Collins on Fumble: My Fault

Q: What went wrong on Kerry Collins' pivotal fourth-quarter fumble?

A: When the Eagles saw the Giants in an empty-backfield alignment yesterday, they often sent linebacker Mark Simoneau at Collins, and they did it again on third-and-goal at the Eagles' 5 with the Giants leading 10-7 midway through the fourth.

Simoneau appeared to get past rookie right guard David Diehl and strip the ball from Collins, and Corey Simon recovered at the 10.

Collins accepted the blame, saying it was "completely my fault." Coach Jim Fassel said Collins "has got to keep that ball tucked tight."

Collins said he was trying to buy time because he saw tight end Jeremy Shockey working to get open.

The bigger question is why the Giants were using an empty backfield in that crucial situation. Collins is not a big fan of the alignment, and the Giants had converted a third-and-11 earlier in the drive when they had running backs behind Collins to pick up an Eagles blitz.

Q: Why didn't the Giants try a pass on the two three-and-outs that followed Collins' fumble?

A: Because the Eagles were so bad on offense, the Giants were content to consume the clock and force them to burn timeouts. Dorsey Levens ran on six consecutive plays. The last three of those rushes gained minus-1, minus-2 and 1 yard.

Fassel said the way the Eagles were blitzing and because they were not moving the ball, there was no sense in taking chances.

"I just decided to make them use their last timeout," he said. "I have done that before in a game exactly like this and we won the game."

Said Levens: "They stuffed the box. Everyone understands that when you're in your four-minute offense, you're going to run the ball and try to run out the clock. There was just nowhere to go."

Q: Is Levens in the offensive mix for good?

A: Yes. "I'll give him more opportunities," Fassel said. Levens dressed for the third time, played for the first time and ran well until those last two clock-eating drives. He finished with 16 carries for 64 yards, including a 17-yarder.

"I was kind of in a zone," he said. "I was just trying to make sure I knew my reads and protections, and mainly just hold on to the ball."

Fassel said he initially put Levens in late in the third quarter to give Tiki Barber a break, but Levens ran well and Barber eventually got cold watching on the sideline, so Fassel decided to stick with Levens. "It was fine by me, because I was cold at that point and the game at that point seemed like we were in control of it," said Barber, who ran 19 times for 79 yards.

Q: Why didn't the Eagles test new nickel cornerback Ryan Clark?

A: Presumably because their receivers are so weak, they were reluctant to spread the field with three wideouts, as every Giants opponent other than the Dolphins had done even before cornerback Will Peterson was lost for 8 to 10 weeks with a back injury. The Eagles did try to test new starting cornerback Ralph Brown, but other than a questionable 41-yard pass-interference penalty in the first quarter, Brown held up well. The Vikings will present a greater challenge this week.