TAMPA, Fla. -- For most cornerbacks, the ultimate measure of success is the number of interceptions they make. For the New York Giants' Mark Collins, the standard is far different.
"I get the best feeling from making a tackle and not allowing a receiver to make any more yardage after he makes his catch," he said. "That's when I feel real good."
Not that Collins relishes the sensation of watching his man make the catch. But the fifth-year cornerback is not foolish enough to believe he can shut down his opponent completely. Yet if he can keep the receiver from making anything more of the catch, that's where his theory comes into play.
There might have been no greater example of that than during the San Francisco 49ers' opening drive in the National Football Conference Championship Game. On second-and-nine from the 49ers' 29, Joe Montana dropped back quickly and passed in the right flat to All-Pro Jerry Rice, who often turns those short routes into long touchdowns.
Collins would not allow it. In fact, he was on Rice so quickly that he tackled him for a 1-yard loss. The tone he established against Rice lasted the entire game; the future Hall of Fame receiver was limited to five catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns. Collins limited Rice to one catch for 13 yards in the Giants' 7-3 loss Dec. 3.
The challenge now is to hold Buffalo Bills receivers Andre Reed (who's 6 feet 1) and James Lofton (6-3) in check. Collins, 5-10, is likely to see both today, since the Bills often switch their receivers to either side.
"Mark Collins is probably one of the toughest cornerbacks in the league," said Reed, who led the Bills with 71 catches for 945 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season. "He's got great speed and quickness, and he's a great tackler. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him."
Lofton is the Bills' leading playoff receiver with 12 catches for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
"Collins is the kind of guy the scouts go to the combines to look for," Lofton, 34, said. "That's the kind of cornerback who can play in the NFL."
Collins admits he's not as flashy as other cornerbacks, nor will he produce a high number of interceptions. He had only two during the regular season. But there's another stat Collins likes to point out: He has given up only two touchdowns all season. And both came in the Giants' final two games, when the defense was not as dominant as in its two playoff victories.
Collins said the Giants' biggest defensive challenge is containing the no-huddle offense, which has scored 88 of the Bills' 95 points in two playoff games and produced touchdowns on its first two possessions in a 17-13 Buffalo win Dec. 15 at Giants Stadium.
"The thing we have to do is concentrate on our assignments and make sure our execution is sound," he said. "In our other game against them, we didn't execute, plus we didn't tackle very well. What we have to concentrate on here is staying in position and making sure we make the tackle. If we do those two things, I think we'll have a good game."