|The Damn! Moment of Week 12||Good, bad, ugly from Week 12||MatchSport: Counting Down||SPENT|
By Skip Bayless
Damn Moments come in four varieties.They can amaze you. Or relieve you. Or thrill you. Or crush you.
The New York Giants experienced all four in what ultimately turned into a crushing loss on Sunday in Seattle. They went from wide-eyed "damns" to exhaling "damns" to grinning "damns" to -- in the bitter end -- triple "damns" followed by "its."They outplayed the Seahawks. They appeared to be a little better on the offense and defense than Seattle. Eli Manning continued to turn into a late-game star. Jeremy Shockey, Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer often looked like the NFL's best receiving trio. Tiki Barber stole the show from his counterpart, Shaun Alexander, the NFL's rushing leader.
Rolling up almost 500 yards of total offense, the Giants were constantly on the verge of making this late-November statement: "We're the best team in the NFC."And three times, a former accountant named Jay Feely missed field goals -- one at the final gun, two in overtime -- that would have won the game. Three times Feely kicked his team right in the stomach. Then Seattle's Josh Brown kicked the Giants in the heart with a 37-yarder that hooked just inside the left upright. Seahawks, 24-21. Damnation. But yes, before that, the Giants were a little lucky -- and mightily relieved -- when two disputed touchdown catches passed the instant-replay test. Late in the first half, it was tough to tell if Shockey got his second foot down in the end zone, before a savage hit separated him from a ball he definitely held onto long enough for a catch. At best, replays were inconclusive. The touchdown stood. The Giants led 10-7. And with 1:59 left in the game, Toomer pulled off the NFL's Play of the Day -- a Damn Moment frontrunner until Feely kicked the legs out from under it. Manning lofted a pass from 18 yards out that at first appeared to be a throw-away. But this floater came down within range of a backpedaling Toomer, who launched himself above the endline for it. Clearly, Toomer was interfered with by safety Marquand Manuel before the ball arrived -- no flag. But somehow, Toomer not only managed to fight off Manuel and snag the ball, but he planted his left heel in the end zone, then dragged his right toe in bounds. Touchdown? The Seahawks challenged. It was difficult to tell if the back tip of Toomer's left heel was touching the end line. The conclusion here: No. Yet strangely, the replay official was concerned only with whether Toomer successfully dragged his right toe. His conclusion: Yes. Touchdown. Amazing play. Trailing 21-19, the Giants went for two. Manning's bullet found Shockey, who re-emerged as a Pro Bowl candidate with 10 catches. (Then again, NFC East teams won't let him roam free the way the Seahawks did.) Game tied.
Again, the Giants defense rose up and held Seattle to a three-and-out, 36-second possession. Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora continued to have a break-out game against the NFL's best left tackle, Seattle's Walter Jones.And here came Eli's offense again. Late in games, this kid is starting to look like a more athletic Peyton. On the final play of regulation, Feely had a 40-yarder to win it. He had made two, from 39 and 43. For the season, he had missed only one. Yes, the winds can be tricky at Qwest Field. Not Soldier Field strong, just deceptive. "I hit it well," Feely said. "I just pulled it. I thought the wind would move it right and it blew it left." The attempt hooked left of the left upright. Shockey went from shooting imaginary six-guns at a sideline camera to grabbing his head with both hands in shock. Seattle won the overtime toss, but went backward, winding up with a fourth and 19. A shrewd timeout and challenge by Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren saved what could have been a Giants' first down at Seattle's 20. But after it was ruled Shockey didn't have possession of a pass he fumbled forward, the Giants wound up with a 54-yard field goal. Feely had made a 53-yarder in warm-ups. Coach Tom Coughlin let him take a shot. You can't blame Feely for this one. He got all of it and had the direction. This one was just a little out of his range. The Seahawks managed one first down before having to punt again. And on the first play, Barber broke loose off left tackle for 49 yards. Moments later, Feely faced a 45-yarder. This one he gagged, hitting it a little fat and catching only the low nose of the ball. It fluttered with a rapid end-over-end reverse spin and appeared to fall about six or eight yards short of the crossbar. Several Giants, led by Michael Strahan, went running triumphantly onto the field as the kick rose -- only to fall to their knees in anguish. DAMN. This predictably brings us back to my pet peeve about the rules of football. Once more: It is unfair to the great athletes who battled their guts out for the game to be decided by some little guy who could not make the team at any real position. Field-goal kicking should be eliminated and offenses should be forced -- or allowed -- to keep going for it on fourth down. The Giants would have had a better chance to win this game that way. Instead, they had to fly six hours home sharing a plane with the former accountant who lost his edge, as well as, a pivotal game. That's not fair to them -- or him. This is a tough call, but Coughlin should replace Feely immediately. Yes, he's a good guy -- and a Coughlin favorite. Yes, he apologized to the team right after the game. Yes, he said he will not mope or hang his head. But once a kicker suffers a triple-miss nightmare like this one -- once the pressure begins to eat at his psyche -- he'll likely miss another make-or-break kick in December or January. Though Feely was having a terrific year until Sunday, it would be better to start fresh with a clear-minded kicker, if a decent one is available. It will be a while before Feely -- or his teammates -- get over what happened in Seattle.
Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.