The problems are almost too numerous to count. The Giants (6-7), who are averaging seven points after halftime, are at their worst when the chips are down: They are sixth in the NFL in three-and-out fourth-quarter drives, with 14. Their receivers are plagued by the dropsies—they had seven against Arizona. The patchwork line is one of the league's oldest (averaging 31.2 years) and is showing its age. Ron Dayne, drafted in the first round last year to be a Jerome Bettis-type bruiser, goes down consistently on first contact Collins leads all quarterbacks in fumbles (18), and the Giants lead the NFL in that category (33). As the play-caller, Payton deserves some of the blame. The team's best offensive player by far, running back Tiki Barber, averages but 16 touches per game.
Collins, who lit up the Vikings for 381 passing yards and five touchdowns in last season's NFC Championship Game, has regressed. A 59% passer with 22 touchdown throws, 13 interceptions and good mechanics last year, he's a 57% passer this season with 16 TD throws, 14 interceptions and a shaky pocket-presence and delivery. Asked after the win over the Cardinals if Collins was still his long-term quarterback, coach Jim Fassel said yes, then added, "but we've got to get him back working on his fundamentals every day, the way he did before last season."
Niners Do a Balancing Act
When you think about the 49ers, the first thing that comes to mind is the passing game. That's understandable, considering the numbers that Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jeff Garcia have put up. Still, since 1983 no team has finished in the top 10 in rushing more often than San Francisco—15 times, including this year (assuming the 49ers, who rank second with 149.4 yards rushing per game through 13 games, don't collapse down the stretch). Over the past 10 seasons the Miners' average passing rank is sixth; their average rushing rank is eighth.
"The thing about playing for the 49ers," says 39-year-old guard Ray Brown, "is there's a commitment to getting better every day. You can trust the technique taught by the coaches because it's worked for so many ^^ years." Brown is a candidate for his first Pro Bowl. He's probably the best pure run-blocker on a line that is paving the way for the Niners to average 4.6 yards per carry.
My Two Cents
Browns Let Fans Off
1. "This is a great football city," Jaguars wideout Keenan McCardell, a former Brown, said after fans littered the field in Cleveland with debris in protest of a replay reversal in the last minute of Jacksonville's 15-10 win. "But to be honest, [this] disgusts me." Disgusting too was Browns president Carmen Policy's not initially taking the fans to task for their behavior.
2. Who says you have to win to be profitable? Rankin Smith bought the Falcons for $8.5 million in 1965, had eight winning seasons out of 35 and never won the Super Bowl. On Dec. 4 his family sold the team to Home Depot cofounder Arthur Blank for $545 million.