'Lightning' strikes before Barber pulls hamstring


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- On a day the New York Giants
finally opened their home season and honored the heroes of the
World Trade Center attack, their team leaders took charge.

Michael Strahan had three sacks, and Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber
set up their own second-quarter touchdown runs as the Giants
defeated the penalty-plagued New Orleans Saints 21-13 on Sunday.

"Today we came home and stood behind those firefighters and
police officers, and you have Tony Bennett and the Harlem Boys
choir," Strahan said. "That's a pick-me-up. We had to win for
everybody who came out."

Kerry Collins added a 46-yard touchdown pass to Joe Jurevicius
with 6:05 to play in an emotional return for the Giants (2-1), who
have practiced on a field from which they still can see smoke
rising above the ruins of the twin towers.

"Hopefully, we sent some people, who are a little bit down and
out, home with a smile on their face," safety Sam Garnes said.

The Saints (1-1) came close to playing spoiler: Aaron Brooks
came within nine yards and a 2-point conversion of forcing

Will people finally stop doubting the Giants?
The Giants have improved each week, especially on defense. They went from no
sacks in Week 1 to one sack in Week 2 to four on Sunday (three by Michael
Strahan). And they stopped the run. The Giants are getting more comfortable
with their defense as the season moves on. On offense, Ron Dayne is starting
to step it up and look like a real player; he gained over 100 yards on just
19 carries.

ESPN.com NFL analyst Vinny Cerrato has served as director of player
personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.


Garnes and rookie Will Peterson had to break up passes in the
end zone in the closing seconds, giving New Orleans one final shot
from the New York 9 with four seconds to play.

Brooks, who finished 28-of-54 for 291 yards, was flushed out of
the pocket and lofted a floater into the end zone. Willie Jackson
caught the ball after shoving cornerback Emmanuel McDaniel. The
offensive pass-interference call, the 14th penalty against the
Saints, ended the game.

"Everyone is running around. Once he's out of the pocket they
can grab us, so why can't we push them?" Jackson said. "But they
made the call so we have to live with it."

Even if the penalty wasn't called, the officials had flagged
Jackson for another. He was pushed out of the end zone by McDaniel
when Brooks started scrambling and he came back in and caught the
ball. That's another no-no.

Dayne, nicknamed "Thunder," scored on a 6-yard run, and
Barber, nicknamed "Lightning," scored from 14 yards. The Giants
won their second straight despite 11 penalties for 100 yards.

Brooks threw a 32-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Jackson,
and John Carney kicked field goals of 32 and 30 yards for the
Saints, playing for the first time since beating Buffalo on Sept.
9, two days before the attacks.

A simple but emotional pregame ceremony honored the victims of
the attacks. Seventy-five firefighters and police officers from New
York City and the Port Authority lined the field.

The crowd of 78,451 entered the stadium under heavy security,
and New Jersey state troopers carrying automatic rifles stood at
the gates.

"Your emotions run real high," Giants linebacker Jessie
Armstead said. "You were standing with true warriors that ran into
the burning buildings. Those are the kinds of guys you look up to,
guys who lay their lives on the line for the cause of duty."

Dayne, who gained 111 yards on 19 carries, gave the Giants the
lead for good, capping a six-play, 81-yard drive he ignited with a
career-best 55-yard run.

Barber, who pulled a hamstring on his touchdown run and didn't
play in the second half, stretched the lead to 14-0 on the next
series. He got the drive going with a 20-yard punt return. Four
plays after Collins hit Amani Toomer for 25 yards, Barber went
around the right side to score.

"It was like that the whole game," Saints linebacker Keith
Mitchell said. "They would put us to sleep and then sneak a big
play in."

The Saints, limited for most of the first three quarters by the
Giants defense and Rodney Williams' booming punts, got going in the
fourth quarter. Brooks' touchdown pass to Jackson capped a
seven-play, 64-yard drive with 7:48 to play.

The Giants recovered the Saints' onside kick, but the Saints
wouldn't go away. A 41-yard screen pass from Brooks to Ricky
Williams set up Carney's second field goal with 4:36 left.

A 43-yard kickoff return by Ron Dixon gave the Giants a chance
to ice the game, but Collins fumbled at the New Orleans 30. That
gave Brooks and the Saints one more chance, and they came up nine
yards short.

Game notes
Giants receiver Ike Hilliard (foot) played for the first
time this season and had two catches for 32 yards ... Giants
starting LG Glenn Parker left the game in the third quarter with a
concussion ... Williams averaged 46.5 yards on eight punts,
including a long of 63 ... Jackson finished with eight catches for
105 yards for the Saints ... Shaun Williams of the Giants had the
only interception ... Michael Lewis opened the game with a 68-yard
kickoff return to the New York 23, but the Saints failed to
capitalize because of an unsportsmanlike penalty against T Kyle


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