Maybe it was Kerry Collins' best play of the game. Ultimately, it didn't help the Giants stave off defeat to the lowly expansion Texans. But fleetingly, it gave the Giants' quarterback a moment of pure joy on the football field.
Collins' perfectly timed block on Houston safety Eric Brown on Sunday helped Tiki Barber spring a 70-yard jaunt down the sideline late in the second quarter. Collins wasn't part of the blocking scheme - he occasionally is on reverse or end-around plays - but when Barber came sprinting back toward Collins' side of the field, the quarterback changed football identity. No longer needed to throw the ball, he threw his body instead.
"When I decide to reverse field, I know I'm always in a precarious situation and when I see someone in my own uniform, it comforts me a little because I have a chance," Barber said. "The fact that it was Kerry, I was thinking, 'What is he going to do?' But he took right off in front of me, like he was saying, 'Follow me.' I could see in his eyes he was fired up and that got me juiced up."
Collins knew he was the only one available to help Barber. Everyone else was away from the play or occupied. "I didn't think twice about it," he said. "I kind of almost look forward to it. It's kind of different and fun."
Collins' wasn't reckless about his physical well-being, but nor was he timid. At 6-foot-5, just under 250 pounds, and armored with plenty of pads and a flak-jacket, Collins is confident he can throw a block when needed.
"You're just trying to take the guy's legs out, nothing fancy. Just try to get him down," he said. "I'm just looking to cut somebody, not pound him into the ground. Hey, I'm big. If I get into somebody's legs, I'm going to get him down. I better."
Barber certainly owes Collins a "thank you" for the biggest chunk of his career-high 146-yard rushing day. But the indomitable running back created this one from nothing.
With 6:07 to go in the first half, the Giants started their seventh offensive possession buried at their own 14-yard line. Their previous six possessions produced just 71 net yards and five first downs, but Barber ignited the offense on first down.
He took the handoff to his right, found nothing, and spun left and ran diagonally toward the left sideline, where Collins tripped up Brown. Barber danced out of a tackle by cornerback Marcus Coleman and stayed upright while linebacker Jay Foreman dove at his ankles.
Barber stayed on his feet to the Texans' 16-yard line, setting up his own 2-yard touchdown four plays later. His celebration began with Collins.
"I told him, 'You're awesome and that was an awesome play. You can do it all,'" Barber said.
"Tiki was pretty fired up," Collins said. "He said I picked the right guy. There were two guys - [No.] 42 [Coleman] was ahead of me and he probably had the best angle, but [No.] 24 [Brown] was there also and I picked him. He was the only guy I could get to."