"A guy gets carted off, it just kind of puts everybody in a little bit of a trance,'' center Shaun O'Hara said.
The Giants recovered and their defense held together in a 16-10 victory over the Lions at Ford Field but it was a costly afternoon. Kiwanuka is through for the season with a broken left fibula and in the third quarter running back Brandon Jacobs was forced out with a hamstring injury. Jacobs says the injury is not serious but the very nature of the injury indicates it probably is.
Kiwanuka made a tackle on an eight-yard run by Kevin Jones and stayed down on the turf after his left leg was accidentally rolled into by teammate Osi Umenyiora. Kiwanuka was helped off the field, carted off and X-rays revealed the broken bone in his leg.
This injury immediately brought back memories of last year's flurry of health problems to hit the Giants in the second half of the season. There was no immediate timeframe attached to the injury but Tom Coughlin said "I would think that, most likely he is'' when asked if Kiwanuka is done for the season.
Reggie Torbor stepped in for Kiwanuka and it's now Torbor's job for the foreseeable future. A four-year veteran, Torbor has started 13 games as a fill-in during his career and mostly served as a special teams player.
"That is a very, very costly loss for us,'' Coughlin said.
"When he goes down you definitely have to take a deep breath and kind of calm down and say 'OK, we're going to be OK with whoever comes in here,' '' Michael Strahan said. "You hate to lose him, when you lose him it puts pressure on whoever is backing him up and puts pressure on the entire defense as well.''
Kiwanuka in his first year at linebacker was developing at a steady rate, improving in his pass drops and making an impact in the third-down dime package when the Giants utilize a pass rush comprised of four natural defensive ends. Kiwanuka had 4.5 sacks and allowed defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to be creative in his schemes.
"Whenever a guy like that goes out, who does so much for your football team, it gives a lot of chaos as far as who's going to back him up, who's going to do this and do that,'' defensive lineman Justin Tuck said. "Especially Kiwi, he's so versatile, it's going to really do a number as trying to get someone on the football field to do the things he can do for us. We're so deep on this defense, lucky for us we are for the most part healthy. Reggie Torbor did a great job of filling in. Just midstream adjust, find what other people are good at and put them in a position to make plays also.''
Jacobs rushed 11 times for 54 yards and bulled his way past safety Gerald Alexander on a 10-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the second quarter. "In a situation like that I had to be the king of the jungle,'' Jacobs said.
In the third quarter, the king was dethroned when he lost a fumble on the Lions 26-yard line. The next and last time he touched the ball he lost a yard and then reached back and grabbed his left hamstring. He said he did not hear the popping sound that often means a tear but he could not return to the game.
"I'll be all right, it's something mild, it's no big deal,'' Jacobs said. "It will be all right. It's nothing major. I've never had an injury like this before but it will be all right. God will present you with hurdles every day, you got to jump 'em, if you don't you get tripped up.''
With Derrick Ward already out of action because of a groin injury, the Giants cannot afford the loss of Jacobs in the offensive backfield. Reuben Droughns, used as a short-yardage specialist, was forced into action and ran 11 times for only 13 yards.
"Any time one of your guys goes out,'' center Shaun O'Hara said, "you definitely are concerned.''
Close call: Looking back, it could have been the play that ruined the game for the Giants. They were clinging to a 16-10 lead with 2:17 remaining when Justin Tuck was hit with a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty. That gave the Lions a gift first down in Giants territory.
"That call was garbage,'' Michael Strahan said vehemently.
Lions quarterback Jon Kitna was rolling to his right as Tuck raced in and lunged at Kitna's ankles just as he threw the ball to Kevin Jones for a mere two-yard gain. Referee Tony Corrente threw a flag after Tuck made contact with Kitna and the two hit the turf.
Two plays later, James Butler intercepted Kitna but Tom Coughlin afterward was incredulous.
"The penalty on Justin Tuck was just, I don't know what we're going to do in football if we can't tackle the quarterback, I really don't,'' Coughlin said. "I'm not trying to speak out of school here. That is something I don't believe I've seen. It was very, very difficult for me to stand on the sideline and see the replay, everyone in the stadium saw the replay, what would you ask the guy to do? The quarterback's running away from him, he had to lunge to tackle him, he does tackle him below the waist but the quarterback's running away.''
Tuck took the politically-correct approach.
"I thought it was a bad call, it's a bam-bam play, he had to make a decision and he made a decision,'' Tuck said. "Who am I to say it was wrong? It didn't cost us the football game, I can't sit back here and babble about it.''
Super Stray: Michael Strahan's three-sack outburst was his most productive pass rush game since he also had three sacks against the Cowboys on Dec. 21, 2003. Strahan has eight sacks this season, matching Osi Umenyiora for the team lead.
"Ninety-two, he came out from the time he got off the bus he was very focused, very energetic, looked like the Stray of old,'' CB Sam Madison said. "I think he's finally getting his legs under him, he's getting his second wind and it showed.''
Kiwi Out for Season
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