Collins is primary target

With injuries, pressure on QB

Even when the Giants couldn't find the end zone with a compass and a map, quarterback Kerry Collins was putting up good passing numbers. In each of the last two games, two victories, by the way, Collins has posted triple-digit quarterback ratings and completed 71% of his passes.

His 300 yards against Minnesota were overshadowed by the Giants' kicking follies. But Collins engineered a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive (completing six of seven passes) to rally the Giants to a 27-20 victory.

"I thought Kerry played his best in that last drive," coach Jim Fassel said yesterday.

Collins was so hot and the kicking game so cold, Fassel didn't think twice about the decision to go for the two-point conversion following the TD.

We're about to find out exactly what Collins is made of this Sunday, when the Giants take on the Redskins. Two of the Giants' backup receivers went down with injuries against the Vikes. Tim Carter is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Ron Dixon, who was subbing for injured starter Ike Hilliard, could be out for two weeks with a strained knee ligament.

That means when the offense takes the field on Sunday, Amani Toomer will be the only receiver in the lineup who has started a game since training camp. He should be very popular with the Washington secondary.

Imagine this scene in the Giants' offensive huddle:

Collins: "Listen up, new guy! XYZ, Cosmo, Right. On two!"

New Guy: "What?"

Collins: "XYZ, Cosmo, Right. On two!"

New Guy: "What?"

Collins: "Just run down past the guy with the clipboard and go over the middle."

There's a guy with a mop and bucket following Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey around the Redskins complex this week because he's salivating so much.

Fassel called it a challenge and said the Giants will have to do "some very delicate game-planning."

Collins' confidence is soaring so high now that he believes he could complete passes to Flipper.

"Regardless of who's in there, my confidence level is going to be high with them," Collins said. "I'm not going to shy away from throwing the ball to them."

Collins, who has completed 65% of his passes, refuses to rate himself among other NFL quarterbacks. You could argue that he is among the top 10, despite his eight TDs and nine INTs. Collins believes he is playing the best football of his eight-year career.

"You talk about efficiency and that sort of thing, my quarterback rating is good (85.2)," said Collins. "As far as (where I am) in the league that's for other people to decide. I certainly feel I've operated at a pretty good level and I'd like to continue that."

Fassel has taken notice of Collins' maturity as a quarterback. Against the Vikings, Fassel started with one philosophy - to attack Minnesota's defense - and noticed Collins struggling with it in the first quarter. Fassel made some midstream adjustments that Collins took in stride.

"I wanted to get him in rhythm. So I changed up some things," Fassel said. "Gave him a couple other types of throws. He had a chance to take a look at them and had a chance to make some adjustments and he zeroed right in on them."

Fassel said Collins' maturity in handling changes and going with the flow is part of the reason he has thrust more leadership and responsibility for the offense the QB's way. Collins said greater freedom to make changes within the play-calls has made him more comfortable with and confident about the offense.

Even when the Giants were struggling to put points on the board, Collins said he felt good about the way he was throwing the ball."I felt I was playing better than that number of touchdowns and interceptions looked," he said. "I never got down. Maybe I got a little frustrated at times. I was confident that those numbers would come around and as an offense we would start to score more points."

Collins, working without the regular corps of receivers, will have to take on a greater burden for the offense's success. More fourth-quarter heroics will be needed. Is Collins ready?

"My mentality in those situations is much better now than it was earlier in my career," he said. "I've got a lot more confidence in that situation. I know how to handle them better."
Nov. 12, 02