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Winning exhausts Fassel

[Times photo: John Pendygraft]
Giants head coach Jim Fassel is surrounded by friends, family and fans in the afterglow of New York's 41-0 NFC Championship win.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 16, 2001


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Barely had the Giants earned a trip the Super Bowl with their 41-0 NFC Championship Game victory Sunday than coach Jim Fassel's friends and relatives began coming out of the woodwork.

"We got over 30 messages last night and today the phones have been ringing so much inside the office that the voice mail quit working," he said. "I've been getting a lot of calls. Most of it is well-wishers saying, "Good luck. We've been thinking about you a lot and by the way, do you have tickets?"

Fassel said he did a minimal amount of celebrating after the victory. "It took me a while to get out of here. I went up to the bubble for a little while, and I had enough of that," he said, referring to the practice field under an inflated dome, converted into a huge party room.

"There were so many people that I couldn't even talk to my family. ... I like to go in there, shake people's hands, sign autographs, take pictures, but I'd had enough of that."

He said he went straight home and was in bed by about 10:30 p.m.

VIKINGS EXIT, STAGE LEFT: The Giants, who took the opening kickoff, had their first five plays scripted. They didn't stick to it.

"We didn't go in the exact order," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "The first four we went with," passes of 16 and 10 yards to Amani Toomer, a 2-yard run by Tiki Barber and a 46-yard touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard.

The Vikings' Moe Williams muffed the ensuing kickoff, Lyle West of the Giants recovered at the Minnesota 18, "and we went right to our red-zone sheet," Collins said.

The fifth play was another touchdown pass, the first scoring catch of fullback Greg Comella's three-year career.

WHO ELSE WANTS TO PLAY?: With the game well in hand, Collins was taken out in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Jason Garrett, an eight-year veteran and refugee from the Cowboys, took over.

He threw one pass and completed it, a 4-yarder to Hilliard. It was the first Giants pass of the season attempted by anyone other than Collins.

Third-string running back Joe Montgomery likewise got plenty of time late in the game. He rushed 16 times for 43 yards, his 2.9-yard average matching that of struggling rookie Ron Dayne (10 for 29).

The only Giant who didn't play was cornerback and special-teamer Reggie Stephens, out with a sprained ankle.

The Giants came out of the game with no injuries. The extra week off before the Super Bowl will help Barber to further recover from his broken left arm. Barber said he expects to be sufficiently healed to return punts.

HE'D LIKE ONE EVEN BETTER: Fassel said that after reviewing the videotape, "It was pretty obvious that that was without a doubt the best game we've played probably in my four years here. The thing I'm proudest of is that it was the biggest game we've played here.

"When the big games are coming, as a coach you're always looking for people to be at their best, and we certainly were, in all phases."

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