Giants pair expects some air time

Receivers: Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer may need big games, but they're coming off impressive performances.

January 24, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - The numbers were downright gaudy.

Ike Hilliard - 10 catches for 155 yards, including touchdowns of 46 and 7 yards. Amani Toomer - six catches, 88 yards and another 7-yard score.

Giants 41, Vikings 0.

And off go the suddenly pass-happy Giants to Super Bowl XXXV.

Yes, New York will need to stretch the field Sunday against a defense that hasn't yielded a 100-yard rusher all season. And, yes, Toomer and Hilliard have had success making big plays this postseason.

But can they continue the trend against this defense?

"We realize it's going to take a couple big plays to help us in this game," said Hilliard. "And we need to take it upon ourselves as receivers to get that done, so we're definitely going to go out and attack them. We'll see what happens."

The Giants are still playing because they've been able to attack opposing teams' weaknesses with a balanced offense. Against a poor Minnesota secondary, they went to the air early and often, finding plenty of success.

They'll need to go to the air once again, maybe more so this time, because it's the lesser of two evils against the Ravens' top-ranked defense. Giants coach Jim Fassel said his receivers are going to have to come up with some plays.

Toomer (78 catches, 1,094 yards) became the first Giants receiver to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since Homer Jones in the late 1960s. Hilliard added 55 catches for 787 yards, and the two combined to score 15 touchdowns during the regular season.

"Ike and Amani have been great for us, especially down the stretch. I think the key for us is going to be for [Hilliard and Toomer] to beat their defensive backs one-on-one. They're going to have to get open," said Giants veteran tackle Lomas Brown. "I know the Ravens are very good sideline to sideline, so we're going to have to go vertical against those guys."

Toomer and Hilliard say they are looking forward to the chance at getting downfield.

When the two teams met in the preseason, the Ravens had Duane Starks on Hilliard and Chris McAlister on Toomer in the limited time the starters played. Chances are, they'll see the same matchups most of the time Sunday, with the bigger McAlister, 6 feet 1, on Toomer, 6-3.

"I like playing physical, I like man pressure and I like the bump and run," said Toomer. "I feel if I can make one man miss, I can score a touchdown every play. So I feel it's a great opportunity, no bigger stage, and that's all you can ask for as a player."

McAlister and Starks will be just as primed.

"I think we match up well against their receivers," said McAlister. "Amani is shifty. He does a great job adjusting to the ball down the field.

"Ike Hilliard is a better route runner in my opinion, very good off the ball with great downfield speed."

Against Minnesota, the Giants found themselves up against the best receiving corps in the NFL in Cris Carter and Randy Moss, "and we showed them up," said Toomer.

More directly, the Giants receivers can make a bigger point going up against the league's best defense on the season's biggest stage.

"If you ever play football, you dream about playing in the Super Bowl, because you watch it from year to year," said Hilliard. "You definitely picture yourself in a situation making a big play. You definitely dream about it."

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