It was a play worthy of the milestone: On third-and-13 from the Giants' 17-yard line, Kerry Collins went into a shotgun alignment and found tight end Jeremy Shockey for a 15-yard gain.
The completion, which came late in the first half of last week's opener against the Rams, lifted Collins ahead of Fran Tarkenton into third place on the Giants' passing list. Collins finished the game with 13,967 yards, behind only Phil Simms (33,462) and Charlie Conerly (19,488).
The real story of Collins' day, though, had little to do with big plays or long third-down conversions. He completed one pass for more than 21 yards after totaling 46 such passes in 2002.
The important statistics: no interceptions, one fumble, two sacks and a 23-13 victory, all in spite of a line that hemorrhaged pass rushers and had three players with zero career starts entering the game.
With Ian Allen struggling at right tackle and left tackle Luke Petitgout out with back spasms, coach Jim Fassel ditched his downfield passing attack and told Collins to take three-step drops or hand the ball to Tiki Barber. Collins adjusted without a hitch.
It is a strategy the Giants might have to resort to again Monday against the Dallas Cowboys, because Petitgout has not practiced all week - although Fassel said he felt "much better" Friday - and changes elsewhere on the line are a strong possibility.
Collins said that earlier in his career, he might have looked at his relatively paltry final numbers against the Rams - 14-for-26, 202 yards, no TDs - and been disappointed. Only twice last season did he pass for fewer yards, and one of those was in a 37-7 rout of the Cowboys that he left early. But nine years into his career and with little left to prove statistically, he was fine with it.
"I think I'm more adept at being able to do that at this point in my career, to see the way the game is going and manage it," he said.
"You look at stats around the league and say, 'This guy threw for that,' but they lost. I'll take a win any day of the week."
Said Fassel: "The one pass [77-yard gain] he threw to Amani Toomer, three guys hit him the instant he threw the ball. There were other passes where he was getting hit. He never showed a sign of it bothering him. He didn't make any mental errors."
Fassel said the offense would have been on the "road to destruction" if he did not change gears and go with quicker routes.
"We could have ended up with six sacks, Kerry hit, a couple of fumbles, maybe an interception," he said.
The long-term idea is for the Giants to open up as they did last year, but there might be even less reason to take chances against the Cowboys than the Rams. If the Giants indeed have superior talent, they will not want to do Bill Parcells' team favors with cheap mistakes.
Collins, who is 7-2 against the Cowboys, might again have to be a glorified game "manager" until the line is settled. That process took half a season last year but when it was complete, he and the offense went on a tear.
Notes & Quotes: Talking about Bill Parcells on Friday, Kerry Collins said, "He's a great motivator, very smart in a football sense, not a homo, which is good." He immediately seemed to regret the wisecrack, a reference to the interview in which Jeremy Shockey was quoted aiming the slur at Parcells. "Oh, man, why did I do that?" he said. "I'm usually so good about [avoiding] that stuff." Then Collins added to his earlier remark, saying, "despite what has been alleged by certain people."
Sept 13, 2003