"We can be as good as we want to be," running back Tiki Barber said
after his 220-yard performance last Saturday against Kansas City. "We
know the best team in the conference is considered to be the Seattle Seahawks. Well, we went up there and didn't play our best game and took
them to the wire (losing in overtime). We know it's eventually all going
to click for us."
It would appear that the clicking process has already started.
Playing without five starters, including both offensive tackles, the
middle linebacker, the strong-side linebacker and the right defensive
tackle, and with another player out of position (left guard David Diehl
moved to right tackle), the Giants embarrassed the Kansas City Chiefs
27-17 to run their record to 10-4.
"One more and it's ours," Barber said, "and the one thing that every
player would love to have is control. We can now control our destiny. We
don't need any help with some team beating another one or anything like
that. We just need to win and it's over."
With a victory, the Giants would move to 11-4, and while they cannot
earn the home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they are still in
the race with Chicago for a first-round bye.
"That would be nice," Barber said, "but the way we're playing, we
can't control what anybody does except ourselves. If we get the bye,
fine. If not, we just have to keep winning."
Barber's performance pushed him to new highs in terms of all-time
season rushing numbers for the Giants' franchise. He set the
single-season record last year with 1,518 yards; now he already has
1,577 with two games remaining. It was his fifth straight 100-yard game
and second 200-yarder of the season, and he broke the team's single-game
record of 218 yards, set in 1950 by Gene "Choo Choo" Roberts.
--Coach Tom Coughlin has been around the NFL since 1989, and he says
watching Barber's performance Saturday was a high point for him. "It was
right at the top of the list," he said, "because I'll tell you there are
guys and bodies flying. In every one of his runs, he's breaking tackles
and maintaining balance and coming out of piles. It was the most yards
in a single game in the history of the Giants. Now, that's saying a
--Right cornerback Will Allen is having an unusual season. He has
played remarkably well this season, breaking up passes, denying
receivers a clear shot at the ball, tackling hard and sure. But he
hasn't had an interception yet this year. "The guys came to play," he
said, "and we stopped thing about individual numbers a long time ago. We
are all about good preparation."
--Kicker Jay Feely became the team's single-season kick-scoring
leader. He had two field goals and three PATs for nine points Saturday
against the Chiefs, surpassing the record of 127 points, set by Ali
Haji-Sheikh in 1983. Feely now has 128 with two games to play.
--Quarterback Eli Manning's 22 touchdown passes are the most for the
Giants since Kerry Collins had a similar number in 2000, and his 492
attempts are the seventh-highest single season total in team history.
The record is 568 by Collins in 2002.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Coach Tom Coughlin said that SLB Carlos Emmons, who was a Saturday
afternoon scratch because he showed up with a strained pectoral muscle
and had no strength in his right arm, is still a day-to-day issue. "I
don't know," Coughlin said. "We'll evaluate him during the week. His
strength has to come back to be able to play."
--Third-string TE Sean Berton, who has excelled on special teams,
tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. "We're going
through all the processes (medical exams)," Coughlin said, "but it
doesn't look good." That might signal an activation of practice squad TE
--LT Bob Whitfield, who hadn't started since 2003 in Atlanta, filled
in for injured starter Luke Petitgout and was given "high grades" by the
coaching staff. "He had to play, we called on him and he responded,"
said coach Tom Coughlin of the 34-year-old former Pro Bowl player.
"Everybody on our team has the ability to play well."
--LG Rich Seubert hadn't played in any capacity since Oct. 19, 2003,
when he shattered his right leg (tibia, fibula, ankle) in a game against
the Eagles. But he started and played well Saturday against Kansas City.
"I can't tell you how many big runs Richie has opened for me," said RB
Tiki Barber. "It was gratifying to see him back on the field, especially
when you understand how badly he wanted that to happen and how hard he
--WR Amani Toomer (five for 69, one touchdown) has caught a total of
55 passes for 599 yards and five touchdowns this season. Last year,
without a single TD catch, he caught 51 for 747 yards. Three more TD
catches will equal his career high of eight, set in 2002.
REPORT CARD VS CHIEFS
PASS OFFENSE: C - QB Eli Manning is still experiencing late-season
doldrums. His passes too frequently have been off-target. He overthrew
at least five open receivers Saturday, but still managed to put enough
together to help the team win. "He was the winning quarterback," coach
Tom Coughlin said, "and that's the first thing to consider." This is
Manning's first season as the starter, and he is clearly still in
training for the job. His receivers have suffered lately because of his
erratic play. WR Amani Toomer caught five passes, but leading receiver
Plaxico Burress had only two catches and TE Jeremy Shockey had just
three. There was some early pressure until the adjusted offensive line
settled down, but Manning was sacked only once.
RUSH OFFENSE: A - RB Tiki Barber gained 220 yards in 29 carries, with
a long gain of 55 yards and touchdowns of 41 and 20 yards. On his
41-yarder, he broke five tackles, twice confounding Chiefs SS Sammy Knight. He also caught five passes for 29 yards. His 220 yards broke a
single-game team record that had stood for 55 years, surpassing the 218
amassed by Gene "Choo Choo" Roberts in 1950. The makeshift offensive
line blocked particularly well for him, especially in the second half.
RG Chris Snee and LT Bob Whitfield, filling in for injured regular Luke
Petitgout, were outstanding. Whitfield, 34 and a 14-year veteran, got
Barber the final 5 yards that gave him the single-game record when he
totally dominated Chiefs DE Jared Allen.
PASS DEFENSE: B - The Chiefs didn't hurt the Giants in the air, even
though QB Trent Green had acceptably good numbers. He completed 15 of 28
passes for 176 yards, but didn't get a touchdown pass. He was under
pressure most of the game, ran out of trouble twice for 21 yards and was
sacked once. WR Sammie Parker caught six for 87 yards as Green tried to
exploit inexperienced RCB Curtis Deloatch, and often did. TE Tony Gonzalez, arguably the best in the NFL, was held to four catches for 51
yards. Free agent rookie Chase Blackburn started at MLB and was
instrumental in dealing with short pass routes.
RUSH DEFENSE: C - It is difficult to stop Chiefs RB Larry Johnson,
and the Giants found that to be true. He gained 167 yards in 31 carries
and scored twice, but in the end he was limited to catch-up status when
the Giants refused to surrender the lead. MLB Chase Blackburn had nine
solo tackles, seven times standing up the 230-pound Johnson. SS Gibril Wilson, who is being used more and more as a run-support player, led the
team with 12 tackles. Without injured MLB Antonio Pierce and SLB Carlos
Emmons, the damage could have been considerably worse.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B - The man to watch going into this game was Dante Hall, the Chiefs' electrifying punt and kickoff return star. But he was
held in check, returning five kickoffs for 107 yards and two punts for 7
yards. Giants P Jeff Feagles had a 39.0 average for three efforts while
the Giants return game was fair at best - Chad Morton took back four
kickoffs for 94 yards, one punt for minus-4 yards. PK Jay Feely made
both field goal attempts, giving him 30 of 36 for the season, and his
total of 128 points established a team single-season kick-scoring record
with two games to go.
COACHING: B - Coach Tom Coughlin didn't bungle a single decision,
taking penalties when they should have been taken, declining those that
should have been declined. That has not been the case in recent weeks.
His preparation for the Chiefs was exceptional, and so was the
play-calling by offensive coordinator John Hufnagel (although with RB
Tiki Barber carrying 29 times for 220 yards, his calls hardly had to be
inspired). The defense was able to limit the Chiefs despite the loss of
MLB Antonio Pierce, SLB Carlos Emmons and RDT William Joseph; kudos to
coordinator Tim Lewis.