First Down

The play that cost the Giants their starting QB for the rest of the season could have easily been avoided. With 8:59 to play in the third quarter, the Giants were called for a delay of game penalty. However, the officials were slow to blow the whistle and the play unfolded. Kerry Collins was sandwiched between two Redskins and ended up getting carted off the field with an injured ankle. <BR><BR>

Referee Walt Coleman said the back judge (Greg Steed) correctly blew the whistle, but that nobody could hear it because Steed was 25 yards downfield.

"I think part of it was the wind was blowing out at that end, that direction, and the sound is blowing away from all of us," Coleman stated. "None of us heard the whistle or anything, so we basically worked the play. Then when Greg, the back judge, got up there, he said he had a delay of game. So we had a delay of game. Unfortunately we just did not know. The procedure is for him immediately to come running in blowing his whistle."

An injured and upset Collins said that wasn't good enough.

"I didn't hear any whistle," he said. "I didn't know the play was being blown dead. I was just playing it out as if there was no penalty or no trying to stop it or anything. The first time that I found out that there was a penalty was when I came into the training room."

By that time, Collins' season had most likely come to a close. He had his consecutive games started streak snapped at 67, just two short of Fran Tarkenton's all-time franchise record of 69. "If you are going to blow it dead, blow it dead," he said. "Be forceful about it, step in there. We can avoid things like this if we're just more forceful about it and stop it when it needs to be stopped."

X-rays showed no break in Collins' left ankle, but the best-case scenario for his high ankle sprain puts him out at least two weeks. It's almost definite that Collins has already taken his final snap of the 2003 season. All because the refs didn't do their job.

Collins said he originally feared for the worst. "Bruce (Smith) had me low and my foot was kind of trapped under there and I got hit high and it got pulled back," explained Collins, who said he was last on crutches in 1996. "I thought I felt something pop or give or something like that. It was scary, but after I was there for a little while the pain wasn't real, real bad. I think he just caught me the wrong way."

Smith blew right by Ian Allen, who failed to take advantage of his first audition at left tackle.

"It wasn't my intention to hurt Kerry, but it was my intention to knock the hell out of him," Smith said.

Mission accomplished. Smith sent what little was left of the Giants' season spiraling down the drain at the same time.

As he was carted off the field, Collins said he was mad – "Just mad at everything. The way the season is going; the way the game was going. The frustration and then to get hurt on top of it – very frustrating."

Now in steps Jesse Palmer, who will try to salvage what little is left of the Giants' season, not to mention his position as Collins's backup.

"It's not the way you want to come in, but when your number is called you've got to be ready and go out and do what you are supposed to do," Palmer said. "It felt great being out there, but obviously I need to get back into game speed. I was definitely holding the ball too long in situations where you have to get rid of the ball; otherwise you're going to take a sack and from there you've got to hold the ball better. As the game went on I finally started to get into a rhythm."

Palmer's first outing was hardly the stuff of legend. He completed 7-of-11 passes, but was sacked five times and lost a fumble.

"He looked very rusty," Fassel said. "I told him, 'you've got to adapt to the situation.' He's rusty, he's just rusty."

"If I can't go Jesse will step in and do a good job," Collins said.

So Palmer's in because Collins was injured on a play that never should have happened. Everybody makes mistakes. It's just that miscues that end seasons prematurely and prevent impressive records from being set shouldn't be excused away as easily as this one was.

* * * Quotebook

Here are a few of the better quotes to come out of New York's losing locker room. Ralph Brown: "This is really tough. We're just trying to play with what we've got. We fought the whole game, but once again we didn't make plays on offense and on defense when we were supposed to. There were some key situations where we had a chance to make a difference, but again we weren't executing like we are capable of. Same old story for us with turnovers and costly penalties – they have cost us all year."

Jeff Hatch: "This is not the kind of game you want to be your first start. I would rather have had this end on a real positive note. This was a great opportunity for me, but without the win, this is a real empty feeling for me. As the game went on they started to bring the house, but we should still have been able to be successful. At times I thought we were doing a pretty good job – we just weren't as consistent as we should have been. Any time one of your teammates goes down it's terrible; but when your leader goes down it really stings. Kerry is our leader out there."

Chris Bober: "We have four rookies in there. And they are going to try to exploit that as much as possible. It's tough putting guys in different positions. Guys work all year at one spot and then to have a week to learn another spot is very difficult. There are so many intricacies in playing just one position. It's not a good situation, it's not an ideal situation; but it's the situation we have."

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