Buzz from Gotham last week was that the Giants were so worried about crowd noise at Qwest Field for their Sept. 24 rematch with the Seattle Seahawks that the New Yorkers attempted to simulate excessive decibel levels by practicing in the hallways of the United Nations building. Apparently they gave up on the idea when the ravings of certain world leaders became so stentorian that dazed players threatened to deliver a grievance to league officials. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are said to be looking into using Qwest crowd noise as a means of getting around the Geneva Conventions torture guidelines.
Right now, Eli Manning is their best example of a torture victim. After the home team got screwed by a bad call on the first play from scrimmage on the way to the 42-30 victory by the 3-0 Hawks, the New York quarterback barely beat the play clock on third and 7 of his first possession. Rushed into a bad decision, he tossed a midfield strike to Hawks safety Ken Hamlin, and three plays later, Shaun Alexander crashed into the end zone to make it 7-0. For Manning and the Giants, despite some garbage-time touchdowns, it never got any better. Hamlin picked off another Manning desperation pass and, after just 11 minutes of game time, the Giants were down 21-0. Jay Feely, who missed potential game-winning chip shots to allow Seattle its improbable overtime win last November, finally put up a three spot at Qwest. It got New York within 32 points at halftime.
Much has been made this brief season about the Hawks' allegedly diminished running game. But with a corps of receivers like this, it hasn't been needed. The addition of 2005 Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch gives Matt Hasselbeck (a career-high five touchdown passes Sunday) more targets than he can keep track of. Few outside his immediate family had even heard of third-string tight end Will Heller until he wound up wide open for a 12-yard TD reception to make it 28-0 in the second quarter. As for the running game, Alexander was clearly hobbled against New York. But when the Hawks needed a lengthy red-zone gallop for a first down, fullback Mack Strong was good for it. He broke the Giants' will with another first-down romp late in the game.
The Hawks, visibly and statistically, have improved with each game this season. Fox Sports game announcer Joe Buck said before halftime that Seattle probably has "the most well-balanced and dangerous team" in the conference—a notion that will be put to the test when Seattle travels to Soldier Field to play a formidable Chicago Bears squad that generates a fair amount of crowd noise itself. Best way to prepare? The Hawks need only pipe the recorded din of their own home fans into their practice facility.