EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Derrick Ward, the New York Giants' leading rusher, broke his left leg Sunday against Chicago and is likely out for the rest of the season.

Ward fractured his left fibula, the thinner of the two bones extending from the knee to the ankle, in the fourth quarter of New York's 21-16 victory. He rushed 24 times for a career-high 154 yards.

"At this point in time it doesn't appear to be surgical, but he will be out," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said yesterday. When asked if he thought that meant for the rest of the season, Coughlin said, "That's the way it appears."

Ward, who is in his fourth year, leads the Giants in rushing with 602 yards despite missing the previous four games with ankle and groin injuries.

"It's tough to deal with," Ward said Sunday. "I'll bounce back from this like I bounced back from all the other ones."

Brandon Jacobs, the opening-day starter who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, could replace Ward on Sunday when the Giants play ther Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. *