EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – With 57 seconds left in the third quarter, the Giants fans had finally had enough. A brief chant of "Fire Fassel" emanated from the upper deck. Less than five minutes into the fourth quarter, many of those same fans started heading to the exits. The Giants had pulled off the unthinkable, dropping a 27-7 decision to the anemic Falcons, ripping their season apart just one week after they had supposedly saved it.
"That was probably, in a lot of aspects, as poor of a performance as I have had a team play," Jim Fassel said. "They just whooped our ass one-on-one and we made mental errors; it's real simple."
Tiki Barber's second fumble of the game – at the Atlanta 5-yard line – robbed New York of a chance to get back into the game with 10:34 to play.
And just like that, the reborn Giants, 10.5-point favorites over the Falcons, were back on the scrap heap.
"We made a lot of mistakes," LT Luke Petitgout said. "We didn't come to play and it looked like it.
"We made the bed – we have to sleep in it."
In the process, former Giants coach and current Falcons boss Dan Reeves recorded his 200th career victory, the seventh NFL coach to reach that milestone.
"I'm so glad to get number 200," Reeves said. "But it's much more important for these guys to get win number two."
The Giants lost the way they usually do, falling grossly short in the turnover department. New York handed Atlanta the ball four times, while the Falcons, behind third-string QB Kurt Kittner, were flawless. Big Blue is now minus-7 in the turnover ratio for the season.
"We had four turnovers; they had none," Fassel said. "You are going to lose every football game that way."
Nine penalties for 70 yards certainly help as well.
"With all those penalties and mistakes we definitely made it harder on ourselves," C Chris Bober said.
The Giants defense was blistered for 178 rushing yards by Falcons RB Warrick Dunn. All told Atlanta rolled up 216 yards on the ground against Big Blue.
In addition to Barber's two fumbles, QB Kerry Collins, who was under pretty heavy pressure all afternoon, was picked off twice.
"For quite a bit of the day it was protection," Fassel said. "Kerry was under a lot of protection problems."
There was some good for the Giants, but most of what transpired fell into the bad or ugly category. Here's a synopsis of how New York fell to 4-5 on the season.
The good: New York was able to march 72 yards and score on a 2-yard TD run by Dorsey Levens. That capped a 72-yard drive that was aided by Barber's 18-yard run.
* Fassel challenged a Falcons reception by Peerless Price and had the decision overturned. Price's 17-yard grab near midfield would have moved the sticks on a third-and-15.
* Delvin Joyce made a great diving play to keep Jeff Feagles' punt from going into the end zone. Marcellus Rivers downed the kick at the Falcons 2-yard line.
* Falcons DE Patrick Kerney jumped offsides to give the Giants a first down on a fourth-and-two late in the first half.
* Shaun Williams blocked an Atlanta extra point try by Jay Feely.
"I thought the PAT block should have been a sparkplug for us," CB Will Allen said.
The bad: Atlanta tore through New York's defense on its first drive, taking a 7-0 lead in the process. Dunn busted free on a 45-yard TD run. Omar Stoutmire badly missed Dunn, who was able to elude Brandon Short before reaching the end zone.
* The Falcons did the same thing on their first possession of the second half. Atlanta FB Justin Griffith caught a 4-yard score to give the Falcons a 14-7 third-quarter lead. Atlanta effortlessly marched 77 yards in nine plays.
"To come out at halftime and do the same damn thing, I am sure it is demoralizing," Fassel said.
* Barber fumbled late in the first quarter, losing the ball at the Falcons 22-yard line.
* Collins was intercepted in the end zone by Falcons rookie Bryan Scott with New York in FG range very late in the first half.
The ugly: Collins in the third quarter threw the ball right to Falcons CB Tod McBride, who returned the gift 25 yards to the Giants 8-yard line. Kittner's 5-yard third-down scramble preceded T.J. Duckett's 1-yard plunge to extend the lead to 21-7.
* DT Keith Hamilton was flagged for holding twice.
* RG David Diehl, C Chris Bober and LG Wayne Lucier were also flagged for holding, while LT Luke Petitgout was penalized for holding (which was declined), tripping and a false start.
"How do you expect to win a game by the way we played today?" Brandon Short said. "They ran the ball on us. We didn't cause any turnovers, yet we turned the ball over. We have to start putting up or shutting up. That is the bottom line."
"Where do we go from here?" Will Allen asked. "We better win the rest of our games or we'll be sitting home for the playoffs."
Falcons flatten Giants
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