Adjustments, emotion turned tide
January 06, 2003
Collins, Fassel are devastated after Giants' loss
Glenn Dickey, Chronicle Staff Writer
"This was worse than the Super Bowl," said New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins after his team blew a 24-point lead in Sunday's loss to the 49ers.
"We got our asses kicked in the (2001) Super Bowl," he said. "We should have won this game."
Giants coach Jim Fassel agreed. "This is about the worst loss I have ever felt in my entire life."
The Giants came out throwing (Collins threw a whopping 15 passes in the first quarter) against a damaged 49ers secondary. One corner, Jason Webster, was sidelined with an injury. The other corner, Ahmed Plummer, still is hampered by a groin injury.
To try to compensate, the 49ers' defensive backs played soft on the Giants' receivers, and those receivers, especially Amani Toomer, ran wild. Finally, with the game seemingly lost in the third quarter, the 49ers' defense changed.
"I'm never surprised when our offense does well," said Collins, "but the 49ers really tightened up their coverage later in the game, which affected us."
Offensively, the 49ers also changed their style when they fell so far behind. Quarterback Jeff Garcia's scrambling, as well as one designed play in which he ran a naked bootleg, seemed to take the Giants out of their defensive game.
"We knew Garcia can be an effective runner," Fassel said, "and we've had trouble with scrambling quarterbacks all year. But we still should have done a better job of containing him."
If anything, though, emotion seemed to play an even bigger role. "We've all seen games where one team gets up and kind of relaxes, and then the other team gets a score or two and suddenly has the momentum," said longtime coach Jim Mora Sr., father of 49ers' defensive coordinator Jim Mora. "If the team that comes back is playing at home, then the fans get into it, too."
Collins denied that the Giants relaxed, thinking they had the game won. "Of course, when you get that far ahead, you think you're going to win the game, but we weren't thinking ahead to next week," he said.
But as the game went on, with the 49ers scoring two touchdowns, adding a pair of 2-point conversions, the momentum was in their favor. Another drive ended with a field goal that brought them within five points. A final touchdown put them ahead, though the 2-point conversion failed.
"It got awfully chaotic in the last few minutes," Collins said. "I couldn't figure what was going on."
The Giants still had a shot, with a minute remaining in the game. They drove to the San Francisco 23, but a field-goal attempt was botched. The bad snap was fumbled by holder Matt Allen, whose attempted pass fell incomplete (the Giants also had several illegal receivers downfield.)
Fassel could not hide his bitterness over the failed field-goal attempt or a fumble he thought should have been called after Cedrick Wilson caught a pass that brought the ball to the New York 38 on the 49ers' field-goal drive.
The Giants' coach stormed at officials on the sideline. "The ball was out, it was challengeable and there was no signal from an official. None," he said.
Of the field goal, he said only, "You should be able to snap the ball, put it down and kick it."
Collins had another view: "It shouldn't have come down to that."
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