Kerry Collins passed for 375 yards and two touchdowns Sunday to lead the Giants to a 29-17 victory over the Vikings, the NFC's last unbeaten team.
"When you play like a team that's starting to believe what everyone is saying about you - that's what you get," said Minnesota coach Mike Tice, whose team lost for the first time in 10 regular-season games dating to last Dec. 8 at Green Bay.
"We never lost that will to win -- the guys just kept on fighting," said Giants coach Jim Fassel, whose team ended a three-game losing streak and has never dropped four in a row in his seven seasons.
Randy Moss had two touchdown catches and 125 yards receiving for Minnesota (6-1), but Daunte Culpepper threw his first two interceptions of the year and the Vikings got little offensive production from anyone else.
"We just really didn't have it in us," Moss said. "I really don't know how we're going to react. Some teams go down in the hole, and some teams step up."
That's what the Giants (3-4) did.
They were 3-4 last year, too, before winning seven of their final nine to earn a wild-card spot. And then there was 2000, when New York lost two straight at home to fall to 7-4 and prompt Fassel to guarantee a playoff appearance. The Giants went to the Super Bowl that year.
"It's been tough around here," Collins said, "but we kept our belief."
Tiki Barber had a touchdown and 122 total yards for New York, which led 22-17 on Barber's 2-yard TD run with 5:29 remaining.
Culpepper was picked off by Frank Walker on the next play from scrimmage, and Walker returned it 18 yards to the Minnesota 17. Ike Hilliard got his second touchdown reception three plays later to put the game out of reach.
"We have a lot of character," said Giants safety Shaun Williams, "and it showed."
Their defense was squarely behind the 6-0 start, but the Giants have always had success moving the ball against them - most notably in a 41-0 defeat in the NFC championship game in January 2001.
New York, which managed only 26 points in its past three games, moved 76 yards in six easy plays on its first possession -- capped by a 15-yard scoring pass from Collins to Hilliard to make it 7-3.
The Giants had 274 yards in the first half and drove 53 yards in five plays on their first possession of the third quarter. They settled for Brett Conway's third field goal of the day, though, and led 16-10.
Collins rolled right on the Minnesota 9 in the first quarter and had Shockey wide open in the flat, but he threw back toward the goal post -- and into the hands of Minnesota's Corey Chavous for his sixth interception. Collins has eight INTs in his last four games.
The Giants, flagged for nine penalties totaling 70 yards, finally got some breaks in the fourth quarter.
With Minnesota leading 17-16, Jack Brewer blocked a punt by Jeff Feagles inside New York 5-yard line, but linebacker Wesley Mallard alertly scooped the ball and ran 20 yards for the first down.
"Unbelievable, man," Brewer said. "That's the way the game bounces."
Collins, who was 17-for-24 for 226 yards before halftime, was having a rough second half until he found Shockey for 46 yards to the Minnesota 22 -- plus 11 more on a roughing-the-passer penalty on Chris Hovan.
Barber's run put the Giants up by five after an offside penalty on Lance Johnstone gave New York another chance to convert a third down. Hilliard dropped the 2-point conversion pass.
"To come up here and get a win really helps our confidence," Collins said.
Confidence. That's something the Vikings might have had a little too much of coming into this game.
"I think we really got too far ahead of ourselves," Moss said. "We've just got to be reeled back in."
- Barber surpassed Frank Gifford for most all-purpose yards in Giants history with 9,880.
- Culpepper was 18-for-31 for 241 yards. He has nine touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Associated Press News Service
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