The numbers Kerry Collins put up on Sunday aren't going to win him any more fans. They were mediocre by the lofty standards he's set for himself the last few seasons. They were below average compared to the rest of the league.
But the statistics don't tell the story of what Collins did for the Giants in their 23-13 opening-day win over the St. Louis Rams. Under intense pressure coming through his patchwork offensive line and with his teammates playing sloppy football around him, Collins was the steady hand of the Giants offense in a situation where many other quarterbacks would have thrown the game away.
"He really didn't make any mental errors," Jim Fassel said yesterday. "But a quarterback, when he starts to get some pressure, sometimes can start just throwing the ball in different spots and turning the ball over. He can get very sloppy with the ball and he can cost you the game."
Collins did none of that while completing 53.8% of his passes (14-for-26) for 202 yards - numbers he eclipsed in 15 of 17 games last season. It was hardly the prolific start everyone was expecting, but it was a brilliant example of what Fassel called "game management." And on a day when Fassel admittedly pulled in the reins because of the offensive line's problems, it was more than good enough to win.
According to quarterbacks coach Turk Schonert, Collins' 12 incompletions included two dropped passes (one of which would have been a touchdown), two balls batted down at the line of scrimmage in front of open receivers, and three balls that Collins simply threw away. There were also several passes he had no business completing - like his 77-yard completion to Amani Toomer when he was hit by three Rams as soon as the ball was released.
"Those little things right there aren't reflected in the newspaper or the stat sheets, but in our eyes they're big," Schonert said.
Collins' performance is the biggest reason why the Giants aren't concerned about the slow start of their high-powered passing attack heading into Monday night's much-hyped showdown with the Dallas Cowboys. There was a time when Collins would have tried to overcompensate for his lack of production and would have ended up throwing a costly interception.
Instead he showed a willingness to simply do what he had to do to win the game.
"My job on Sunday was to take care of the ball, not to make a big mistake, because we were up and the defense was doing a good job," Collins said. "A big play, an interception or something like that, that could have changed the game."
Consider that yet another sign of the maturation and growth of the starting quarterback.
"I felt good about decisions I made," Collins said, "and that I was able to kind of lessen the big mistakes."