By ERNEST HOOPER and ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 10, 2001
The Giants offense provided only two field goals against the Eagles in Sunday's divisional playoff game, and coach Jim Fassel knows that won't be enough to contend with high-scoring Minnesota in Sunday's NFC Championship Game.
Yet Fassel is not concerned about his offense, provided it reduces turnovers. Two of the Giants' three fumbles against Philadelphia came when New York was in scoring range.
"You have to assume they're going to score some points," Fassel said. "I would love our defense to go out and hold them down to seven points or three points, but I think that's asking them a lot. So I think the offense is going to have to (score.) We're going to have to have time of possession. We're going to have to be sharp on third down. We're going to have to be sharp in the red area."
Though the offense did not produce a lot of points, Fassel said he was pleased with the way quarterback Kerry Collins managed the game. He was particularly happy with a 13-play, 88-yard drive that consumed 8 minutes and 11 seconds and allowed defensive coordinator John Fox's unit to rest.
"Foxy came down to me and said, "Whatever you can do to take some time off the clock, we've got some guys we're trying to fix up. We're tired right now,' " Fassel said. "So I talked to Sean (Payton, offensive coordinator) and Kerry to milk that clock to get us in the fourth quarter. It really rested our defense, and it allowed them to come back and finish that game out strong."
INJURIES: Fassel said he didn't believe any of his players' injuries would keep them out of the game, but he was concerned some may miss practice. Receiver Amani Toomer twisted his left knee and ankle, and guard Glenn Parker and tackle Lomas Brown continued to play despite back injuries.
Fassel said Parker is a gritty veteran who won't allow himself to sit out, and he called Brown's performance amazing.
"He was walking like you didn't think he was going to be able to jog out on the field, but he still handled (Eagles defensive end) Hugh Douglas," Fassel said. "I told him, "We'll get you some help; can you play?' He said, "I can play, and I don't need any help.' "
Minnesota Vikings running back Robert Smith dives over the line for a one-yard touchdown run against the Detroit Lions in November.
OFF AND RUNNING: Minnesota has had tremendous success running the ball as well as passing it. But recently, Robert Smith and the running attack haven't been up to par. Against the Saints in Saturday's divisional game, Smith gained 74 yards on 25 carries.
"We're never satisfied," coach Dennis Green said. "I think our running game was effective because it helped us to control the line of scrimmage. Robert did not get what he normally gets, which is 40-, 50-yard runs somewhere along the line. But again, Robert is the second-leading rusher in the NFL, and we do rely on our running game. And we think that it did the best it could do." Smith, who gained 25 yards on one carry, said part of the problem was the play of the Saints' defensive line. Nothing is likely to change against the Giants, he said.
"That is one of the best front fours we've faced all year and probably better than the ones we'll face throughout the playoffs," Smith said. "(Offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis) knows that our offensive line is full of big, strong guys that can wear down a defense."
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