Saturday, February 4, 2017

1985 Giants vs 49ers

Wild Card Playoffs

The Setup


Before free agency and the salary cap, generally speaking you never saw teams just burst on the scene and go from worst to first, and certainly not to jump right to a Super Bowl contender.  In some ways by design, as the NFL looks to bring the league along so that all teams are generally competitive and have a chance at winning a title over the course of time...the dreaded word "parity".  It's not out of the realm of possibility that each year, of the 12 playoff teams in each conference, that you would see 5-6 new teams in from the prior season, basically a turnover of 50%.  That gives hopes to the downtrodden fan bases that with a bit of competent management from an ownership, front office, and coaching standpoint, a team can turn around their fortunes.  And if you see teams struggle year after year (ie- the Browns), you can usually point to a failure in one or more of those 3 areas as to why a team cannot even find themselves in the playoff picture.  Similarly, the way the NFL is today, there isn't much difference between a team that is 9-7 and 13-3.  In 2011, the 9-7 NY Giants, a team that was 7-7 with 2 weeks to go, went into Green Bay, taking on the defending World Champions who went 15-1, and blew them out in the playoffs, the score of 37-20 wasn't even indicative of how thorough a blowout it was as the refs gave the Pack some favorable calls that kept it closer.  That same 9-7 Giants team would beat the 13-3 49ers in San Francisco, and then beat the Patriots, also a 13-3 team and the only real dynasty in the post salary cap/ free agency period, in the Super Bowl.  That fact alone showed you one of two things:  The Giants were a much better team than their 9-7 record and under performed during the season and got hot at the right time, or there really wasn't as big a gap between them at 9-7 and teams who won 15 and 13 games.  Or perhaps a bit of both.


But in the years prior to that, it generally became a 5 year plan for coaches and front offices to build up a championship caliber club.  With such a long period, it's no surprise that there were so many dynasties in the 1970s and 1980s:  Steelers, Cowboys, 49ers, etc.  Conversely, you had your doormats who were bad year after year.  Unfortunately, the Giants were one of those teams.  The Giants made their 3rd straight NFL Championship game in 1963, following up an 11-3 season with a 14-10 loss to the Bears in Chicago at Wrigley Field.  From that point on, the Giants went from a marquee team, who had played in 6 of the previous 8 championship games (winning it in 1956), to a brutal team.  Between 1964 and 1980, a 17 year span, the Giants would have a winning record in 2 of them.  They finished in last in their division 9 times.  When the NFL and Pete Rozelle stepped in to save the Giants, and the feuding Wellington and Tim Mara from themselves, and brokered George Young to take over as GM, Young was able to put in an organizational structure which was used to help build up the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins championship organizations.  We all know the story, drafting Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor, finally making the playoffs in 1981 and knocking out the defending NFC Champion Eagles in the Vet in the Wild Card and giving the eventual Super Bowl 49ers a tough match the next week.  When Ray Perkins left after the 1982 season, the Giants tabbed their young defensive coordinator Bill Parcells to take over as the head man.  He had helped re-build the Giants defense to their usual history as a dominant group, thanks to guys like LT, Harry Carson, and bringing in young studs like Terry Kinard and Leonard Marshall.  Parcells first year was forgettable, going 3-12-1.  In 1984, with the buzzards circling, Parcells responded with a 9-7 season, and a playoff appearance, this time beating the Rams in LA, until, again, giving the eventual Super Bowl champion 49er team a tough game in Candlestick.


By 1985, fans and media wondered if the Giants were for real, and were they building towards a championship or were they another 1981 kind of flash in the pan.  But by 1985, the signs were there that the Giants were putting together a dangerous team.  The defense was starting to become a dominant unit, they had Pro Bowlers in LT, Carson, and Marshall.  A group of solid veterans like Jim Burt, Curtis McGriff, Byron Hunt, and Andy Headen. And they had a few rising young stars like Kinard, Gary Reasons, and Carl Banks.  Offensively, Phil Simms had officially established himself as the starting QB and ended the QB controversy.  And they had a couple of rising young stars in running back Joe Morris and a rookie TE named Mark Bavaro.  But the Giants were trying to find their way among the traditional contenders.  You had the 49ers, the defending champions.  The Chicago Bears were building a monster in their own right, making the NFC Championship game in 1984.  In the Giants own division, they had to beat out the traditional powers in the Cowboys and Redskins.  So how would they fit within this group?  Well, the Giants answered the bell, going into the final game of the season vs. the Steelers, the Giants needed a win to get to 10-6 and thanks to various tie breakers, clinch a playoff spot and not only that, a home playoff game.  In that game, Morris went off, rushing for 202 yards and 3 TDs.  As it would turn out, in 1985 you had 4 teams finish at 10-6 with only 3 spots to give for the playoffs.  The Cowboys won the NFC East at 10-6, thanks to a sweep of the Giants and a better record in the division (the Giants would blow 2 heart breakers to Dallas in 1985).  Meanwhile, the Giants record against NFC Teams (8-4) was better than the other 10-6 teams in San Francisco (7-5) and Washington (6-6).  That meant that the Giants would host a playoff game at home for the first time since 1962.  That would also send the Redskins home, even though they finished the season with 5 wins in their final 6 games.  


The Giants opponent would be the 49ers.  The Niners had come off a dominant 1984 season, going 15-1 and winning the Super Bowl.  They also added a young rookie WR named Jerry Rice into their innovative West Coast offense under Bill Walsh, with Joe Montana in his prime at the trigger.  They also had a dual threat in Roger Craig at running back, the first man in NFL history to record a 1000 yard season both rushing and receiving in the same season.  But they were decidedly not dominant.  A loss to the Denver Broncos at Mile High in Week 10 made them 5-5, hardly what you would expect from a dynasty.  But the Niners righted the ship, like Washington, also winning 5 of their final 6 games, including a stunning 35-8 blowout at RFK.  The Niners would clinch their playoff spot by beating the Cowboys at Candlestick.  Though Dallas didn't need the win, they jumped out to a 13-0 lead.  But the Niners chipped away and took control in the 2nd half by outscoring Dallas 21-0 en route to a 31-16 win.  


For the Giants and their fans, this was their moment to show that they could play with the big boys.  The Niners team was playoff tested, but they were also beaten up.  Joe Montana was injured vs. the Cowboys and wasn't sure he could play.  Ronnie Lott hurt his pinky smashing it against a Cowboy player and injured it badly.  He would go out there with a massive cast thing on his hand and play vs. the Giants, an injury which would eventually lead to his decision to amputate the tip of his pinky prior to the 1986 season so he could play without the whole recovery effort.  Roger Craig, putting up record numbers, was also fading down the stretch.  Craig was averaging over 5 yards a carry his first 10 games of the season.  By the last 6 games, it was closer to 3.5 a carry.  

For the Giants, they didn't care.  Their 2 previous playoff trips in the 1980s ended at the hands of the Niners in the 2nd round.  This time it would be different.  This was the Giants opportunity to show that they deserved to be talked about with the rest of the contenders.  And on what was a not so cold day in late December in NJ, the Giants aimed to do just that.

The Game Highlights


I've said it before on other reviews, no amount of graphics, or music, or half naked women dancing and singing (thought, that doesn't hurt) has ever been able to match the ability of the CBS Intros prior to a game. When that intro was done with Pat Summerall providing the narration, and set the stage for a Madden/ Summerall called game, you know that you were watching the premiere matchup of the weekend. I didn't need it to come at 4:25 in the "NFL Game of the Week", nor did it need to come at whatever the flexed time on Sunday Night Football. Just give me Madden and Summerall, and that was the game that we should be focusing on. And a playoff game at Giants Stadium? Perfect.

The Niners would get the ball first, as Eric Schubert would kick off and send the ball to Carl Monroe at the 7 yard line and he would run straight ahead and be cut down by Lee Rouson at the 23 yard line.  On the play, the Giants starting corner Elvis Patterson went down holding his knee as his cleat got stuck in the turf.  Which was a tough blow for the Giants, as their usual starter, Mark Haynes, a Pro Bowler held out and got hurt and was out with a hamstring.  So that brought on backup Ted Watts as Patterson was helped off the field.  The Niners first play was a drop back by Montana and a play action fake to Craig, which bought some time, but then he had to scramble to his right as Lawrence Taylor came free, and the ball was thrown up the field in the direction of the rookie Jerry Rice, but he was well covered by Watts and the ball floated out of bounds.  2nd and 10, with 2 TEs, the ball was pitched to Craig running to his right, and gained 4 yards as he was smacked down by Harry Carson and Byron Hunt.  3rd and 6, with Dwight Clark in motion, Andy Headen came on a blitz and was picked up, and zipped the ball to Rice by the sidelines, and he was hit and knocked out of bounds by Watts, but the rookie broke his route off too soon and went out short of the first down.  That brought on Max Runager to punt, who sent the ball to Phil McConkey on a high kick, and he fielded it at the 32 and was hit down by Bill Ring at the 36.  

The Giants offense took the field for the first time,  and gave to Joe Morris, who made a quick cut up the middle and got the ball out to the 45, hit down by Ronnie Lott, but a good 9 yard gain to start.  2nd and 1, with McConkey in motion, the ball went to Morris, who again cut back to his right and found a hole for 6 yards, taken down again by Lott at the Niners’ 49.  Simms dropped back, with plenty of time as Morris picked up the blitz, and he dumped it off to Rob Carpenter at the 43, and he took it up the field to the 33 yard line, hit by Mike Walter, but good for another first down.  First down, the ball went to Morris on a sweep to his right, following pulling guard Billy Ard and he was hit down by Keena Turner at the 30.  2nd and 7, Simms back, with time, and he had an open Morris, but the ball sailed over his head, which is what happens when you are 5’7”.  3rd and 7, Simms in the gun, took a shot towards McConkey, who beat Dwight Hicks, but the ball was just out of reach in the end zone.  Schubert came on for a 47 yarder, which was near the end of his range.


The Giants wanted to get that lead early, and Schubert, who was teaching high school before he got a call from the Giants, hit a line drive and used the wind to hook the ball through the upright as Bill Parcells celebrated with a fist pump and got the crowd on their feet for a 3-0 lead with 11:03 to go in the first quarter.

Schubert came back out to kick off, and there was a brief delay as ref Red Cashen came over to Parcells to tell him the 49ers sidelines was having problems with their headsets to the booth, so as a result, the Giants sidelines had to turn theirs off as well.  With that sorted, the kick was a line drive kind of mess, which bounced at the 15, and rolls past Monroe and into the end zone, where he just took a knee for a touchback.  Ball at the 20, Montana took the snap, and had time and he lobbed a deep pass to Clark up the field and took a shot from Kenny Hill, but the catch was good for 20 yards to the 40.  On first down, Bubba Paris got called for a false start as he rocked back with LT standing over him.  1st and 15, Montana with a fake draw and dumped to Russ Francis, who caught it at the 40 and he was tackled by LT at the 45.  2nd and 5, the carry to Craig, running to his right, found a lane and made it to the Giants’ 46, hit down by Watts and LT.  Montana back to throw and he got nailed by LT, but got the ball off to Francis at the 44 and he was run down by Carson and Hunt at the 38, about 1 yard short of a first down.  2nd and 1, a quick handoff to Craig, but Leonard Marshall got penetration and was standing right in his way and he threw down the running back for a loss of one.  On 3rd and 2, the Niners challenged the Giants defense


The Giants defense in the mid 1980s was one of the toughest to run on in the NFL.  And the Niners took their shot at them to convert on a 3rd and short, with pitch to Craig running to his left (and away from LT).  However, Kenny Hill came up from his safety spot and caused interference with the pulling blockers, Gary Reasons forced Craig up inside and waiting for him were Carson and Hunt who nailed him and sent him backwards, short of the first down.  A field goal was out of the question with Ray Wersching’s leg, an accurate if not strong one, so that brought out Rungar to punt to McConkey, who uncharacteristically let the ball bounce at the 10 and it took a Niner roll all the way down to the 2 where it was covered up by more or less the entire special teams unit, with John Frank doing the honors with 7:27 to go in the first quarter.

Giants backed up deep in their own end, and gave the ball to Rob Carpenter, who evaded Michael Carter, cut to his left, where he stiff armed a Niner and chugged up the field and took a shot from Lott at the 12 yard line and fell forward to the 14.  First down, Simms back, gave to Morris on a draw running to his right, but he bounced into John Hardy and was swarmed by the defense and knocked down at the 13 for a loss of 1.  2nd and 11, Simms gave to Morris, on another draw, and he chugged up the middle for 3, hit down by Rikki Ellison.  Now 3rd and 8, Simms went in the shotgun and he fielded a high snap from Bart Oates, dropped back and had plenty of time to throw and tried to hit Bobby Johnson on crossing pattern at the 30, but he was leveled by Lott and knocked the ball free.  An offsides on the Niners gave the Giants an extra shot at it on 3rd and 3.  Simms stayed in the gun, and with time to throw was able to hit their rookie first round pick, George Adams, who was playing as a TE, on an out route at the 27 yard line for another first down, taken down by Keena Turner.  First and 10, Morris took the handoff and plowed ahead for 3 yards, hit down by Fred Dean.  2nd and 7, Simms faked the handoff to Morris, and with plenty of time in the pocket, threw a deep out to Lionel Manuel at the 49, where he got both feet in bounds and kept the Giants drive moving with yet another first down, as he beat the rookie Tory Nixon.  Morris took the handoff, again powering ahead to his right, good for 3 yards, to the Niners’ 48, hit by Jeff Stover.  2nd and 7, Simms would drop back, and with a little pressure, dumped the ball off to Morris at the 50, and Little Joe would cut back over the middle and got the ball to the 44, hit down by Carlton Williamson.  3rd and 2, Simms gave the Niners a hard count, and nearly got them to jump, and handed off to Morris, following Maurice Carthon, running to his left, would absorb a hit by Turner, but fell forward for another first down to the 40.  Simms on first down tried a deep shot to Mark Bavaro over the middle, but Bavaro got tripped up by Ellison and fell down, and the ball fell incomplete.  2nd and 10, Morris took the carry up the middle, but this time Carter was waiting and took him down for a loss of 2.  3rd and 12, with Simms in the gun, he had time to throw and tried to dump it off to his 3rd down specialist, Tony Galbreath, but the ball was batted in the air by Dean and nearly was picked off.  That stop an impressive drive, which flipped field position, and Sean Landeta would come on try a pooch kick, which was fielded by McLemore on a fair catch at the 19, not Landeta’s best effort, and the Niners would take over with 1:48 to go in the first quarter.

On first down, Montana would handoff to Craig, running up the middle, would be met by Jim Burt and George Martin, good for only a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, Montana took a 3 step drop and got nailed by Andy Headen just as he threw a slant to Rice, who caught it at the 33, and was hit down by Watts at the 35, meanwhile behind the play, Montana was slow to get up.  On first down, Montana wouldn’t be so lucky to get away


In 1986, Jim Burt would end Joe Montana’s season in the NFC Divisional Round with a big hit that resulted in an LT pick 6 and a concussion for Montana.  In this case, Montana dropped back, felt the heat from Marshall, which forced him to duck away, LT would shove the pile back, and gave Burt a chance to barge in to take him down for a sack back at the 26.  2nd and 19, Montana back again, and with Burt coming in on him, dumped off a screen pass to Frank, who caught it at the 20, and was chased down by LT at the 34 yard line on the final play of the first quarter.  3rd and 11, Montana had a semi rollout with a moving pocket, and threw back to the middle to Francis, who caught it and dragged Reasons and Hill to the Giants’ 46 yard line, good for a first down.  Montana would throw on first down, and with Headen coming on a blitz up the middle, would knock the pass down.  Meanwhile, behind the play, Guy McIntyre took a cheap shot at Burt, who got up and literally launched McIntyre back about 5 yards after the whistle, and fortunately no flags on the Giants nose tackle.  2nd and 10, a bubble screen to Craig, who caught it in the left flat at the 49, ran past Hunt, and was knocked out of bounds by Perry Williams at the 32 yard line, good for a first down.  Bill Walsh would try some razzle dazzle on the next play, a reverse from Craig running to his left, to Rice, coming back to the right, and Rice set up and threw a pass down the middle of the field, in the direction of Dwight Clark, but Watts and Terry Kinard were both with him and the ball fell incomplete.  2nd and 10, a deep pitch to Derek Harmon, and going to his right, looked like he might set up to throw, but he kept the ball and ran into a wall of Giants and was hit down by Watts at the 32 for no gain.  3rd and 10, the Giants again blitzed Montana, who was going backwards as Martin came in on him and hit him as he threw and he got the ball off for a deep pass towards Harmon, but it fluttered out of bounds as the Giants crowd roared.  Again, on 4th down, it was too deep for Wersching, so Runager came on to punt and tried to repeat his earlier effort, but this time it bounced in the end zone for a touchback.

Giants got the ball at the 20, and started with a handoff to Morris running to his right and faked an end around to Byron Williams, followed a block by pulling guard Chris Godfrey and cut up the field to the 26 yard line, hit down by Shell.  On 2nd down, Simms dropped back and with a blitz coming in from SF, he hit Bavaro in the flat on a hot route, and the rookie TE grabbed it at the 30, turned up the field, spun off a tackle and went out of bounds at the 39 for another first down.  The Giants went the ground again, and again Morris followed pulling guard Billy Ard to the right side, Bavaro sealed the edge, and Morris turned the corner and up the field to the 47 where he was knocked out of bounds by Dwight Hicks.  On 2nd and 3, Morris was hit behind the line by Carter, but he bounced off the big NT, and lunged forward to the 48, covered up by Shell.  3rd and 2, Ronnie Lott called a time out because he realized they had 12 men on the field and would have been a first down, and he got it off before Simms could snap it, and Simms was disgusted because he saw the same thing the future Hall of Fame safety did and missed an opportunity.  3rd and 2, with Don Hasselbeck in motion, and he would pat Simms on the butt as he passed, which was Simms indication to snap it, and the ball went to Morris, who darted up the middle, as Oates moved Carter out of the way and he bounced off a shoulder tackle by Lott, who couldn’t wrap up with his finger injury, and he fell forward to the Niner’s 45, for another first down. Simms dropped back and threw an out to Manuel, who beat Nixon on a corner route and a first down to the 30.  Simms would drop back to throw again, and this time a moving pocket to his right, and tried to hit Bobby Johnson on about the 15 yard line, but Simms was hit as he threw, and the ball sailed off Johnson’s hands and out of bounds.  2nd and 10, the Giants again ran the same sweep to Morris running to his right, and this time the Niners were more prepared and stopped him at the 26, with Turner taking out his legs.  3rd and 7, Simms in the gun, had a high snap and tried to hit Galbreath over the middle, but it went just off his hands.  So on came Schubert came on for a 43 yarder.  


As Madden and Summerall were talking about Jeff Rutledge, the holder and the Giants penchant for trying fake field goals, Madden felt that Schubert would kick it.  On a weird TV angle, we saw that Madden was right, but the Giants probably should have gone for the fake.  Schubert’s kick was a weak line drive that went off to the left.  So the Giants, who were dominating the pace of the game against the defending World Champions, were still up only 3-0 with 10:06 to go in the half.

Niners would start at the 26 yard line (back in 1985, on a missed FG, you got the ball at the line of scrimmage, not the spot of the kick), Montana would drop back, with a blitz coming in from Williams, and threw an out to Rice, who caught it at the 29 yard line and was shoved out of bounds by Watts for a 7 yard gain.  On 2nd and 3, the Niners would make a mistake


In a rare moment for SF, Montana actually had time to throw and a clean pocket and tried to hit Francis over the middle, but the ball bounced off Francis’ hands, as he was well covered by Reasons, and into the waiting arms of Terry Kinard at the Giants’ 48 yard line.  Kinard made his way up the field and was tackled by Rice at the 38 yard line.  

First down Giants, Simms would fake the handoff to Morris and then throw to Bavaro underneath who was coming across the field, he grabbed it at the 35, with room to run, turned up the field and stopped short at the 30 and cut back, with Michael Walter over running the play, and Lott flashing past, and ran into Nixon who was given a 5 yard ride to the 24 and another first down.  Morris took the handoff up the middle, and looked to have a window, but it closed quickly as Carter bounced him backwards for a loss of 1 yard.  Simms would drop back, and with time to throw, dumped it out to Carpenter in the right flat, who caught it at the 28 yard line, and plowed his way to the 18 yard line, hit out of bounds by Ellison.  On 3rd and 5, the Giants went to their rising star at TE


When the 1985 season started, the Giants expected Zeke Mowatt to be their main TE, who had a breakout season in 1984.  However, an ACL tear shelved him for the season.  That opened up a chance for the Notre Dame rookie to get more playing time.  His blocking ability allowed him to play (Parcells would not play a TE who couldn’t block), and as the season moved along, he flashed his ability to make plays in the passing game.  By the post season, we started to see Bavaro bloom and show the signs of what would become the NFL’s best all around TE the next season.  In this instance, the Niners came on a blitz, which was picked up by the interior line and Carpenter.  Gave Simms plenty of time to rifle a deep pass to Bavaro, who beat Ronnie Lott and Carlton Williamson on a post and Bavaro would stick his big right hand up and snag the ball with one hand, bring it to his chest, secure it, and score a huge TD.  As was his custom, Bavaro didn’t even smile coming off the field to accept congratulations from his teammates.  Schubert would hit the extra point to make the score 10-0 in the 2nd quarter

Schubert’s kickoff was short, going to Monroe at the 5 and he would take it up the middle to the 27 yard line, hit down by Carthon and Herb Welch.  A block in the back on San Francisco on Mike Walter would send the Niners’ back to the 12.  With the crowd now in full throat, Montana on a 3 step drop hit Clark at the 17 (playing with a “slight concussion”), and he would turn his way to the 20, hit down by LT.  Meanwhile behind the play, Leonard Marshall got in a fight with Bubba Paris and got flagged for a personal foul and gave the Niners a first down at the 35.  Craig would get the ball and try to run to his right on a sweep, and Carl Banks would cause a pile, force a cutback over the middle and Craig was hit down by George Martin and Marshall after a 4 yard gain.  2nd and 6, Banks came free on a blitz, forced a quick pass in the flat to Craig, but the ball was high and bounced off his hands, but was shadowed by Carson.  3rd and 6, came an annoying call


This is a text book “jailbreak” sack on a QB.  In this case, Montana went back and by the time he was on his 5th step in his drop, there were 3 Giants all over him.  As he was swallowed up by Marshall, and with LT swooping in, Red Cashen would throw an unnecessary roughness on Casey Merrill, who kind of jumped on the pile and Montana.  Even in the mid 1980s, you can’t hit an All Pro QB.  So the drive, which was stopped would continue with the ball at the 41.  First down, the pitch to the right for Craig, looked for room but only found about 3 yards, with Carson flying in to fill the hole.  2nd and 7, the draw went to Tyler, who broke a tackle in the backfield by Marshall, and surged forward until he was hit down by Burt and Banks at the 48, setting up 3rd and 2.  Montana would drop ball, roll to his right, and with Marshall bearing down on him and nailing him as he threw the ball, got the pass off to Clark over the middle at the Giants’ 37 yard line and he would be hit down there by LT and Williams, but good for a first down.  Tyler would take the handoff, but he was met by LT coming down the line, and Banks as well, for just a 1 yard gain.  2nd and 9, a sweep to Tyler running to his left would work, as LT would get cut down, find a lane and make his way out to the 27 yard line, tripped down by Carson, but good for another first down.  Tyler would find a crease on first down, break through the line and get to the 16 yard line, hit down by LT and Kinard.  The Giants would take a timeout with 3:00 remaining in the first half to collect themselves.  With another first down, the Niners would stay on the ground and give to Craig up the middle, but he would only get 1 yard, hit by Martin and Marshall.  2nd and 9, Tyler would be met by Burt at the 14 yard line and would be thrown to the ground.  3rd and 8, the clock would be stopped at the 2 minute warning.  



With Montana again under duress and running for his life from Marshall, Burt, and LT, going backwards and to the right, he would heave a pass towards Mike Wilson, but the ball would fall incomplete.  However, a flag for a defensive hold on Watts gave the Niners a 3rd first down on the drive thanks to a defensive penalty, an iffy call at best, particularly in the 1980s when pass defense was much more aggressive.  So first and goal at the 9 as the boo birds were out at the Stadium, the pitch went to Craig running to his right, but Banks was waiting there and he cut him down at the 7.  2nd and goal at the 7, Montana dropped back and with LT barging in, forced a pass towards Craig which floated over his head.  3rd and goal, the Niners would call their 2nd time out with 1:14 to go in the half.  With the defense getting ready to put pressure on, the center, Fred Quillan twitched for a false start, and set the Niners back to the 12 yard line.  Montana would drop back, again with pressure coming in on him from LT and Burt, he had to get the pass off towards Clark, who caught it at the 9 yard line, and he was chased down at the 4 by Williams and Headen.  On 4th and goal, the Niners would stay out on the field and let the clock run down to :25 and called their final timeout.  And after thinking it over, Bill Walsh made the correct call, take the points on the road and sent out Ray Wersching for a 21 yard field goal that was good and made the score 10-3 with :22 to go.  

Wersching’s kickoff would be a squib shot down the middle and taken by Galbreath at the 18 yard line and he would pick his way out to the 35 yard line, hit down by Jeff Fuller with :16 to go and the Giants had 2 time outs.  The Giants would come out in the shotgun, and set up a screen to Galbreath at the 31, and he followed his blockers and made his way to the 43 yard line and knocked out of bounds by Fuller to stop the clock with :08.  2nd and 1, Simms in the gun, and as he was being hit by Dwayne Board, he tried to dunk it off to Galbreath, but the ball went off his hands.  3rd and 1 with :03 to go, it was Hail Mary time, and Simms chucked it into a pile, which resulted in a pick by Williamson at the 18 yard line and brought the game to halftime.

After the Hawthorne Caballeros left the field at halftime, and Wersching’s kick was sent deep to Lee Rouson at the 5 yard line and he made it to the 23 yard line, hit down by John Frank.  The Giants would begin with a handoff to Morris, who started up the middle and cut to his left and had what looked like a big gain, but he was ankle tackled by Williamson for no gain.  2nd and 10, Simms back, dumped off to Carpenter, who was all alone at the 23 on a check down and the fullback plowed ahead to the 36, hit down by Hicks but good for a first down.  A sweep to Morris running to his left was strung out by the Niners and he was hit down by Dean and Walter for a 1 yard gain.  Simms back on 2nd down, hit Lionel Manuel on a button hook at the 49 yard line, and he darted past Hicks first and turned up the field to the 49er 41, caught from behind by Hicks.  First down, the give went to Carpenter, who turned the corner around Brad Benson and Billy Ard, and he gained 6 yards to the 35, hit down by Walter.  On 2nd down, we saw Morris’ quickness on display


Simms pitched back to Morris to ran to his right and followed a number of big blocks in front of him, including a seal by Bavaro, which Morris saw and cut back to his left, inside a cut block by Chris Godfrey, and darted through the line, past a weak tackle attempt by Lott playing with that bad hand, and taken down at the 5 yard line by Keena Turner after a 30 yard gain.  Morris would limp off the field on first and goal and the ball went to George Adams, who ran to his left, and was met by Ellison and fell forward to the 2, the ball would come loose but the refs called him down.  Morris would come back on the field and the Giants would go with a power package, including Conrad Goode at TE.  Thinking the Giants would pound it in, the Giants would surprise the Niners


With the 49ers fully expecting Morris to hammer it in, Simms would fake the handoff to Morris, roll slightly to his right and throw back over the middle to a wide open Don Hasselback, with Ellison well behind the play for a huge TD as the Giants Stadium crowd would roar with approval.  Schubert’s extra point was good to make the score 17-3 with 10:56 to go in the 3rd.  

Schubert’s kick was short, going to Monroe at the 14 yard line, and he was corralled by Rouson at the 22 yard line, as the ball came loose and players were flying after it, but the refs called him down, though replays showed it probably was a fumble (there was no instant replay in 1985).  The 49ers started off with Montana dropping back and time to throw and he rifled a pass in to Rice at the 40, but the ball bounced off the rookie’s shoulder pad and fell incomplete.  2nd and 10, Tyler would run to his left, find a crease and made it out to the 31 yard line, hit down by Carson, but one yard short of a first.  3rd and 1, Montana faked a handoff to Craig, and with Marshall and LT coming after him, flipped it out to Francis at the 32 and was hit immediately by Kenny Hill and thrown backwards.  The refs would mark him short of the first down and the Niners went 3 and out.  Runager’s punt went to McConkey at the 29, and he fielded it, headed up the field to the 40, hit down by Frank with 9:09 to go in the 3rd.

The Giants offense would come out, and start with a pass to Bavaro who set up at the 44 yard line on an out and caught the ball, got away from Lott and took the ball to the Niners’ 48 yard line, hit down by Walter, but good for another first down.  Carpenter took the next carry, running to his left, and cut back to the 45, hit down by Shell.  2nd and 7, Simms back, and took a deep shot to Manuel, but the ball was batted away by Hicks.  3rd and 7, Simms in the gun, and with a blitz coming from the Niners, he took a shot by Hicks, who ran past a missed block by Adams,  which caused a floater that fell incomplete.  Landeta’s punt would bounce into the end zone for a touchback with 7:36 to go.


In 1986, the 49ers would visit the Meadowlands and early in the game, Jerry Rice caught a pass and with clear field ahead of him, fumbled into the end zone for a touchback and the Giants were off the races in a 49-3 blow out.  One year earlier, heading in the same direction, Montana dropped back and with pressure coming from Marshall, threw off his back foot to Rice, who hauled it in over the middle at the 35, he would break a tackle by Kinard.  As he cut back to get around Hill, he didn’t feel Andy Headen coming behind him to knock the ball free at the 39.  With the ball on the ground, Byron Hunt would jump on it at the 46, as Mike Wilson tried to steal it away.  With a question of who might have it, Hunt left no doubt by coming out of the pile with the ball.  

The Giants started with a pass by Simms to Bavaro at the 40 and he would make it to the 36, shouldered out by Lott.  2nd and 1, Morris running to his left, scooted forward for a first down out to the 33 yard line, hit down by Walter.  First down, a play action and the Giants went for it all and a deep end zone shot to Manuel, who was open, but the ball sailed just incomplete.  2nd and 10, Simms dropped back again, and this time the Niners’ blitz got to Simms, who was hit as he threw it and the ball went incomplete, trying to hit Bavaro.  


In the NFL today, we are pretty used to pass interference calls, and ticky tack calls that have changed the way the game has played (though, the refs tend to look the other way when it benefits the Giants...it is what it is).  In this case, on 3rd and 10, Simms was in the gun and tried to hit McConkey over the middle at the 26, and would have been short of a first down, and the ball went off his hands.  What also happened was McConkey was tackled and got up looking for a flag and they gave it to him, calling pass interference on Hicks.  What also made this an 80s classic was referee Red Cashen, who made the call, and got his patented “First Downnnn!” call.  So the ball was placed at the 26 and the pitch to Morris running to his right and he got it to the 20 yard line, hit down by Shell, but good for a nice 6 yard gain.  2nd and 4, Morris took the carry, again running to his right, but was tripped up by Williamson and fell forward to 19 yard line.  3rd and 3, Simms again in the gun, and with an all out blitz up the middle, Simms had some time, and took a shot, but the ball was knocked back in his face by Williamson.  So that brought out Schubert from 36 to make it a 3 score game


So aggravating.  I hate when the Giants have a team on the ropes, ready for a knockout, but don’t put it away.  And it’s especially bad when they miss semi-chip shot field goals like a 36 yarder that sailed wide right, making him 1 out of 3 on the day, with 4:59 to go in the 3rd.  So the score held at 17-3.  

The Niners would start at the 20 and began with a run up the middle by Tyler, and he found a huge hole past George Martin, and accelerated up the field, with Watt missing a tackle and eventually was stopped at the 34 by Hill.  


First down, Montana faked to Craig, and tried to hit Frank in the flat, but he heard the footsteps of Watts and dropped the ball.  John Madden made a comment that Frank was going to attend medical school and like doctors, he would make notes and keep a diary of what happened in the game, similar to what a doctor would do after a surgery.  Then came the cringeworthy response from Pat Summerall, who bless his heart probably never turned down a drink or two, on the air in middle of the game asks “I wonder if he’s related to Anne Frank”.  Ummm..oh, I get it, they both keep diaries!  John Frank keeps a diary to document what he did right and wrong to help him in football and eventually medical school, and Anne Frank was holed up in an attic in Amsterdam and used her diary to keep her own record on hiding from the Nazis and the Holocaust, which would eventually take her life.  Even Madden was kind of floored and said “a diary is a diary, huh”.   If this had happened today, there would have been forced apologies, protests, and twitter petitions and hot takes all over.  But this was 1985, let’s just move on.  2nd and 10, Montana back, with Burt chasing him, dumped the ball off to Craig over the middle, who caught it at the 34 and made it to the 37 where he was wrapped up by Reasons and Hunt.  3rd and 6, Montana back again, and with a blitz picked up but the pocket breaking down, dumped it off to Craig again, but the ball was thrown behind him and dropped at the 37, but he wouldn’t have made it far if he caught it because Headen was ready for him.  So on 4th down, on came Runager again, and this time a line drive to McConkey at the 24, and he took it to the 31, taken down by Wilson with 3:22 left in the 3rd.

The Giants would start with a pitch to the left for Morris, who followed a number of good blocks by Benson and Godfrey, cut it back up the middle and took off running and was taken down at the 47 by Fuller, which put Morris over 100 yards in the game, and a first down.  Morris would again get the ball, running to his right, followed Ard and turned the corner, this time for a 15 yard gain and got the ball to the 49er 38 yard line, and yet another first down.  The Giants would stay on the ground, sending Morris to the left and he would follow Godfrey and cut back again and leap over a pile and took the ball to the 30, hit down by Jim Fahnhorst.  Morris would come off the field to get a rest and Adams would come back in the game, and he would take the ball and fire right up the middle, and was stopped by Shell, but not after getting 5 yards and a first down.  The Giants were wearing down the Niners’ front line with the ball at the 25, and as Simms tried a hard count ended up getting Bavaro to jump for a false start.  1st and 15 back to the 30, Simms back, tried to hit McConkey on a deep shot down the field up the sidelines, but he was well covered by Nixon and the ball fell incomplete.  2nd and 15, Adams took a pitch running to his right, and he turned inside a pulling block from Ard, and was smacked down by Fuller at the 27 on the final play of the 3rd quarter.  3rd and 12, Simms in the gun, with Galbreath in motion, the Niners came on a blitz and as Dwayne Board came free, Simms stepped up in the pocket and away from the pressure and scrambled down to the 22, hit down by Dean.  On 4th down, the Giants brought back out Schubert to make it a 3 score game.


There is nothing worse than a kicker who is awful.  They have one job (literally) and the Giants again had the Niners’ ready for a knockout, but Schubert calmly stepped up on a 39 yarder and hooked it to the left, yet again keeping the score 17-3 and making the kicker 1 of 4 on the day.  The reality is, this game very well could have been around 31-3 but the Giants kept the Niners within striking distance.  The fans however were clear with their disgust with a round of boos and Parcells’ pissed off face on the sidelines said it all.

So the 49ers again got the ball at the 22, Montana dropped back and looked for a timing throw, which was covered and forced him to hold the ball, as he moved forward to find a receiver, Burt came free and sacked Montana back at the 20, his second of the day.  On the play, Burt got hurt and had to come off the field, replaced by Jerome Sally.  On 2nd and 12, Montana again dropped back, and again the pocket collapsed around him, forcing him to try a dump off pass to Craig, but LT peeled back off his pass rush, and knocked the ball away from Craig, who got walloped by Reasons for his efforts, and Craig was injured on the play.  3rd and 12, Montana dropped back, and again had pressure on him, as he was hit down by Merrill as he got the pass off, which was behind Tyler, and he was knocked down by Hill after the play.  So a 3 and out as the crowd roared for their defense and forced a punt, with Runager back to send the ball to McConkey at the 31, and he took it up to the 39, cut down by Frank.

On first down, Morris took the carry, running to his right and he was cut down after a yard by Fahnhorst.  2nd and 9, Simms back to throw, had Manuel open on an out by the Niners’ 46 yard line, but the ball was just out of reach and he dropped it.  3rd and 9, Simms in the gun, with time in the pocket before he took a shot from Matt Stover, and he tried to hit Manuel for a first down, but the ball went just high and incomplete.  Landeta came on to punt the ball and the Niners came with an all out block attempt, forcing a quick kick and a short one, which went and hit Lawrence Taylor, playing at a gunner spot, at the 24 yard line and was downed there.  Just something to think about when you consider teams not playing starters on special teams, the Giants had a Hall of Fame Linebacker covering punts.

With Craig out of the game, the Niners started at the 24 yard line, and began with a sweep to Monroe running to his left and he was able to turn the corner around Byron Hunt, and was tripped up after a 10 yard gain by Hunt and Hill.  After a measurement confirmed a first down, Montana dropped back on a 3 step drop and threw to Frank in the flat, at the 35, he got away from Hill, dodged an arm tackle attempt by Watts, and continued forward to the 49 yard line and dove forward, hit down by Kinard.  Another first down, Montana back, and with time to throw, had no one open, so he dumped it to Frank at the 50, and he was met immediately by Hunt and Carson at the Giants’ 49 with the clock running under 11 minutes.  2nd and 8, the give went to Tyler running to his right, but he was met by Hill and Martin and spun down at the 47.  3rd and 6, Montana again with a 3 step drop and tried to hit Frank in the flat, but this time the TE dropped the ball at the 44 yard line.  On 4th and 6, the Niners would call their first timeout to talk it over with 9:51 to go in the game and Bill Walsh decided to forego the punt.


The safer move, and the move advocated by John Madden in the booth was to punt the ball and pin the Giants deep.  Walsh and Montana agreed on a play, and they faked a handoff to Tyler running to the left and what was supposed to be a rollout to the right didn’t work because Martin came right up the field and into Montana’s face.  Martin hit Montana as soon as he threw the ball and it fell short and incomplete to Frank, who was also double covered by Headen and Kinard.  So the Giants got the ball back with 9:48 to go.

Giants ball and they gave to Morris running to his right and he turned the corner and got the ball to the Niners’ 46 yard line, hit down by Jim Fahnhorst.  2nd and 2, Morris got a quick handoff but was dumped by Turner on a blitz after a 1 yard gain.  3rd and 1, with a jumbo package, the Giants tried another sweep to the right, but this time the Niners got penetration and pushed the Giants back, with Milt McCall making the tackle for no gain.  Landeta’s punt was angled towards the corner where it bounced at the 10 and went backwards, and was downed by LT and Bart Oates at the 12 with 7:21 to go in the game.

The Niners offense, in much worse field position and less clock after blowing their chance on the 4th down, had the crowd yelling as Montana rolled to his right, fired a pass towards Craig, who had it at the 17 yard line, but Carl Banks hit him and jarred it loose for an incomplete pass.  2nd and 10, Montana dropped back, he had LT grab him, but he was able to get away and threw to Clark at the 19 and was shoved out of bounds by Watts, meanwhile behind the play Hill got injured.  3rd and 2, Tyler took the handoff right up the middle, and he bounced off a hit from Marshall and fell forward to the 23 yard line, hit down by Banks and LT, but good for a first down.  The Niners would then have a triple whammy


Montana had a rare moment to actually set up and throw and he uncorked a deep pass to Rice, who had beaten Watts and he looked to haul it in at the Giants 42 yard line.  But the officials said that he was out of bounds.  Keeping in mind, again, this was 1985 and no replay.  The replay showed that Rice actually caught it with one hand and did get both feet down before his foot hit out of bounds (his right foot was on the ground as he caught it).  Additionally, Watts interfered with him, but the refs didn’t give him the call.  And furthermore, both Rice and Watts were injured on the play, and Elvis Patterson had to come back to try to play with 6:26 to go in the game as the meat waggon had to come out to collect Watts.  2nd and 10, Montana would fake the handoff to try to test the Giants now wounded secondary, but he never had a chance as LT came on a delayed blitz which gave him a clear path to Montana.  Rather than tempt the fate of Joe Theismann a few week earlier, Montana ducked down and hit the ground at the 19 for a sack, the Giants’ 4th of the game.  3rd and 14, Montana was back, and again LT was charging in, but he was able to avoid him and get the pass off to Clark over the middle at the 38 yard line and the big WR made his way up the field and away from Hill and Herb Welch at the 43 and was forced out of bounds by Kinard at the Giants’ 45 yard line for a 36 yard gain.  First down, Montana again back with a safety blitz coming, and he took a deep shot towards Rice with Welch in coverage, but the ball fell just incomplete.  2nd and 10, Montana had pressure again coming from LT, but stepped up in the pocket and hit Wilson at the 31, where he was hit down by Hill, but another first down with the clock running under 5:30.  First down, Montana back and tried to set up a screen to Craig who dropped it at the 36, and had Burt draped all over him.  2nd and 10 with 5:09 to go, Craig in motion, and Montana dropped the snap and the QB fell on it, with Burt on top of him.  An illegal motion on Clark was declined making it 3rd and 11.  Montana would sling the ball out to Craig in the flat, who caught it at the 34, and as he looked to turn up the field, dropped the ball where it was covered up by Welch at the 31.  For a moment the Giants and their fans thought it was a fumble, but the refs ruled it incomplete, likely citing the “football move” rule which would come into play 30 years in the future.  So the Niners were facing another fourth down


With the crowd in full throat, Montana dropped back as the Giants brought a blitz from LT and Hunt, with Marshall barging up the middle.  That forced Montana to get the pass away to Clark, who caught it at the 27 yard line, and he cut inside and back up the field, but he couldn’t get anywhere, with Headen taking him down, and Martin and Hunt flying back to the ball with 4:46 left to play.  

The Giants started with a handoff to Carpenter, who took the carry up the gut, and bounced to the left, getting to the 29, hit down by Turner and Fuller.  The Niners called their 2nd timeout as the fans chanted “We want the Bears!” with 4:39 to go.  On 2nd and 6, Simms would try his naked bootleg, which he did to great effect in the 1986 playoffs vs. the Redskins and Broncos, but this time, instead of running to his left, he went to his right, and didn’t fool Turner, who covered him up at the 27 yard line making it 3rd and 8, and the Niners called their final timeout with 4:32 to go.  3rd and 8, Simms would give a hard count (and got Bavaro to move again, but the refs didn’t throw a flag for a false start), and the ball went on a sweep to Adams running around the right side and he would get to the 32, hit down by Dean.  With the clock supposed to run, Fuller would lay down on the field holding his hip (and looking very likely that he was faking the injury to stop the clock, as the crowd booed him).  Back in 1985, they didn’t have the rule to do a 10 second run off, so this gamesmanship was allowed.  The Niners would jump offsides prior to the Landeta punt, which was fielded by McLemore at the 23 yard line and he would weave his way up to the 28 yard line, hit down by Adams and LT.  The refs discussed the offsides as Bruce Collie got the penalty, however Red Cashen said that it wasn’t good enough for a first down, so the Giants declined it.  

With 3:39 to go in the game, Montana was back, and set up a screen to Harmon, who caught it at the 24, and had blockers in front which allowed him to take it all the way to the 44, hit down by Kinard.  A hold called on Hunt was declined and stopped the clock at 3:31.  Montana back, and dumped to Ring over the middle at the 45 and he would plow ahead to the Giants’ 46, taken down by Carson while Bill Belichick played a prevent defense.  Montana would dump it to Ring at the 47 yard line and he would make it to the 44 yard line, where he was bumped out of bounds by Welch with 3:06 to go.  Montana would continue to dink and dunk, this time again to Ring who caught it at the 39 and was dropped by Carson at the 37, making it 2nd and 3.  Montana would roll out to his left, and throw to Clark at the 25 and he would spin his way to the 17 yard line, and a flag was thrown on Perry Williams for a 5 yard facemask, putting it at the 13 yard line (and it probably should have been 15 yards).  Anyway, the Niners kept marching, and the Niners thought they finally broke through


This time the Giants didn’t sit back and came with a blitz, the Niners seemed to pick it up and allowed Frank time to find an open spot at the 10 yard line and barrel over Headen for a TD.  However, a hold on the 49ers John Ayers, who got run over by Marshall and the guard just pulled him down for the penalty.  So now 1st and 20, with LT coming in, Montana floated a perfect pass to Monroe in the end zone, who beat Headen, but Monroe dropped it.  2nd and 20, a curious call on a handoff to Tyler running to his right, and he got the ball to the 18, hit down by Banks and Martin, bringing the game to the 2 minute warning.  3rd and 15, Montana was back and was chased by Burt of all people, running to his left and he tried to sling a pass towards a sliding Clark at the 5, but the ball fell incomplete.  On would come 4th and 15 with 1:53 go to


Montana was back, with LT charging in again and forcing Montana up in the pocket and he was forced to try to make something happen and threw into coverage in the back of the end zone.  Trying to fit the ball into Clark, who was double covered, and Welch dropped what would have been an interception.  Either way, the ball was incomplete and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.  The Giants sidelines would celebrate as the fans went wild, and we see and excited Parcells and an extremely young looking Belichick in his red Giants jacket and long hair, 1980s style.

All that remained for the Giants was a few awkward Simms kneel downs in the victory formation as the Niners couldn’t stop the clock and the Giants would put an end to the Niners’ Super Bowl reign and their ownership of the Giants in the post-season.  And we would see a little extra victory celebration that would become famous in 1986, the gatorade (and water) bath, this time administered by Carson and Merrill.  The Giants and Niners would come out on the field for their handshakes and the crowd went wild enjoying a home playoff win for the first time in 23 years as the Giants would head to take on the Bears in Soldier Field.  

Post Mortem/ Interesting Tidbits


  • Giants first home playoff game since 1962 at Yankee Stadium in a loss to the Packers
  • Mark Bavaro’s TD was his first in the post season (as a rookie, obviously).  In 1986, he would catch 2 TDs in the post-season, again against the Niners in the Divisional Round to open up the scoring in an eventual 49-3 rout, and then in Super Bowl XXI, he scored a TD at the start of the 3rd quarter, which gave the Giants a 16-10 lead over the Broncos in a game they would eventually run away with.  However, Bavaro only played in 3 more playoff games with the Giants (he missed the 1989 Rams game due to his ACL tear) and did not score in the 1990 Super Bowl run.  
  • Bavaro’s 67 yards receiving were also a career high for him in the playoffs in his 8 post season games.
  • Joe Morris followed up his season finale vs. the Steelers, where he rushed for 202 yards on 36 carries and 3 TDs with 141 yards on 28 carries vs the Niners.  In 7 career playoff games, Morris would rush for over 100 yards twice, and both were against the 49ers.  In 1986, Morris ripped off 159 yards on 24 carries and 2 TDs in the Divisional Round game.
  • Morris became the 4th RB to go over 100 yards vs. the 49ers in 1985.
  • Most nose tackles are not known as pass rushers, and Jim Burt was certainly not one.  Playing on a team with LT and Leonard Marshall, Burt settled in as a top 2 gap run defender.  In his 11 year career, Burt would accumulate 24 sacks.  In this game, he tied a career high with 2 sacks, matching a total he only got one other time, when he sacked Neil Lomax twice in 1984 in a 31-21 loss at St. Louis.
  • Terry Kinard’s interception was also the only one in his post season career in 6 games.  In one of the true injustices of the Giants, Kinard, who made a Pro Bowl in 1988 for the Giants, tore his ACL in the 1986 win at Washington and missed the playoff and Super Bowl run.  By the 1990 season, Kinard left the Giants as a Plan B free agent, as the Giants had young safeties in Myron Guyton, Greg Jackson, and Adrian White, so they had moved on from Kinard.  Kinard signed with the Oilers, was bounced from the playoffs in the Wild Card round and missed the Giants 2nd title run.  He would retire after the 1990 season.
  • After going 1-4 in the game, Eric Schubert missed 5 of his last 9 attempts.  It was no wonder he was off the team to start the 1986 season.
  • Don Hasselbeck’s 3rd quarter TD was the final TD of his career.  He caught only 1 TD during the 1985 season, a 20 yarder at Green Bay in a 23-20 loss.
  • Hasselbeck of course is the father of 2 former NFL QBs, his sons Matt and Tim.  After both graduated from Boston College, Matt went on to have a long and distinguished NFL career.  Playing as a backup to Brett Favre in Green Bay his first couple of seasons, he was traded to the Seahawks ahead of the 2001 season, as the former Packer coach, now head man with the Seahawks, Mike Holmgren, brought him in.  Hasselbeck saw his career take off, spending 10 years in Seattle, going to 3 Pro Bowls and leading the Seahawks to a 13-3 record in 2005 and their first Super Bowl appearance, in a loss to the Steelers.  Hasselbeck would continue his career in Tennessee in 2011, leading them to a 9-7 record.  In 2012, Hasselbeck would only start 8 games and give way to Jake Locker.  From there he spent 3 years with the Colts, as the veteran backup to Andrew Luck to help in his development.  In 2015, at age 40, Luck would be knocked out due to injury, and Hasselbeck went 5-3 as a starter on the 8-8 Colts, but missed the playoffs and Hasselbeck retired after the season.
  • Tim Hasselbeck was not as prolific as his brother, starting his career as a backup with the Eagles in 2002.  In 2003, Hasselbeck would move on the Redskins as the backup, and he would start the final 5 games of the season, going 1-4.  His only win?  A 20-7 victory at the Giants, as the team was in a complete free fall and in the process of quitting on Jim Fassel.  Hasselbeck went 13-19, for 154 yards and 2 TDs.  Apparently the Giants were so impressed by that showing that he was signed in 2005 as the backup to Eli Manning, as Kurt Warner was shown the door, while Eli took over as the man.  By 2006, Hasselbeck was beaten out by Jared Lorenzen and ended up out of the league, only to resurface in Arizona in 2007 as a backup.  He would retire and go on to ESPN as an analyst.
  • Lionel Manuel back from 4 weeks out with a hamstring vs. Tory Nixon, a rookie CB in his first start
  • Giants last win vs Niners was 1979, with Niners winning 5 straight
  • 1985 Giants led NFL with 68 QB sacks, a team record
  • One day earlier, the Jets lost at home to the Patriots in the Wild Card, 26-14 in Giants Stadium
  • Both QBs were in the 1985 Pro Bowl, Joe Montana and Phil Simms
  • Simms led the NFC with 3829 yards in 1985
  • Bill Walsh went into this game with a sparkling 7-1 record in the playoffs, including knocking the Giants out in 1981 and 1984 en route to Niner’s championships.  By the time he retired after the 1988 season, Walsh had won 3 Super Bowls and had a 10-4 career record in the playoffs.  The only team to knock him out twice?  The Giants, in 1985 and 1986.  His other losses were to the Redskins in 1983 in the NFC Championship and the Vikings in the Divisional round in 1987.
  • Ronnie Lott one week earlier broke his pinky on his left hand and had to have surgery and and played for the first time in a cast. He would eventually cut off the tip of his finger prior to the 1986 season in order to play.
  • Roger Craig first man with 1000 yards rushing and receiving in same season in 1985
  • The CBS camera angle was wacky on field goals because the high end zone cameras broke before the game.

Monday, January 9, 2017

It's the 2017 Off-season

The Giants 2016 season came to an end in the bitter cold of Green Bay. And as much of a disappointment as to the way the season ended, the 2016 Giants were a success.

In my mind, at the start of the season, I saw the Giants as an 8-8 team, who with the right breaks could be a 9 or 10 win team and get into the playoffs. Well, if you could go back in time one year ago, when McAdoo took over and were told the Giants would go 11-5, sweep Dallas, beat Washington to knock them out of the playoffs, and go to Lambeau Field with the score 14-13 in the 3rd quarter, we would all sign up.

I also felt that the Giants needed to fix the defense in the 2016 season (which they did). Along the way, they found a new leadership core with Snacks, Vernon, Jenkins, and a breakout season by Collins. They put together the best secondary in the NFL. They allowed the 2nd fewest points in the NFL, which is the true measure of a defense's performance statistically, according to 2 nobodies named Parcells and Belichick.

But this is a flawed team, and you can only fix so much in an offseason. Coming off a historically bad defense in 2015, the Giants get high marks for what they did, particularly the front office in paying out big money and getting production. But the 2nd part of my prediction is that the Giants will be a Super Bowl contender for the next 2-3 years as Eli finishes up his run. For that to happen, they need to address the offense. The Giants have something in the neighborhood of $30 million in cap room, with some big free agents in JPP and Hankins to look to bring back (my guess is Hankins returns, JPP does not). They also can clear about $20 million more with restructures or outright releases of guys like Cruz, Vereen, and JT Thomas. So, here is my guess for what the Giants will do in order to become one of the teams who will play deep into January next year:

- Sign Hankins: The Giants don't have the depth at DT that they have at DE. Hankins was healthy last year, and teamed with Snacks helped stonewall the running game. It's no fluke the Giants beat Dallas twice because physically they were able to stand up to the Cowboys OL. Jay Bromley has progressed pretty well, and the Giants have a habit of letting DTs go after their rookie deal is done (Cofield and Joseph are prime examples). Hankins also was able to play some DE in rush situations. He turns 25 in March. Pay the man.

- Tag JPP: Coming off hernia surgery, and JPP said he would have played in Dallas if the Giants won (how convienent), JPP also said he won't sign a Franchise Tender. Well, the last time we had this impass, he blew half his hand off. JPP showed that he still has got it, and at age 28 remains in his prime. He was able to adjust to playing with his hand and by mid season had been close to his previous Pro Bowl form, enough to win Defensive Player of the Week. His injury in Pittsburgh opened the door for Romeo Okwara to show what he can do, and the Giants might have a future star on their hands. They still have Double O in the wings and Wynn is a solid DE. But for the Spags defense to work, you really want 3 pass rushers. They got good production out of Kennard in that regard, but ultimately, the Giants are a better team with JPP. So he won't like it, and he might not sign, but Reese should slap the Franchise Tag on him. 

- Restructure/Cut players: Victor Cruz was a great Giant. His 2011 season will forever keep him in Giants lore (and get a game review on this very site). He earned his Pro Bowl spot and Super Bowl ring. But he also is now 30 years old who is a guy who isn't that tall and his game is based on quickness. when you go down with a knee injury in 2013, another knee injury in 2014, and miss the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, that isn't a good sign. By the time he came back in 2016, Cruz was asked to play on the outside as the slot position (where he made his mark) was given to Sterling Sheperd. Odell has now taken over as the star attraction. So Cruz finished with 39 catches, 586 yards, and 1 TD (to win the opener in Dallas). By the playoff game, he was on the bench watching Tavarres King catch 3 passes for 73 yards and a TD. Cruz is due to make $9.4 million next year. That's not going to happen. So does he take a big paycut (which he did before 2016) or does he force the Giants to cut him so he can continue his career elsewhere (New England??) The Giants will find room from him either way. And same will go for Shane Vereen and JT Thomas, among others. There is an outside shot they will do it with DRC, but I hope not since you need 3 good corners. The Giants will likely have somewhere between $40-$50 million before all is said and done.

- Sign Ron Leary from Dallas: This move makes too much sense for all involved. Dallas has the best offensive line in the NFL. Leary, a 6'3", 331 pound guard was a starter, lost his job to La'el Collins who was a rookie free agent signing (even though he was a first/second round grade and fell due to off field concerns to put it mildly). Leary got his job back this year when Collins got hurt and the Cowboys slotted him in the lineup and they didn't miss a beat. Well, they will miss several beats in 2017, because 'Murrica's team is almost $17 million over the cap. So that means they will have no choice but to start restructuring and cutting players, and Romo's contract become an albatross. That also means they have no hope of keeping Leary. They signed Jonathan Cooper to get ready for that eventuality. The Giants did well when they signed Ron Stone away from the Cowboys in the 1990s. Similarly they couldn't keep him and he became a Pro Bowl Guard with the Giants. At age 28 in April, and not as much tread on his tires, Leary would be a great fit for the Giants to slot in at guard and move John Jerry to depth on the bench.

- Get a Left Tackle: Erick Flowers is not a Left Tackle. Period. Experiment over. We don't need to see anymore of Eli getting hit while Flowers doesn't get a hand on a rusher. Move Flowers to right tackle where his mauler style will be assisted by a TE (more on that later). The Giants should look for a veteran who might shake loose. Keep in mind, the Giants have a 2-3 year window with Eli, plan accordingly. That means a trade for Joe Thomas, or look at a veteran to perhaps hit the waiver wire as a cap casualty- Andrew Whitworth (Bengals) or Duane Brown (Texans), Riley Reiff (Detriot). While I'm ok with drafting one if the fit is there, I'd prefer a veteran, almost a Lomas Brown type to hold the fort. But upgrade the talent on the offensive line is a must. Pugh and Richburg should be the only guys to stay in their spots. They need a new LT, RG, and RT (Flowers).

- Draft a TE: This is a deep draft class at TE. The Giants have a huge need there. Donnell needs to go. Tye is a nice player, but nothing more. Adams showed flashes. But the Giants would look great with a guy like OJ Howard from Alabama as a two way TE who can stretch the field.

- Get a big WR: I don't care if it's draft or free agency. But the Giants have gone back to the 1980s and brought back the smurfs from the Redskins. They have a great WR in Odell who can do it all, headaches not withstanding. But they need a physical mismatch, a Plaxico type on the other side. If Larry Fitzgerald gets released, I hope the Giants go hard after him. He'd be perfect. I don't know who is in the draft that fits this bill, but this is what the team needs.

- Running back: Rashad Jennings is a solid NFL starter. He won't make mistakes. And he won't make anyone miss. Paul Perkins took the job from him late in the season and he should get the job going into 2017. However, the Giants should look to get another back in here in 2017, particularly if Jennings is shown the door. Orleans Darkwa is not the guy you keep. Vereen is a specialist (who is looking at a paycut). And after his performance in Green Bay, Bobby Rainey shouldn't be on the team. Bring in a complementary back to Perkins.

- Fullback: This was a hidden mess for the Giants and helped change things. The Giants had a competition in camp at fullback between Nikita Whitlock and Will Johnson. Well, both got hurt, both went on IR. No fullback. Short yardage became shotgun formations for the Giants. Yuck. Hopefully both can come back next year and one of them can win the job.

- Get a new punt returner: We know that Odell can do it, but he shouldn't unless you are looking for a big play. Dwayne Harris might be a great coverman, which got him a Pro Bowl nod as a special teamer, but he regressed as a return man in 2016. He was good in 2015, but this past year, he seemed to not only ignore the edict to never field the ball inside the 5 as a punt returner, he would be doing over the shoulder lunging catches to do so, coming periously close to fumbling the ball. He muffed a punt in Minnesota which sent the Giants on a downward spiral. While I'd love a Dave Meggett type, I'll settle for a Phil McConkey. This is a defensive team now with the Giants, a field position team. Part of that is a punter, a cover man, and a returner who won't let the ball go past him and won't fumble. Harris has become a liability. And his replacement, Rainey, showed us all we needed to see when he fielded the kickoff at the 3 in Green Bay.

So there you have it, upgrade the OL, get a TE, a big WR, and re-sign key pieces of the defense and this is a Super Bowl contender in 2017. In the meantime, as always, for the offseason, I plan on cranking up more game reviews than I did last year. I already have one more or less ready to go and have started on another. But all in all, this site is about Giants memories, and it was looking bleak the past few years, however after an 11-5 season, things are looking up to make new memories of Giants wins and Championships. I think they will win at least one more before Eli retires. Go Giants.