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Giants defense dominates in windy conditions

Oct 29, 2006 - 9:31 PM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Even without some key defensive starters, the New York Giants had more than enough to blow away the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In a game played in swirling winds, the Giants bottled up Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to 10 first downs and 174 total yards in a 17-3 victory.

The performance comes six days after the Giants (5-2) recorded six sacks, four interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and a safety in a win at Dallas.

But linebacker LaVar Arrington, defensive end Osi Umenyiora and cornerback Sam Madison were all injured in that game and did not play on Sunday. Arrington tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of the season. Umenyiora suffered a hip injury and Madison strained his hamstring.

In addition, Giants linebacker Brandon Short left in the second quarter of this contest with a quadriceps injury. Giants coach Tom Coughlin did not elaborate on the injury.

"We have enough guys on defense to overcome the loss of some guys," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "Our bench is better this year than it was last year."

Rookie defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, a first-round pick, filled in for Umenyiora and had six tackles and a sack.

Wind gusts between 25 and 40 miles per hour at Giants Stadium made it difficult for either team to establish any type of passing game on Sunday, but the home team was clearly more comfortable in the conditions.

"We knew what to expect," said veteran Jeff Feagles, who averaged 30.8 yards on nine punts. "It's our kind of game."

Williams carried just eight times for 20 yards while Bucs rookie Bruce Gradkowski completed only 20-of-48 passes in the windy conditions for 139 yards.

The Bucs did not have a first down until the middle of the second quarter and converted just 2-of-16 third-down opportunities.

"The weather was a factor but it was the same for both teams and they did a better job with it," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "The wind sure made it difficult to pass and allowed both teams to stack up against the run."

But wide receiver Michael Clayton thought Tampa Bay's struggles were due to lack of execution.

"If the weather was a factor, God help us," said Clayton, who dropped a pass in the end zone in the second quarter. "It was a breakdown of what we had to do."

The Giants were able to get into the end zone twice. Plaxico Burress used his 6-5 size to pluck the ball out of the air on the first touchdown, making a one-handed catch over three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ronde Barber for a seven-yard score with 3:27 left in the first quarter.

"He's tough to deal with," Barber admitted. "With that one-handed grab, there was not much I could do."

This marked the last meeting of the Barber brothers. Running back Tiki Barber of the Giants plans to retire after the season.

Entering the game as the NFL's leading rusher with 647 yards, Tiki gained 68 yards on 26 carries.

Eli Manning was just 16-of-31 for 154 yards. More than half the yardage went to Burress, who finished with seven reception for 86 yards.

The Giants capitalized on a turnover when Gradkowski made an errant pitch to Williams and defensive tackle Fred Robbins recovered the fumble at the Tampa Bay 28. Manning then connected with Burress on a 25-yard pass.

"I put everything I had into it, and by the time he (Burress) caught it, it was coming back toward me," said Manning, who led a conservative attack. "We knew we had to play smart football."

Two plays later, Brandon Jacobs scored on a one-yard run to increase the lead to 14-0 with 8:50 left in the second quarter.

Jacobs had seven rushes for 41 yards, including several key carries in the second half that took time off the clock. With Tiki Barber expected to retire at the end of the season, Jacobs is being touted as the successor.

"I'm just out there working hard," Jacobs said. "When it is my time, we won't miss a beat."

The Buccaneers (2-5) totaled just nine yards on their first six possessions. On their seventh possession, the Bucs drove 34 yards to set up a 43-yard field goal by former Giant Matt Bryant with 58 seconds remaining in the half.

The only scoring in the second half was a 31-yard field goal by Jay Feely with 3:43 left in the fourth quarter. It capped a 12-play, 54-yard drive that lasted more than 7 1/2 minutes.

The Buccaneers failed to convert on a pair of fourth downs in the second half. Clayton fumbled after catching a pass for first-down yardage in the third quarter and Gradkowski threw an incomplete pass under pressure in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

"Those were big plays when we didn't convert," Gruden said. "We had an opportunity to make it a one-score game and we didn't."

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