NEW ORLEANS — It's been obvious to everyone else for a while that the New York Giants were dead, but not to Coach Bill Parcells.
After the New Orleans Saints beat the Super Bowl champion Giants, 23-14, Sunday, even Parcells said it was hopeless.
"You are talking to a coach who has just lost the game that eliminated us from the playoffs," Parcells said. "It doesn't sit well with me."
The Saints (7-3) took the ball away from the Giants (3-7) seven times, five times on interceptions and twice on fumbles.
It is the first time in the 21-year history of the franchise that New Orleans has won four consecutive games, and the Saints are one victory from their first-ever winning season.
"This may be the most important victory I've ever been around," Saint Coach Jim Mora said. "It was a team win. I know that's a cliche, but it was a team win.
"And that is the key to a winning football team. We are playing as a team in what is a team game."
The Giants were within 14-13 in the final quarter when Saints' linebacker Pat Swilling broke through and nailed Jeff Rutledge as he attempted to pass. Rutledge fumbled, and Dave Waymer recovered at the Giants' 27.
Rutledge wasn't sure it should have been called a fumble. He said he his arm was already in its pasing motion, and it should have been ruled an incompletion.
"I know in my mind I was fixing to let it go," he said.
Three plays later, Bobby Hebert hit Eric Martin with a 22-yard touchdown pass for the Saints' clinching touchdown.
Giant scores came on a 46-yard pass from Rutledge to Stephen Baker in the second quarter and a 22-yarder to Mark Bavaro in the third quarter.
The Saint scores came on field goals of 19 yards, 43 yards and 28 yards by Morten Andersen, a one-yard plunge by Barry Word and Martin's touchdown.
Andersen's 28-yard field goal came after Johnnie Poe partially blocked Sean Landetta's punt attempt with 3:26 left in the game.
Six-time All-Pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor started for the Giants, but aggravated a right hamstring pull in the first quarter. Before re-injuring his leg, Taylor overhauled Rueben Mayes and kept a 16-yard run from becoming a touchdown. He also batted down a touchdown pass in the end zone, forcing New Orleans to settle for Andersen's first field goal.
Except for a brief appearance on an unsuccessful goal-line stand, he was on the bench as the Saints scored 10 points in the second quarter, and he didn't play in the second half.
"The fat lady started singing weeks ago, and today she finished her tune," Taylor said of the Giants' playoff chances.
The Giants started the season 0-6.