Sunday, February 22, 2015

1987 Giants vs. Patriots

Week 8

The Setup

When you think of Giants vs. Patriots matchups, a number of high profile games come to mind.  Obviously, nothing can top Super Bowl XLII, when you had the 18-0 Patriots, on the cusp of an undefeated season and take their claim to the best team of all time.  Only to see it disappear in a sea of Giants pass rushers killing Tom Brady, a fourth quarter comeback by Eli Manning, a David Tyree catch on his helmet that is generally considered by those that understand the game to be the biggest/most improbable catch in NFL history, and Plaxico Burress wide open in the end zone.  The Giants 17-14 win was one of the ages, and perhaps the only bad thing about it, was it kept Mercury Morris and the 1973 Dolphins in the limelight as the only undefeated team in the Super Bowl era.  A few teams finished their NFL season at 18-1, none worse than the 2007 Patriots, thanks to the Giants.

If that wasn't enough, in 2011, we had a rematch, in Super Bowl XLVI, and it was thought that Belichick and Brady would find a way to exact revenge on the Giants.  However, the Giants began with a semi-controversial safety on the Pats first play of the game (only controversial if you don't understand the rules, if you do, it's clear cut) and then a Victor Cruz TD to make the score 9-0 early on.  The Pats fought back, and took a 17-9 lead.  But the Giants got 2 more Lawrence Tynes field goals to make the score 17-15, and then were able to take advantage of a Wes Welker drop, an amazing sideline catch by Mario Manningham, and then gifted TD for Ahmad Bradshaw as the Pats wanted to conserve time to take a 21-17 lead.  The Pats would get to midfield and just miss a Hail Mary heave when Kenny Phillips was unable to bat the ball away completely and Rob Gronkowski just missed a dive at the ball as it hit he ground, and the Giants had won again.

The Giants and Pats also had some good regular season victories.  Of course, in 2007, the Pats went into Giants Stadium at 15-0, and the Giants would get lauded for playing their regulars with nothing to gain, and gave New England a run for their money, with Eli throwing 4 TDs and the Pats needed a late rally to win 38-35 and complete the regular season 16-0 record.  In 2011, the Giants would go into Foxboro, take a 10-0 lead, and then have to fight back to beat the Patriots, thanks to a great 4th quarter catch by Jake Ballard and then a TD pass to Ballard from Eli, which snapped a long New England win streak at home against NFC opponents.

But the Giants and Pats had another less memorable game which featured a couple of firsts.  Their 1987 mid season matchup at Giants Stadium.  The Giants' 1987 title defense season was pretty much dead before it started.  They lost the season opener in Chicago on a Monday Night (Super Bowl XXI.5 as it was dubbed) and then lost on a late field goal to the Cowboys at Giants Stadium.  An 0-2 start was not great, but can be overcome over the course of a 16 game season.  However, it was after Week 2 that the NFL strike hit and the owners decided to continue to play, and the records to count, using replacements/scabs.  As fate would have it, after the league cancelled the Week 3 slate, the Giants would be matched up with the 2 most aggressive teams in signing the best replacements out there, the 49ers and Redskins.  The Niners would use Bob Gagliano at QB, who would remain in the NFL, starting for the Lions in the late 1980s and also former players in Carl Monroe and Keith Browner.  The Redskins would go after former players like Craig McEwan and Joe Carovello.  In fact, the Redskins scab team was so strong, that they would famously/infamously beat the Dallas Cowboys on a Monday Night game at Dallas, which was the last game before the strike ended, and pretty much the entire Cowboy team had crossed the picket line.  Washington won 13-7, and it became the plot point for the movie "The Replacements" with Keanu Reeves.  The Giants?  They were late to the game as the Mara family was uncomfortable with the replacement player idea.  So they went to ship yards and signed guys like Mike Busch, Edwin Lovelady, and Kaulana Park.  Needless to say, the Giants' scrubs went 0-3, even with LT and Jeff Rutledge crossing the picket line in Buffalo (LT would play TE), and the Giants fell to 0-5.

So, what were these firsts?  Well, the Giants vs Patriots game was the first Sunday Night game broadcast on ESPN.  Up until this game, all NFL broadcasts had been on the 3 major networks (FOX wasn't at that level yet).  CBS had the NFC.  NBC had the AFC.  And ABC had Monday Night Football.  ESPN, which had previously broadcast football games for the NCAA and USFL, wanted to get into the NFL game.  At the start of the season, it would have been considered a marquee matchup.  The Giants, at home, the defending Super Bowl champ and perennial playoff team.  The Patriots, who went to the Super Bowl in 1985, and had won the AFC East in 1986.  Thanks to the strike, they would get much less than that.

The other first?  Well, this was my first game in "my" seats.  Technically, the first game that I ever went to was October 26, 1980, when I was 6 years old, and my friend Darren Russell and his dad took me to a Giants game.  The Giants, who were awful (1-6 entering the game) and the Broncos (3-4) squared off.  The Giants lost 14-9 and to be honest, it was a pretty boring game and I don't remember much other than the Broncos had a punt returner named Rich Upchurch, and I remember thinking his name was funny because it sounded like "upchuck"and this amused my first grade brain to no end.  I also got a Giants wristband that I kept for years and is buried somewhere in my parents' home.  But this Giants vs Patriots game was my real first game.  As you can see, I kept the ticket stub for posterity.

And when you compare to the prices of today (my tickets are now $120 per game), it's no wonder the NFL is a billion dollar industry, and ticket sales are one of the least of their revenue streams, it's all from TV/internet and corporate sponsorships now.  But for me, these tickets have been in family for years, my uncle had them and has since passed them on to his son, and I split the tickets with him, usually going to about 5 games a year and have been doing so ever since.  For me, going to this game was the greatest thing in the world.  I had asked my father to try to take me to a game in 1986, but my uncle and cousin had gone to those games.  In hindsight, I can't blame them.  They were sitting in seats at Yankee Stadium, Yale Bowl, and at Giants Stadium when it opened in 1976.  They had watched crappy football as I was crapping in my diapers.  They deserved to sit in those seats for the championship run and playoffs.  By 1987, my father and myself (at age 13 now) were brought into the club to go to games.  It was a Sunday Night, I had school the next day.  My dad had work.  It's probably why we got the tickets to begin with, since most old timers hate dealing with night games.  But this was a dream for me to see them in person.  I didn't care that they were 1-6 and the season was shot.  I finally had the chance to see the Giants in person in good old Section 120, lower level end zone, as you watch a game on TV, from left to right, my seats were in the right hand side, as I have described it seemingly a million times over the years.

The Game Highlights

The Giants won the toss and Tony Franklin, the barefoot kicker, got off a low line drive in the direction of Lee Rouson, but it bounced out of bounds at the 5 yard line for a penalty, and put the ball at the 35 yard line.  Jeff Rutledge had been given the starting nod, as Phil Simms was injured the week before on a Monday Night in Dallas, and he started with a swing pass to George Adams, who caught it at the 28, and turned up the field for a 5 yard gain, stopped by Ed Reynolds at the 40.  Adams would take the carry on the next play and blast it up the middle for a good gain out to the 46 yard line and a first down, stopped by Kenneth Sims.  On first down, Rutledge dropped back, and again went to Adams in the flat, who caught it at the 50 and brought it into New England territory, taken out of bounds at the 48 yard line by Roland James.  On 2nd and 4, a playaction fake to Adams, and Rutledge would stay with the short game again, this time a pass to Joe Morris out of the backfield, and Little Joe would get the ball across the 40, tackled by Reynolds, but not after another first down.  A quick inside handoff to Adams, running behind Billy Ard, brought the ball to the 36, for a 4 yard gain, tackled by Lawrence McGrew.  Just as the Giants looked like they had a nice, controlled drive going, they would make a mistake.

Well, I guess only featuring your running backs in the passing game was going to haunt you at some point.  With Manuel in motion, Rutledge dropped back to pass and tried to hit Morris over the middle.  The Pats safety Fred Marion read the route, and jumped in front of the pass to pick it off at the 30 yard line and he brought it back all the way to the 50 yard line, stopped by Bart Oates, William Roberts, and Rutledge.

New England began with great field position and started with a handoff to Tony Collins, who ran to his left side, around Carl Banks who was sealed in and sprinted all the way to near the 40, stopped by Pepper Johnson, just shy of a first down.  On 2nd and 1, a pitch to Mosi Tatupu running to the left easily got the first down at the 36, stopped by Lawrence Taylor.  On the play, Terry Kinard got hurt as guard Sean Farrell rolled up on his ankle on a block.  Working on first down, Steve Grogan would again hand off to Collins up the middle and was taken down by Banks at the 34.  On 2nd and 8, a pitch to Tatupu, this time to the right, but the Giants defense strung him out and he was only able to gain a yard to the 33, stopped by Banks and Mark Collins.  On 3rd and 7, Grogan was in the shotgun, had to handle a low snap from center, and almost immediately was under pressure from Leonard Marshall, Andy Headen, and LT, and he threw a panicked pass in the direction of Stanley Morgan, but the ball was nearly intercepted by Herb Welch at the 30, however Morgan essentially turned into a defensive player and knocked it away from Welch and on to the ground.  On 4th and 7, Franklin came on for a 50 yard field goal attempt, and the ball was down the middle but fell just short, so the Giants were able to dodge a bullet on the turnover and the score remained at 0-0.

So the Giants got the ball at the 33 yard line (remember, back in 1987, you got the ball at the original line of scrimmage on a missed field goal, not at the point of the kick), and with Morris in the I formation, a pitch back to Morris running to his left, however McGrew launched himself into the backfield and tackled him for a 2 yard loss.  On 2nd and 12, Rutledge dropped back and hit a wide open Mark Bavaro on an out pattern at the 36, and he would show some of the explosiveness he had in his youth and before the injuries, by leaping over Ronnie Lippett at the 45 and bursting up field into Patriots' territory before getting knocked out of bounds by Reynolds, however it was good enough for a first down.  The Giants would hand off to Adams running to his left on a counter play and it went for good yardage out to the 40, stopped by Marion, but a hold on the Giants brought it back to the 41 yard line.  On 1st and 20, Rutledge was under pressure by Andre Tippett, but he got away and scrambled up the field to the 44 yard line, stopped by Johnny Rembert.  On 2nd and 16, Rutledge would fake the handoff to both Adams and then Morris, and spin around and flip the ball back to Adams on the left side for a well designed screen.  Adams would follow Oates, and cut back and get the ball all the way out to the Pats' 40 yard line, coming up a yard short, stopped by Raymond Clayborn.  So now 3rd and 1, the Giants went with a 3 TE lineup and gave a quick handoff to Morris, who powered through for a 4 yard gain, stopped by James at the 36 for a first down.  The Giants would go back to the air, with Rutledge throwing an out pass to Stephen Baker, who made a diving catch at the 28 yard line and was covered by clayborn.  On 2nd and 3, Adams would run to his left side and carried Marion for a few yards out to the 23 yard line for what looked like a first down, however a holding call on Brad Benson ruined the play and set the Giants back to the 39.  So instead of a first down and a good drive going, things would get worse on 2nd and 13

The Pats would blitz and Rutledge was given time, so he took a deep shot in the direction of Baker, who was covered one on one by the veteran corner Clayborn.  Clayborn had the position and the angle and snatched it away from the rookie for an interception at the Pats' 3 yard line.  It was Rutledge's 2nd INT and we were only in the first quarter.

Backed up deep in their own end, the Pats tried a run to the right with Collins, but he was stacked up by Banks and Pepper for a short gain of maybe 2 yards.  On 2nd and 8, another pitch to Tatupu running to his left, avoided Perry Williams in the backfield but was tackled by Carson at the 6 yard line.  3rd and 7, Grogan in the end zone, was able to swing a pass to Tatupu at the 7 yard line, and Mosi was able to turn his shoulders and get the first down out to the 17 yard line, tackled by Collins.  First down, Grogan dropped back, and tossed a swing pass to Tatupu on the left flat, was knocked down by Banks and Williams at the 19.  On 2nd and 8, the Pats would try to run again, this time Collins on a sprint to his right, but he was only able to gain a yard, stopped by Collins at the 20.  Now 3rd and a long 6, Grogan in the shot gun, with LT barging in and right into his face, and the ball would sail over the head of Lin Dawson, who had beaten Greg Lasker, but the incompletion brought on Rich Camarillo to punt, and he would boot the ball to McConkey at the 30, who would set up and take off up the field and took the ball out to the 40 with 3:47 to go in the first quarter.  

First and 10, Rutledge back to throw, with a corner blitz from Clayborn, and Rutledge saw it and checked off to Bavaro wide open over the middle and he took it to the Pats’ 46 yard line, stopped by Reynolds and Rembert but good enough for a first down.  A handoff to Adams running left went for a short loss, as he was met in the backfield by Garin Veris.  2nd and 11, with Manuel in motion, a draw up the gut to Morris who cut  to his left, was taken to the 44, stopped by Veris setting up a 3rd and 7.  Rutledge back in the gun, with time, threw a comeback pass to Baker, who was wide open, but Baker ran before he caught it and the ball hit in him the chest and fell to the ground.  Landeta came on to punt, had a great kick that bounced at the 3 yard line, but it was misplayed by Lasker, who misread the ball and it went into the end zone for a touchback.

The Pats got the ball at the 20, and began with an inside handoff to Collins up the middle, and he would bounce it to the outside to near the 27 yard line, tackled by Kenny Hill. Going to a hurry up offense, Grogan tried a sprint draw to Collins running to the right, but George Martin read it and hit Collins in the backfield for no gain. On 3rd and 3, and the Pats would huddle up this time, Grogan had time to throw in the pocket and would rainbow a deep pass down the right sideline to Morgan who hauled it in at the Pats’ 47 yard line, beating Collins in coverage and he would take it all the way to the Giants 41 yard line, caught from behind by Collins and Kinard for a big first down. On the next play, Collins would pound the ball to the right side, knocked down by Burt and Martin to end the first quarter. 2nd and 7, another handoff to Collins up the gut, but he was stopped by Burt and Marshall for no gain. Moving to 3rd and 7, Grogan again with time would fire a pass in to Cedric Jones on a slant and it was hauled in at the 26 yard line, beating Williams, and good for a first down. 1st and 10, a draw to Tatupu running to the left, as he just missed LT in the backfield, but was slowed up and was tackled by Williams for a 1 yard loss. 2nd and 11, Grogan checked off to Tatupu in the flat, where he was tackled by Collins at the 19 yard line. On 3rd down, it was the Pats’ turn to make a mistake

LT came in on a blitz and beat his man and had a clear shot at Grogan. The wily veteran however had the pocket presence to feel LT coming and duck under him to avoid the sack. However, he couldn’t get much on his throw towards Lin Dawson and the ball was picked off by Banks at the 14, who was ruled down as he dove and snagged it before it hit the ground.

So the Giants were able to keep the Pats off the scoreboard and Rutledge began with a handoff to Morris, who cut back over the middle and was able to gain 5, stopped by Rembert. 2nd and 5, a quick handoff to Adams didn’t work at all, stopped by Toby Williams for no gain. On 3rd and 5, Rutledge in the gun, would take a bad snap and hit McConkey on an out pattern who caught it and went out of bounds at the 30 for a first down. With a new set of downs, another play action fake to Morris and Rutledge had plenty of time to hit Baker on an out pattern at the 41 yard line, and who would stutter step and go by Clayborn all the way to the 46 yard line, good for another first down. A sprint to Morris running to the right, followed Ard who was pulling from his guard spot, and got 8 yards out to the Pats 47 yard line, tackled by Rembert. 2nd and 2, Rutledge dropped back again and this time the Giants tried a deep bomb to Baker, who beat Lippett on a fly pattern, but the ball was thrown too far and fell incomplete. Now 3rd and 2, a handoff to Adams running to his left, and he was able to power for a first down at the 44 yard line. The Giants would go back to the air, and Rutledge had time to throw, but would again dump it over the middle to Morris, who caught it at the 40 and took it to the 37, stopped by Reynolds and Rembert. On 2nd and 3, a handoff to Morris, who squirted through a small hole in the middle and got the ball out to the 31 yard line, stopped by James and Marion but good for another first. On first down, Rutledge back to throw, with plenty of time, and he decide to check down to Morris, but he slung the ball too hard and out of bounds. 2nd and 10, an inside handoff to Adams was met by Veris almost immediately for a 2 yard loss. Now 3rd and 12, Rutledge in the gun, and the Pats blitzed, leaving Baker one on one again with Clayborn, and again Rutledge threw in his direction, but this time he led the rookie who jumped and snagged it at the 7 yard line for a big first down. First and goal, Rutledge with another play action, tried to hit Adams out of the backfield, covered by Andre Tippett, and the ball was just thrown too far out of the end zone, and went incomplete. 2nd and goal, a handoff to Morris, who had a quick cut up the middle and he took the ball to the 2 yard line, stopped by Reynolds. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Morris ran to his left side, and was hit by Rembert which knocked Joe off his balance and he tried to roll over on top of Ard for a touchdown, but no dice. However, a hold on Brad Benson set the Giants back to the 12 yard line. Rutledge with the pocket starting to collapse scrambled up towards the line of scrimmage and threw towards Baker in the end zone but off target. However, a penalty on the Patriots’ Veris for a hands to the face would give the Giants’ 5 yards and a first down. So first down and goal at the 7, Morris took a draw up the middle, and was tackled by Veris to the 5, but another flag, this time a hold on Damien Johnson put the Giants back to the 16 yard line. After a flag fiesta, the Giants would look to one of their best players to regain some control

Rutledge dropped back with time threw an out pattern to Bavaro, who was left free as Tippett left him to continue on to guard Baker. The result was Bavaro was wide open in the flat around the 10 yard line to make the catch over his shoulder. Ronnie Lippett came up to make the tackle, but Bavaro just brushed off the small cornerback, turned up the field and ran it in for a 16 yard TD. Allegre would add the extra point to make the score 7-0 with 5:50 to go in the half.

Raul Allegre would kick off to Stephen Starring and he took it from about 2 yards deep out of the end zone and tried to cut back up the middle, but was spun down by backup defensive back Wayne Haddix at the 10 yard line. Grogan back on the field, dropped back and tried to rifle a pass to TE Greg Baty, but the ball sailed and Baty alligator armed it with Williams and Reasons coming at him and fell incomplete. On 2nd and 10, we saw the Giants best defensive player in action

Coming off from the right side this time, the Patriots blocking scheme was thrown out the window as LT raced around tackle Bruce Armstrong, and it was the job of the Pats guard Ron Wooten to come back to clip LT, however, Taylor was far too fast, grabbed Grogan at the 5 yard line and slung him to the ground. Now 3rd and 15, the Pats would get lucky

Grogan in the gun this time, would face a blitz from Banks who literally ran over Baty, left in to block, and Banks met George Martin in the end zone and they both took down the quarterback for a would be safety, however, an unheard whistle for a delay of game would erase the play, including the safety, though Frank Gifford for some reason couldn’t understand what was going on. So now 3rd and 18 on the 3 yard line, Grogan again in the gun, and again Banks would blitz, but this time the Pats would leave an offensive lineman in there to hold him up, and Grogan got the pass off to Baty, who made the catch at the 7 and was immediately drilled by Williams and dropped on the spot. Camarillo in the end zone to punt, hit it a little off the side of his foot and was taken by McConkey at the 50 and he ran it up the sidelines and was shoved out of bounds at the 40 yard line, and managed to hurdle the Patriots bench until he slowed down, for good measure.

With 4:17 to go in great field position, Rutledge dropped back, and threw the same out route to Bavaro that he did on the touchdown, but this time Lawrence McGrew would stay with Bavaro and the ball went out of bounds. A pitch went to Morris running to the right and he followed Damian Johnson’s block and burst ahead for an 8 yard gain to the 32, stopped by Reynolds. 3rd and 2, Rutledge would actually drop the snap on what should have been a pitch to Morris running to the left. Because of the blocking flow, the Patriots were all out of position and the QB just picked up the ball, and charged forward to the 28 yard line, stopped by James. So the Giants got a lucky first down on what was a blown play, and the Pats would come on an all out blitz on the next play, with Tippett in Rutledge’s face, he got off a dart to Baker, who caught it at the 20, and spun back to the outside and accelerate his way to the 8 yard line, shoved out by Clayborn for another first down and goal to go. The Giants wouldn’t waste much time.

A play action fake to Morris would suck in the linebackers and safety, and from there a blown coverage between James and Reynolds, let Adams, playing at fullback, was able to slip out of the backfield and was wide open in the end zone for an easy pitch and catch TD from Rutledge. Allege would pop through the extra point to make the score 14-0.

Allegre’s kickoff would hang in the air and be taken by Starring at the 5 yard line and he got the ball out to the 18 yard line, hit down hard by Byron Hunt. With 2:41 to go, the Pats had 2 fullbacks (Lin Dawson lined up in the backfield) ahead of Collins who tried to power to the left side, but was met for no gain by Carson and Marshall. In the hurry up, Grogan dropped back to pass, and was nearly sacked by LT and Marshall, but got the ball to Collins, who was dropped as soon as it caught it at the 24 yard line by Reasons and the clock was stopped at the 2 minute warning. 3rd and 3, Grogan in the gun, with time, and he dropped the ball to Collins, in over the hands of Headen, and took it to the 35 yard line and out of bounds for a first down and stopped the clock with 1:54. First down with Grogan in the gun, and he had a rush coming in on him from LT, and forced a hurried throw which was knocked away from Dawson by Greg Lasker. 2nd and 10, an inside to draw to Collins looked to work initially, as the Giants defense was caught in a stunt and he ran right through the open middle, but Banks came up to take him down at the 38 on a great open field tackle. And then we saw the confusion of old instant replay

3rd and 7, Grogan had some time and threw to Collins who came out of the backfield and he caught it at the 44 and just started to make a “football move” and was popped by Banks, knocking the ball loose. As it was by the sidelines and nearly out of bounds a group of Giants jumped over and it was picked up by Herb Welch but the question was if he was in bounds. The Pats backup QB, Doug Flutie started pointing at the sidelines, saying the ball went out of bounds before Welch got it, just short of a first down. And it turned out that Flutie was right, the Giants didn’t control the ball in bounds and it was 4th down. So Cammarillo came on to punt, and McConkey was deep, however the Pro Bowler shanked it, with the ball going out at the 35 yard line with 1:18 to go.

Rutledge began with a play action fake to Morris and his pass was batted up in the air by Ken Sims and could have been picked, but fell to the ground. It was a play reminiscent of one week before against Dallas when Simms’ pass was batted up in the air and picked off for a TD by Jim Jeffcoat. 2nd and 10, a delayed handoff to Morris, who burst up the middle for a big gain, all the way out to 47, stopped by Marion. Giants would call their first time out. Rutledge would roll out in a moving pocket to his right, and threw to McConkey, who was open at the 38 yard line for a catch, however, an illegal formation penalty on Joe Morris who lined up incorrectly at WR negated the gain and set up a 1st and 15 at their own 43. Rutledge would drop back again, and this time he got pressured by Reynolds on a blitz and he was sacked at the 38 yard line. After back to back losses, the Giants didn’t hurry up, but attempted the same roll out pass from earlier, but Reynolds read that too and fired up the field to sack Rutledge a second straight time at the 28, as he blew right by Damian Johnson. Suddenly, with a glimmer to do something offensively, the Patriots called their first time out (but let the clock run for about 5 seconds for no reason) and there was :25 to go. Now 3rd and 27, the Giants handed off to Morris on a draw, ran to his right side and got the ball out to the 38 yard line, stopped by James, and the Pats called their 2nd time out for :18 to go. Sean Landeta on to punt back to Irving Fryar, and his kick was a beauty, out to Fryar at the 7 yard line, but Fryar showing his explosiveness, dodged Collins, outran the angle Lasker had on him and took off up the sidelines, and got the ball to the Pats 42 yard line, for a 37 yard return, knocked out of bounds by Landeta. However, only :04 remained as Fryar was in between whether to try to score or give some time for one more play. He decided to give the offense one more shot.

So the Pats, with 1 timeout, would try for the Hail Mary and we got a little excitement.

The snap back to Grogan was low and was on the ground, but the Giants didn’t get pressure, so he heaved it deep into what was a team photo, and it was tipped up in the air by Morgan, and we saw Welch flash a little athleticism, diving over the pile to pick the ball off at the 13 yard line, stealing a pick from Kinard to end the half.

The 2nd half began with an Allegre kickoff to Starring at the 5 yard line, and he would cut up the field, avoid a few tackles and made it to the 32 where he was stopped by Lasker. Grogan trotted back out and started with a pitch to Tatupu, who tried to cut back over the middle, but was only able to gain about a yard as Burt was waiting for him. 2nd and 9, Grogan back, with time, slung a pass to Morgan on an in cut under the zone who made the catch at the 47, and was taken down by Banks and Pepper near midfield, for a moment it looked like it might have been a fumble, but the refs ruled him down. However, behind the play, Leonard Marshall was hit with a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty for a blow to the head (yes, even in 1987 they called these things), and with the extra yardage, the ball was moved all the way to the Giants’ 34. First down, Grogan back, would hit a pass out in the flat to Collins, who gained 5 yards, tackled by Collins (no relation). 2nd and 5, another pitch to Tatupu running to his right, he lept over the pile and was hit by down by Burt and Carson at the 25. 3rd and 2, Grogan under center, he would hand off to Collins on a draw, but the slow developing play allowed Martin to cut down the line and stop him after a short gain. It was decision time for Raymond Berry.

The Pats, down 14, decided to go for it, Grogan would give the hard count and it looked like he drew the Giants offsides as he tried a low percentage deep shot to Cedric Jones that was incomplete, covered well by Kinard. However, the flag turned out to be a hold on the Patriots’ Wooten as Eric Dorsey bullrushed his way in and was dragged down, and it all resulted in a turnover on downs, though Jerry Seeman would screw up the call and say it was 4th down, but would later correct it.

The Giants would take over with the ball at the 25 and began with a delayed draw to Morris running to his right, but was taken down by James after no gain. 2nd and 10, a handoff to Adams, running to his left, cut back to the middle and got the ball to the 28, stopped by Veris. Now 3rd and 7, Rutledge in the gun, with plenty of time and he had McConkey on a crossing route, but the ball was thrown a little behind him and was nearly intercepted by Marion. Landeta would come on to punt, he would boot the ball to Irving to the 20, and he avoided the diving tackle attempt by Lasker, accelerated up the sidelines past Reasons and Mowatt and was tackled (actually legitimately) by Landeta at the Giants’ 47 yard line. A hold called on the Giants’ Robbie Jones was declined and in all Fryar got 33 yards back on a 50 yard kick.

The Pats would start with a handoff to Bob Perryman, who ran to his right and gained only 2 yards, stacked up by Banks at the 45. On 2nd down, Grogan on a play action pass was under pressure from LT, who was chipped off by Perryman just long enough to slow him up, and Pepper Johnson blew his coverage responsibility on Collins, who was wide open running down the seam, but Grogan barely over threw him, missing out on an easy TD. 3rd and 8, Grogan back, with time, and he tried another deep shot towards Starring, who had a couple of steps on Collins, however Grogan underthrew the ball and Collins dropped what should have been a pick. Camarillo came back out to punt again, and he booted a high kick toward McConkey, who called a fair catch, and drew the coverage to him, meanwhile the ball bounced over his head and into the end zone for a touchback with 9:00 to go in the 3rd.

The Giants would start their next drive at the 20, but wouldn’t keep the ball very long

Rutledge dropped back/back peddled and swung the ball out in the flat on what was a safety valve dump off to Adams at the 13 yard line and as the running back made his way up the field, he was surrounded by 3 Patriots. As Adams tried to hold up to get some pursuit to over run him, Ed Reynolds, who was all over the field in this game, knocked the ball loose at the 20 and it bounced backwards where for a moment it looked like Adams had it. However Garin Veris, who was playing with a thumb that he broke earlier in the game and a soft cast, ripped the ball away and the Pats were able to get a huge turnover at the 17 yard line. Amusingly, they used instant replay to validate that the Pats recovered, and Jerry Seeman had to essentially say “my bad” for pointing in the wrong direction to indicate possession.

With a golden opportunity to score, the Pats began with a run around left end to Collins, who gained 2 yards, stopped by Banks and Pepper. On 2nd and 8, the Pats would finally crack the scoreboard

With Frank Gifford noting that the Pats went to a 4 wide offense and that meant the Giants could be thinking blitz, he was right in line with Belichick’s thought process as Williams came from the corner and both LT and Banks as well, but the Pats picked it up long enough and Grogan got the pass off to tight end Greg Baty, who had beaten Hill on a simple post pattern was wide open and Grogan dropped the ball right in for an easy TD. Tony Franklin came on to hit the extra point and made the score 14-7.

Franklin would kickoff and send the ball to the 3 yard line in the left corner, taken by Lee Rouson, who took out to the 25, tackled by Jim Bowman. So the Giants offense, coming off their 3rd turnover, ran the exact same play as the fumble, with Rutledge dropping back, swinging a pass to Adams on the left side, and Adams made a move on a few Pats until he was tackled by McGrew at the 30 and held on to the ball. 2nd and 6, a pitch to Morris running on a sweep to the right was blown up by Sims, who dove in and tackled Morris for a big loss back to the 26 yard line. Now 3rd and 9, Rutledge in the gun, and the Giants would keep Bavaro in on max protect, giving Rutledge time to find McConkey over the middle at the 42 yard line for a first down, where he absorbed a hit by Roland James and fumbled, but was lucky to recover it immediately and the Giants got a new set of downs. Next play was a handoff to Adams up the middle, but he only got 2 yards, stopped by Williams. 2nd and 8, Morris in motion, Rutledge took a deep shot to McConkey up the sidelines, who was blanketed by Clayborn and McConkey tried to draw a penalty but no dice. So 3rd and 8, McConkey in motion, Rutledge was back to throw with time and slung the ball towards Manuel, who made the catch at the Pats’ 47 yard line, tip toed in bounds and was given a generous spot by the officials for another first down. Adams would take the carry on the next play, cut back over the middle and followed a great block by Billy Ard to accelerate all the way to the 39 yard line, stopped by Marion after 9 yards. 2nd and 1, a play action fake didn’t fool anyone, least of all Tippett who barged into the backfield as Rutledge took a deep shot towards Manuel, who was running a post pattern, and Rutledge expected a corner, and the ball fell incomplete. Now 3rd and 1, Morris took the handoff and ran around left end, followed Ard and Adams, and cut back, running almost sideways to the 34 yard line, where he was finally pushed down by Marion, but easily past the sticks. First down, Rutledge back, and was able to hit Manuel on a crossing pattern at the at 30 and he turned up field, spun away from Clayborn at the 25, and took it to the 23 for another first down. Rutledge stayed to the air, with plenty of time, and motioning to his receivers to change their pattern, and he hit Bavaro on a comebacker over the middle at the 12 yard line, just short of a first down, tackled by James. On 2nd and inches, an inside handoff to Adams up the gut was good for down to the 10 yard line, cut down by Veris. And then the “AFC LT” got involved.

First and goal, Rutledge back to throw and he was looking in the direction of Manuel, who was well covered and had to pull the ball down. Once that happened, Tippett pretty much ran over Adams and sacked Rutledge at the 13 yard line, nearly causing a fumble, and also nearly hurting Rutledge, driving him into the turf. So now 2nd and goal at the 13, a draw to Morris up the middle nearly worked for a TD, as he cut back, past the blitz and was spun down by McGrew at the 2 yard line. 3rd and goal, Morris tried to run over the right side, but was met by Veris and Sims and shoved backwards. On 4th and goal, Parcells wanted to get back up by 2 scores, so he sent out Allegre to pop a 20 yard chip shot to make the score 17-7 with :17 to go in the 3rd quarter.

Allegre’s kickoff was taken at the 10 by Starring, and he cut back over the middle, tripped up by his own man and touched down by Lasker at the 22. On first down, Grogan back, flipped the ball over the head of a blitzing Banks, and hit Perryman at the 18, who stumbled and fell forward at the 23 yard line, driven down by Hill for the final play of the 3rd quarter. 2nd and 9, Grogan would put Collins in motion and hand off to Perryman up the middle, but only gained 2 yards, stopped by Burt at the 25. 3rd and 7, Grogan in the gun, took the low snap, and floated a pass to Starring, who caught the ball but was forced out of bounds by Collins. Starring argued that he would have come down in bounds, but the ref wasn’t buying it and the Pats punting unit came out and Camarillo was rushed and the ball was nearly blocked by Flynn, but it got away on a low line drive taken by McConkey at the 40 and he took it up to the 46, stopped by McElwain. A flag on the play on a personal foul on Byron Hunt who took a cheap shot at a Patriot and send the ball back to the 31.

Giants began at the 31 with a nice designed run of a fake to Adams up the middle, and then a spin from Rutledge to hand off to Morris running to his right, with both guards pulling out in front to the 37 yard line, where he was pushed out of bounds by Tippett. 2nd and 4, a draw to Morris up the middle and he cut back towards his left all the way to the 48 yard line, stopped by McGrew and Lippett. First down, and a quick handoff to Adams up the middle, and he also found room behind Johnson to the Pats 46, stopped by Tippett and Rembert. 2nd and 4, another handoff to Adams running to his left, but this time he ran too east/west and was hit for a loss by Veris. 3rd and 5, Rutledge in the gun, and a blitz was on from the Patriots, but it was picked up and he tried to fire the ball in to Baker on an in route, but the ball was a little behind him, and it was broken up by Lippett. Landeta on to punt, got a high boomer that was fielded by Fryar at the 16 and a fair catch.

Grogan down 10 points led his team back on the field, and LT decided to remind everyone why he was still considered the best defensive player in the NFL, and show up Tippett as well.

The late Mosi Tatupu was a great special teams player, a solid running back, and no match for LT in pass protection. LT essentially went right around him to nail Grogan at the 5 yard line for a big sack, and Grogan actually fumbled the ball but was lucky to keep possession. In the shotgun, Grogan had another rush coming right into his face from Banks, and dumped the ball off over the middle to Baty, who caught it at the 9 and was able to bring it to the 11, where he was converged on by Carson and Reasons. 3rd and 14, Grogan got a low snap that nearly got away from him, but he picked it up and rambled forward, avoided Howard, but was taken down by Reasons and Carson at the 15, well short of a first down. Camarillo had to come back out again, and he would boom one to McConkey, all the way to the 27, and McConkey, who had some room to run because the punt had outkicked the coverage, sped up the middle and took it all the way to the 49 yard line, stopped by Lippett with 9:47 to go in the game.

The Giants offense would start with a handoff to Morris running to his left, following pulling guard Damien Johnson, and got around James and cut back to the Pats’ 46 yard line, stopped by McGrew. 2nd and 6, Rutledge dropped back and he threw a quick out pass to Bavaro at the 41, stopped immediately by Lippett, short of a first by a yard. 3rd and 1, with Mowatt in motion, a quick hitter to Morris up the gut, went to the 40, stopped by Reynolds but good enough for a first down. Another handoff to Morris, chugging off left end for a 5 yard gain, stopped by Sims. 2nd and 5, a 3rd straight handoff to Morris, again running inside, tackled by Rembert at the 31 yard line to put him over 100 yards for the game. 3rd and 1, a fourth quick handoff to Morris, running left to the 29 yard line, stopped by Sims, but another first down as the clock ticked under 6:00 to go. First down, Rouson on to give Joe a breather, was given the carry, he took it to the 25 running to the left, stopped by Milford Hodge. 2nd and 6, again Rouson carried up the middle, where he was spun down by Veris at the 21 yard line setting up 3rd and 3, where Rutledge stood next to the ref as the play clock wound down and called a timeout, their first of the game, with 4:26 to go. With Morris back in the game after a rest, gave a quick handoff to him, but Veris barged into the backfield to take him down for a 3 yard loss. The Pats would call a timeout with 4:12 to go and Parcells would send out Allegre to attempt 42 yarder

Well, that wasn’t even close. It was near perfect weather conditions and Allegre just pushed the ball far to the right, well away from the goal posts and kept the score 17-7 with 4:08 to go.

So the Pats were still in the game, but needed to get things going quickly. Grogan started by dropping back and hitting Baty over the middle for a 9 yard gain, tackled by Banks and Kinard. Grogan, in the hurry up, again flipped a pass towards Baty, who couldn’t snag a one handed attempt and dropped the ball as Kinard bared down on him. 3:47 to go and 3rd and 1, Grogan handed off on a quick draw to Collins, which completely fooled the Giants as they were all heading up field to go after Grogan, and Collins burst through a huge hole, all the way to the 50, stopped by Kinard. Grogan again back and this time he would get nailed by LT, causing the ball to float and was nearly picked off by a diving Wayne Haddix. 2nd and 10, Grogan back, and with Howard in his face, he got the pass away, and threw towards Fryar, but the ball was batted down by Haddix. 3rd and 10 with 3:17 to go, Grogan in the gun, and he had a moving pocket to the right, to get away from the rushing LT and Marshall, set up and threw deep down field towards Morgan, but the ball was overthrown and nearly picked by Kinard. 4th and 10, with 3:10 to go, Grogan under center, and flushed out by Howard almost immediately and avoided Haddix on a corner blitz, who had stumbled heading towards him and fell, allowing Grogan to get around the blitz, and fire to Cedric Jones at the 29 for first down, tackled by Kinard and Welch. The Pats hurried to the line, and Grogan tried a deep shot to Morgan, who was one on one with Williams and just missed the diving Morgan in the end zone. 2nd and 10 with 2:37 to go, Grogan again back and with time, tried to test Williams again, this time with Baty, and the ball was nearly picked off, but overthrown. Grogan on 3rd and 10, took the low snap, tried to hit Starring on a post pattern, but overthrown. An illegal hands to the face on Bruce Armstrong vs. George Martin was declined, setting up 4th and 10. Knowing they were two scores down, Raymond Berry chose to try a field goal from 46 yards away that was perfect down the middle, making the score 17-10 with 2:22 to go in the game.

The Pats had to make the call to go for the onsides kick or kick it deep, considering that the Giants were running the ball well. The Giants put their hands team on the field, expecting an onsides, but Franklin would boot it deep to McConkey at the 10. McConkey, understanding the situation and realizing that he had no real blockers to work with, sprinted towards the sidelines to go out of bounds at the 17 rather than risk a fumble. Again, this was a situation that showed what Parcells loved about McConkey. Smart, understand the situation, know the risks, know what to do. Dont’ try to be a hero and run it up the field. Get out of bounds and give it to your offense with a TD lead.

With 2:15 to go, Rutledge would handoff to Morris, who was stonewalled for no gain by James, who was the 8th man in the box knowing the Giants would run. The Pats would call their 2nd timeout with 2:08 to stop the clock, understanding the 2 minute warning was coming up. 2nd and 10, the ball went to Morris, who was hit by McGrew at the 15 for a loss that brought the game to the 2 minute warning. So 3rd and 14 a near disaster.

Wow, some 9 years earlier you had the Miracle in the Meadowlands with the Pisarcik fumble. This time Rutledge would run the fake to Adams, spin around to Morris and handoff following the pulling guards. This play worked for good yardage in the start of the fourth quarter. No so much this time as Rembert split the guards, hit Morris and forced a fumble all the way back at the 8 yard line. It would bounce all the way to the 3 yard line where Rutledge was heads up and crawled to the ball to cover just before Veris got there. The Pats would call their final timeout, the loss of yardage would cost Morris his 100 yard day. So the clock was stopped at 1:51 and Landeta had to punt with his back to the end line of the end zone with a dangerous Fryar back. Landeta’s effort was a poor one (for him), only to the 45 yard line, Fryar got it and burst up the field all the way to the 30 where he was hammered down by Byron Hunt.

With 1:42 to go, the Pats only needed 30 yards for the TD to tie the game. On first down, Grogan would drop back and swing the ball to Dawson on in the flat and he tried to sprint to the sidelines, but his legs were cut out by Collins, taking him down at the 23, but the clock kept running. So the Pats would hustle to the line and snap it, and with Marshall crawling towards Grogan, ran the same play, hit Dawson in the flat and this time he got the ball to the 18 yard line, forced out by Collins with 1:17 to go. The Giants fans were getting nervous and Parcells was looking worried. But the Giants defense would seal the game

Belichick would choose to blitz Banks up the middle which forced Grogan to drop back further and right into the on rushing Martin, who hit him as he threw. LT, in coverage this time, undercut the pass intended for Jones running across the middle, and picked it off at the 15, and LT would sprint his way out of bounds at the 17 yard line to get the Giants out of trouble.

The Giants would set up in their victory formation, with Rutledge taking 2 snaps and kind of crumpling rather than taking a classic knee and giving the Giants their 2nd win on the season, by the score of 17-10.

Post Mortem/Interesting Tidbits
  • Jeff Rutledge started at QB for the Giants. Simms was injured in the Monday Night loss at Dallas. For Rutledge, a career backup who started his career with the LA Rams. However, this was actually not his first start of 1987. Rutledge crossed the picket line to play in the final replacement game at Buffalo. In a brutally bad game, Rutledge would post a line of 17-46, 203 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs. Lawrence Taylor would also cross the picket line and collect 2 sacks when he wasn’t being mugged by the Bills replacement left tackle and also played TE on the goal line and wasn’t able to connect with Rutledge on a pass and the Giants would eventually lose the game 6-3 in OT on a Todd Schlopy 27 yard field goal. How bad was this game? The Bills won despite 7 turnovers! Brian McClure would throw 3 INTs, and Buffalo would fumble 5 times, with the Giants recovering 4 of them.
  • Rutledge played 13 years in the NFL and was a career backup. He came into the NFL after having quarterbacked Alabama to a National Championship in 1979, leading a wishbone offense. He started out with the Rams where he played behind Pat Haden and Vince Ferragamo and spent 3 years in LA. He missed the 1982 season and in 1983 made his way to the Giants, where he was the #3 QB behind Scott Brunner and Phil Simms. Injuries forced both of them out and Rutledge had the “honor” of starting his first game as a Giant in the abysmal Monday Night 20-20 tie game against St. Louis. Though he would go 0-3 in his final 3 starts, against superior competition, Rutledge more than held his own
    • 30-28 loss to Dallas (who finished 12-4). Went 14-29, 325 yards, 2 TD, and 3 INT
    • 17-12 loss to Seattle (who finished 9-7). Went 29-52, 349 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs
    • 31-22 loss at Washington (who finished 14-2 and went to the Super Bowl). Went 24-47, 324 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
  • Rutledge’s biggest impact for the Giants in his career came in 1986, and all came as part of trick plays in the Special Teams unit. Unlike today, when most punters are the holders for extra points and field goals, back in the 1980s, the job fell to the backup QB (and in the case of the 49ers, a Hall of Famer in Joe Montana). And this was the case for Rutledge, and in a regular season blowout of the Eagles, he was the trigger man in a fake field goal, throwing a 13 yard TD to Harry Carson. A few months later, Rutledge again executed a fake field goal in the playoffs, this time going into the shotgun and sending kicker Raul Allegre out to a flanker spot. The 49ers were confused, with only one defensive back on the field and didn’t call a timeout. Rutledge took the snap and hit a wide open Mark Bavaro for a first down. Keeping the drive alive, the Giants would eventually score on a Simms to Bobby Johnson TD that made the score 21-3. The very next series, Montana was hit by Jim Burt and the ball fluttered into LT’s hands, who raced in for a TD. That made the score 28-3, Montana was lost to a concussion, and the Niners were road kill the rest of the way on to a 49-3 beat down. 3 weeks later, Rutledge made the single biggest play of his career, in Super Bowl XXI. The Giants, heavy favorites against the John Elway led Broncos, were trailing 10-9 at halftime. Coming out to start the 2nd half, the Giants the ball and wanted to get control of the game and ended up going what looked to be 3 and out. However, at their own 46 yard line on 4th and 1, Parcells sent Rutledge out on the field as the protect man, instead of the usual protect, Gary Reasons, and he would line up under center. The Broncos, who had scouted the Giants and knew they liked to fake, kept their regular defense on the field. After a long pause, Rutledge, who had the option to go with the play or take the delay of game, took the snap, and pushed behind right guard for 2 yards on a QB sneak and a first down. The Giants would drive down the rest of the way, with Simms hitting Bavaro for a TD to put the Giants up 16-10 and they would roll the rest of the way to their first Super Bowl championship.
  • This was Rutledge’s first career win as a starter in 7 chances. He lost his first start as a rookie with the Rams, losing by the score of 27-23 at Chicago, a game in which he only threw 11 passes.
  • Rutledge would start the next 2 games for the Giants, in a win at Philly and then a loss at New Orleans until Simms was ready to play again.
  • Joe Morris’ 88 yards tied his season high to that point in the season, matching his output vs. the Cardinals 2 weeks before. He was actually over 100 yards until the 4th quarter when he kept losing yardage.  He would eventually best that number in the last 2 weeks of the season. Putting up 92 yards against the Packers in a 20-10 win, and then in the season finale would rush for 132 yards against the Jets to win 20-7.
  • George Adams would get 12 carries for 32 yards, both season highs for him in 1987. As it would turn out, that would be the best output the remainder of his Giants’ career. He would only top that number one more time, in 1990 when he signed as a Plan B free agent by the Patriots and he rushed for 37 yards in a 13-10 loss to the Colts.
  • Adams would also catch 6 passes in this game, which matched a season high that he accomplished 2 other times in 1987, vs. the Cardinals and then at New Orleans. His career high receptions in a game was 10, which he did in 1988 in a 45-31 blowout loss to the Rams.
  • Adams was one of those woulda/coulda/shoulda guys. The #1 draft pick in 1985 out of Kentucky, Adams was a big back who had great hands and near break away speed. His first NFL touchdown came on a 70 yard catch and run from a Simms pass against the Cowboys to help Simms put up a 432 yard day in a 30-29 loss. Adams would also rush for 113 yards in a 34-3 blowout at St. Louis. Just as the Giants had visions of a Morris and Adams backfield of the future, running behind Mo Carthon, Adams would suffer a devestating hip injury that would require surgery, knock him out for the entire season (costing him a chance at playing for a ring), and he never was able to really recover well enough to be the promising force he was in 1985. However, as fate would have it, because of the injury to Adams, the Giants were looking for depth at running back behind Morris. They liked Lee Rouson, but wanted more of a veteran back there to be ready to get the job done. So, George Young and Bill Parcells traded for Ottis Jerome (OJ) Anderson from the Cardinals, who had lost his starting job to Stump Mitchell. Needless to say, that move worked out better for the Giants. Adams retired after the 1991 season. OJ would go on to lead the Giants in TDs in 1988, lead them in rushing in 1989 with a 1000 yard season, and then lead them to a Super Bowl win with an MVP performance. OJ would also last one more season than Adams, retiring after the 1992 season once it was clear that Rodney Hampton had taken over as the lead plowhorse.
  • William Roberts was the starting right tackle, Karl Nelson lost for the year with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  Nelson actually was in the radio booth as an announcer in 1987 while he was in recovery.  Nelson would return to play the 1988 season but retire after that and ended up rejoining the broadcast booth with Jim Gordon and Dick Lynch.
  • Banks INT was the first of his career.
  • This was the first head to head match up of LT against Andre Tippett. Of all the guys who were “like LT”, or the AFC version of LT, perhaps the closest was Tippett. First of all, he wore #56, so that was a big comparison factor, as back in the 1980s, generally speaking, your best LB was given that number. Tippett was also somewhat comparable to LT in size. LT was 6’4”, 245-250. Tippett was 6’3”, 240. And like LT, Tippett was an every down player. And for the biggest factor, Tippett was a 5 time Pro Bowler, and he would register 18.5 sacks in 1984 and 16.5 sacks in 1985. In the 1987 strike season, Tippett would gather 12.5 sacks in 13 games. And he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. 
  • Tippett and LT would face each other only one other time in their career. The season finale of the 1990 campaign. The Pats were the worst team in the NFL, going 1-15. The Giants were preparing for the playoffs, locked in as the #2 seed with a 13-3 record, and would eventually go on to win the Super Bowl. The Giants would sleep walk their way in Foxboro for a 13-10 win. LT talked of how the Giants had no urgency, and if it was an important game, they would have shown more effort than they did. Tippett would register half a sack.
  • LT would register 2 sacks and 1 INT in the game, showing overall how he can wreck a game. In his career, LT would pick off 9 passes in the regular season. In those 9 games in which he had an INT, he registered at least .5 of a sack in 8 of them. The only time he didn’t get a sack when he got a pick? His rookie season in 1981, when he got a pick in a 10-7 win against the Rams….however..he did register a sack of QB Pat Haden in the game, it was shown on several highlight shows over the years. But back in 1981, they didn’t officially track sacks. So in reality, every game LT got a pick, he got to the QB too.
  • This was the first meeting by Giants and Pats since 1974, when they played at the Yale Bowl.
  • The Patriots Defensive Coordinator in this game? Rod Rust. That’s right, Mr. “Read and React” himself. Rust started his career with the Chiefs in 1978 and coached there until 1982. In 1983, he would join the Patriots and help mold them into a contender, culminating in a Super Bowl run (and demolishion) at the hands of the Bears in 1985. Rust would be let go after the 1987 season and proceed to bounce around, back to Kansas City, then Pittsburgh, back to New England in 1990. In 1992, the Giants were looking for a new Defensive Coordinator under Ray Handley as Al Groh would leave to join Belichick’s staff in Cleveland. Handley wanted a veteran defensive coach, and he got one. He just didn’t get a good one. The Giants defense, still many hold overs from the Parcells/Belichick glory years, and used to attacking defense, hated the more passive defense, in which they let the offense dictate the pace of the game. It got so bad that players like Pepper Johnson openly said they were ignoring Rust and doing whatever they wanted. Needless to say, Rust was fired along with Handley and the rest of the staff after 1992
  • Ed Reynolds would register 2 sacks in the game. It was the only multisack game of his career and half of his career total (4). Reynolds would play 9 years with the Patriots and would join the Giants as a Plan B Free agent, and ultimately force Gary Reasons from the roster. Reynolds was brought over by Rust. Enough said.
  • Another Patriot LB in this game would eventually sign with the Giants.  In 1990, after Carl Banks broke his wrist and needed surgery, the Giants were looking for a veteran outside linebacker to help out and offer more depth behind Johnie Cooks.  So they signed Lawrence McGrew as a free agent after he was cut by the Pats.  McGrew stuck on the roster the rest of the season and earned his only Super Bowl ring.  McGrew sadly passed away in 2004 at age 46 of a massive heart attack.
  • The ESPN broadcast team for their first game was Roy Firestone, Larry Csonka, and Mike Patrick.  By 1988, they would replace Firestone (relegating him to ESPN interviews where he would make his interviewee cry, and was spoofed on Jerry McGuire) and Csonka with Joe Theismann.
  • Since back in 1987, cable TV wasn't in every home, the NFL had to do something to provide coverage in the local areas outside of ESPN.  Rather than simulcast the National feed, as was done in 1988, for this game, there were actually 3 broadcast teams.  The ESPN crew for national.  In NY, they scrounged up parts of their Monday Night Broadcast team and NY ABC Sports unit with Frank Gifford, Lynn Swann, and Corey McFerrin.  Meanwhile, there was a broadcast crew for the Boston affiliate as well.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

1988 Giants @ Falcons

Week 8

The Setup

The definition of an ugly win depends on who you ask.  Pretty much most fans and media will apply some level of aesthetic value to the way that a team will play or win a game.  It helps play into these mythical "power rankings" that try to give a sense of how strong a team looks that goes beyond the Wins/Losses column.  To be fair, there actually is some basis in the NFL tie breaking system.  Though further down the list, points scored and points allowed could be used to help determine making the playoffs or not.  Generally speaking, it almost never comes into play.

I can say, from my perspective, what I don't consider an ugly win, and that would be when you have two bad teams playing each other that, unless the Football Gods want to punish us with a tie, someone simply has to win the game.  These are games which are characterised by bad, booring, sloppy, penalty and/or turnover filled football.  Off the top of my head, I can think of the 1996 Giants vs. Jets game, which featured the 0-3 Giants playing against the 0-3 Jets.  The Giants would eventually win the game 13-6 in a rain storm.  The Giants would finish that year at 6-10, and the Rich Kotite Jets would come in at 1-15. There was also the 2013 Giants vs. Vikings Monday Night game, with the Giants at 0-6 and Minnesota at 1-5.  The Vikings would start Josh Freeman, who was signed earlier in the week and had no grasp of the playbook.  The Giants would win this contest 23-7, the Vikings lone score coming on a punt return, and it was so bad that even Mike Tirico in the ESPN booth, who's job it is to call the game and keep people watching, admitted that the game was horrible.

So to me, an ugly win is when you have what should be a clearly superior team, coming out flat or the dreaded "playing down to the level of competition" and end up in an unpleasant street fight with a lesser opponent that when the game ends, you don't feel as much excitement in a victory, but rather relief that they somehow got out of there with a win.  It's the type of game where you would hear from the head coach and players when they are doing their post-game interviews that they "feel lucky to get the W".  It's the kind of win that for the most part you will take, but you don't like.  Of course, Al Davis' mantra "Just win, Baby" would discount the ugly win, however based on the way the Raiders have played since the mid 2000s, they should be thrilled with any win.

For the 1988 Giants, they would start the season very inconsistently.  They would start 3-3, though they managed to sweep the defending World Champion Redskins, they had some head scratching other games.  They would beat the Cowboys in Dallas 12-10, thanks mainly to an incorrect call on a kickoff return when the Cowboys' Daryl Clack muffed a kick into the end zone and tried to run it out and was tackled for a safety by Mark Collins. The call should have been a touchback.  Meanwhile, the Giants would blow a late 17-13 lead over the 49ers, thanks to Joe Montana hitting Jerry Rice for a 78 yard TD, aided by Kenny Hill missing a tackle and taking down Collins, allowing Rice to trot the rest of the way.  The Giants would round out with a blowout loss at home to the Rams and a Monday Night loss at Philly, when there was the infamous play of Banks hitting Randall Cunningham by his knees, Cunningham keeping his balance, and just as Harry Carson came on to sack him, getting off a pass to Jimmie Giles for a TD.  Randall would put the game away with an 80 yard TD to Cris Carter.

The Giants would hit what many felt was the "soft spot" in their schedule.  Since they finished in last place in the strike shortened 1987, they were handed a midseason gift of games at home against the Lions, and then on the road in Atlanta and then back at Detriot.  Entering this stretch, the Lions and Falcons combined for a 2-10 record (and Detroit's win was against Atlanta).  Obviously, all Giants fans and media figured that they would roll through these 3 games and be right there in the hunt for the NFC East lead.

In their first meeting against Detroit, the Giants would struggle, trailing 10-7 at halftime and get booed off the field.  The Giants would right the ship, and score 23 unanswered points, to win going away 30-10.

That set them up against Atlanta, who came into this game at 1-6.  Most people figured that it wouldn't be much of a matchup.  The Falcons had come in losing 4 straight games, they had given up 30 or more points 3 straight games and were blown out by the scores of 31-20, 33-0, and 30-14.  However, in this game, they had their young QB, Chris Miller coming back off an ankle injury.  So while that was a positive step for the young Falcons team, generally speaking most felt that the Giants would pick up where they left off from their second half domination of the Lions and roll through Atlanta.  The problem was, the Falcons didn't go along with that script.

The Game Highlights

Greg Davis would kick off and Mark Collins would field the ball at the 14 yard line, would slip as he made the catch, and was able to get it out to the 24 yard line where he was stopped by Elbert Shelley.  Phil Simms would bring his team out against a defense that was filled with former first round picks.  The Giants would begin with a sweep around right end with Joe Morris, but he was strung out and caught from behind by Rick Bryan after a 1 yard gain.  On 2nd and 9, Simms dropped back with time to throw in the pocket, and he got the ball to Maurice Carthon over the middle on an in cut at the 31 and he was able to chug forward all the way to the 46 yard line for a 21 yard gain, finally tackled by Brett Clark.  Morris would take a draw up the middle for a 2 yard gain, stopped by Mike Reid.  On 2nd and 8, Simms would hand off again on a draw to Morris up the gut, and this time he was able to find a hole and gain 13 yards, stopped by Reid at the 39.  The Giants were moving the ball on the ground against the worst rush defense statistically in the NFL (at this juncture of the season), so for reasons unknown, the Giants would go to the air.

The Giants wanted to go for the home run and Simms, with time to throw, looked for a deep end zone shot to Stephen Baker, who was one on one with cornerback Scott Case.  Case, recognized more as a corner because he was white (Sehorn syndrome), was more or less stride for stride with the Touchdown Maker, and the pass was a tad underthrown, allowing for the bigger Case to make a play on the ball and pick it off, giving the Falcons a touchback.

Atlanta would get their shot on offense and began with a handoff to John Settle for a one yard gain, stopped by Eric Dorsey.  On 2nd and 9, a playaction fake to Settle, set up a throw back screen for Settle who had blocking in front.  Settle would accelerate all the way to the 33, where he slipped and fell down, or else he would have gotten even more yardage.  On 1st and 10, Chris Miller would fake a draw play and with time to throw was able to drill a pass in to a diving Stacey Bailey for a first down at the 47, where he was downed by Pepper Johnson.  The Falcons would run a third straight playaction fake to Settle, but this time the Giants defense wasn't falling for it, and Miller was under pressure almost immediately and scrambled out of bounds for a 6 yard sack, given to Carl Banks.  On 2nd and 16, a draw inside to fullback James Primus got the ball to the 45 yard line, where he was smashed down by Pepper.  Now 3rd and 12, Miller was in the shotgun and the Giants brought a blitz with Kenny Hill coming unblocked and forced Miller to throw it too early in the direction of Bailey, who was ahead of Perry Williams, but the ball would fall incomplete.  Forced to punt, Rick Donnelly was able to get off a good kick to Phil McConkey, who fielded it at the 15, and he was able to get the ball up to the 22 yard line where he took it out of bounds.

The Giants would start their next series with a pitch to Morris running to his left, but he was taken down after a short gain by Tony Cassilas, however it was still good enough for Morris become the Giants all time leading rusher, passing "Big Red" Alex Webster.  On 2nd and 9, a playaction fake to Morris gave Simms enough time to hit Baker on a comeback route at the 33 and turned back up the field to the 42 yard line for a first down, stopped by John Rade.  Another playaction fake again gave Simms time to throw, and he took a deep shot in the direction of Lionel Manuel, who was double covered and the ball sailed over his head by a good 10 yards.  On 2nd and 10, a draw up the middle to Morris was good for 5 yards, stopped by Bryan.  On 3rd and 5, with Simms in the shotgun, he would take a shot at his knees from Mike Gann, which caused an errant throw to McConkey, who was coming free over the middle.  As McConkey reached back for the ball, he was blasted in the ribs by Tim Gordon and got a reaction from the crowd.  Maury Buford came on to punt and he shanked a horrible kick, a 10 yard punt that went out of bounds at the Falcons' 43 yard line.

Atlanta would start with a pitch to Settle, who was able to get around Lawrence Taylor, turn the corner, and took off up the sidelines for a 12 yard gain, stopped by Perry Williams.  With the ball at the Giants' 46, Miller would playaction fake to Settle, and tried a deep shot towards Gene Lang, a former Bronco, but he was covered well by Williams in man to man, and the ball fell incomplete, with Williams just barely avoiding a pass interference penalty.  On 2nd and 10, a draw to Lang up the middle was blown up by the Giants defense and Pepper Johnson dropped him for a loss.  Now 3rd and 11, Miller was in the shotgun with 4 WRs, and Bill Belichick brought a blitz, which forced Miller to scramble, chased by Sheldon White and Erik Howard.  Miller tried to pump fake and the ball came loose, and he was lucky for it to be ruled an incomplete pass instead of a fumble.  Donnelly was back to punt again, and this time the high booming kick was fair caught by McConkey at the 11 yard line.

OJ Anderson took over at running back and Simms began with a playaction fake to OJ, and would throw an out pattern towards Manuel that was nearly intercepted.  A hold on William Roberts on the play was declined and set up 2nd and 10 (since it would have only have been a 5 yard penalty and would have kept the Giants at first down).  On 2nd down, a draw to OJ went nowhere as Bryan stuffed him for no gain.  On 3rd and 10, with Simms in the gun, Bart Oates had to actually turn around to gesture to him to move over since he lined up behind the guard, and once Simms sorted that out, he dumped the ball off to George Adams out of the backfield.  Adams would make the catch at the 17 and would be stopped in his tracks by Charles Dimry and Joel Williams.  On 4th and 4, Buford came on to punt again and this time would easily better his previous 10 yard effort, but still not a good kick.  This one was a line drive taken by Barnes at the 48 yard line and he would take off up the field and was pushed out at the Giants' 35 yard line by Gary Reasons.  The Falcons looked to be in business.

The Falcons would start off with yet another playaction fake to Settle, which held the Giants pass rush at bay and gave Miller time to hit TE Ken Wisenhunt in the left flat at the 33, and he made a few Giants miss and fell forward to the 23 yard line, tripped by Terry Kinard but good for a first down.  The next play was a pitch to Settle running to his left, and he just avoided Williams on a run blitz, but was chased out of bounds by LT for a 2 yard loss.  On 2nd and 12, with LT moving over to the right side of the field and coming on a blitz would get picked up and leave Settle open in the flat, where he would turn up the field and accelerate up the sidelines where he was thrown out of bounds by Banks and Reasons at the 15 yard line after a 9 yard gain.  On 3rd and a long 2, Miller would try to get off a quick pass to Stacy Bailey, but the ball would be deflected at the line by John Washington and fell to the ground.  Greg Davis would easy bang through the 32 yard field goal and gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead with 3:07 to go in the first quarter.

Davis' kickoff was fielded by Mark Collins at the 8 yard line and he would return it to the 25, however, an offsides on the Falcons Charles Dimry would be accepted and the Falcons had to re-kick.  The second kick was be taken at the goal line by Neal Guggemos and he would sprint up the middle of the field and dive forward to the 27 yard line, so the Giants netted a +2 yards on the penalty.  First and 10, Simms would audible and hand off to OJ on a counter tray to the left, and Bobby Butler would have to give him some cab fare for the ride he got up to the 34 yard line, until Case came over to pop him and force him out of bounds.  On 2nd and 2, a quick handoff to Carthon up the gut was good for 3 yards and a first down.  Simms would hand off to Morris and he would sprint to the right for good yardage out past the 45 yard line.  On the play, Rick Bryan would get up slowly near a penalty flag that was thrown, however it was picked up by referee Jerry Markbreit because the clip happened in the "legal clipping zone", which back in 1988 was considered to be between the tackles.  In today's NFL, that's a penalty (and rightfully so).  Anyway, 2nd and 2, again in short yardage, a quick handoff to Carthon again went up the middle and this time he was smacked by an angry Bryan, still smarting from the clip, but Mo got the first down.  On first down at midfield, Simms would have time to throw and tried to connect with Morris over the middle, but Joe stopped his route and Simms' pass sailed into no man's land.  On 2nd and 10, Simms again dropped back to throw, and again had plenty of time, and he would drill a pass into Baker, who would snag it on a comeback route, get both feet in bounds at the 37 yard line and give the Giants another first down.  The Giants would again run a counter tray to the left, this time with Morris, and he would cut back behind his pulling guards and take it to the 31 yard line, stopped by Rade and Bryan to end the first quarter.  The 2nd quarter would begin with 2nd and 5, and a draw to Morris up the middle for another good gain, all the way out to near the 20 yard line, stopped by Bruce but not after another first.  The Giants would stay on the ground, this time a quick inside handoff to Carthon, and had a big hole to run through and got 6 yards, stopped by Robert Moore at the 15.  On 2nd and 4, the Giants would run the same play to Carthon, right up the gut for 3 more yards, stopped a half yard short of the first by Moore.  On 3rd and short, the Giants would bring in the beef, going with 3 TEs, with Doug Reisenberg reporting as an eligible number and hammer it to the 9 yard line with OJ, getting stopped by Butler but good for a first down.  On first and goal, Morris would run the counter tray to the left again, and again cut it up the field and got the ball to the 4 yard line, stopped by Williams.  The Falcons were sucking air, and on 2nd down, a quick handoff to Anderson didn't work, as Gann got in his way in the backfield and stopped him for a loss at the 5.  On 3rd down, a very curious call

Madden pretty much spelled it out and unlike many former coaches in the booth, he wasn't afraid to criticize bad calls.  In his estimation, the Anderson run on 2nd down and this run to Carthon were 2 dumb calls in a row.  This one was especially dumb.  At the 5 yard line, why are you running a sprint to the right with your blocking fullback Carthon, who would predictably be strung out and tackled after a 1 yard gain by Williams.  Why not use Morris if you had to run it?  Better yet, why not throw it?  Parcells was pissed after the play, but that was on him.  McFadden would come on to hit a 21 yarder, even though for a moment it looked like it might not be good, and tie the game at 3-3, to cap a 15 play drive that left 10:26 to go in the first half.

McFadden's kickoff was taken by Evan Cooper at the 4 yard line, and he would get upended by Collins at the 23 yard line, and he was fortunate not to get badly hurt because he landed on his head.  On first down, Settle took a draw to the right side and got his legs cut out by Burt after a 2 yard gain.  On 2nd and 8, against a 3 man rush, Miller would dump it off to Settle, who would juke away from Reasons, and then make his way up the field, stopped by Carson at the 33 but good enough for a first down.  Miller would drop back to throw, and this time LT would beat Mike Kenn with an inside move, and forced a hurried pass towards Lang, which sailed and fell incomplete.  On 2nd and 10, the Giants would again blitz, and again LT would chase Miller, who rolled to his right and fired to Bailey for a 15 yard gain, knocked down by Kinard at the 49.  Miller would throw again, this time a play action fake, and he rolled to his right, which happened to be where LT shifted over to, and Taylor would drill him as he let go of a deep pass and the ball would sail incomplete.  The ball would actually fall into Kinard's arms, but it looked like he lost it in the sun and the Falcons were lucky to avoid a pick.  On 2nd and 10, a pitch to Lang running to his right went for about a 1 yard gain, stopped by Carson.  On 3rd and 9, Miller was in the shotgun and he would dump off a pass to Settle on a quick screen.  Settle would run manage to out run LT to the corner, and sprint up the field, delivering a shot to Adrian White as he was forced out of bounds at the 36 yard line, good for another first down.  The next play was a handoff to Settle, he would squeeze past Burt, and into the secondary where he was stopped by Hill at the 30.  On 2nd and 4, a draw to Lang up the middle didn't work as well, gaining 2 yards as he was stopped by Burt and LT.  On 3rd and 2 at the 28, the Giants came on an out all blitz, but Miller would read it and hit Jessie Hester in the flat at the 21 yard line and he would step out of bounds, but again good for a first down.  The Falcons would stay in the air, with Miller back and facing yet another blitz from Collins on the corner, which forced a quick pass to Settle, who was taken down by Burt and Reasons at the 23 yard line for a 2 yard loss.  On 2nd and 12, a draw up the middle to Lang worked perfectly, as he followed a big hole up the gut and he sprinted to the 13 yard line, setting up a 3rd and 2.  Atlanta would bring in 5 WRs and Lang in the backfield.  Miller would roll to his left and what was essentially an option play, would pitch it back to Lang, who sprinted around left end and barrelled to the 1 yard line, stopped by Hill, Reasons, and Williams at the 1 yard line.  With the Giants on their heels, the Falcons would keep coming at them.

With Jamie Dukes, a guard in at fullback, he would charge forward, and clip LT's dive over the pile attempt and flip him, allowing Settle to burrow into the line for a TD.  Davis' extra point would make the score 10-3 with 2:49 to go in the 2nd quarter.

Davis' kickoff would go to Guggemos down to the 1 and he was only able to return it back to the 14 yard line as he was drilled by Ken Gordon on a helmet to helmet shot (no flags back then).  Simms started off with a pass and would swing what looked to be a near lateral pass to OJ, who rumbled up to the 20 yard line for a 6 yard gain, stopped by Williams.  On 2nd and 4, Simms had some time to throw initally, but as he scrambled up the field, he was trapped by Gann for a sack at the 17 yard line and the clock was stopped at 1:58 officially for the two minute warning.  On 3rd and 6, Simms was in the shotgun and he threw a seam pass towards Mowatt deep over the middle that was just behind him and fell incomplete, however a defensive hold on Butler, who was covering Lionel Manuel, gave the Giants a first down.  Now at the 23, Simms again had time to throw, and would side arm a bullet to Baker at the 38, and he would snatch it and turn up the field, taking the ball to the 47 yard line, stopped by Dimry from behind, but not after ripping off a 23 yard gain.  The Giants would go no huddle, Simms in the shotgun would handoff inside to Adams up the middle, and was taken down by Rick Bryan at the 47 yard line, forcing the Giants to call their first time out with 1:22 to go.  Meanwhile, over on the sidelines, LT was being led into the locker room with cramps.  On 2nd and 3, Simms would throw to Adams in the flat, who was stopped for no gain by Williams.  However, Williams got a 5 yard incidental facemask penalty, and that yardage was tacked on to the end of the run and gave the Giants a first down at the 43.  Just when as a Giants fan you feel like they were going to get some points and hold off an upset bid by Atlanta, they made a mistake

In the shotgun, and with late pressure coming in on Simms, Manuel and Mowatt end up running into each other, so someone blew the pass pattern.  That left Butler all alone for an easy INT at the 25, and he was able to run it back to the 47, stopped by Riesenberg.  Yet another missed opportunity for the Giants.

Looking to keep up their momentum, Miller was in the shotgun, however he was under heavy pressure in his face from George Martin and Johnie Cooks coming from his blind side.  Miller would float a ball over the head of Settle for an incompletion.  On 2nd and 10, a draw to Settle, again up the middle, was good for 6 yards to the Giants' 46 yard line, stopped by Cooks and Atlanta would call a time out.  On 3rd and 4, Miller would roll out to his right, and with a moving pocket, hit Floyd Dixon at the 41, and he would get the ball out to the 39, taken down from behind by Martin, however the yardage was good for another first, and the Falcons would call their 2nd time out with :45 to go in the half.  Atlanta would try for a home run and Miller took a deep shot over the middle to Dixon, who was open, but the ball sailed and fell incomplete.  On 2nd and 10, the Falcons looked to set up a screen, but turned into a deep shot towards Bailey, who was well covered by Williams and Adrian White and the ball was deflected away.  On 3rd and 10 with :36 to go, Miller would scramble up the field and threw on the run to an open Michael Haynes, but the ball again sailed on him and went out of bounds.  The Giants were able to clearly benefit from the rust Miller showed from his time off due to injury, and rather than go for it or try a 56 yard field goal, the Falcons brought on Donnelly to punt, who just avoided a block and on the other end, Falcons' special teams demon Elbert Shelley made a miraculous play to actually catch the punt on a dive at the 2 yard line with :23 to go.

Even with the little breathing room, Simms had enough space to take a knee and run out the clock and both teams would head to the locker room with the Falcons holding a 10-3 lead.

McFadden would kick off to start the 2nd half, and on a short, line drive kick was grabbed by guard Jamie Dukes at the 18, and he plowed ahead to the 29 yard line, tackled by half the Giants' coverage unit.  While Miller came on the field, LT did not, and he was replaced by Ricky Shaw.  Miller began with a playaction fake and plenty of time to throw, however, continuing to show the effects of weeks of inactivity from the injury, missed a wide open Bailey on a deep out pattern that would have been good for a huge gain, if not a 70+ yard TD as Perry Williams blew the coverage.  On 2nd and 10, Settle started in motion out of the backfield and Miller threw in his direction, but again the ball sailed off target.  On 3rd and 10, with Miller in the shotgun, the Giants defense would finally clamp down

Miller had far too much time early in the game, and this time, with Cooks playing at DE and Marshall shifting over the guard, Miller was flushed towards Martin and into the waiting arms of Marshall for a sack.  Donnelly came on to punt after the 6 yard loss and his short kick was fair caught by McConkey, who dove down to make the catch and maintain field position at the Giants' 46 yard line.

The offense would start with a handoff up the middle to Morris, but Reid was right in his path and stopped him after a 1 yard gain.  On 2nd and 9, Simms dropped back with time to throw and hit Manuel on a deep in pattern for a first down to the 37 yard line, tackled by Butler.  On 1st and 10, Morris took another handoff running to his left, but the Falcons got penetration and Bryan took him down at the line of scrimmage.  On 2nd and 10, Simms would dump the ball off over the middle to Carthon, who was able to chug his way up the field for a 15 yard gain and a first down at the 22 yard line.  Another sweep to Morris, this time running to his right, looked good initially, but as Morris cut up the field, Bryan was waiting and took him down after only 2 yards.  On 2nd and 8, the Giants had Anderson and Rouson in the game, Simms would drop back, avoid a rush at his feet by Bryan, and then took a deep shot in the end zone towards Baker, but the ball fluttered out of bounds.  On 3rd and 8 at the 20, Atlanta came on a delayed blitz that was picked up well, however Simms' pass was batted down by Gann.  Trailing 10-3 and a 37 yard field goal, you would figure that the Giants would take the point

Parcells liked his trick plays, this one was a bust.  With Harry Carson coming out to block, it looked like a straight run by Hostetler, who was the holder.  But as Hoss tried to cut up the field, he lost his footing.  Hoss would fall to the ground, tackled by Ried, but he wouldn't have been close to a first down anyway.  His only other play would have been to option the ball back to McFadden, not only a kicker, but a barefoot kicker.  Curious call.

LT would come back on to the field after re-hydrating in the locker room.  The Falcons got the ball at the 20, and Settle took a handoff from the fullback spot and found a hole up the middle, and gained 11 yards, stopped by Carson at the 31.  Settle would get the ball on the next play as well, and he got away from Eric Dorsey running to his right, broke a few tackles, and took the ball out past the 40, stopped by Pepper Johnson, just a yard short of a first down.  On 2nd and 1, Miller dropped back and Carson just missed an INT, but the ball made it to Lang for an 8 yard gain and a first down, stopped by LT at the 47.  Atlanta would go back to Settle again, who was playing at fullback this time, and gained 4 yards up the middle, stopped by Pepper and Hill.  On 2nd and 6, Miller dropped back, just avoided an onrushing LT, and scrambled up the field for a 3 yard gain and was taken down by Marshall, who grabbed him around the head and would have gotten flagged for it today.  On 3rd and 3, Miller would give to Settle on a draw, and yet again, he showed a burst up the middle, followed Pro Bowler Bill Fralic, and got a first down to the 43 yard line, stopped by Pepper.  On 1st and 10, a pitch to the right to Primus looked like it was going to be for a loss, but he turned the corner and gained 3 yards, getting knocked out of bounds by Kinard at the 39.  Atlanta would go to their bag of tricks, this time a reverse to Dixon, who ran to the left side, followed his blocks and got the ball all the way to the 28 yard line, stopped by Williams but again, got another first down. Settle was given the ball again, cut back over towards the middle and the Giants would collapse on him with LT, Carson, and Howard hitting him after a 3 yard gain.  On 2nd and 7, another pitch to Settle running to his left this time, was able to get past Marshall and was knocked out of bounds by Carson after a 6 yard gain, setting up a 3rd and 1 at the 18. But this time, the Giants defense rose up

With the Giants loading up along the line of scrimmage, the handoff to Settle was going to the right, but the Hall of Famer Carson would shoot the gap and hit him for a loss at the 20.  That would bring on Davis for a 37 yarder, and unlike the Giants, Atlanta would take the points and Davis boomed through the kick to extend the Falcons lead to 13-3 with 4:13 to play in the 3rd quarter, capping a 12 play, 60 yard drive.

Davis' kickoff was taken at the 4 by Collins, and he was able to take it back to the 21 yard line, stopped by Cooper, however a hold on Tom Flynn brought the ball back to near the 10 yard line.  Simms would begin with a playaction fake to Morris and threw another comeback route to Baker, who was tackled by Butler after a 14 yard gain to the 24 yard line.  The Giants would go right back to that same combination, with Simms hooking up with Baker again, and again was stopped by Butler after a 13 yard gain.  The Giants would keep going to the hot hand, this time a stop and go to Baker, who went deep and Simms just overthrew him, but only because Butler, beaten on the play, grabbed Baker and drew a 5 yard penalty and an automatic first down.  With the ball on the 44, the Giants would again play action fake to Morris, and this time Simms would go to Manuel on a deep out, taking his turn to beat Butler, and a first down to the 37 yard line, with the game taking a brief pause as the replay booth was reviewing to see if he got both feet in bounds.  Back in 1988, this was a time when Instant Replay was still not really well used and learnings from the delays in it's early years led to the use of coach's flags today (to be fair, the USFL did it first in the mid 1980s).  Anyway, the booth confirmed it was a catch and a first down.  The Giants would stay in the air, and Simms went to Mowatt on a deep pass, who was covered by Williams, but Zeke snagged the ball at the 10 yard line and set up a first and goal.  On first down, Morris nearly broke a draw up the middle for a TD, but taken down by Moore at the 5.  On 2nd down, a pitch to Morris running to his right was only able to gain 2 yards, again stopped by Moore.  On 3rd down, the Giants frustrations would mount

The first overall pick in the draft, Aundrey Bruce would get around Mowatt on a classic "look out!" block and buried Simms at the 10 yard line.  Atlanta's defense bent but did not break, bringing on McFadden to convert a 27 yarder right down the middle to make the score 13-6 with :52 to go in the 3rd quarter.

McFadden's kickoff was angled to the right side and was taken by Devin Cooper at the 2 yard line, and he would push his way up the field and get dragged down by Adrian White at the 27.  Atlanta would begin their next drive with Miller back to throw, and plenty of time early on, but was forced to scramble and he hit Lang, who was a mismatch in coverage with Carson, and was able to sprint away from the veteran and take the ball all the way to the 50, pushed out by Collins.  Lang would plow up the middle for a good 5 yard gain, stopped by Carson for the final play of the quarter.  At the Giants' 46 yard line, Settle again got good yardage running to the right side, cutting inside LT and Washington, and was taken down by Hill at the 35 yard line after a 10 yard gain.  An inside handoff to Primus, running again behind Fralic was good for 3 yards, stopped by Carson and Burt.  On 2nd and 7, Miller threw a screen pass to Lang who got behind LT, and Lang was able to burst up the field, away from LT and was grabbed by Carson and smashed hard by Hill at the 21 yard line, with Lang getting up very slowly, looking very much like a concussion, but he did get the first down.  Atlanta would go back to Primus, running to the right side, but this time the Giants strung the ball out and he was taken down by Kinard for a 2 yard loss.  On 2nd and 12, Miller was back and under heavy pressure from Washington and he was able to fling the ball away with his left hand to avoid the sack, and somehow intentional grounding as well.  3rd and 12, Miller in the shotgun got a low snap from center, was able to corral it and throw in the direction of Haynes.  However, Williams jumped on his back before the pass got there and the pass interference gave the Falcons a first down at the 15 yard line.  On first down, Miller rolled out and took a shot in the end zone towards Haynes, and again Miller showed some rust, throwing the ball nearly into the stands and missing an open Haynes.  On 2nd and 10 at the 15, Settle took the ball up the middle, but this time the Giants defense stood him up and he only gained 2 yards, stopped by Dorsey.  3rd and 8, Miller was back to throw and he would hit Dixon in the hands, thrown a tad high, but Dixon was open for a TD, getting behind the Giants' defense.  That would bring out Davis to convert a 31 yarder and he got it right down the middle.  With 11:15 to go in the game, the Falcons took a 16-6 lead.

Davis was back to kickoff again, and this time Guggemos caught it at the goal line and was able to get it out to the 20 where he was taken down on a hard by the Falcons' coverage unit.  Simms would begin with a screen pass to Morris, who caught it at the 14 yard line, waiting for his blockers to get out in front and followed them to the 26 yard line, where he was tackled by Williams.  On 2nd and 4, Simms would throw over the middle to Carthon, who batted the ball up the in the air and it was snagged by Mowatt a few more yards up the field at the 40.  The play was so surreal that the replay booth got involved and after a brief stoppage, the catch was confirmed.  However, the Giants wouldn't be able to keep up their lucky streak

Simms had all day to throw the ball and decided to uncork a deep shot towards Baker, who was double covered.  The safety, Brett Clark, came over to pick off the overthrown ball at the 15, and with Case knocking off Baker, he was able to make his way up the field to the 34 yard line, and would have gone farther if he hadn't hurt his ankle or hamstring during his return.  However, in blocking Baker, Case was given a penalty for a block in the back and that put the ball all the way to back to the Falcons' 5 yard line.

In essence, the interception was a great punt, and the Giants defense took to the field with Atlanta pinned deep in their own end.  Lang started with a handoff up the middle, but he was stacked up by Carson and Burt after just a 1 yard gain.  On 2nd and 9, a sweep to Settle, who ran right at LT, was able to gain 3 yards until he was brought down by LT and Reasons.  Now 3rd and 5, Miller took the snap, backed up in the pocket and awkwardly made his way up the field and dove headfirst for the first down at the 16 yard line.  With a new set of downs, Settle would run to the right side, and get slammed down by Banks and Reasons for no gain.  On 2nd and 10, a swing pass to Settle was a little behind him and while he caught the ball, he fell down in doing so and lost 3 yards in the process. 3rd and 13 would become 3rd and 18 as Houston Hoover was called for a false start.  Looking at a 3rd and long, Miller would drop back into his own end zone and had time to throw, but once some pressure started to come close, he would scramble up the field and gained 5 yards, stopped by Reasons, but obviously well short of a first down.  Donnelly came on to punt and the ball was very nearly blocked, and was caught by McConkey at the Giants' 47 and he took it back 3 yards before going to the ground at the 44 yard line, however the Giants at least had very good field position to work with.

Simms would begin in the shotgun and throw a deep out to Manuel, but Butler would cut in front of the pass and knock it down.  On 2nd and 10, Simms would go back to Manuel again, this time on an in cut, and he would catch it and take the ball to the 28 yard line, stopped by Moore.  And then the Falcons' defense would rise up

The Giants, down by 10 and in a no huddle, allowed back to back sacks of Simms, first by Marcus Cotton and then by Tim Green, which gave the Falcons 4 sacks on the day and pushed the Giants all the way back to the 44 yard line and the Green sack forced the Giants to call their first time out with 4:02 to go in the game.  On 3rd and 28, what calls do you have in the playbook to convert?  Well, Simms in the shotgun, would go ahead and scramble up the middle and was able to actually gain 17 yards to the 28 yard line.  Trying to preserve clock, the Giants hustled McFadden on to the field and they would convert a 45 yarder, getting the snap off before the playclock ran down and made the score 16-9 with 3:25 to go in the game.
The Giants thought about maybe going for an onside kick, but decided to boot it deep, and it was taken by Cooper at the 5 yard line, and he ran straight ahead and very upright, and got blasted by Adrian White at the 16, and the hit jarred the ball loose and it went backwards and out of bounds at the 10 yard line.  Unfortunately, the whole thing was thrown off by Kenny Hill being offsides and the Giants had to re-kick.  This time, McFadden would boot the ball to the 7, Cooper would find more room this time and got the ball to the 25 yard line, stopped by Flynn with 3:07 to go in the game.  Atlanta, nursing a 7 point lead, only needed to eat more clock.  Lang began with a run to the right side, and was tackled by Banks after a 2 yard gain and the Giants took their 2nd time out with 3:01 to go.  On 2nd and 8, a draw went to Settle, who cut back over the middle, but was hit by Banks and Dorsey and fell forward for another 4 yard gain, out to the 25.  The Giants would take their final timeout with 2:54 to go in the game.  From this point on, the Falcons showed how and why they were a team that manages to pull defeat from the jaws of victory

Rather than run the ball again, or try a quick pass, the Falcons dropped Miller back.  The Giants would come on an all out blitz, with Banks coming free and unblocked to drill Miller just as he tried to throw the ball.  It fluttered in the air and was snagged by Carson at the 32 yard line, where he was buried by a group of Falcons.  Miller came off the field shaking his throwing hand in pain.

The Giants knew their chance was now, and with no time outs, they needed to get that tying touchdown.  Simms began with a draw to Morris up the middle, and he took it to the 24 yard line, stopped by Gann.  Simms hurried back to the line and took the snap and rolled out to his right, and was able to hit Baker, again on a comeback route, and Baker snatched the ball at the 7 yard line, slipped away from Butler and turned up the sidelines and got the ball to the 3 yard line, stopped by Clark.  On the play, Butler was flagged for a hold, but the Giants declined.  With first and goal to to on the 3 yard line, Morris took the pitch running to his right and bashed into a group of Falcons at the 1 yard line, however he was held out of the end zone, and the clock ticked down to the 2 minute warning.  The Giants would come out of the time out and brought their goal line back in for the next play.

OJ had become more of a TD vulture here, as Morris did the work to get the ball to the 1.  This time OJ would follow a big Carthon block and vault over the middle and fall backwards right on his back in the end zone for a TD.  While McFadden converted the extra point, Madden and Summerall were talking that this game was going to overtime as a heavy contingent of Giants fans cheered on in the deep South.  And obviously, most people thought this TD signaled OT as well.

with 1:57 to go in the game, the Giants would kickoff.  McFadden's kick would go to Cooper at the 5, and he took it up to the 20, where he was again buried on a huge shot by Adrian White.  Hugh Miller would take over at QB, as the shot by Banks on Miller took him out of the game, officially with an elbow injury.  Miller's first play was a non-play, a false start on Fralic to make it 1st and 15.  The Falcons would hand off to Settle up the middle, good for 3 yards where he was stopped by Howard and Dorsey.  With 2 time outs, and deep in their own end, you wondered what the Falcons were going to do.  Do they just play for OT (the smart/safe play)?  Do they try to score?  They went in between and it cost them.

Talk about a stunner.  Millen dropped back to throw and a stunt by LT brought him bringing pressure right towards Millen's face.  Millen would flip a lazy pass towards Settle in the flat, who was open all day, and tried to lead him.  However, Banks read the play and intercepted it at the 15, kept his balance, and ran it in untouched for a dramatic, back breaking, incredible pick 6.  the Giants entire team would come out to celebrate the TD as Parcells frantically waived them all back so as to not get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Madden correctly pointed out the stupidity of what the Falcons just did.  You had a backup QB, coming in to the final stretch of the game cold off the bench, deep in his own end, and in a no huddle.  Why force anything?  McFadden would put through the extra point and the Giants grabbed a shocking 23-16 led despite being completely outplayed.

McFadden would come on again to kickoff, and this time it was taken by Cooper at the 5, and he got smacked out of bounds by Stacy Robinson at the 18, with 1:21 to go.  The Falcons had 2 time outs and 82 yards ahead of them.  Millen started out with time to throw and the ball went in the direction of Dixon over the middle near the 40, but the ball sailed and fell near no one.  Millen again tried a deep out to Dixon, and Collins jumped the route to try to pick it off, but he and Dixon both went out of bounds, so the pass was incomplete.  On 3rd and 10, Millen dropped back, again with time, and was able to get the ball to Dixon on a sliding catch at the 40, and he took a shot from Flynn for his efforts.  The Falcons would call their 2nd time out with :59 to go.  On first down, Millen again went back, and he was able to sling a pass over the middle to Hester, and this time Hester broke a tackle attempt by Kinard and raced up the middle, all the way to the 20, where he was stopped by Collins, but for a brief moment it looked like he was going to break it for a TD, but instead they got a 39 yard gain.  Millen would hurry to the line and throw a quick out to Dixon, who caught it and was popped by Collins and fumbled the ball, which was knocked out of bounds by Sheldon White, who blew a chance to clinch the game.  The ball was placed at the 26 with :27 to go.  In today's NFL, the pass would likely have been ruled incomplete as Dixon didn't make a "football move".  So now 2nd and 16, Millen threw a pass over the middle to Haynes, who had the ball in his hands but was hammered by Reasons, knocking the ball loose and Haynes was injured on the play.  More bad news for Atlanta, they were flagged for an illegal formation and put them further back with :23 to go.  Facing 2nd and 21, Millen was rushed and hit at his knees by LT, which caused his deep pass to float down the field.  Perry Williams was in position for the interception, but Kinard ran over to bat the ball away, which was nearly snagged by a diving Hester, but Kinard was able to get a second deflection to keep it away from him too.  With :16 to go and on 3rd down, Millen would dump the ball off to Settle, and he would chug up the field for a 10 yard gain, out to the 21, making it 4th and 11 with :09 remaining.  The Falcons still had 1 time out in their pocket.  So do they go for the first down or go to the end zone?

Millen dropped back and avoided the rush by Martin on the outside and stepped up and rolled to his right.  Dorsey would chase him down and hit him at his legs just as he threw the ball, which again floated near the goal line.  As a number of players converged, Flynn mistimed his jump to knock it away and Haynes would come behind him and grab the ball and come down at the one yard line.  Kinard with latch on to Haynes for dear life and pull him back, away from the goal line, and held him up just long enough for Williams, Reasons, Collins, and Sheldon White to grab on to the pile and push him away from the end zone.  The Falcons tried to call one last time out but the clock had expired.  Jerry Markbreit would waive the referees off the field and the game would be officially be over as the Giants escaped what would be a devestating loss and left Atlanta with a crazy 23-16 win.

Post Mortem/Interesting Tidbits

  • This game in and of itself underscored why the Falcons were such a bad team in the 1980s.  Finding ways to lose.  Imploding at the worst time.  And the Giants were lucky to hang around and take advantage of a window when it presented itself.  But more on the Falcons' futility later.
  • Carl Banks' pick 6 was the only one of his career.  Banks would only make 3 INTs over the course of his 12 year career.  Though he did score one more TD, which came off a fake field goal, when Jeff Hostetler would connect with him on a 22 yard pass in Philly in 1989
  • Paul McFadden would kick 3 field goals in this game for the Giants, a high for the season for him, which he would equal 2 weeks later against the Cowboys.  McFadden would eventually move on to kick for the Falcons in 1989 and would hold the job for 9 weeks, until he was replaced by Greg Davis.  McFadden would retire after the 1989 season.
  • Harry Carson would intercept a pass in this game, his second on the season and the final one of his Hall of Fame career.  In all, Carson would pick off 11 passes in 13 seasons.
  • OJ Anderson's TD was his second on the season, and they were in Week 8 at the time.  He would hit his stride for the second half of the season, scoring 6 TDs, including 3 vs. his former team in a 44-7 blowout of the Cardinals.
  • Simms had an awful day.  He was sacked 4 times and threw 3 INTs with no TDs.  The 3 picks were a season high for him in 1988, however it was not a career high.  He threw 4 INTs in a game 3 times.
    • 1979- vs the Colts in a 31-7 loss
    • 1986- at Seattle in a 17-12 loss
    • 1987- vs the Cowboys in a 16-14 loss
  • Stephen Baker had 104 yards on 6 catches.  It was his 2nd 100 yard game of his career, the first came in his rookie year in 1987 in a 23-14 loss at New Orleans when he caught 4 passes for 100 yards.  Baker would put up over 100 yards again a few weeks later in New Orleans, a total of 134 yards on 3 catches, including an 85 yard TD.
  • One stat that stuck out in this game.  The Giants averaged 8.8 yards to go on 3rd down at this stage of the season.  The worst in the NFL, where the average was 7.4 yards.  Much of that could be blamed on what was a revamped offensive line as they transitioned from the suburbanities and got more playing time for William Roberts (at left tackle, where he was ill suited) and rookies Eric Moore and JUmbo Elliott.  Additionally, the Giants offense featured young guys like Baker and Mark Ingram (who was lost due to a broken collarbone making a diving catch vs. the Rams) and Mark Bavaro was sluggish coming off his holdout.  All contributed to the Giants offense sputtering.
  • Though the Giants were not rivals with the Falcons, unlike their other NFC West compatriots like the 49ers and Rams, the Giants would have some strange intertwines with them over the years even though they didn't meet that often.
  • Bill Parcells' first NFL head coaching victory was at Atlanta in Week 2 of the 1983 season.  The Giants would take a 13-6 lead in the 4th quarter until Steve Bartkowski hit Alfred Jackson for an 11 yard TD to send the game to OT.  The Shiek would come on and kick a 30 yarder to win the game.
  • In 1984, the Giants would again win at Fulton County Stadium, this time 19-7.  Parcells never played the Falcons as the Giants head coach at the Meadowlands.
  • Parcells daliances with Atlanta continued behind the scenes as well.  He was linked to them after the 1986 Super Bowl victory.  Parcells was looking for more money, and a better contract.  Ultimately, he would stay on with the Giants until he retired after the 1991 Draft due to health concerns.  But as we would see later on, Parcells always had his hand in some cookie jar.  He danced with Hugh Culverhouse in Tampa Bay and the Bucs owner pretty much gave him everything he wanted, and Parcells turned him down at the last second.  He would go to the Patriots and rebuild their franchise, but was flirting with the Jets, apparently at his hotel in the Super Bowl.  After a few seasons with the Jets, he would resurface in Dallas and help rebuild them and found their new QB, Tony Romo.  He went to the front office in Miami where it didn't work out as well, and was linked to the Saints job when his former assistant, Sean Payton was suspended for a year due to the bounties that he allowed with Gregg Robinson.  Parcells was also linked back to the Giants before Coughlin was hired.  So Bill liked to get around.
  • The Giants would not face the Falcons at Giants Stadium until 1998.  By that time, the Falcons were led by Dan Reeves, coming back to play the Giants for the first time since he was fired after 1996.  Playing on a Sunday Night game, a close halftime score (Falcons up 14-13) would end up going the other way quickly, as they would take a 34-13 lead, until Kent Graham came off the bench in place of Danny Kanell to add a window dressng TD.  Reeves would lead Atlanta to their only Super Bowl appearance that year.
  • The Giants also had some interesting firsts at the Meadowlands with the Falcons.  Eli Manning's first professional start in 2004 was against Atlanta.  Despite having a 5-4 record, the Giants lost games to the Bears and then at Arizona, where starter Kurt Warner was sacked 6 times and the Giants would blow a 14-3 lead and lose 17-14.  Coughlin decided to pull the plug on Warner and hand the team over to Eli.  Eli's numbers were not bad, but not great, going 17-37 for 162 yards and 1 TD (a 6 yarder to Jeremy Shockey) and 2 INTs in a 14-10 loss to a Falcon team that would finish 11-5.
  • The first playoff game at the New Meadowlands Stadium (before it was known as MetLife Stadium), was the Wild Card round in 2011 with the Giants taking on the Falcons.  After falling behind 2-0 on a safety thanks to an intentional grounding call on Eli in the end zone, the Giants would kick into gear, thanks to a huge game by Hakeem Nicks (6 catches, 115 yards, and 2 TDs) and the Giants defense making 2 stands on 4th down, and essentially pitching a shutout in winning the game 24-2.
  • Chris Miller was forced from the game due to injury and was replaced by Hugh Millen.  Miller was one of the first cautionairy tales for concussions before the severity was widely known, suffering up to 10 over the course of his career.  Miller was a talented passer, a first round pick out of Oregon, Miller would never play a full season, but when he was healthy, he was one of the better QBs in the NFL.  In the Falcons' playoff season in 1991, Miller would play in 15 games, throw 26 TDs for 3101 yards and earn his only Pro Bowl selection.  Miller would leave the Falcons after the 1993 season and would play with the Rams in 1994 and 1995, and would miss the next 3 seasons with injury and concussion problems and come back to play in 3 games with the Broncos in 1999 before retiring.
  • John Settle would rush for 85 yards on 19 carries and 1 TD, and would also snag 7 passes for 50 more yards.  Settle, and undrafted free agent, would make the Pro Bowl in 1988, rushing for 1024 yards and catching 68 passes for an additional 570 yards and 8 total TDs.  He was the first UDFA to rush for over 1000 yards in a season.  In 1989, Settle would rush for 689 yards and catch another 39 passes for 316 yards and score 5 TDs.  By 1990, he only played in 6 games, rushed for 16 yards as he lost his job to former Oiler Mike Rozier and first round pick Steve Broussard.  Settle would be out of the NFL by 1991.
  • Scott Case would pick off a pass on the first drive of the game.  He would finish the season with an amazing 10 INTs and make the Pro Bowl.  Of course, the old saying is that if a corner has a lot of interceptions, that generally means he's being targeted by opposing offenses to the point that he has an opportunity to make so many picks, yet they keep throwing at him, so they think there are plays to be made on his side.  Case would remain at corner in 1989, paired across from a rookie named Deion Sanders, and only intercept 2 passes.  The Falcons would move him to free safety in 1990, where he remained until 1994.  He would sign with the Cowboys as an extra defensive back and win a ring in 1995.
  • Case's 10 INTs were the most since Lester Hayes picked off 13 passes in 1980.  Since that time, a number of players have had 10 INTs.
    • Ty Law (Jets)- 2005
    • Deltha O'Neal (Bengals)- 2005
    • Ronde Barber (Bucs)- 2001
    • Anthony Henry (Browns)- 2001
    • Mark Carrier (Bears)- 1990
    • Asante Samuel (Patriots)- 2006
    • Champ Bailey (Broncos)- 2006
    • Antonio Cromartie (Chargers)- 2007
  • The Giants single season record for INTs?  11 done twice
    • Otto Schnellbacher in 1951
    • Jimmy Patton in 1958
  • Some other notable Giants interception records
    • Emlen Tunnell had 10 INTs in 1949
    • Dick Lynch had 9 INTs in 1963 and was later known for his time spent as a Giants game broadcaster/game day analyst/cheerleader in the booth
    • Tom Landry had 8 INTs in 1952 and 1954.  Landry, a former Giants defensive coordinator while Vince Lombardi was the offensive coordintor, he would go on to become a Hall of Fame head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
  • The Giants most INTs since 1981?  Stevie Brown with 8 in 2012.  Brown looked like a Pro Bowler that season and looked like a bright young star.  However, a torn ACL in the preseason on an interception return against the Jets would cost him the 2013 season and come 2014, he didn't regain his starting job and there is a question if he will ever return to form.
  • So how does a team stay so bad for so long, with such high draft picks?  When they screw up the draft picks.  Just look at where they picked and who they left on the board since 1983:
    • 1983- Picked at #16- Mike Pitts, DT from Alabama.  Played 4 years with Falcons and finished career with Eagles and Patriots.
    • 1983- Passed: Joey Browner (6 time Pro Bowler with the Vikings), Gary Anderson (Pro Bowl with Chargers), Jim Jeffcoat (15 year NFL career and won 2 Super Bowls), Gil Byrd (2 time Pro Bowler with Chargers), Ken O'Brien (2 time Pro Bowler with Jets), Dan Marino (Hall of Famer QB with Dolphins), Don Mosebar (11 year career with Raiders), Darrell Green (Hall of Fame CB with Redskins)
    •  1984- Picked at #9- Rick Bryan, DE from Oklahoma (played 9 years with Falcons, no Pro Bowls)
    • 1984 Passed: Wilbur Marshall (3 time Pro Bowl LB), Keith Millard (DT with Vikings, 2 time Pro Bowler and 1989 Defensive Player of the Year), Ron Solt (13 year career at guard and 1 Pro Bowl), John Alt (13 year left tackle with 2 Pro Bowls with Chiefs), Greg Bell (Pro Bowl running back), Louis Lipps (2 time Pro Bowler with Steelers and owner of a great name), William Roberts (played 14 years, won 2 Super Bowls, made 1 Pro Bowl)
    • 1985- Picked at #2- Bill Fralic- Guard from Pitt.  No real complaints here, Fralic was a very good player, made 4 Pro Bowls in a 9 year career.  
    • 1985- Passed.  Since Fralic was such a good player, you can't complain.  Except that they passed on Chris Doleman, who would go on to the Hall of Fame as a DE.  And another guy named Jerry Rice who was pretty good.
    •  1986- Picked at #2- Tony Casillas- DT Oklahoma.  Played a 12 year career but only 5 in Atlanta and made his name in Dallas.
    •  1986- Passed- Jim Everett (12 year career and 1 Pro Bowl as a QB), Leslie O'Neal (6 Time Pro Bowl DE), Keith Byars (13 year career at RB and 1 Pro Bowl), Will Wolford (13 year career at left tackle and 3 Pro Bowls), Neal Anderson (4 time Pro Bowl running back with Bears).
    • 1987- Picked at #13- Chris Miller QB from Oregon (made 1 Pro Bowl)
    • 1987- Passed- Haywood Jeffries (3 time Pro Bowl WR), Harris Barton (12 year career at right tackle and 1 Pro Bowl), Bruce Armstrong (6 time Pro Bowl as a left tackle for New England), Jim Harbaugh (15 year career and 1 Pro Bowl)
    • 1988- Picked at #1- Aundray Bruce, LB from Auburn.  "The next LT".  Played 4 years at Atlanta before going to the Raiders.  0 Pro Bowls.
    • 1988- Passed: Neal Smith (6 time Pro Bowl DE), Bennie Blades (10 year career at safety for Lions and Seahawks and made 1 Pro Bowl), Paul Gruber (12 year career at tackle and 2 Pro Bowls), Tim Brown (Hiesman Trophy winner and 9 time Pro Bowl WR/returner), Sterling Sharpe (5 time Pro Bowl WR), Terry McDaniel (5 time Pro Bowl corner), Michael Irvin (Hall of Fame WR), Ken Harvey (4 time Pro Bowl LB), Keith Jackson (6 tiem Pro Bowl TE), Anthony Miller (5 Time Pro Bowl WR), Randall McDaniel (Hall of Fame guard)
    • 1989- Picked #5- Deion Sanders- CB- Florida State.  Sanders would go to the Hall of Fame was one of the best corners in NFL History.  No complaints there.  Amazingly, the 1989 draft, of the first 5 players, 4 would go to the Hall of Fame (Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion).  The only one who didn't go?  Tony Mandarich, offensive tackle with the Packers and steriod fraud.
    • 1990- Falcons were picking #1, but traded the pick who would turn out to be QB Jeff George to the Colts.  This would turn out to be a smart move by Atlanta.  They gave up the #1 pick (George) and a fourth rounder in 1990, and got back Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Hinton (known as one of the guys traded for John Elway) and WR Andre Rison.  They also got a 5th in 1990 (Reggie Redding, OT), and a first rounder in 1991 (Mike Pritchard- WR with the 13th pick).
  • Though the Falcons would finish 1988 at 5-11, they had some impressive ones in that group.  They would beat the 49ers in San Francisco in Week 3, handing the Niners their first defeat of a season which would end with a Super Bowl victory.  They would also go into Philly and beat the Eagles, a team that won 10 games and the NFC East.  Not only that, they would go into LA and beat a hot Raiders team, snapping their 3 game winning streak.  And they very nearly added the Giants to their list.
  • Atlanta would go 3-13 in 1989 and 5-11 in 1990.  It wasn't until 1991, under Jerry Glanville and the Deion Sanders/Andre Rison trash talking team did they finally finish with a winning record, at 10-6 and they won a Wild Card game at New Orleans, 27-20.  They would lose the next week, 24-7 against the eventual champion Redskins.
  • One thing stuck out in watching the highlights though...why was Madden and Summerall there?  CBS at the time broadcast the NFC games and interconference games when the AFC team was at home.  Madden and Summerall were the clear #1 team, so why broadcast the Giants vs Falcons?  Well, the marquee NFC game that week was the 49ers at Chicago, a game that would prove to be a preview of the NFC Championship, but that was a Monday Night game on ABC.  The other broadcast games on their slate:
    • Dallas @ Eagles
    • Redskins @ Packers
    • Lions @ Chiefs
    • Vikings @ Bucs
You would think you have a rivalry game with Philly/Dallas and two of the older franchises in Packers and Redskins at Lambeau.  But I guess, when in doubt, put them in the biggest market with the Giants.