Collins can't get mistake-prone offense on track

And to think: The people in Tampa Bay thought Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was the most generous sports figure in New York.

Sure, the Boss gives a lot of money to charity in his home city. But Giants quarterback Kerry Collins is also a pretty giving guy when he comes to this South Florida town, as he demonstrated again last night.

He turned the ball over four times -- two fumbles and two interceptions -- in the Giants' 19-13 loss to the Buccaneers.

The sad part? It wasn't his worst game at Raymond James Stadium. Far from it. In the Super Bowl three years ago, Collins had four interceptions as the Ravens rolled to an easy victory.

This one hurts. That one hurt more.

"Every time you turn the ball over like that, it's hard," Collins said. "Obviously, it's a little harder when it's the Super Bowl. You know, that's part of life you have to deal with. We had to deal with it after the Super Bowl and we have to deal with it tonight."

To be fair, Collins should not shoulder all of the blame for the offensive woes against the Bucs. Tiki Barber carried the ball just 13 times for 55 yards and lost possession on a key third-and-one play. The offensive line offered Collins no protection against the Bucs pass rush.

And then there was receiver Amani Toomer, who dropped two certain touchdown passes. One came in the end zone in the first quarter and one came on an otherwise beautifully executed pass play. He was all alone on the Bucs' 43-yard line, and if he could have grabbed the ball, it would have given Collins an 80-yard touchdown pass.

"It's frustrating, and it's hard to put your finger on exactly what's going on," Collins said. "But at the same time, you look at our games and it's just a case of missed opportunities. It's not just one guy or one thing. I think we can all say we had opportunities you wish you made."

Collins would finish the game without a touchdown pass. He completed 18 of 34 attempts for just 160 yards, a miserable quarterback rating of 41.3.

"It's very frustrating," Collins said. "We play well at times. We played really well. We moved the ball. We just continued to do things that hurt ourselves at critical times in the ballgame. It's not secret why we're struggling offensively."

His worst play was the turning point of the game.

The Giants had the ball at their own 21-yard line with 3:43 left to make a potential game-winning drive. Coach Jim Fassel called for the same play where Toomer broke free, and this time, the Bucs were ready.

Collins dropped back to throw and heaved an awful pass directly to Tampa Bay safety John Lynch. Lynch will never have an interception any easier than that. And the Giants never had another chance in this game.

"Basically, it was a little play fake," Collins said. "It was the same play that we had called with Amani down the middle, when that didn't work out. We were just trying to split the field. I thought I saw Lynch jump to the inside, so I threw it outside. Obviously, I was wrong with what I saw.

"I feel like I probably took a couple chances tonight that I probably shouldn't have, but I like to play aggressively. I like to throw the ball down the field. There were just a couple of times tonight that I should have played smarter."