Starting in place of an injured Vick, Doug Johnson ran for a touchdown and threw a game-winning 14-yard pass to Brian Finneran with 8:06 to play. That led the Falcons to a 17-10 win over the Giants on Sunday in a game in which both teams fought injury problems.
|Fill-in Falcons quarterback Doug Johnson rambles in for a key TD.(AP)|
It wasn't great for the Giants (3-3). They gave away yet another game with three-major fourth-quarter mistakes. They lost veteran defensive tackle Keith Hamilton for the season with an Achilles' injury. Defensive end Michael Strahan also saw limited duty after developing back spasms in the first quarter.
Those injuries left the defensive line with only one healthy starter because Kenny Holmes was out with an elbow injury.
"We blew coverages. We let guys get open and we didn't cover well," Giants coach Jim Fassel said after watching Johnson hit 19 of 25 passes for 257 yards. "Their quarterback played a heck of a game, but we made him look like he was ready for the Hall of Fame."
Said Johnson: "I had confidence before this game. What I got from this game was experience. It was a huge."
The Giants offense also had its blunders.
Falcons cornerback Juran Bolden prevented New York from taking the lead early in the fourth quarter with an interception at the Falcons 6. Henry Jones forced a late fumble that Kevin Mathis recovered at the Atlanta 15 with 3:22 to play with New York threatening.
"It's good to get a win," said Falcons coach Dan Reeves, who coached the Giants from 1993-96. "These guys have been busting their tails for three weeks now and we didn't have anything to show for it."
The Falcons do now, because they made all the big plays with the game on the line.
Two plays after Bolden intercepted Kerry Collins, Johnson connected with Shawn Jefferson on a 63-yard pass play that set up the go-ahead touchdown. Giants cornerback Will Allen went for an interception at midfield and missed.
"It was a perfect pass," Jefferson said. "He threw the ball like that all day."
Collins, 20-of-31 for 207 yards, including an 18-yard third-quarter touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard, moved the Giants into position to tie the game in the closing minutes.
On fourth-and-3, Collins hit Ron Dixon over the middle despite having the ball snapped on the wrong count. Dixon carried the ball to the Atlanta 17, but fumbled and Mathis recovered.
"We felt like this was a game that we would win unless we shot ourselves in the foot, and we obviously did that," Giants guard Dusty Zeigler said.
Matt Bryant accounted for the other points with a 38-yard field goal for the Giants, who played without six starters.
Tight end Jeremy Shockey, guard Jason Whittle and cornerback Will Peterson also were out.
With Falcons keeping things simple without Vick (sprained right shoulder), and the Giants trying to milk the clock with their defensive line banged up, both teams used simple ball-control offense that made for a 2-hour, 38-minute game.
Johnson converted four third-down passes on the Falcons' 17-play, 88-yard drive that lasted 9:34. Johnson scored on a scramble after getting Jason Sehorn to jump on a pump fake. Hamilton and Strahan were hurt on the drive.
Bryant got New York within 7-3 with his 38-yard field goal, but a 30-yard pass from Johnson to wide-open tight end Alge Crumpler set up Jay Feely's field goal with 30 seconds left in the half.
The Giants tied the score on the opening series of the second half, driving 70 yards in 12 plays, with Hilliard beating Bolden in the corner of the end zone.
- Zeigler, the Giants' starting center, played for the first time since having surgery on his right knee in January. He started at right guard for Whittle, out with back spasms. Sehorn, who also had surgery in January, started his first game this season for Peterson.
- Giants rookies Tim Carter and Daryl Jones each had his first career reception.
- Reeves thinks the Falcons lost rookie LB Will Overstreet for the season with a shoulder injury. Warrick Dunn had seven catches for 69 yards for the Falcons.
- Hilliard had seven catches for 76 yards for New York.
The Associated Press News Service
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