First Down

The Cowboys had absolutely no business going for a first down on fourth-and-one from their own 43-yard line with 10:44 to play in the final period. Sure, they were down, 16-10. Of course they were having trouble moving the ball against New York's stingy defense. But Parcells, as only he can and would, decided to go for it. <BR><BR>

"It's almost an insult when they go for it on fourth down," Michael Strahan said. "I was surprised."

With weapons such as Eddie George, Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn and Richie Anderson at his disposal, Parcells decided to have his 40-something QB Vinny Testaverde throw the ball to former Giants fullback Darian Barnes.

You know the rest.

Will Allen, who played a solid game save his two dropped INTs, upended Barnes almost immediately, and the Giants were in business. Tom Coughlin believed that Parcells was hip to New York's failure to handle that play in the past and tried to exploit it again. This time the Giants were ready.

"That tackle on the fullback was huge," Coughlin said. "We got to him when he was still moving laterally so he wouldn't be able to fall forward (for the first down)."

"That defense is designed to stop anything fast and flat," Allen said. "That was the right call. I've got to make that tackle or it's a first down."

Parcells, who watched his second fourth-down call in two tries blow up in his face, opted to discredit his troops more than praise the Giants defense.

"I was trying to get some energy, but here's the deal," his Royal Tunaness spoke. "I learned a long time ago that if you need some type of momentum creation in the middle of a game, then you probably don't have a very good team."

Testaverde didn't question Parcells' call, which basically ended Dallas' hopes of winning the game.

"He showed some confidence in us and we let him down," Testaverde said. "I tried to get it to Barnes as quick as possible to let him get up the field. We have probably run that play 10 times this year and it has worked eight times."

* * *

So, now the Giants have won four in a row, and who would have ever thought that possible before the season? Certainly no one at TGI. But now all their momentum could come to a crashing halt, as they embark on their one mandated week off.

"I'm not ready for the bye week," Allen said. "I'm anxious to get back out there. Winning makes you anxious."

"You do worry that it will slow your momentum," punter Jeff Feagles said. "But we do need some time off."

Safety Brent Alexander had yet to place his vote, pro- or anti-bye.

"I'm 50/50 on the bye," he said. "The ball is rolling. We don't want to have a bye-week letdown. We can't control the schedule. The bye week comes. We have to stay focused."

Of course, Coughlin wasn't going to admit any feeling about the upcoming bye. Heck, he barely even seemed excited about the four-game winning streak.

"I don't even deal with that," he said. "I don't have a whole lot to do with it. The bye comes when it comes."

However, most of Coughlin's players believed the time off would come in handy to heal up the list of walking wounded, which grew by at least two in Dallas when Fred Robbins and Tim Carter were knocked from the game.

"I think we need the bye week to get healthy," Jeremy Shockey said. "But you can't allow it to (allow) cobwebs."

"It'd be great to keep on rolling, but I think a lot of guys need a break," Strahan said. "I'm going to enjoy my break. But it's not an excuse for us to let up. We have to stay focused on what we're doing to stay successful. We can't relax too much during the bye and lose our edge."

Heading into the bye, Coughlin clearly subscribes to the Charles Oaklay school of thought: ‘If it ain't broke, don't break it.'

"If the guys keep busting their tails and understand the importance of preparation, I think we will have a great season," he said.

* * *

Wes Mallard's loss is Jim Maxwell's gain. Mallard suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in practice Oct. 7 and will miss the remainder of the season. Mallard began rehabilitation immediately and will undergo surgery in the near future.

Mallard, a third-year pro from Oregon, suffered the injury during the team's 9-on-7 drill. This is the second year in a row Mallard has suffered the same injury to the same knee. He was hurt last Dec. 21 in a game at Dallas, and was placed on injured reserve prior to the final game of the season.

Mallard has played in every game this season, with most of his action coming on special teams, where he had two unassisted tackles. Mallard stepped in at weakside linebacker on Sept. 19 against Washington after Barrett Green suffered an ankle injury and had two tackles.

"It hurts us, it really does," Tom Coughlin said. "It's one of those things, I've said it many times, you just shake your head and if it wasn't for the ability to eliminate all of that stuff it would be a great business. It happens to a kid who works hard coming off an injury, has spent the whole winter in the process of rehabilitation, he does an excellent job, he's back out and that's just something that you shake you head about and you feel very badly for Wesly. I know it's a very emotional time for him. The players are very supportive of him and have been very positive with him. It's just a shame."

Rookie Jim Maxwell assumed Mallard's duties on special teams and as a backup linebacker in Dallas. Maxwell, from Gardner-Webb, was signed off the practice squad on Sept. 15.

"It's definitely something I'm excited about," said Maxwell, who had a special teams tackle against the Cowboys. "I feel like coming in it was going to be hard for me to make the team. I was coming out of a 1-AA school. It was a big jump for me talent-wise. But my attitude was I was going to work hard, listen to what the coaches said and do the best I can and hope for the best."

* * *

Quote of the game: "This team reminds me of my early years in Buffalo when we went to the Super Bowl every year. Whether it was a good day or a bad day, everyone would always fight." – Steve Christie

Question of the week: If the season ended today, would they even need other names on the ballot for MVP and Coach of the Year besides Tiki Barber and Tom Coughlin?

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