Head coach points to successful season after tough loss
Updated: Monday January 29, 2001 12:57 AM
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Jim Fassel's playoff guarantee didn't include a promise to win the Super Bowl.
However, New York accomplished a lot more than most people expected before losing to the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday night's title game, and the coach said the result doesn't change his view that the Giants have developed into a championship-caliber team.
"I'm really hurting inside right now, but I'll get over it and will make me that much more determined," Fassel said. "The further you go, the bigger the pill to swallow. But this doesn't change the way I feel about this team. ... This team will be back to this game."
The Giants won their last five regular-season games after Fassel guaranteed New York would recover from a mid-season slide and make the playoffs. They dominated Philadelphia and Minnesota at home to reach the Super Bowl, but were no match for Baltimore's record-setting defense.
New York was unable to get anything going offensively, with the exception of a drive late in the first half when the Giants marched from their own 28 to the Baltimore 29 with help from a 27-yard run by Tiki Barber.
But Kerry Collins threw an interception on the next play and didn't get his team anywhere close to the end zone after that. The Giants also hurt themselves with a holding penalty that wiped out a defensive touchdown, and by allowing the Ravens to counter Ron Dixon's kickoff return for New York's only points with a TD runback of their own.
Jessie Armstead's interception return that was called back in the first quarter would have erased a 7-0 deficit. Dixon's 97-yard kickoff return trimmed Baltimore's lead to 17-7 and gave the Giants hopes of coming all the way back.
"It was a killer," Fassel said of the holding call against tackle Keith Hamilton that nullified Armstead's 43-yard return early in the second quarter.
"In the first half almost anything that could go wrong for us did. We went in down 10-0, but didn't feel too bad. I felt like we came out for the second half and we were going to fight for it. But we kept making mistakes to take us out of it."
The Giants finished with five turnovers and were limited to 152 yards by the Ravens, who set an NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season. Collins played his worst game of the year, going 15-of-39 for 112 yards.
Baltimore returned one of its four interceptions for a touchdown and sacked Collins four times.
Fassel said the Ravens defense, led by Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis, is as good as advertised. He didn't expect the Giants to have a lot of success running ball, but did think they would have more success throwing.
"They are that good. But we didn't play well," the coach said. "I figured we'd hold them to less points (defensively), but I didn't think we'd have five turnovers to zero. You do that, and you're going to be beaten soundly."