It's a Kerry Christmas

From the owners and front office and head coach who took a chance on him, to the bodyguards who protect him, to the men who catch passes from him, to the defenders who try to get the ball back in his hands, today is a very Kerry Christmas.

It has been nearly four years since Santa Accorsi and Santa Fassel decided to put Kerry Collins under the Big Blue Christmas tree. They rescued the quarterback from the scrap heap for games like Playoff-or-Layoff Saturday against the Eagles, when the entire season is on the line and the quarterback has to find a way to win the game.

If the Giants have one significant edge over the formidable Eagles, it will be with Kerry Collins over A.J. Feeley.

'Tis the reason to be jolly.

"This Christmas means a lot to me for a lot of reasons," Collins was telling The Post yesterday at his locker. "My wife; it's the first Christmas with my wife as my wife. And obviously I have a lot to be thankful for. That's the most important thing on holidays."

Collins turns 30 years old Monday. He married his wife, Brooke, in the offseason. They will spend today alone in Somerset County, N.J.

It's hard to believe that four Christmases ago, Collins was saying Bah Humbug to both his life and his career. The pressures of being Kerry Collins, the fame and fortune and temptation, nearly drowned him. He was immature. He turned to alcohol. He quit on himself in Carolina before Mike Ditka claimed him on waivers Oct. 14, 1998 to play in New Orleans. He won't soon forget that Christmas.

"By myself," Collins said. "And obviously kinda had an uphill battle to fight at that time. And kinda knew what was on the horizon, and it didn't look pretty."

It finally started looking pretty two years ago when he got the Giants to the Super Bowl, and it looks pretty again now.

The NFL QB ratings tell us he pitched a perfect game last week in Indianapolis.

"It was nice to have a good game, but I think my wife would argue against me being perfect any day of the week," Collins said, and chuckled.

He is under no illusions. The Eagles are not the Colts.

He needs to be the battlefield commander rather than the gunslinger. Phil Simms more than Brett Favre. Patience is a virtue.

"I think I'm playing with confidence," Collins said. "I feel good about my decision-making, the way I'm approaching games. My feel for the offense is probably better than it's ever been."

Fassel, a quarterback guru again, talked yesterday about how much Collins' teammates respect the quarterback. Just listen to them.

Jason Whittle: "Each week he never ceases to amaze me. The guy just keeps getting better and better. He's been fun to play for. We love protecting him and blocking for him. You get results when you do."

Amani Toomer: "Any time your quarterback is comfortable, it kinda just spills over to everybody else in the huddle. His decision-making is so quick now. I think he understands the system that we're running now a lot. I was watching the film [Monday], and he threw to the third receiver and it seemed like he was throwing to the first receiver 'cause he made his reads so quick."

Jason Sehorn: "If we have a letup, it's comforting for us to know our offense'll pick us up."

Collins was asked whether his personal resurrection or professional resurrection meant more to him. "My personal," he said. Because? "Because without that nothing else would be possible. Football wouldn't be possible. Being married wouldn't be possible. Everything wouldn't be possible."

Today everything is possible. He stood up to the glare of New York. He loves being a Giant. On the field and off.

"I'm proud of him," Fassel said.

Kerry Christmas.
Dec. 25,02