The Eastern Front: Parcells Unhappy With D

The Eastern Front 12.13.05--Bill Parcells is rightfully concerned about a defense that gave up nearly 500 yards to the Chiefs. Plus the Giants evaluate injuries to both of their starting offensive tackles and the Eagles formally end Brian Westbrook's season

Dallas Cowboys

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Cowboys coach Bill Parcells expected his defense to struggle against the Chiefs. He didn't expect to give up 493 yards of offense, including 143 yards and three touchdowns from running back Larry Johnson.

Actually the Cowboys didn't fare much better against the passing game, as Trent Green passed for 340 yards.

Parcells said eight or nine defensive players simply played poorly against the Chiefs.

He blamed a lot of it on inexperience, as the players were confused by the constant shifting on offense by the Chiefs.

The two defensive players Parcells singled out for having strong games were the two who played a huge role in the play that changed the game.

Up 14-10, the Chiefs appeared to be ready to make the score 21-10 before the half. But on third down inside the Cowboys 10-yard line, Green was sacked by linebacker Scott Fujita. The resulting fumble was picked up by defensive Marcus Spears, who rumbled 59 yards the other way to set up a Cowboys touchdown.

Instead of going up 21-10, the Chiefs were down 17-14 at halftime.

"The critical play was the fumble turnaround," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said.

It was simply payback for Fujita, who took advantage of poor blocking skills of Johnson on the sack.

Fujita spent his first three seasons in Kansas City and led the Chiefs in tackles the past two years. But he became expendable after Kansas City drafted Derrick Johnson in the first round.

The Chiefs traded Fujita to the Cowboys before the start of the season for two low-round draft picks.

Fujita, who led the Cowboys with six tackles, was certainly pleased to perform well against his old team -- no matter how much he downplayed it.

"All week long I've been getting phone calls with people trying to make this Scott Fujita vs. the Kansas City Chiefs," Fujita said. "It's not about that. This was a big game for the Dallas Cowboys."

Quotes and Notes

--Chris Canty has replaced Greg Ellis as the starter at right defensive end.

The rookie Canty was the steal of the draft for the Cowboys.

A first-round talent, Canty fell to the fourth round because of knee and eye injuries. There was even talk that he might not have been able to play at all in 2005. The Cowboys took a chance that he would be available. Canty was ready for training camp and has played in every game. Now he's a starter.

Canty played end in the 3-4 in college at Virginia and was ready for a smooth transition. He has the size to handle the position, unlike Ellis, whose preseason fears of getting benched are now being realized. Canty started against the Giants and Chiefs, and Ellis played roughly 20 snaps in both games. Ellis still leads the team in sacks with eight, although he has not had one since becoming a backup.

--Criticized the past few weeks for poor play, the Dallas offensive line stepped up against the Chiefs.

Never mind the four sacks allowed, the line play was the foundation of 332 yards through the air by quarterback Drew Bledsoe and 129 yards on the ground.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said maligned tackles Rob Petitti and Torrin Tucker received less help in the game, but they played better because they competed harder.

Bledsoe said he felt more comfortable in the pocket, making his job easier.

--Linebacker Mike Barrow got in for one play against the Chiefs, marking his first game action since 2003 when he was with the Giants. Barrow missed all of last season with the Redskins because of knee tendinitis.

Player Notes

--CB Terence Newman could get more time on offense at wide receiver. Newman was used as a decoy against the Redskins. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said Newman is not great receiver but acknowledged that he is a threat when he has the ball in his hands because of his blazing speed.

--CB Anthony Henry was back in the starting lineup after missing three of the previous four games with a groin strain. But he was not back to form, as he was repeatedly beaten for receptions by Chiefs receivers. His worst play was a missed tackle on third down that kept a Chiefs drive alive. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said Henry was not limited by the injury, he just didn't play well.

--RB Marion Barber will remain involved in the Cowboys offense. Coach Bill Parcells said he will make sure of that. Barber had only two carries two weeks ago against the Giants but led the Cowboys with 82 yards on 15 carries against the Chiefs. He also had two receptions for 16 yards. He will not replace the struggling Julius Jones as the starter but will have a bigger load over the final three weeks. Jones rushed 12 times for 41 yards against the Chiefs.

Report Card vs. Chiefs

PASS OFFENSE: A -- Bill Parcells opened the offense up, and quarterback Drew Bledsoe responded with a masterful game. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns.

RUSH OFFENSE: B -- The Cowboys gained 129 yards on 28 carries, including 82 yards on 15 carries by rookie RB Marion Barber. Credit better blocking up front, but also credit Barber for making some things happen.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- QB Trent Green was let down mostly by his own receivers, who had several drops. He passed for 340 yards and a touchdown. However, the biggest play in the game was a sack and forced fumble by LB Scott Fujita that killed a Chiefs scoring drive and set up a Cowboys touchdown.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- RB Larry Johnson rushed 143 yards on 26 carries. The Cowboys were confused by the Chiefs' offensive shifts. They also couldn't handle Johnson's combination of speed and power.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- After giving up two good kickoff returns to Dante Hall in the first half, the Cowboys contained him late in the game. Matt McBriar was solid on punts with a 40.5 average on four attempts. The Cowboys botched a pooch punt when deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur snapped the ball to the wrong person.

OVERALL: B -- The Cowboys played desperately and coached desperately against the Chiefs and came away with a season-saving victory. With two of the next three on the road, nothing is guaranteed, but at least now they still have the opportunity to earn a playoff berth.

New York Giants

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To the surprise of almost everyone, the New York Giants are not only in first place in the NFC East but they are making all the right moves to secure a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

They beat Philadelphia on Sunday, 26-23 in overtime, and in so doing recorded a sweep of the two-game home-and-home series for the first time since 2000, when they did it for the fourth consecutive year.

They are 9-4, and with both Carolina and Chicago having absorbed losses on the same day, their hopes for a week of rest are just slightly closer to fruition.

But it was not a victory without cost. After moving through the first dozen games of the season with relative health, the Giants lost both offensive tackles, Luke Petitgout and Kareem McKenzie, although at this time it is not clear for how long a period.

Petitgout appeared to have suffered a wrenched back -- "something just locked in his back," said coach Tom Coughlin, "and we were hopeful that we'd get him back (in the game) but it was not to be -- while McKenzie limped off in the second quarter with an apparent hamstring issue.

More will be known after MRI procedures are taken on both players.

Also, middle linebacker Antonio Pierce left the game with an ankle sprain. He returned, however, and seemed to play at his usual level. Defensive tackle William Joseph, who had just returned after three weeks on the shelf with a dislocated elbow, left again with a leg injury.

To replace Pierce, the Giants moved weak-side linebacker Nick Greisen into the middle and took Reggie Torbor from the bench and put him in at the weak side. Strong-side linebacker Carlos Emmons, who earlier in the season had played some at weak side, stayed where he was.

On the offensive line, the changes dictated by the injuries to Petitgout and McKenzie put reserve Bob Whitfield on the field at left tackle, moved left guard David Diehl to McKenzie's right tackle spot and put reserve Jason Whittle on the field at left guard.

"These are key players," Coughlin said, "and especially because we have a short week (the Giants play Kansas City Saturday) it will be critical to get them back."

Quotes and Notes

-- Sunday's overtime game was the Giants' third of the season, matching two other seasons in which they played a trio of extra quarters -- 2003 and 1981. They are 8-6-2 in overtime road games, 14-14-2 overall.

-- The sack parade continues: DE Michael Strahan had two, running his total to 11.5 for the season. DE Osi Umenyiora had 1.5, maintaining his team (and NFC) lead with 12.5. In all, the Giants sacked Eagles QB Mike McMahon six times, a season high and most since Sept. 7, 2003, against St. Louis (and QB Kurt Warner).

-- Strahan now has 129.5 career sacks, moving him past Rickey Jackson (128) and into ninth place in the NFL's career listing. Former Giants LB Lawrence Taylor (who holds the team career mark) and DE Leslie O'Neal are tied for eighth at 132.5.

-- K Jay Feely made all four FG tries vs. the Eagles, including the game winner with 3:55 remaining in OT, a 36-yarder. "I think my field goal got rid of the demons," joked Feely. "Not mine, but yours (the media). You'll have to find something else to write about, you know?"

-- Feely now has 119 points based on 35 for 35 in extra point tries and 28 of 34 field goals. The team kick-scoring record is 127 (Ali Haji-Sheikh, 1983).

-- RB Tiki Barber had his fourth consecutive 100-yard-plus game, carrying the ball 32 times for 124 yards and raising his season total to 1,357. His personal high for a season is 1,518 set last year. "This is December football when it means something," he said, "and this is what they pay me for. I must perform. I will not be a liability to the team."

-- TE Jeremy Shockey had 10 receptions for 107 yards, moving him close to WR Plaxico Burress for the team lead in receptions. He now has 60 for the season while Burress, who had only two receptions for 37 yards, has 66. But Burress' yardage put him over the 1,000-yard mark at 1,012.

Player Notes

-- MLB Antonio Pierce was to undergo an MRI on his injured ankle, and coach Tom Coughlin declined to guess whether he'd be ready for Saturday's game until he saw the results. "If I say something and it is incorrect, this guy is a guy that has fought his way back from things before," Coughlin said. "I am not expecting anything miraculous here. But I had rather state exactly what the doctor tells me."

-- RT Kareem McKenzie limped off Sunday with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, and the team was waiting Monday for the results of an MRI. "I hope Kareem that can be a guy -- you mentioned Kareem -- that we can get back in a short amount of time," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Obviously it would be great if we could get him for this weekend."

-- LT Luke Petitgout left Sunday's game with a back injury that he is likely to have to play through for the rest of the season. "There wasn't any real warning signal here. All of a sudden it just became a factor in the game," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He was playing well and all of a sudden he wasn't playing at all. And they termed it that his back locked up on him. He felt during the course of the game that he was making some progress. But it would have been a most difficult thing to have someone else go down and have to go back to Luke to see if he could go, because I really don't think he could have."

-- RB Tiki Barber continues to receive a heavy workload, which has to be a concern as the season drags on. "We have tried to be very aware of his catches and his carries," coach Tom Coughlin said. "(Sunday) I think he accounted for 195 total offense. His number did go up from the week before a little bit. But you know what, you have to understand now, you end up playing five quarters. You are trying to win the game - late in the game and in overtime. We had 85 snaps (Sunday). That is a lot of snaps in professional football."

-- K Jay Feely made all four field-goal attempts Sunday and also improved on his kickoffs, but coach Tom Coughlin said there wasn't a specific adjustment. "If you watch the game closely you saw him improve while the game was going on," Coughlin said. "He did have two touchbacks (Sunday). He kicked the ball well; he seemed to have very good timing. I thought his fundamentals, as far as where his plant foot was, and his head and his follow through, and all of that, seemed to be in order. I think he played himself right back into a very solid game."

-- WR Jamaar Taylor banged his knee in practice last week, the same ACL that has bothered him since facing Dallas. He knee had swelled up when he reported to practice last Friday and his status for this weekend's game is uncertain.

Report Card vs. Eagles

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- QB Eli Manning had an erratic day, completing 28 of 44 attempts for 312 yards and one touchdown, but throwing three interceptions and over- and under- throwing several clear receivers. TE Jeremy Shockey was not immune to a few drops, even though he caught 10 passes for 107 yards to lead all receivers. Pass-blocking suffered when LT Luke Petitgout (back) and RT Kareem McKenzie (hamstring) had to leave. Yet the enigma is that the Giants and Manning accounted for 19 of their 38 first downs by passing and for 299 of their 437 net offensive yards in the air. Seven different receivers had at least one catch, an indication that the game plan is now expanding.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The Giants' rushing offense was named Tiki Barber. He carried 32 times for 124 yards, leaving Manning as the second-leading rusher with eight yards. Blocking for the run was spotty; several times Barber would hit the middle of the line only to be stood up, but on other times he received clearing blocks from McKenzie (until he left) and RG Chris Snee. The emphasis on Barber's carries allowed the Giants to create a monstrous edge in time of possession. They held the ball for 43 minutes, 30 seconds, their highest since Nov. 20, 1983, when they held the ball 45:43.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Giants allowed Eagles QB Mike McMahon to complete only 14 of 32 passes for 190 yards and they sacked him six times, most since a similar number of traps were recorded on Sept. 7, 2003, against St. Louis and QB Kurt Warner (who played for them the following season). Still, there are concerns about the secondary, especially the right corner position where Curtis Deloatch is having a difficult time filling in for injured William Peterson (lower back). It appears likely that Peterson may not play again this season, which begs the question: Who is Deloatch holding the spot for, rookie Corey Webster? He, too, is having problems and the team can only hope that he is guilty of nothing more than rookie mistakes.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- With star RB Brian Westbrook out for the season, one might have expected a shutdown of the Eagles' running game, especially considering how well the Giants' defense has played. But rookie Ryan Moats had his first 100-yard-plus game (11 carries for 114 yards) and added two touchdowns as well on end sweeps of 40 and 18 yards. In all, the Eagles gained 175 yards on the ground, averaging seven yards for each of their 25 total running plays. Missed tackles were well in evidence.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Nothing unusual, good or bad, befell the Giants special teams. Willie Ponder returned to his kick return duties after sitting out three weeks for fumbling and took back five of them for 95 yards. Chad Morton had two punt returns for 19 yards. Jeff Feagles punted only twice (35-yard average, 21.0 net). But the coverage squads were relatively stable. Reno Mahe took back only one punt for 28 yards; Roderick Hood had five kick returns for 122 yards. PK Jay Feely was successful on all four field goal tries, including his game-winner of 36 yards in overtime. He has now made 28 of 34 field goals for the season.

COACHING: D -- Coach Tom Coughlin committed a gaffe at the end of the first half and should be considered lucky to have gotten away with it. He declined a penalty that would have moved the Eagles back to the Giants' 34 (at the same time negating another sack by DE Michael Strahan) and allowed Philly to tie the score at 17-17 with 21 seconds left when David Akers was good from 42 yards. "I didn't want to give them another down," he said later, apparently not aware that he gave the Eagles three points in a tightly-contested game. The defense wasn't as effective as it has been, surprising because the Eagles' Brian Westbrook didn't play. Pass defense was ordinary (and that's a compliment).

Philadelphia Eagles

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The Eagles placed running back Brian Westbrook on injured reserve Monday. Westbrook hurt his right foot in the Eagles' 42-0 loss to Seattle on Dec. 5.

The injury, which was diagnosed as a first-degree Lisfranc sprain, isn't as serious as the Eagles first feared, and Westbrook won't need surgery. His expected recovery time is about 2 1/2 months.

If he had needed surgery, the recovery time would have been significantly longer, and there would even have been a possibility that the running back wouldn't have been ready to play when the Eagles open training camp next summer.

"There isn't any concern about that," coach Andy Reid said. "This thing should heal up. (Free safety) Brian Dawkins had it in (2003). It will take somewhere between six to nine weeks to get right."

Dawkins suffered the injury early in the '03 season and returned to play later that year. Two other Eagles players, running back Duce Staley and tight end Chad Lewis, suffered Lisfranc fractures and needed surgery. Lewis, who injured his foot in last January's NFC Championship Game, wasn't able to play until last month.

Westbrook's injury will give rookie third-round pick Ryan Moats a chance to get his feet wet the remainder of the season. Moats notched the first 100-yard rushing performance of his career Sunday, gaining 114 yards on 11 carries in the Eagles' 26-23 overtime loss to the New York Giants.

"He did a nice job," Reid said. "He had the opportunity to carry the ball. He was positive in his yards and he did the things we asked him to do, trusted his natural ability and he made some plays."

Quotes and Notes

--Rookie left tackle Todd Herremans found himself with the unenviable job of blocking the NFC's top sackmeister Sunday. Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora came into the Eagles game with 11 sacks and left with 12.5. Umenyiora set up the Jay Feely's game-winning field goal in overtime when he got around Herremans and knocked the ball out of quarterback Mike McMahon's hand. The fumble was recovered by Giants defensive tackle Kendrick Allen.

"He got to Mike and knocked the ball out of his hand, and that was my fault," said Herremans, who was making only his third NFL start in place of injured Tra Thomas. "This isn't an opportunity for me anymore. It's a responsibility. I'm over the part where I'm here and happy to be playing. I've got to rise to the occasion and take control."

Herremans did a good job on Umenyiora most of the game and played a big role in helping rookie running back Ryan Moats rush for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

--Quarterback Mike McMahon's status for Sunday's game in St. Louis is uncertain. He was sacked six times against the Giants and limped off the field after getting hit by Umenyiora in overtime.

"He's hurting today," Reid said. "We'll just have to see in the next couple of days how he does. But it's a concern." McMahon completed just 14 of 32 passes against the Giants. In the first half of his four starts, he's completed only 37.5 percent of his passes. If McMahon can't play Sunday, Koy Detmer would start.

Player Notes

--RB Brian Westbrook was placed on injured reserve Monday with a Lisfranc sprain of his right foot. He won't need surgery, and he should be ready for training camp.


PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Under pressure from a fierce Giants pass rush most of the second half, Mike McMahon completed just 14 of 34 passes. His receivers dropped a half-dozen balls. The only bright spot was rookie wide receiver Reggie Brown, who had five catches for 72 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- With Brian Westbrook out with a foot injury, rookie Ryan Moats got his most extensive playing time of the season and made the most of it. He rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Reno Mahe added 42 yards on seven carries.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Eagles intercepted Eli Manning three times, but all of them were overthrown gifts. The Eagles let Manning complete pass after pass on third down. Tight end Jeremy Shockey and running back Tiki Barber burned the Eagles for a collective 15 catches for 178 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Barber rushed for 124 yards, but the Eagles made him work for it. They held Barber and Co. to 3.5 yards per carry and held them to field goals in the red zone three times.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Kicker David Akers made a 50-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, but he missed an earlier 49-yarder that hit the goal post and bounced back. The coverage units had another solid performance. PR Reno Mahe had a 28-yard return.

COACHING: C -- Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson failed again to hold an opponent to 17 points or less. Most of his blitzes were picked up by the Giants, even though they were playing without their two starting offensive tackles.

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