With wink and smile, Giants change mood

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LANDOVER -- Dangling on the overtime hook for the second straight week, the New York Giants wriggled off yesterday with sheer grit, an unsung hero and a bold promise to their defense.

The grit came from quarterback Kerry Collins, who was winking and smiling in the shadow of his own goal line in overtime. The unsung hero was fullback Jim Finn, who sneaked into the open for a big catch to set up Matt Bryant's game-winning 29-yard field goal.

And the promise came from coach Jim Fassel, who told his weary defense at the start of overtime it would get a reprieve.

"Words were said," defensive end Michael Strahan said after the Giants escaped FedEx Field and the Washington Redskins with a 24-21 win. "Coach Fassel brought us together and said, 'If we get the ball, the defense won't have to go on the field.' The offense lived up to that today."

Not even a penalty that pinned the Giants on their 6-yard line after the kickoff to start overtime could stop them. Collins completed three of four overtime passes for 50 yards with some aggressive play-calling by Fassel, and the Giants drove 83 yards in nine plays to redemption.

Six days before, the Giants lost in overtime to the Dallas Cowboys, 35-32. Did this win make up for that loss?

"I don't know if it makes up for it, but it definitely puts it behind us," said wide receiver Amani Toomer, who contributed a 54-yard touchdown catch that helped the Giants build a 21-3 lead.

At 2-1, the Giants are tied with the Redskins for first place in the NFC East. At 1-2, they would have gone reeling into their bye week with a lot of self doubt.

"That's a lot to think about on your bye week," Collins said. "To come here and win the way we did just shows a lot of character, I think. It would have been tough to sit around and wonder what happened the last two games for a whole two weeks, but thankfully, we got the job done and we have some confidence and momentum going into the bye week."

Collins, who passed for 276 yards and three touchdowns, didn't have anything to say in the huddle when he took the field to start overtime, other than to "wink and smile."

Perhaps he was buoyed by the fact that Fassel had decided to press the issue with his play-calling in the extra stanza.

"I thought we had to take that attitude when you're on the road and it's overtime and you get the ball, you might have one shot and that better be it," Fassel said. "They had the momentum going with them and so I felt like I had to do that."

Collins threw from his own 11 to get a big first down and get the drive started. A 14-yard pass to Jeremy Shockey got New York across midfield. Then Finn, a fourth-year veteran from Pennsylvania, gouged out a 27-yard pass-and-run on a bootleg that carried to the Redskins' 20.

After Tiki Barber's 11-yard run to the 9, Collins took a knee and Bryant came on for his game-winner. Bryant had missed a 37-yard field-goal try earlier.

"It wears on you having to fight all the way to the end," Barber said. "We've yet to put together 60 minutes of good football.

"Unfortunately, last week we couldn't do it in overtime. This week, I think we learned from last week. We found a way offensively to make some big plays and get us in a position to win."

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