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Giants fail to take snap in Saints territory in defeat

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (ESPN.com news services) -- If you want to know how quickly
things change in the NFL, take a look at the New Orleans Saints and
the New York Giants.

A year after enduring a "homeless season" in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina, the reborn Saints are a game away from a
first-round playoff bye after beating the Giants 30-7 on Sunday.

In that same period, Tom Coughlin may go from the man who led
the Giants to the NFC East title to the unemployment line.

"That would be a tremendous accomplishment considering
everything that happened last year with these guys, what they went
through," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said of the potential bye
a year after New Orleans posted a 3-13 record.

"With all the new turnover, a new coach, new assistants, a lot
of new faces, including myself; when you have a good group of
people and you come together for one kind of purpose it's amazing
what you can accomplish."

The Saints (10-5) got contributions from everyone in handing the
Giants (7-8) their sixth loss in seven games.

Rookie sensation Reggie Bush ran for a career-best 126 yards and
a touchdown, Deuce McAllister had 108 yards rushing and a TD and
the defense limited New York to six first downs and 142 yards in a
rout that turned Giants Stadium into a ghost town in the fourth
quarter.

The Saints can clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC if Dallas loses
either of its final two games (Philadelphia on Monday and Detroit
next weekend) or New Orleans wins at home against Carolina.

"It would be huge getting a bye," said receiver Marques
Colston, who caught a go-ahead 2-yard touchdown pass late in the
first half on one of three successful fourth-down gambles by
Payton. "We have a couple of guys who are hurting and it would
give us a week to rest. We could use it."

Unbelievably, the Giants (7-8), who did not have a snap in
Saints' territory all game, remain in the playoff hunt.

Atlanta, which was beaten by Carolina 10-3, the Panthers, Green
Bay, and St. Louis also have the same mark heading into the final
week of the season in the race for the now-tainted second wild-card
berth in the NFC.

"I feel badly for all Giants fans to come here on Christmas Eve
and then for us to lose the game the way we lost it," Coughlin
said. "It's embarrassing."

The sellout crowd let Coughlin know it was upset, twice chanting
"Fire Coughlin" before heading for the exits.

The Giants wrap up the regular season at Washington on Saturday
night.

"I didn't expect them to cheer us," Giants center Shaun O'Hara
said. "It's Christmas and everyone wants to be merry. They are
obviously upset with us and they have a right to be."

Brees' touchdown pass to Colston gave New Orleans a 13-7
halftime lead. Bush added a little insurance with a 1-yard TD run
on an end around in the third quarter and McAllister scored on a
9-yard run early in the fourth quarter, emptying the stadium.

John Carney kicked field goals of 32, 26 and 38 yards.

Plaxico Burress caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning
on the opening series. Retiring halfback Tiki Barber gained 71
yards on 16 carries in his final home game.

Bush, whose previous best rushing effort was 67 yards in the
season opener, was the star of this game. He had 10 touches for 70
yards on the Saints go-ahead, 18-play, 89-yard drive late in the
first half. The former Southern California back also had a punt
return for a touchdown reversed.

The only thing he did wrong was bolt out of the locker room
after the game without talking to the media.

Brees, who came into the day with more than 4,000 yards passing
and 25 TDs, finished 13-of-32 for 132 yards on a day his receivers
dropped at least eight passes.

Manning hit his first six passes, including the 55-yard score to
Burress. Saints cornerback Fred Thomas slipped and fell on the
play.

"Today was awful," said Manning, who hit 3-of-his final 19
passes, finishing with 74 yards. "We never had anything quite like
this. We've had some tough games and games where we didn't finish
well, but today, we didn't do anything."

Even the return of seven-time Pro Bowl defensive Michael Strahan
didn't help. He played for the first time since spraining a foot on
Nov. 5, but left the game in the third quarter after aggravating the injury.

Strahan is expected to have a CT scan on the foot Christmas Day to determine the extent of the injury.

Leading 7-0, the tide seemed to turn when Giants returner Chad
Morton muffed a punt early in the first quarter, setting up
Carney's first field goal.

The Saints dominated the rest of the first half, led by Bush, a
staunch defense and some gutsy calls by Payton. The former Giants
offensive coordinator called a couple of key time outs late in the
first quarter to keep New York moving into a stiff breeze. It set
up Carney's second kick.

Game notes
Saints WR Joe Horn missed his third straight game with a
groin injury and SS Omar Stoutmire missed second straight game with
an injured knee. ... The Giants introduced only one player before
the game -- Barber. ... Morton tore the anterior cruciate ligament
in his left knee covering a punt in the second quarter.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.