Giants go on pocket watch

Giving Collins time key to passing attack

Super Bowl Xxxv

Ravens vs. Giants

January 20, 2001|By Bob Herzog | Bob Herzog,NEWSDAY

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Some vicarious experiences are better than others. Just ask Kerry Collins.

"I watched Tony Siragusa land on Rich Gannon and I felt a twinge," the Giants' quarterback said yesterday at the team's final media session before it leaves for Tampa. "They get after the quarterback in a big way."

Collins said he could only imagine what it would feel like to have the Ravens' 340-pound defensive tackle land on him, legally or otherwise. Siragusa was fined $10,000 by the NFL for the hit on Gannon, though he was not penalized.

"You know that commercial where you see a guy walking down the street and a piano falls on his head," Collins said with a hearty laugh. "That's what it would feel like. He's a large, large man. In fact, they've got two of them [the Ravens' other tackle, Sam Adams, weighs 330 pounds]."

If Collins is able to connect on enough passes against the record-setting Ravens defense to allow the Giants to win their third Super Bowl in three tries, he will have to remain upright. That's no easy task. While the Ravens are not the sack-happiest team in the league (35 in the regular season, 10 more in three playoff games), when they do get to the quarterback, they arrive with gusto.

"If they take you to the ground, you just hope you can get up," Giants coach Jim Fassel said. "It's the test of a quarterback to get back up and throw the next pass right on the money."

Fassel admitted watching films of the Ravens' defense "scares you as a coach because you always want to protect the quarterback."

Fortunately for Collins, that's something the Giants did quite well this season, allowing only 28 regular-season sacks and two more in the playoffs.

"I expect to get hit and to have to get rid of the ball quickly a few times," Collins said. "But I have confidence in our guys up front. This is the best group of offensive linemen I've every played with. You can look at that group as a big reason for our turnaround."

You can look at Collins, too. He established himself as a locker-room leader while overcoming a series of personal problems. Asked yesterday if he needed a Super Bowl ring to make his personal comeback complete, Collins replied softly, "It's complete now. I don't need the ring. Football is not a barometer of whether you are a good person."

But Collins' football barometer was in flux until last Sunday, when he had the most productive game of his six-year NFL career. The Collins coronation featured a 381-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Vikings.

"My confidence level is high, very high," Collins said.

Both his confidence and durability will likely be tested by the Ravens, who pride themselves on aggressive play from their front seven. The Ravens have so much confidence in their defense they've told reporters this week all they need from quarterback Trent Dilfer is one touchdown. The Giants have loftier goals.

"They expect a little more from me than they expect of Trent," Collins said. "It'll be a different game than last week. Obviously, we're playing a better defense."

He was respectful of his opponent, but not fearful.

"You can't be too conservative or this defense will kill you," Collins said.

But that doesn't mean it will be bombs away, as it was last week.

"Sometimes, punting the ball isn't bad against a defense this good," Collins said. "Our goal is to kick the ball on every drive: either an extra point, field goal or punt."... We'll have to play our best game of the season."

Some would say Collins played his best game last week, thanks to offensive coordinator Sean Payton. When he received a fax from Payton with the game plan for the Vikings, a note was attached making reference to John Cougar Mellencamp's greatest hits release, titled "Best That I Could Do."

Yesterday, Collins proudly showed off a CD from Mellencamp, who had heard Collins talk about it in a post-game interview and sent the quarterback a signed copy.

"It's one of the coolest things that every happened to me," Collins said.

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