As Usual, Vikings Bring Out the Best in Collins

Wasn't this supposed to be the signature season for Kerry Collins?

With Collins now a mature 30-year-old, with an offense built for a pure pocket passer and with more skill-position players than a quarterback could ever ask for, this was going to be it. However, Collins' play through the first six games was erratic at best, abysmal at worst. With seven touchdown passes, nine interceptions and a 69.5 rating, he was off to a miserable start.

Put the guy on a field against a team that wears purple uniforms and has a silly mascot running around with horns sticking out of his head, though, and Collins turns into a different player. Put him on the field against the Vikings and he's Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas wrapped up in one.

Collins had another monster game against the Vikings yesterday, throwing for 375 yards and two touchdowns in the Giants' 29-17 win at the Metrodome. The win breathed new life into the Giants' season and helped Collins snap out of his early-season funk.

Thank you, Vikings.

Collins has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his last four games against Minnesota, including the 2000 NFC Championship Game.

What is it about this team?

"I don't know. It's tough to put a finger on why that is," Collins said. "But I'm just glad to get a win, regardless of what the yards or numbers or anything like that are. To get the win was something we really needed."

And something Collins really needed. He was as mystified as anyone by the Giants' 2-4 start, especially the fact that the offense had scored only two touchdowns in the last 14 quarters coming into yesterday's game.

Coach Jim Fassel was intent on throwing the ball downfield despite worries that the rebuilt offensive line wouldn't be able to consistently protect Collins, and the Giants' offense delivered its best showing of the season.

Fassel admitted to being conservative with the passing game in previous games because of protection problems and the conservative defensive schemes opposing teams were using. Teams dropped into two- and three-deep zones, and Collins invariably went to his underneath receivers in more of a dink-and-dunk approach than a quick-strike attack.

Fassel's insistence on throwing the ball down the field yesterday, coupled with a strategic decision by Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary, opened up the passing game.

Rather than use the zones, or "shell" coverages, O'Leary had his defensive backs play more man-to-man coverage than the Giants expected. O'Leary was especially intent on doubling Amani Toomer, but that often left single coverage on Ike Hilliard. He responded with two touchdown catches.

On his second one, which increased the Giants' lead to 29-17 with 3:39 left, Hilliard made a double-move, cutting to the outside and then running inside before catching Collins' pass for a 14-yard score.

"Kerry put it in a spot where only I could catch it," Hilliard said. "He did a good job of reading the coverage and finding me open."

Collins did a good job finding all his receivers open. In fact, had the Giants not dropped six passes - three in the end zone - Collins' numbers would have been even more impressive. But he'll settle for what he got.

"It's tough to come into a place like this, especially after the past couple of games have gone badly for us," he said. "To come up here and get a win and play the way we did can really do a lot for our confidence."