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Fassel calls the plays, and Jags pay

11/4/2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Jim Fassel spoke, and the New York
Giants responded to his play-calling.

Tiki Barber ran for 101 yards and scored on runs of 2 and 44
yards as the Giants broke out of a scoring slump and beat
Jacksonville 24-17 on Sunday night, handing the Jaguars their
fourth straight loss.

"We made it easy for Fassel,'' Barber said after the Giants
(4-4) snapped a two-game losing streak. "We didn't make any
mistakes.''

Kerry Collins, who had been getting the plays from offensive
coordinator Sean Payton, added a review-aided 8-yard touchdown pass
to Ron Dixon in a game in which the Giants matched their season
high with 394 total yards.

"A lot of times I'll put the pressure on myself,'' Fassel said.
"I have done that before here and it stirred people up, and I'll
take the pressure. I know people have second-guessed me. I don't
care. I make decisions based on what gives us the best opportunity
to win. If it means I put my own head in the noose, so be it.''

Fassel felt he had to do something after seeing his team score
seven touchdowns in seven games and only 13 points in the last two,
so he decided to call the offensive plays for the first time since
1999.

It wasn't as bold a move as two years ago, when Fassel
guaranteed the Giants would make the playoffs, a gamble that
catapulted them to a Super Bowl appearance.

However, this move also worked.

"Tonight it was just what we needed, to get back into a
rhythm,'' said Collins, who completed 20 of 28 passes for 228
yards. "We found a good tempo and it allowed us to move the ball
real well.''

Tim Seder kicked a 24-yard field goal and Mark Brunell threw
fourth-quarter touchdown passes of 14 yards to Bobby Shaw and 9 to
Jimmy Smith for Jacksonville (3-5).

However, the Jaguars played a mistake-filled game that started
with an early fumble by Brunell and continued with three key
dropped passes.

"They played faster,'' Jaguars safety Marlon McCree said. "We
were too anxious. We didn't get settled down. We did a few good
things, but they controlled us. They kicked our butts basically. We
made them look like some superstars. They did a good job on
offense. Fassel running the plays helped them out.''

The defense, which had no takeaways in the last three games,
helped ignite the offense as Kenny Holmes recovered a bobbled snap
by Brunell at the Giants 44.

With Fassel making all the right calls, the offense moved 56
yards in seven plays. Barber scored almost untouched from the 2.

New York should have scored on its next two series, but Matt
Bryant, who had made all 11 of his field-goal attempts this season,
missed from 41 and 37 yards.

There were no mistakes the last time the Giants got the ball in
the half, except by the officials. They ruled Dixon out of bounds
after his catch in the right corner of the end zone with 9 seconds
left in the half.

However, replay official Rex Stuart ordered a review and the
replay showed Dixon, now a starter after the season-ending injury
to Ike Hilliard, had both feet inbounds.

Bryant, who also botched two kickoffs, stretched the lead to
17-0 with a 27-yard field goal on the opening possession of the
second half. Barber iced it with his 44-yard run, the longest by a
Giant this season.

Barber set up the run with a cutback to his right and got a
great downfield block from guard Rich Seubert at the Jaguars 15.

Down 24-0, the Jaguars made it a game, getting within 24-17 on a
9-yard TD pass from Brunell to Smith with 1:47 to go.

However, the Giants recovered the onsides kick and Jacksonville
never threatened again.

"Too many mistakes early, and too little, too late,'' said
Brunell, who passed for 230 yards and ran for another 65. "It was
all across the board, offense, defense and special teams.''

Game notes
Giants improved to 9-9-1 on Sunday nights, including 3-5 at
Giants Stadium. ... Tom Rouen, the former Denver Broncos veteran
who was signed earlier this week by the Giants, averaged 38 yards
on three punts, even though his first was partially blocked. ...
Smith had 10 catches for 123 yards for the Jags. ... Barber is the
first Giants running back to rush for 100 yards this season. He
left in the closing seconds with an ankle injury, which was not
considered serious. ... Jacksonville LB Wali Rainer had 11 tackles.
... Mike Strahan had a 14-yard sack, one of two by the Giants.
Collins was sacked three times, including two by DT Marcus Stroud,
who played the final three quarters with a sprained knee.