After a game-opening march to the end zone, the Giants failed on their final five possessions of the first half – two fumbles, an INT, a blocked punt and a missed field goal.
"That was just a stupid half of football," Head Coach Jim Fassel said. "It was a very poor half all the way around. Everything we talked about – they didn't do.
"There will be some changes tomorrow. I'll take the responsibility but it's going to roll downhill real quick."
Even worse for Big Blue, however, first-round pick Jeremy Shockey left the game with a sprained ankle.
"I was running at an angle and I changed directions real fast," Shockey explained. "I planted my right foot and turned my body and then when I planted my other foot, it just kind of stuck. It's not a real bad sprain, and I will be all right."
The Giants wanted a brief look at RB Tiki Barber, just to make sure he was OK. He was just fine. Barber ripped off a 17-yard run to kick-start Big Blue's nine-play, 77-yard game-opening TD march, which was capped by Shockey's one-yard TD catch. On the previous play, Shockey had beaten Falcons S Keith Lyle for a 26-yard gain.
QB Kerry Collins looked sharp on the first drive, but then reverted to his fumbling ways after that. A year after setting the all-time NFL record with 23 lost fumbles, Collins twice was sacked and coughed up the ball during the first half. Those mistakes led to two Atlanta field goals. The first fumble was challenged by Fassel, but it was determined that the ball was knocked from Collins' grasp before he started his throwing motion. Collins could hardly be faulted for the second fumble, which came as a result of a crushing blindside hit by Falcons DE Brady Smith.
"I have to take better care of the ball, I have to be smarter with the ball," Collins said. "I put it all on me. I need to hold onto the ball." For the third consecutive game, the Giants suffered sub-par play on special teams. In the first quarter, Falcons S Keion Carpenter came off the right edge and blocked Rodney Williams' punt. That led to a Falcons touchdown.
"I detest getting a punt blocked," said Fassel, who stated that two players "whiffed" on their blocks. "There's no excuse for that." The guilty parties were LBs Wes Mallard and Kevin Lewis.
In the second period, RB Delvin Joyce lost the ball on a kickoff return, setting up an Atlanta TD, which extended the Falcons lead to 23-7.
Atlanta WR Willie Jackson beat CB Will Allen on the play. Allen went for the ball, missed and then was out of position as Jackson easily strode into the end zone for a 27-yard score.
Collins later atoned for his fumbles with a perfectly-thrown 48-yard TD strike to Ike Hilliard, who was streaking through the middle of the Atlanta defense.
After handing the ball to the Falcons four times, the Giants were finally on the positive end of a turnover when CB Will Peterson picked off Michael Vick's pass and returned it 30 yards. But New York couldn't cash in, as Owen Pochman didn't exactly cement his roster spot by missing a 23-yard FG try wide left.
"It's a good thing this is a preseason game," DT Keith Hamilton said. "Because if we make those mistakes in the regular season, we're not going to win too many games."