Sunday, October 30, 2005

Barber, Giants Shutout Redskins

On an emotional day at Giants Stadium in their first game since owner Wellington Mara passed away, the Giants (5-2) shutout the Redskins (4-3) 36-0. It was their first shutout since a 20-0 triumph over Philadelphia on November 2, 1998. With the win, it gave them sole possession of first in the NFC East because the Eagles lost at Denver 49-21.

"I think as a team we did a great job of staying focused," said Coach Tom Coughlin. "We knew what was going on and obviously it was tough for some people with everything going on with Mr. Mara but I think everybody understands that Mr. Mara would want us to stay focused on the game and he would want us to go out and practice every day and compete hard, have a good plan, and go out today and play hard."

Before the game, there was a moment of silence to honor Mara, who was involved with the franchise since 1925. One of his 40 grandchildren, Kate Mara sang the national anthem. Flags were at half-staff to honor him and a video tribute was shown highlighting the two Giants Super Bowl teams ('86, '90) and Mara's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Afterwards, the Giants honored Mara the only way they could. By taking apart an archrival on both sides of the field. Tiki Barber ran for a career high 206 yards and a score while Big Blue's defense forced four Washington turnovers in the blowout win.

Barber set the tone early with a 57-yard scamper on the Giants first play from scrimmage, helping setup a Jay Feely 39-yard field goal. It was the first of a career high five for Feely on the day.

After Eli Manning was picked off deep in Redskin territory, the Giants D forced the Washington offense into their second straight three-and-out. With good field position, one Manning completion to Derrick Ward along with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Skins allowed Feely to connect from 50 yards out, making it 6-0 before the end of the opening quarter.

Entering the game, New York's D ranked 31st in total yards allowed. They held Washington to 125 total yards, holding the NFC's number one rated quarterback Mark Brunell to 65 yards, sacking him three times with one interception. Clinton Portis rushed just four times for nine yards before leaving the game with an injury. Before Sunday, the Redskins offense had the fewest three-and-outs in the NFL. But on this day, Big Blue forced them three-and-out six times.

"We had good pressure, and that's where it started," Coughlin said.

A sack by Kenderick Allen made Washington punt again for the third straight series. That's when Barber had his second big run of the day, bursting down the sideline for 59 yards, all the way to the Redskins 3. Two plays later, rookie Brandon Jacobs plowed in from three yards out, extending the Giants lead to 13-0 early in the second quarter.

A Washington turnover would lead to another Feely field goal. Kendrick Clancy recovered a Santana Moss fumble at the Skins' 27. After 12 more yards on the ground from Barber and Jacobs, Feely hit from 33, increasing the Giants' lead to 16-0.

It only got worse for Washington on their next possession when ex-Skin Antonio Pierce picked off a Brunell pass and ran it back 17 yards to the Washington 29. A Barber 14-yard run paved the way for Feely's fourth kick of the half, connecting from 39 to give the Giants a 19-0 lead into the locker room.

The third Washington turnover came on the opening kickoff of the second half when Ladell Betts muffed a return, which was recovered by Willie Ponder. It took Big Blue only three plays to score. A Barber 18-yard dash and a Ward five-yard run setup Manning's only TD pass of the game to Jeremy Shockey from 10 yards out, making it 26-0. The rout was on.

After a Feely 44-yard field goal made it 29-0, the Giants took advantage of the Redskins' fourth turnover. Osi Umenyiora recovered a Chris Cooley fumble at the Washington 23. With the capacity home crowd calling for Barber to score a TD, they got their wish when he ran in from four yards, getting a loud ovation. After the game, Barber gave the ball to Tim McDonnell, Mara's grandson. A noble gesture on a banner day.

"I told him, 'This is for you, this is for your grandfather,'" he said to reporters afterwards. "It was a big day and a special day for me, especially considering the events of the past week. It's something I'll never forget."

All that was left was whether the Giants would become the first team to blank a Joe Gibbs coached Washington team. They drove all the way to the Giants 5 but New York's D forced backup QB Patrick Ramsey into an incomplete pass on fourth down. It was the closest the Skins would get to scoring.

"The team came together and presented John Mara with the game ball," said Coughlin.

Dad would have been proud.

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