- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Plaxico Burress dropped a potential 50-yard touchdown pass on the first play. A holding call negated a fourth-quarter touchdown and effectively ended the New York Giants’ comeback hopes. Tiki Barber — the tailback who scorched the Washington Redskins for 206 yards in the Giants’ win earlier this season — did little more than dance in the backfield under constant pressure.

New York came to Washington determined to clinch the NFC East. The Giants left FedEx Field yesterday with sullen faces, few words and without a playoff berth in hand.

“It is going to be hard to put this behind us,” said Barber, who finished with 80 yards on 16 carries, but 31 of that came on one run midway through the fourth quarter. “We knew we should’ve played better, and we didn’t. We have to get people’s confidence and mentality back heading into the last week of the season.”

The Giants (10-5) are still leading the division and will clinch the title if they win their regular-season finale Saturday night at Oakland. New York can secure at least a wild-card spot tonight if Minnesota either loses to ties at Baltimore. However, there is a small chance the Giants could miss the playoffs entirely.

New York had a three-game winning streak — including last week when Barber ran for a career-high 220 yards against Kansas City — but couldn’t match the Redskins’ intensity.

“I can’t understand that,” receiver Amani Toomer said. “I mean we are playing for a championship. I just can’t understand that.”

The Giants’ woes began on the first play when Burress got beyond Redskins safety Ryan Clark deep and quarterback Eli Manning launched an apparent touchdown pass.

Burress bobbled the ball, and instead of New York taking early control, the ball fell harmlessly to the ground.

It was the first of many faux pas by the Giants. Jay Feely’s chip-shot field goal attempt that would have cut the Redskins’ lead to 21-20 with 8:04 left in the third quarter was blocked by Renaldo Wynn. Instead, Washington scored on a 72-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Ramsey to Santana Moss.

New York also had a 36-yard touchdown to Toomer — which would have gotten the Giants within a touchdown with 6:25 left — called back because of a holding call on guard Chris Snee.

“Those are the kind of missed opportunities that typified our day,” Barber said. “We had a touchdown in the fourth quarter called back. That is the sense of urgency I am talking about. In a game of this magnitude, we have to come up with that. We have to do whatever it takes to make that catch and get on the board first — and we didn’t. They got on the board first. Both of our teams play well from ahead.”

The biggest difference from the Giants’ shellacking Oct. 30 to yesterday was the lack of a running game. In the earlier, Barber set the tone with a 57-yard scamper on the first play of the game. New York rushed for 262 yards, led by Barber’s then-career high 206 yards.

On that day the Redskins’ two best defensive linemen were ailing. Cornelius Griffin hurt his hip on the first play, and Joe Salave’a played poorly with a foot injury. The pair was healthy yesterday and a big part in holding the Giants to 99 yards on the ground.

“There weren’t a lot of running lanes,” said Manning, who had a so-so game, including an interception to set up the Redskins go-ahead score just before halftime. “Tiki ran hard. But he didn’t have anywhere to run.”

The end result was a stark day for the Giants, who will visit Oakland’s “Black Hole” on New Year’s Eve hoping to wrap up a division title.

“Maybe next week we will play like the Redskins with a win-and-you’re-in mentality,” Strahan said. “We just did not do what we can do. It’s frustrating to do that in a big game this late in the season.”

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