Giants stuff Ricky, but Dolphins prevail

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Maybe the Giants just really aren't all that good. New York dropped to 2-2 on the season after losing a very winnable game to Miami, 23-10, in front of 78,863 fans at Giants Stadium.

"Obviously that is a very disappointing loss," Jim Fassel said. "We didn't give ourselves a chance at all and that was the bottom line." "It was a missed opportunity," RB Tiki Barber said. "It was a home game against a good team in the league. We proved that they're better than us."

During the week, the Dolphins provided the bravado as QB Jay Fiedler and TE Randy McMichael spouted off about how good they were and how they planned to win the game. Then they went out and did it.

The Giants defense held Ricky Williams, arguably the league's best running back, to only 39 yards.

"I thought we would win the game if we controlled him the way we did," Fassel said. Jeremy Shockey caught 11 passes for 110 yards. "We tried to get it to him earlier in the game," Fassel said. "He caught (11) passes. What do you want, him to catch 20 passes?"

So, how exactly did the Giants lose? How do they usually lose? They lost the all-important turnover battle.

If Fassel had a nickel for every time he stressed the importance of winning the turnover margin…well, he's already a rich man. The Giants coughed the ball up four times and only forced one turnover.

"It's hard to win in this league when you lose the turnover ratio," Fassel said. "It's been proven. It is."

Offensively, the Giants moved the ball well enough, but could only manage to get the ball into the end zone once. Defensively, they played much better than in New York's two previous games, but they still couldn't make the big stop when necessary. During crunch time, New York allowed Miami to seal the game via a 6:59 fourth-quarter march, which was capped by Williams' one-yard TD run.

The special teams? You knew something would go wrong here, didn't you? Matt Bryant pulled his hamstring while kicking a field goal as the first half ended and punter Jeff Feagles was forced into emergency duty, missing a key field goal attempt late in the third quarter. Big Blue was fortunate to be down only 13-10 at halftime, after committing three turnovers and dropping two easy INTs. Each of the dropped picks – the first by Omar Stoutmire; the second by Ralph Brown – occurred deep in New York territory and allowed Dolphins K Olindo Mare to nail two field goals.

"Those two plays could have lost us the game," Stoutmire said.

"We had two missed opportunities for picks," CB Will Allen added. "Plays like that are going to happen. Guys drop balls."

The Giants broke through against Miami's previously-perfect red zone defense the first chance they got. Michael Strahan sacked Fiedler and forced a fumble that Cornelius Griffin recovered at the Dolphins 16. Miami was an NFL-best eight-for-eight in preventing opposing TDs inside the 20, but three Barber runs were all New York needed. New York got on the board when Barber followed pulling LG Rich Seubert for a two-yard TD.

Miami answered right back. James McKnight took a reverse handoff from Williams and scooted 68 yards for a score. McKnight made several Giants defenders look silly on the play, particularly Allen.

"We ran the play several times in practice this week and it worked in practice and it worked in the game," McKnight said.

"The biggest play for us was the reverse and our over-pursuit," DE Michael Strahan said. WR Amani Toomer, who had an uncharacteristically quiet game, wasn't about to blame the defense. "We should be a good enough offense and a good enough team to overcome a play like that," he said.

They weren't good enough to overcome their turnover troubles, and the loss of their kicker. Right before halftime, QB Kerry Collins, who threw three INTs, hurriedly led the offense down the field, moving 69 yards in nine plays to a half-ending 43-yard Bryant field goal. Bryant injured his right hamstring making the kick, was lost for the afternoon and the entire complexion of the game changed.

In the third period, New York moved into Miami's red zone and tried a 29-yard field goal. With Bryant out of action, punter Jeff Feagles was called on to attempt the kick out of Jesse Palmer's hold (Feagles is the regular holder), but he missed it wide right.

The Giants were still alive at that point, down only three. But in the game's final 19 minutes, the Dolphins put together two drives of at least six minutes, the first one ending in Mare's third field goal, the second with Williams' TD salting the game away.

"This was a tough one to take, but we still have a lot of football to play," Barber said.

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