"The team that plays the best is going to win," Head Coach Jim Fassel said. "We made enough mistakes to cost us the game. I am very disappointed in this loss."
"It shouldn't have been this close," LDE Michael Strahan said. "They should have wiped us out of here.
"We have to tackle on defense. We have to execute on offense. Our special teams, we have to kick a field goal; we have to snap the ball."
Strahan was referring to a missed 33-yard field goal by Matt Bryant and two points the Giants (6-5) handed Houston on a botched punt snap shortly before halftime.
"We can't even kick a field goal," RB Tiki Barber said incredulously. "When we need a kick, we need a kick and we haven't been doing that."
"We're not the type of team that can do that and get away with it," WR Amani Toomer said.
Barber rushed for a career-high 146 yards, Toomer (8-113) posted another 100-yard receiving contest, and DEs Kenny Holmes and Strahan combined for five sacks, yet it was still not enough in Houston.
QB Kerry Collins had by far his worst game of the season, completing only 18-of-41 passes for 214 yards. He threw one TD, but was picked off twice in the final quarter as New York's attempted comeback failed.
"I think he had a lot of pressure on him," Fassel said.
It showed. Collins was sacked twice and hurried on several other occasions. In fact the fatal INT came when New York failed to pick up a blitzing linebacker and Collins was hit as he released. However, he also failed to complete passes when he was given time.
And New York couldn't run the ball with any consistency. With the exception of one lengthy Barber run, New York averaged less than four yards a carry.
"We just made mistakes too many times," Fassel said.
And right from the get-go.
The game started as a comedy of errors. After Strahan had a dominant first series with a forced fumble on the game's first play and an ensuing sack, the teams traded fumbles. Barber coughed it up on the Giants' first play, with Texans LB Jamie Sharper falling on the freebie. Then Texans RB James Allen gave it right back three plays later, with LB Dhani Jones recovering. When all was said and done, the Giants had the ball and promptly went three-and-out, losing four yards in the process.
Texans QB David Carr, who had only 103 passing yards, busted a 20-yard run and Barber gained a couple first downs (11-yard catch, 12-yard run), but neither offense could get untracked in the scoreless first quarter.
The Texans finally were able to move the ball. RB Jonathan Wells went around left end for 15, then TE Billy Miller was able to get behind CB Jason Sehorn for a 42-yard gain. There was contact by both players on the play, but Sehorn was the one flagged for interference, a call that Houston obviously declined. Miller gained 10 more when he shook off S DeWayne Patmon.
Kris Brown hit from 40 yards out to cap the nine-play, 53-yard drive and give Houston a 3-0 lead.
The Giants offense finally woke up midway through the second period when Barber busted free on a 70-yard scamper, New York's longest play from scrimmage this season.
Barber took Collins' handoff and headed right, before reversing field and using a block by Collins on Texans S Eric Brown before scooting down the left sideline. He broke a weak tackle attempt by Texans CB Marcus Coleman and eluded Texans LB Jay Foreman before eventually being tripped up by Coleman.
"It was a simple sweep to the right," Barber explained. "I made the decision to go back the other way. If they're all on one side they can't be on the other."
Barber then took it in the final two yards, using a great seal block by LG Rich Seubert, to give Big Blue a 7-3 lead.
But New York's specialty woes continued and, as a result, the Giants handed Houston two free points before halftime. With only 26 seconds to play in the half, Bob Jones' long-snap sailed way over the head of P Matt Allen. Allen retreated and kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone for a deliberate safety to prevent further damage.
"I made a huge mistake," said Jones, who will be lucky to still be on the team by the time you're reading this. "It's tough to take."
In the second half, it was more of the same for New York. After TE Jeremy Shockey, who was held to only four catches, converted a third-and-four with a 15-yard grab, the Giants were flagged for three consecutive penalties before punting the ball away.
Jason Whittle, playing center for the injured Chris Bober, was caught for holding, followed by consecutive false start penalties on multiple members of the OL and then RG Tam Hopkins, who was making his first NFL start.
Then Texans PR Jermaine Lewis returned Allen's 37-yard punt 39 yards to the Giants 34-yard line. Reserve S Johnnie Harris made a TD-saving tackle on Lewis.
The Texans then gained 16 yards on a Carr-to-Corey Bradford hook-up and 13 more when Allen took the handoff and threw a lateral back to Carr, who ran the ball down to the one-yard line.
"We worked on it," Texans Head Coach Dom Capers said. "David and Allen did a nice job on the play."
On third down, Wells barreled in from there for a Texans lead. Houston added the two-point conversion when Carr connected with Allen, making it 13-7.
Delvin Joyce attempted to wake up his mates with a 46-yard kickoff return, but it was to no avail.
Shockey caught a 14-yard pass on third down to get New York into the dreaded red zone. Easily the NFL's worst team inside the opponents' 20-yard line, the Giants came into the game with a 29 percent success rate at scoring red-zone TDs.
No TD this time, either. And to cap it off, Bryant then pulled a 33-yard field goal barely wide left. However, both Bryant and Allen were certain the kick was good.
"The way the referee made the call, he could have just flipped a coin," an aggravated Bryant said. "I might have lifted my head a little too soon and pulled it. I knew it was close but I thought it snuck through."
Bryant said that he hadn't seen a replay after the game and that he "wished there was a camera up there by the upright."
"The field goal was good," Allen said. "We had the best view. That's all I'm going to say."
Regardless, the Giants headed to the fourth quarter trailing the lowly Texans by six points.
But less than two minutes in, they regained the lead. Toomer's 31-yard TD catch capped a six-play, 61-yard drive. Number 81 beat Texans CB Aaron Glenn, who was also flagged for holding Toomer's jersey, for a catch at the Texans 12-yard line. He bounced off Eric Brown's tackle attempt and walked in for the points.
It didn't take the Texans but a few minutes to rip the lead right back from New York. They moved 41 yards to a 50-yard FG with 6:57 remaining.
New York's next two drives ended in Collins interceptions.
Collins was picked off by Texans FS Matt Stevens with 5:57 to play while attempting to get the ball to WR Derek Dorris, who had four defenders in the vicinity.
Then after hitting Toomer for 16 yards to move the sticks on a third-and-nine, Collins was intercepted again. Sharper blitzed up the middle and hit Collins' arm as he attempted to get the ball to Shockey. With 1:24 to play, Texans LB Jeff Posey was in the right place at the right time and picked the ball off.
"We saw the blitz coming and I tried to get rid of it as soon as possible," Collins said. "But it just did not work out the way we drew it up. They brought one more guy than we could block, but it was my job to get rid of the ball sooner."
New York had one final last-gasp attempt, taking over at their own 30-yard line with 22 seconds to play. A pass to Shockey for 24 yards was followed by a Collins spike to stop the clock and a failed Hail Mary try as the clock expired.
After the game, one assistant coach could be heard lamenting New York's fate. Something about losing to an expansion club, numerous expletives obviously deleted. It was just that type of afternoon for Big Blue.
"This is the NFL and to win you must come prepared every Sunday," Collins said. "It is embarrassing the way we played…"