Fassel avoids losing fourth straight game again

New York's win coupled with Dallas' shutout loss in Tampa moved Big Blue within two games of the NFC East-leading Cowboys (5-2).<BR><BR>

Turning point

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Giants were trailing Minnesota 17-16. New York was in need of one of its big-name players to make a big-time play. Jeremy Shockey was glad to oblige. Jim Fassel said he had the play in his hip pocket. Shockey said he wished Fassel had called it sooner.

Whatever, the Y option play calls for New York's receivers to run their defenders out of the play, leaving Shockey in a one-on-one matchup with Vikings LB Chris Claiborne.

That was just what the doctor ordered. Shockey caught Kerry Collins' pass over the middle, bulled past Claiborne and embarked on a game-changing 46-yard gain to the Minnesota 11-yard line. Three plays later, Tiki Barber was in the end zone with the TD that gave Big Blue the lead for good.

"I was telling (Fassel) all game that when we get into that formation and it is man-to-man coverage against the linebacker and I thought I could win," Shockey said. "And he wouldn't listen to me. I wanted to come to it earlier. I am glad that he had it in his hip pocket because it damn sure worked."

Shockey was especially pleased to have such a large hand in the key victory. "It's always fun putting them away at the end and seeing all the seats empty out," he said.

Fassel not to be denied

Jim Fassel avoided losing four straight games for the first time in his career. This was the eighth time in Fassel's seven years as head coach that the Giants have lost three consecutive games (including one three-game losing streak that spanned the 2001-2002 seasons).

Of the 14 NFL head coaches who have coached at least 80 regular-season games, Fassel is the only one who has never lost four consecutive games.

Making up ground

New York's win coupled with Dallas' shutout loss in Tampa moved Big Blue within two games of the NFC East-leading Cowboys (5-2). The Eagles, who beat the Jets, are 4-3 while the Redskins, who had a bye, are 3-4.

"There is enough season left where we can come back and make a run at it if we continue like we played today," Kerry Collins said. "I think our motto is going to be one play at a time, one game at a time. Hopefully we can fight our way back into it."

All-time series

Minnesota now leads the all-time regular-seasons series with New York, 9-7. The Giants, however, have taken two of three post-season contests.

Tiki's tops

Tiki Barber became the all-time most productive Giant in team history. With 122 all-purpose yards against the Vikings, Barber now has a total of 9,880 yards. Frank Gifford (9,862 from 1952-64) previously had the most ever by a Giant. "I'm very proud of that," Barber said. "I've been though a lot as a player. This is a testament of my consistency to the team. Frank was the greatest. Just to even be in his league is great."

Barber's performance was even more impressive considering he suffered a thigh bruise on his first carry of the game.

Super Strahan

Michael Strahan played very well throughout the game, compiling six tackles and a deflected pass. But Strahan came through huge on one particular series in the fourth quarter. On consecutive plays, he dropped Vikings RB Onterrio Smith after a two-yard gain, then sacked Daunte Culpepper twice in a row. "He was outstanding," Jim Fassel said. "Those are Hall-of-Fame type plays. Big players make big plays in big games at big times."

Collins to 25K

With 375 passing yards, Kerry Collins has now thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his last four games against the Vikings, including the 2000 NFC Championship Game. In the process, he topped the 25,000-yard mark. Collins now has 25,155 career passing yards. Collins fell 11 yards short of his career-high 386 yards (Jan. 6, 2002 vs. Green Bay).

Revamped line

The Giants unveiled their third different offensive line this season. Luke Petitgout remained at left tackle and David Diehl stayed at right guard. Wayne Lucier moved from center to left guard to fill in for Rich Seubert; Chris Bober moved from right tackle back to center and Ian Allen, who started the season opener, was inserted at right tackle.

"They did a hell of a job, especially early on," Jim Fassel said. "They did a great job. Wayne Lucier is sick, he has been sick running a 103 temperature. He said he would make it through and I thought he did an excellent job."

"The O-line did a great job," Barber said. "Ian especially played very well."


"I give a lot of credit to Will Allen. For the most part, he did a great job against Randy Moss. Will Allen is an exceptional corner. I'm sure a lot of teams would want to get him on their team." – Shaun Williams

"It feels real good to be out there playing and being more involved in the offense." – Tim Carter

"This is the one that's going to put us on the right track." – Dhani Jones

"They really played the same coverage most of the game. They really tried to take me out of the game in the second half." – Vikings WR Randy Moss

Extra points

* DT Cornelius Griffin left the game with a sprained ankle.

* Former Giants FB Charles Stackhouse caught one pass for five yards.

* Former OT Mike Rosenthal appeared to have his difficulties with Michael Strahan for most of the afternoon.

* Safety Johnnie Harris intercepted Daunte Culpepper's desperation heave on the game's final play. That gave New York a plus-1 turnover ratio for the afternoon. They're now minus-7 for the season.

* Ike Hilliard had nine catches for 100 yards and two TDs.

* New York excelled in the red zone for the first time in quite a while. In six trips inside Minnesota's 20-yard line, the Giants came away with three TDs and two FGs.

Out of action

Kicker Matt Bryant (hamstring), CB Will Peterson (back) and WR Willie Ponder (hip) were the injured Giants unable to play in Minnesota. New York's other inactives were RB Ron Dayne, OT Jeff Hatch, LB Quincy Monk and DE Keith Washington. Jason Garrett was the emergency quarterback.

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