Super punts play a role

  • Scott M. Johnson / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, December 23, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

By Scott M. Johnson

Herald Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Perhaps the echoes of last week’s botched snap were still bouncing through Jeff Feagles’ head. If so, he certainly atoned for his earlier mistake.

Feagles rebounded from a shaky game last week by turning in one of his best performances ever on Sunday. The Seattle Seahawks’ 35-year-old punter had eight opportunities, and kicked the ball inside the New York Giants’ 20-yard line six times. He also unleashed a 63-yard punt – his second-longest this season.

“Going into the game, I knew I would have to have a big game today, because field position was such a factor,” he said. “Both teams had so much on the line. I just did a little extra preparation this week, but nothing really out of the ordinary. It’s just one of those things where, as a professional player, you get up for games like this. It’s what you get paid to do, and you should get up for games like this every week.”

Feagles’ best two punts came on his final two attempts, with a little help from Fabien Bownes. Feagles pinned the Giants inside their own 5-yard line after Bownes downed both punts.

The final kick looked to be the most important, as Feagles and Bownes combined to give New York the ball at the 4. But the Giants responded by going 96 yards for the game-winning score.

“I figured that was it. Normally that seals the game,” Feagles said of his final punt. “You put the ball on the 4-yard line, that normally will seal the game for you. But the Giants came back and made some big plays.”

Welcome back: Shaun Alexander’s return to the starting lineup after a one-week hiatus was a resounding success … for about 32 minutes.

Alexander rushed for 78 yards on 16 carries in the first half, and scored a touchdown. He added another touchdown on a screen pass early in the third quarter, which leaves him one short of the Seahawks’ season record of 16 touchdowns (Chris Warren, 1995).

But from that point on, Alexander was relatively quiet. He was held to 18 rushing yards on 12 carries after halftime, giving him 96 yards for the game.

“I don’t think there was anything different,” he said. “They were just a good team.”

Alexander’s first touchdown came in dramatic fashion, as he took advantage of blocks from fullback Mack Strong and left guard Steve Hutchinson to turn a short-yardage run into a 29-yard touchdown on third-and-2.

“That’s a play we ran at my high school,” Alexander said. “When they put it in the game plan, I was like, ‘This is going to be a touchdown.’ I know everybody in Boone County (Ky.) was going crazy when they saw it. After I got that first block, they were probably going, ‘Oh yeah, touchdown.’”

Cornering Toomer: Coach Mike Holmgren decided to give cornerback Ike Charlton his first start of the season Sunday, then asked Charlton to perform a pretty tough task. Charlton was put in one-on-one coverage with Giants receiver Amani Toomer for most of the game.

Charlton got the start partly because of his strong performance as a reserve last week, and partly due to a minor quadriceps injury that limited Ken Lucas.

Charlton lined up across from Toomer on more than 50 percent of the plays, with some success. But Toomer, the Giants’ leading receiver this season, caught eight passes for 124 yards.

Charlton had to come out of the game midway through the fourth quarter due to cramps, and Lucas finished up in his spot.

“That, coupled with the fact that we don’t have (Shawn) Springs, really depletes our secondary,” Holmgren said of Charlton’s condition. “And New York took advantage of it. They did a nice job of picking on our guys. That was a big part of the ball game.”

Facing the best: Seahawks right tackle Todd Weiner had an even more daunting task than Charlton on Sunday. Weiner was asked to help contain Michael Strahan, who entered the game with an NFL-best 17 sacks.

Strahan scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery and added his 18th sack, but neither was Weiner’s fault. In fact, Weiner more than held his own – despite the fact that he lined up one-on-one with Strahan for 16 of Seattle’s 29 pass plays. On the other pass attempts, fullback Mack Strong or tight ends Christian Fauria and Itula Mili provided help.

“I feel like I did a decent job,” said Weiner, whose biggest whiff came when he tried to chase down Strahan near the goal line on the fumble return. “But he’s one of those guys who can come off of blocks late. Even when you feel like you have him blocked, you don’t really have him blocked.”

Strahan’s only sack came on a play where quarterback Matt Hasselbeck held on to the ball too long and got tackled trying to scramble.

Heady play: Making the game-turning play came with quite a price for Seahawks linebacker Marcus Bell.

Bell caused a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half, but aggravated a neck stinger in the process – possibly bringing his 2001 season to a premature end.

Bell did not return to the game, and his status for the final two games is still to be determined.

Overshadowed: While defensive tackle John Randle was surrounded by reporters in the Seattle locker room after scoring his first NFL touchdown Sunday, teammate Antonio Cochran dressed in silence.

Cochran did most of the work on Randle’s TD, forcing a fumble when he hit quarterback Kerry Collins’ arm. Randle fell on the ball after it rolled to a stop in the Giants’ end zone.

“He’s the man,” Cochran said as Randle talked to reporters. “That’s the man over there.”

Cochran, a third-year player who has seen extensive playing time lately due to injuries along Seattle’s defensive line, now has a career-high three sacks.

Quick slants: Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn suffered a sprained left ankle and missed most of the fourth quarter. Sehorn’s replacement, Dave Thomas, intercepted a Hasselbeck pass in the final seconds. … Collins’ 338 passing yards were the most given up by the Seahawks this season. … The Giants’ Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard each posted 100-plus receiving yards, marking the first time two receivers have done that against Seattle since Buffalo’s Eric Moulds and Peerless Price turned the dual trick in last season’s finale. … The Seahawks converted just 3 of 12 third-down conversions Sunday, and now have a 24 percent rate in that category over the past two games. Through the first 12 games, Seattle converted 38.5 percent of its third downs. … The Seahawks averaged 7.2 yards per first down through the first drive of the second quarter Sunday; 1.4 yards per first down from then on.

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