By Tony Mangia
The New York Giants head into Sunday's game in Seattle teeming with positives. They are well-rested after a bye week, have a four game win streak and lead their division with a 5-2 record. Now, they've found out the Seahawks starting quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck will be out with a "slight concussion"and forced to the sidelines. It takes away a chance for the Giants fearsome pass rush to make him victim #6.
The Giants defense was expecting to face Hasselbeck until yesterday, when the QB didn't pass his baseline test and was not cleared to play by the Seahawks medical staff.
Giants QB, Eli Manning, put it bluntly, "It's scary for opposing quarterbacks knowing going into a game they got over a 70% chance of getting knocked out."
The Giants defense may be unfamiliar with Whitehurst, who is more mobile than Hasselbeck, but there will be no compromises in their beastly pass rush. "If Hasselbeck is back there we want to make him nervous," said defensive coach, Perry Fewell, "And if the next guy is back there, we want to make him nervous." It seems Whitehurst will have plenty to be nervous of.
While division rivals the Eagles, Redskins and Cowboys deal with QB comebacks, out-of-shape players and general chaos--respectively--the relatively even-keeled Giants are brimming with confidence. They bring a balanced offensive attack and a rib-breaking D into Qwest Field--a place that hasn't been so kind to the G-Men in the past. The Giants say they are prepared for Qwest Field, but history says otherwise.
First, a reality check. The Giants haven't been very successful after bye weeks. The team is 3-3 under Head coach Tom Coughlin. Second, the Giants have never won at Qwest Field and have lost 4 straight in Seattle. The Seahawks (4-3) are coming off of a 33-3 bashing in Oakland last week but are 3-0 at home this year.
Combine that with the noise factor. Qwest Field is widely regarded as the noisiest stadium in the NFL. Decibel readings reach indoor stadium levels and that doesn't bode well for the turnover prone Giants. In 2005 the team was called for an comical 11 false starts in one game against Seattle and attributed it to the raucous fans. Manning already has 11 INT's and the team has fumbled 10 times in it's first 7 games. If Manning gets rattled by the crowd, his tinnitus could cause more turnovers than Democratic House flip-flops last Tuesday.
The Giants know they can make a big statement by beating Seattle on Sunday. At this time last year, they started their downward swoon out of playoff contention. Losses to the Seahawks in 2005 and 2006 still reverberate louder the the ear-splitting noise. Coughlin used the phrase "poise in the noise" at his mid-week press conference to prepare his squad for the home team's '12th man.' He also used loudspeakers with jet engine decibels in practice to replicate Qwest Field acoustics. Seattle coach, Pete Carroll called the crowd noise "a legitimate factor" in his team's unbeaten home record.
Carroll's defense isn't so shabby either. His opportunistic bunch has a offense-numbing plus-eight in turnovers at home and allows only 12 points per game. Manning knows he will have to be careful in the red zone. "You have to block things up,"said the quarterback, "The routes have to be precise and throws have to be on the money." Six of Manning's interceptions have been on tipped balls.
The main keys to a Giants win will be handling the noisy environment thus avoiding silly penalties and self-destructing inside the twenty-yard line. If they hang on to the ball and rough up the raw Whitehurst early, they could prevail.
If Eli Manning's calculations are correct, the Seahawks might want to work out a third quarterback, just in case.