Giants Return to Super Bowl
With the 7-4 Giants having lost two games in a row, head coach Jim Fassel made his famous guarantee that New York was going to the playoffs, and the team caught fire, winning its last five games to clinch home-field advantage in the postseason with the best record in the NFC. By contrast, the deep passing attack of the Minnesota Vikings staked them to an 11-2 record before they came back to earth, losing the last three games of the season while giving up 104 points 35 per game. Still, the flawed Vikings were the heavy favorites when they came into Giants Stadium for the 2000 NFC Championship Game. The football world was in for a shock.
From his film study, Giants offensive coach Sean Payton was convinced that Minnesota’s cornerbacks were a real weakness that could be exploited, so the Giants came out throwing. After returning the opening kickoff to the 26-yard line, New York took just four plays to score: a 16-yard pass to Amani Toomer, a 10-yard pass to Toomer, a two-yard run, and then a 46-yard bomb from Kerry Collins to a wide-open Ike Hilliard for a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game. When Moe Williams of the Vikings fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Giants’ Lyle West recovered at the Vikings’ 18, the Giants went for the quick strike to an unlikely target. It was the play of the day.
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Greg Comella was a free-agent fullback who was known for his blocking prowess and for having decent hands. On the next play, Comella flared to the right flat to draw in linebacker Dwayne Rudd before running for the end zone. As he turned at the goal line, Collins’s pass was upon him quickly, and he grabbed it at face level in self-defense, falling awkwardly backward on his left foot, out of bounds. New York
Bulky, blocking fullback Greg Comella falls clumsily backward after making an awkward grab of a Kerry Collins pass for the Giants’ second score against the Vikings on January 14, 2001. (Photo courtesy of AP Images)
COLLINS CONNECTS WITH COMELLA AND COLLARS VIKINGS 171
I told Kerry after the game, ‘I’m honored to play with you. I’m honored to have you as a quarterback.’ He did a phenomenal job of turning his life around. It shows you can do some great things in life.
Minnesota’s best scoring chance all day came midway through the first quarter, when Daunte Culpepper hit Cris Carter in the end zone, but cor-nerback Emmanuel McDaniel muscled the ball free for an interception and a touchback. A poor Vikings punt led to a Giants field goal on the first play of the second quarter, and New York would add three more scores in the period. After a 43-yard pass to Ron Dixon, Collins hit Joe Jurevicius for an eight-yard touchdown pass four minutes later. A 10-play, 62-yard drive five minutes after that culminated in another field goal. Finally, just 12 seconds before the half, Collins capped another long drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Hilliard for a 34-0 lead.
Minnesota’s ever-so-slim hopes were erased on the very first play of the second half, when Giants safety