October 14, 2002
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Doug Johnson made the Falcons forget the absence of Michael Vick in a game the Giants would simply like to forget.
Starting Sunday in place of an injured Vick, Johnson ran for a touchdown and threw a winning 14-yard pass to Brian Finneran with 8:06 to play. That led Atlanta to a 17-10 win in a game in which both teams had injury problems.
"He played great," Finneran said of Johnson, the third-year quarterback making his third career start. "He knew it was his team this week and he ran it. He was confident in the huddle. It was a great performance."
New York's defensive line had one healthy starter.
"We blew coverages. We let guys get open and we didn't cover well," Giants coach Jim Fassel said after Johnson hit 19 of 25 passes for 257 yards. "Their quarterback played a heck of a game, but we made him look like he was ready for the Hall of Fame."
Said Johnson: "I had confidence before this game. What I got from this game was experience. It was huge."
Falcons cornerback Juran Bolden prevented New York from taking the lead early in the fourth quarter with an interception at the Falcons 6. Henry Jones forced a fumble that Kevin Mathis recovered at the Atlanta 15 with 3:22 to play.
Two plays after Bolden intercepted Kerry Collins, Johnson connected with Shawn Jefferson on a 63-yard pass that set up the go-ahead touchdown.
Collins, 20-of-31 for 207 yards, including an 18-yard third-quarter touchdown to Ike Hilliard, positioned the Giants to tie it in the closing minutes.
On fourth and 3, Collins hit Ron Dixon over the middle despite having the ball snapped on the wrong count. Dixon carried to the Atlanta 17 but fumbled and Mathis recovered.
Matt Bryant had a 38-yard field goal for the Giants, who played without six starters.
"We felt like this was a game that we would win unless we shot ourselves in the foot, and we obviously did that," Giants guard Dusty Zeigler said.
With the Falcons keeping things simple without Vick (sprained right shoulder), and the Giants milking the clock with their defensive line banged up, both teams used simple ball-control offense in a 2-hour, 38-minute game.