Torbor, respectively. The only area of defense with any health – the secondary – lost Sam Madison after halftime. He's likely to be out a couple weeks with a re-aggravation of his hamstring injury.

Defensive leader Antonio Pierce refused to make any excuses.

"Injuries weren't the key," he said. "It was our mistakes and their ability to turn them into points."

Dopey zebras

We here at TGI try our best to stay away from criticizing the officiating crews, especially since it's obviously a very tough and thankless job. The performance of Ed Hochuli's crew however can't go without comment. That crew missed several blatant calls, including failing to change a Chicago challenge even though replays clearly showed that Bears CB Charles Tillman, who had recovered a New York fumble, was down before he supposedly fumbled the ball back. They also erroneously nailed Bears LB Lance Briggs for a horse-collar tackle on Tiki Barber, when it clearly wasn't. The clincher, however, came when Brandon Jacobs was flagged 15 yards for tucking the ball under his jersey after scoring a TD, an act that wasn't punished in a previous game. Oh and did we mention a pair of very questionable roughing the passer calls on Giants D-linemen Fred Robbins and William Joseph?

Believe us, this is hardly just sour grapes or discontent regarding a Giants loss; it's an accurate report of how lousy the refs were.

Bears in driver's seat

At 8-1, the Bears are basically in the driver's seat in regards to capturing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Big Blue fell to 6-3, falling two games behind Chicago, which also now obviously owns the tiebreaker. New York is in a tie for second in the conference with the surprising Saints, who visit Giants Stadium on Christmas Eve, and the Seahawks, who have the tiebreaker edge over New York. New York's NFC East lead also fell to one game over the Eagles and Cowboys.

"It's a long season and there's a lot of games left," Jeremy Shockey said. "I think we can fix this thing."

Roster move

The Giants added depth to their injury-depleted defense when they signed linebacker Tyson Smith off their practice squad. To create room on the roster, the Giants placed wide receiver Amani Toomer on injured reserve.

The Giants originally signed Smith, 6-2, 240, on Jan. 9, 2006. He played for the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe, where, as a starting outside linebacker, he had 35 tackles (29 solo), a sack, a forced fumble, a pass defensed and three special teams tackles. Smith was with the Giants in training camp and played well in the preseason. But he was squeezed off the roster by the Giants' veteran linebackers and was released on Sept. 2. Smith was signed to the practice squad the following day.

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