Before the pass reached its destination tonight, Giants quarterback Kerry Collins began moving toward the sideline. He apparently had no doubt in his mind that he had thrown the ball beyond New England safety Victor Green and into the hands of Amani Toomer in the end zone.
Collins has an array of offensive options, he is throwing with precision and the game has looked easy for him in the Giants' first two preseason games — both of them victories. Collins completed 5 of 6 attempts for 84 yards tonight while playing only the first quarter, as the Giants beat New England, 22-19. Tight end Jeremy Shockey's 31-yard reception preceded Collins's 34-yard touchdown pass to Toomer.
The Giants' revamped special teams continue to be a great concern to Coach Jim Fassel, however. There were four penalties, poor kickoffs and punts and terrible kick coverage, a performance so bad that Fassel described the team with a profanity in the printed quotation sheets distributed by the team during the game.
In a team meeting after the game, Fassel singled out the fourth-string quarterback Darnell Dinkins as one player who stood out and instructed the special-teams coach Bruce Read to put Dinkins on all special teams.
Kicker Owen Pochman missed a 37-yard attempt after a bad snap that would have given the Giants a fourth-quarter lead over the Patriots, who were playing their preseason opener.
But Giants running back Antonio Warren, hemmed in on the right side of the field, cut back to his left before breaking through the middle to score on a 30-yard run with 4 minutes 22 seconds remaining for a 22-16 lead. Defensive end Frank Ferrara set up the score with an interception.
The addition of Shockey to the Giants' offense has affected the other skill positions, drawing the safeties' attention away from wide receivers Toomer and Ike Hilliard, forcing the linebackers to play deeper and more removed from the running backs, and completely uncovering the second tight end, Dan Campbell, on some plays. But Shockey may help Collins more than anyone.
"I just feel very comfortable," Collins said. "I feel I'm seeing the field as well as I ever have, and I have a lot of confidence in the guys around me."
Collins relied on a prolific tight end, Wesley Walls, when he played for the Carolina Panthers, and Collins was ecstatic when the Giants drafted Shockey in April.
Too often last year, Collins stared into an abyss when he looked over the field. Linebackers could be heard correctly anticipating swing passes to Tiki Barber, and Hilliard and Toomer were buried deep by zone defenses.
The holes were in the middle of the field and the Giants did not have a workable option. But now Collins has Shockey, and earlier this week Collins said he believed he was playing as well as he ever had — operating with terrific tempo and confidence, throwing with extreme accuracy.
The Giants failed to get a first down on their first drive after falling behind, 3-0. Assuming possession at the Giants' 20-yard line midway through the first quarter, Collins whipped a 7-yard pass to Toomer before Ron Dayne rushed for 5 yards and then 3. Fassel has loved the way Collins has directed the offense.
Now it was first down at the Giants' 35, and after Collins came to the line, Shockey moved in motion from left to right before stopping alongside Hilliard and then reversing himself, still split wide. Cornerback Ty Law shadowed Hilliard, while linebacker Mike Vrabel stood across the line from Shockey.
A linebacker against Shockey is the kind of situation Collins will look for all season.
By the time Collins faked a handoff, Shockey was behind Vrabel and the other linebackers, and Collins lofted the ball over the defense into Shockey's extended hands, a 31-yard completion once he was finally taken down, as the Giants Stadium crowd roared.
The Giants came right back with another play-action pass, Collins coming out of the fake standing upright in the pocket. Toomer sprinted down the left side and got behind the cornerback, while Hilliard cut across; Collins threw the ball and seemed to know there would be a score, and he was right.
"We had a pretty good run sell, and they got behind the coverage on both plays," Collins said, referring to Shockey and Toomer. "Amani got in a one-on-one matchup and got behind his guy and I got it out there to him."
Said Toomer: "There wasn't much technique to it or anything special. I just ran the route that was open. K. C. just threw the ball up there like he's supposed to."
Collins has led the Giants to two touchdowns in the four series he has played in the first two exhibitions, completing 8 of 10 attempts for 121 yards, carrying himself as if he knows there are many good afternoons ahead of him.