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Barber cuts through Chiefs

The Associated Press
| Sunday, December 18, 2005 12:00 a.m

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Tiki Barber had no worries about playing behind a patchwork offensive line.

It showed. Big time.

Barber ran for a team-record 220 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns, helping the Giants beat up-and-coming runner Larry Johnson and the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-17, on Saturday. If the Giants (10-4) beat Washington next week, they will clinch the NFC East.

Despite the banged-up line, Barber slithered through the Chiefs defense, breaking one tackle after another to eclipse the old single-game rushing mark of 218, set by Gene Roberts against the Chicago Cardinals in 1950.

How broken down was the Giants line• Tackles Luke Petitgout (back) and Kareem McKenzie (hamstring) were out, and Rich Seubert was starting his first game at guard since breaking his leg in October 2003. Guard David Diehl moved over to one tackle spot, and veteran backup Bob Whitfield filled the other.

“This is an offensive line we knew coming in was going to be effective for us,” Barber said. “That was one of the things we talked about many months ago, that we had great depth.”

But center Shaun O’Hara was surprised with how well the group played.

“We didn’t expect this going into the game, but that is just a tribute to the guys preparing and being ready,” O’Hara said.

Kansas City (8-6), meanwhile, saw its wild-card chances diminish with the loss.

Johnson tried to keep the Chiefs in the game, finishing with 167 yards and two touchdowns. He and Barber extended their 100-yard-game streaks — Johnson to a club-record seven and Barber to five. Barber now has 1,577 yards on the season, surpassing his own single-season rushing mark of 1,518 set last year.

While both backs rightly shared the spotlight, it was shoddy tackling that doomed the Chiefs. On Barber’s 41-yard TD run in the second quarter, at least five Chiefs missed tackles as he danced down the left sideline.

“They broke tackles. They ran all over us,” Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen said. “When you’re not tackling, that’s what happens. He’s powerful. He runs good. He’s explosive, but there were so many times we had him stopped.”

Then early in the third quarter, safety Sammy Knight had both arms around wide receiver Amani Toomer before letting him slip away for a 31-yard score that gave the Giants a 20-10 lead. The Chiefs unsuccessfully challenged the play, saying Toomer’s knee touched the ground when he was hit by Knight. Replays showed that Toomer’s knee appeared to be about an inch or two off the ground.

Johnson scored on a 1-yard run to get the Chiefs to 20-17. But Barber answered with a 20-yard scoring run of his own to give the Giants some breathing room, a luxury they haven’t always had this season: five of their games have been decided in the final 2 minutes or in overtime.

Barber said he knew he was close to the record when he went out for the Giants’ final series.

“Our line took great pride in it,” he said. “We were packed up in the box for the first couple of runs, and then we spread out, and that allowed me to get it. It’s something I’m very proud of, and I think it’s something that we’ll remember for a long time.”

New York won despite another shaky performance from quarterback Eli Manning, who was 17 of 32 for 186 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Trent Green was hardly better, going 15 for 28 for 176 yards and an interception.

“It’s very frustrating. Any time you can control your own destiny, you want to have it in your hands,” Green said. “Now, we put ourselves in a situation where we have to sit back and watch other teams. Now, we don’t control things. If we don’t care of business next week, it doesn’t matter either way.”

Notes: The Giants also played without starting LBs Carlos Emmons (strained pectoral muscle) and Antonio Pierce (ankle) and DT William Joseph (ankle). … Chiefs WR Eddie Kennison left the locker room on crutches and with a brace on his left knee. … Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez caught a pass in his 82nd consecutive game. … Longtime Giants public-address announcer Bob Sheppard worked his last game for the Giants. Sheppard began with the team in 1956.

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