Armed and Ready

A full week of preparation, all that painstaking planning, was junked before the Giants completed one quarter of their very first game last week.

"It was a weird game," Kerry Collins decided yesterday.

Weird in that the Giants last week wanted to throw all day against the Rams and their suspect secondary, but never got into a pass-happy mode. Injuries along the offense line, a dominating Giants defense and a workable lead left Collins to dramatically alter what he originally had set out to do.

"There's a lot of different kinds of football games a quarterback can play in this league," Collins said. "My job on Sunday was to take care of the ball, not make the big mistake."

If that sounds like too defensive a mindset for a rocket-armed quarterback, so be it. That won't be the approach Collins will take Monday night when the Giants face the Cowboys, another opponent they will try to exploit with what is reputed to be a big-play passing attack.

Usually when the best-laid plans go awry, a loss follows, but the Giants beat the Rams 23-13, leaning on the creation of turnovers and a potent running game, exclusively driven by Tiki Barber. Collins? He was heartily praised by Jim Fassel for making smart decisions, for getting rid of the ball quickly and for avoiding a momentum-turning blunder. As far as his passing, Collins put up modest numbers (14-of-26, 202 yards) and rarely, if ever, ventured downfield with the ball. His long pass, a 77-yard completion to Amani Toomer, was in fact an intermediate route that broke for a huge gain.

"We pulled the horns in a little bit," Fassel said. "That's part of my job, to watch the game and see how it unfolds. The game was unfolding where our defense was playing extremely well. I wasn't going to take any more chances of getting Kerry blind-sided and losing the ball. I wasn't going to be crazy if we didn't have the time."

Once left tackle Luke Petitgout left the game with back spasms, Fassel never felt secure that he could find a way to adequately protect Collins, as right tackle Ian Allen was struggling and a rookie, Jeff Roehl, was making his NFL debut in place of Petitgout. Toomer (2-98) and Ike Hilliard (4-32) weren't heavily involved, with Collins using three-step drops and releasing the ball before danger struck.

"I'm not really worried," Toomer said. "Games usually kind of take on a life of their own and in that one, we did other things well, so me and Ike didn't get a lot of balls thrown our way. But that's fine. I think when I was younger, it might have upset me, only getting two catches. Now, I have a better understanding for how the game is played and I know it works out eventually."

The Dallas secondary is an interesting mix. Safeties Darren Woodson and Roy Williams will pummel receivers. Williams, in his second season, is an emerging star who at times hunts for the ball like a linebacker. Heralded rookie Terence Newman, the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft out of Kansas State, starts at cornerback, as does Mario Edwards, entering his third year as a starter.

Collins will test that group. At least that's the plan going in.

"There's a fine line," Collins cautioned, "between taking chances and being smart."
Sept 13, 03