Thursday, March 31, 2016

1989 Giants @ Broncos

Week 14

The Setup

When you think back to the 1980s, the Giants had a collection of some of the best linebackers in NFL history, particularly from 1984 on.  Of course, everything begins with #56.  Lawrence Taylor changed the game of football and was the most dominant linebacker the NFL has ever seen.  And despite a number of off field problems and self inflicted issues, on the field, LT was one of a kind.  And at the end of the day, 10 straight Pro Bowls, 3 Defensive Player of the Year awards, 2 Super Bowl championships, and an NFL MVP will put you in the Hall of Fame.

On the opposite side of LT, from 1984 through 1992 was another top linebacker, Carl Banks.  Banks was the #3 overall pick in the 1984 draft out of Michigan State.  Banks would work his way into the lineup as a rookie and by 1986 had established himself as one of best strong side linebackers in the NFL.  In fact, in the 1986 post season, Banks for all intents and purposes outplayed LT.  His performance in the 49ers playoff game was that of a one man wrecking crew.  Banks would earn a Pro Bowl nod in 1987 and would become a co-captain on the team in helping the Giants win 2 Super Bowls.

In the middle/inside linebacker spot, the Giants were no slouches either.  Harry Carson would play 13 years for the Giants, joining the team during the lean years in the mid/late 1970s.  Carson would become one of the best inside linebackers in the game.  Paul Zimmerman (aka Dr. Z) would call Carson the best goal line linebacker he had ever seen because of his instincts to snuff out plays and prevent TDs.  Carson would earn 9 Pro Bowl nods, was the team captain in the 1986 championship season, and would make his way into the Hall of Fame in 2006 after years of waiting.

When Carson retired, the Giants were lucky to have an in house replacement ready to plug into the lineup, Thomas "Pepper" Johnson.  Pepper was a versatile linebacker, able to rush the passer from the outside and big enough to play the middle.  Pepper would earn more playing time as Carson's career wound down and would take over at ILB full time in 1988 after Carson was injured.  By 1990, Johnson was one of the most dominant players on the Giants defense and earned his first Pro Bowl selection and had become a leader both on the field and in the lockerroom.

The Giants had several other linebackers who were very good players in their own roles, and would likely be good enough to start for 90% of NFL teams.  Guys like Brad Van Pelt, Brian Kelley, Byron Hunt, Andy Headen, Steve DeOssie, and Johnie Cooks.  But the Giants had another guy who was taken in the 4th round of the 1984 draft out of noted football powerhouse Northwest State in Louisiana named Gary Reasons.  Reasons had the size the Giants liked, at 6'4" and about 240.  He was also an every down linebacker, good enough to play the run and good in coverage.  Reasons was so good, that he would end up starting 11 games as a rookie in 1984 and he established himself as a starter along with the big names like LT, Banks, Carson and Pepper.  Reasons was the steady guy.  While so many people were wearing #56 or #53 or #58 jerseys in the stands, very few wore #55 for Reasons.  But Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick knew his value and he would play a crucial role for the Giants from 1984-1991, helping the team win 2 Super Bowls along the way.

Many people can point to games where LT would play a huge role to win, and the same could be said for Banks and Pepper.  Reasons was never thought in the same vein.  But back in 1989, the Giants were watching their season, once so bright, go down the tubes.  They had an NFL best 8-1 record.  And then they would go out to LA and get pounded 31-10 by the Rams.  The Giants would win a listless 15-3 game over the Seattle Seahawks at the Meadowlands and then would be looking at the gauntlet.  A matchup with the Super Bowl Champion 49ers in Candlestick on a Monday Night.  And then a game against hated rival Philadelphia at Giants Stadium, with the NFC East in the balance.  From there a date with the Broncos in Mile High in Denver.

The ball began rolling in San Francisco, and the Giants would fall behind 24-7 in the 2nd quarter and most left them for dead.  But a huge rally thanks to a Dave Meggett TD on a screen pass and then a 4th down fade to Odessa Turner in the 4th quarter stunned the Niners and made the score 24-24.  The Niners would end up salting the game away 34-24, and more importantly, LT was carted off with a broken ankle, thanks to a dirty cut block by Wesley Walls.

That would set up a date with the Eagles.  LT, doing his best Willis Reed, would suit up and play, broken ankle and all.  But LT was clearly not LT and was slowed.  What didn't help were 2 TDs by the Eagles defense in the first quarter to make it 14-0.  The Eagles would eventually make the score 17-7, and the Giants had to fight back to tie the game at 17-17 in the 3rd quarter.  However, a crazy 91 yard punt by Randall Cunningham, because Dave Meggett misplayed the bounce reversed field position and the Eagles would overcome a goal line stand by the Giants earlier and a Keith Byars TD, along with 5 Giants turnover doomed the Giants in a 24-17 loss which would drop their record to 9-4.  3 losses in 4 games, and now a sweep at the hands of the Eagles had given Philly the tie breaker in the NFC East, both sitting at 9-4.

That would set up the Giants to go into Denver to face a Broncos team which was not like the one they pasted in the Super Bowl in 1986.  The Broncos team actually had a tough defense.  They were the #1 rushing defense in the NFL and had retooled from an undersized unit to one which could take on physical teams.  They had held teams to 20 or fewer points 10 times in 13 games.  They also had a running game, with #1 pick in the Supplemental draft Bobby Humphrey ripping off big yardage.  And of course, they had John Elway at QB.  They also had the AFC's best record at 10-3, and a victory in this game would give the Broncos home field advantage in the playoffs, where they were already 6-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to the Eagles, in a back and forth game which was won 28-24 late by Philly.

Again, the Giants had more rough news going into this game.  The Eagles had already won 20-10 vs. the Cowboys to go to 10-4.  A loss by the Giants would put them 2 games behind the Eagles with only 2 to play to win the NFC East.  The Giants were also beat up on the injury front.  Starting left tackle Jumbo Elliott never made the trip, so they had to shift guard Eric Moore over to protect Phil Simms' blind side.  Odessa Turner, the Giants leading receiver in 1989 (with all of 38 catches) was also out for the game.  And LT, trying to play with a broken ankle, was sidelined by back spasms which hit him in the morning.  And if that wasn't enough, a Rocky Mountain snow storm had made it's way over Denver, and it would hit right at game time in the already thin air.

So here was your classic wounded animal Giants' team.  Seeing their season slip away after such a promising start.  Playing against the best team in the AFC in their home park while snow is falling.  In order to win a game like this you would need someone to step up on your team and do it.  Little did anyone know, the least celebrated of the Giants' linebacking corps, Gary Reasons, would end up playing the game of his life when his team needed it the most.

The Game Highlights

Bjorn Nittmo on to kick off with snow already on the field and the left footed kick went to Ken Bell at the goal line and he ran it out going to his left where he bounced off a hit by Lee Rouson at the 17 and spun up the field, dragging Greg Jackson all the way out to the 25.  John Elway led the Broncos out and started with a hand off to Melvin Bratton running to his right, and the Giants got into the backfield, causing him to leap over the pile and into the arms of Gary Reasons and John Washington after a 3 yard gain.  2nd and 7, Elway back to throw and set up a screen as Erik Howard was baring down on him and dumped it to Bratton at the 23 with blockers ahead to the left, but Reasons took out one of the blockers and forced Bratton to cut back to the right, and into arms of Mark Collins and Carl Banks after a 5 yard gain to the 32.  3rd and 2, Elway gave to Bobby Humphrey trying to power to the left where he ran into Johnie Cooks and Pepper Johnson and Howard, and looked to be short, but Jerry Markbriet gave him the first down.  First down at the 35, and the ball went back to Humphrey running to his left and he was met by Leonard Marshall and Reasons after just a 1 yard gain.  2nd and 9, a draw up the middle to Humphrey which fooled the Giants and he burst through the line out to the 44, stopped by Reasons and Myron Guyton.  3rd and 1, Humphrey again to the left side, found a crease and took it out to the 48 yard line, tripped up by Reasons and Terry Kinard for another first down.  Denver would give to Humphrey again on a draw up the middle, read better by the Giants, stopped by Pepper and Cooks after a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, Elway faked the draw, had Banks coming in on him and avoided him, and started to scramble but tossed the ball to TE Clarence Kay at the Giants’ 47 yard line, and he would take the ball back towards the middle hit down by Reasons and Howard  for an 8 yard gain and another first down.  So the Broncos continued to drive at the Giants’ 41, Elway took a deep shot towards Orson Mobley down the middle, the ball was tipped by Reasons, but an illegal motion on Mobley brought them back 5 yards, setting up a 1st and 15.  Elway back again, with pressure coming at him, set up another screen up the middle and got the ball to Humphrey at the 46 yard line, and Reasons burst through all the blockers to nail him down at the 44.  2nd and 13, Elway back, faked another draw and had plenty of time and tried to fire a ball in to Mark Jackson, but the ball was batted away on a dive by Collins.  3rd and 13, Elway in the gun, with plenty of time, looked to hit Rickey Nattiel for what would have been good for a first down, but he couldn’t get both feet in bounds, so the pass was incomplete.  The Denver drive finally stalled out and Mike Horan came on to punt, and angled it away from Dave Meggett and put it out of bounds at the 15 yard line.

The Giants would take over and Phil Simms came out with a handoff to OJ Anderson running to his right and powered out to the 19 yard line, stopped by Karl Mecklenburg.  2nd and 6, again a handoff, this time to Mo Carthon, and he found a lane and chugged through, up to the 29 yard line, hit down by Michael Brooks, but good for a first down.  The Giants set up for a draw, and this time again to Carthon, who had a huge hole up the middle and he took the ball all the way out to the 48 yard line for a 19 yard gain, taking Tyrone Braxton for a ride.  First down, the ball again went to the fullback Carthon, who took the handoff, tried to cut to his left but was met by safety Dennis Smith, who walked up to put 8 men in the box, and took him down after a 2 yard gain at the 50.  Simms back to throw, would check down to OJ at the Broncos 46, where he caught it and turned up the field to the 42 yard line, taking Mecklenburg for a short ride and a few inches short of a first down.  3rd and inches, the Giants would bring in Brian Williams at guard and shift William Roberts out to TE, and would hand off to Carthon right over Williams and he plowed ahead for the first down, cut down by Simon Fletcher at the 40.  First down with the clock running and the snow starting to come down, again gave to Carthon, but this time the Broncos got penetration and was taken down by Mecklenburg after a 1 yard gain, but a hold on Zeke Mowatt would make it 1st and 20 back at the Giants’ 49.  Simms back, set up screen to Carthon out to the right side, as the Mo caught it at the 45, followed Oates and Williams to the Broncos’ 43 yard line as Brooks made a great tackle playing off a block, with help from Greg Kragen.  2nd and 13, the Giants felt they had something there because they ran the exact same play, a screen to Carthon to the right who caught it at the 46, and he turned up the field, this time Williams got Brooks to the ground, Carthon cut back and got to the 35, where he got blasted by Smith and looked to fumble, where it was recovered and carried all the way out to the 28 yard line by Stephen Baker, but it was ruled down.  

3rd and 5 at the 35, Simms in the shotgun, with too much noise had to come back under center and was under immediate pressure by Ron Holmes who beat Roberts and flushed Simms out to this right.  Simms scrambled, chased by 3 Broncos and was able to fire a pass to Baker at the 24 yard line and out of bounds for a big first down.  As the clock eating drive continued, Simms gave to OJ on a sweep to the right, where he was met by Rick Dennison and Fletcher after no gain.  2nd and 10, Lee Rouson came in at H-Back and the ball went to OJ up the middle and he ran with power right into Brooks at the 20, knocking his helmet off and falling forward to the 18 yard line.  3rd and 5, again up the middle to OJ, and again the big back powered forward to the 13 yard line, hit down by Steve Atwater but good for another first down.  The Giants would bring in Lewis Tillman in a single setback and got the ball, running to his right, and was able to only get 1 yard, hit down by Andre Townsend on what would be the final play in a fast first quarter.  2nd and 9, with Lionel Manuel in motion, Simms with drop back with plenty of time to throw against a 3 man rush, and would find George Adams over the middle at the 10 yard line and the former first round pick would take it to the 3, hammered down by Atwater and Dennison.  First and goal at the 3, the Giants would cap off a monster drive

Showing power football in snowy conditions, the ball went to OJ running to his right, he would follow pulling guard Bob Kratch and a lead block by Carthon into the hole.  He would bounce off a tackle attempt by Brooks at the 3 and then just fire his way into the end zone for a statement TD.  Bjorn Nittmo would come on to bang through the extra point on a 15 play, 85 yard drive in 8:53 on the clock.  An offsides on the Broncos on the play would give the Giants a free 5 yards on the kickoff.  

Nittmo from the 40 would book a linedrive right to the goal line, taken by Darren Carrington and he would dart around a tackle attempt by Tillman at the 15, and cut up the field to the 26 yard line, hit down by Dwayne Giles.  A block in the back by a Bronco who hit Adrian White from behind would push Denver back to their own 6 yard line.  First down, the ball went to Humphrey up the gut, but was swallowed up by Erik Howard after a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, the ball went to Humphrey on a sprint to the left, as Jim Juriga took out Perry Williams to get Humphrey around the corner and he would get ridden out of bounds by Myron Guyton at the 14 yard line.  

3rd and 2, with 4 WRs, Elway gave to Humphrey running to his left and he was met by Mark Collins in the hole and took it close to a first down, but he chains showed he was a few inches short.  When you talk about Mark Collins as an all around player, how many other cornerbacks were willing to stick their nose in there on short yardage to take on a running back in the hole, like a linebacker would do.  With 4 WRs, Collins was forced into this position, the Broncos thought they could take advantage of it, but he stepped up and made the play.  Dan Reeves considered going for it for a moment but decided to punt, and Mike Horan came on and he would boom one to Meggett who fair caught it at the 38, fumbled the ball but fell on it before it went to a Bronco after a 47 yard punt.  However, an illegal man down the field because Horan did some stutter step to get his footing before punting threw off the timing.  The Giants decided to have them punt again. In his own end zone, Horan boomed one to Meggett at the 36 down the middle, but with a chance to return it, and Meggett took it to the 46 yard line where he was tripped up with 12:28 to go in the 2nd quarter and a +8 yards in field position.
With good field position to work with, the Giants began with a draw to OJ, trying to run to his right, but Brooks got in the backfield to hit him for a loss back at the 41.  2nd and 14, a draw to Carthon set to go to the left, but was forced up the  middle where he was met by Brooks at the 42 and Mo fell forward to the 44 yard line.  3rd and 12, Simms in the gun, with Meggett picking up Atwater on a blitz,  would find Mark Ingram deep down the right side and wide open at the Broncos’ 45, and Ingram would turn up the field and was knocked out of bounds by Wayman Henderson at the 35 for a big first down, on a typical play in the snow where the offense has the advantage because they know where they are going and with the bad footing, the defense has a problem.  First down, the ball went to OJ up the gut, but this time Atwater came flying in and nailed him for no gain.  2nd and 10, a fake to OJ, and Simms had time early but it started to break down with Alfonso Carreker coming towards his face and Simms dumped the ball off near the line in the general direction of Doug Reisenberg for what should have been intentional grounding, but was not called.  So 3rd and 10, the crowd who was lustily booing the missed penalty, forced Simms to take a time out with too much noise.  During the timeout, the grounds crew would shovel out the sidelines and 5 yard increment to help at least for spotting the ball.  3rd and 10, Simms back, in the gun, but Carreker would get around Williams and take Simms down for a sack at the 41 yard line.  4th and 17, Landeta would come on to punt and his line drive kick was fair caught by Vance Johnson at the 15.  

Denver’s offense would come out with a huge play

The Giants defense had held the rookie in check so far, but this time Humphrey would take the handoff on a draw up the middle, wait for the blocking to develop and cut inside a block on Johnnie Cooks, past Carl Banks and off to the races as he dodged Terry Kinard.  However, the only man remaining was Collins, who fought off a block by Johnson and took Humphrey down after a huge 50 yard gain...but a hold on Gerald Perry who grabbed Leonard Marshall ruined the whole thing.  

So 1st and 18, Elway back in the end zone, with Cooks putting pressure on, fired a frozen rope down towards Rickey Nattiel who was hit by Guyton to jar the ball loose.  A flag was thrown for pass interference.  But in the old way instant replay worked in 1989, the call was made, and all off a sudden there was this lull and break in the action as no one was sure what was going on.  Replays would show that Gary Reasons would tip the ball as it was going over his head.  This was important because the rule is, if a ball is tipped, so long as their is not defensive holding, you can pretty much mug a receiver and there is no penalty for pass interference.  The players stood around, the crowd was getting angry and the snow continued to fall.  Meanwhile the replay official was in the booth watching the replay over and over.  Finally Jerry Markbreit got the call and noted that Reasons tipped the pass, no pass interference and 2nd and 18. It would be the first big play of the day for Reasons.  Elway would was set to run a counter trey to Humphrey, but Humphrey slipped when he was about to take the handoff.  Realizing this, Elway just kept on rolling to his right and ran past Collins on the edge, past John Washington coming down the line, who shoved him out at the 13 and Elway dove ass first into a pile of snow out of bounds to slow himself down.  3rd and 12, Elway in the gun would fire towards the sidelines to Nattiel, who was open, but lost his footing and fell down and dropped the ball.  

Horan came back on to punt again from his end zone and he would boom one to Meggett at roughly the 36 yard line.  With plenty of room to run, Meggett accelerated past Fletcher, and up the left sideline, tackled down at the 36 yard line after a 22 yard return to give the Giants great field position.

The Giants would begin with a handoff to Carthon trying to run to the left and he was tripped up after a 1 yard gain by Braxton.  2nd and 9, Simms was back to throw and with no one open, he would dump the ball down the field for an incompletion.  However a penalty on Bart Oates for a tripping penalty, essentially a leg whip on Kragen, set the Giants back to a 2nd and 19.  Simms in the gun, had zero time to throw as Holmes was unblocked as there was a screw up in pass protection and Simms and was a sitting duck, nailed for a big sack.  That would set up a 3rd and 31, no problem, right?

Talk about a shocker out of nowhere.  Simms would set up yet another screen, this time to the left, as Brooks and Carriker came bearing down on him.  Meggett would initially juggle the ball and then haul it in the Giants 46 yard line and he would follow his blockers, specifically a total wipeout block by Roberts on Fletcher going down the left side.  He would then cut inside as Williams came over to hit Dennison and basically take out 3 Broncos as Atwater bounced off Meggett.  Meggett would then cut to his right some more, get around the lunge attempt at his legs by Braxton, and then was off to the races with a convoy of WRs around him and took it into the end zone as the Denver crowd was stunned (and as Simms would accept a high five by Landeta, a nice swear word made it out over the air from the crowd too).  Madden would give credit to Roberts for a great block, but mentioned the wrong guy who he hit, saying it was Mecklenberg, but it was really Simon Fletcher.  Nittmo would put through the extra point to make the score 14-0 with 7:11 to go in the 2nd quarter on a weird 3 play, 36 yard drive with Meggett scoring a 57 yard TD thanks to the loss of yardage due to the penalty and sack.

Nittmo, who kind of carved out an “x” pattern in the snow help get a running start, had his kickoff deep and was taken at the goal line by Bell, who was ridden down at the 23 yard line as Greg Jackson jumped on his back.  The Broncos would take the field down 2 TDs, and Elway would fake a handoff and hit Vance Johnson on a deep shot down the left sidelines past Mark Collins for a 42 yard gain as Terry Kinard got lost in deep coverage and the ball was all the way to the Giants’ 35.  Denver with a first down would hand off to Humphrey who tried to run to his left, but he ran right into Marshall, who took him down after a short 1 yard gain.  Big Leonard wasn’t done making plays

The NFL has always been about protecting QBs.  They know full well that there is nothing worse than watching a badly quarterbacked team who can’t run any semblance of an offense.  But while CTE and blows to the head were still not that well known, the NFL tried to protect QBs with the “in the grasp” rule.  Essentially, if a defensive player had a QB in the grasp and in control, the referee was told to blow the whistle.  Some whistles were quicker than others.  But this rule was eventually gotten rid of because it was too subjective and as QBs became more athletic (think about Cam Newton today), it actually did more harm than good.  If in the grasp was still around in 2007, there would not have been a “Helmet Catch” because they would never let the play continue as Eli broke away from the Patriots.  But in 1989, it was alive and well, and when you had a real athletic QB, like Elway it made it all the worse.  But for the Giants, it was good as Marshall came on a bull rush on Gerald Perry and pushed him back into Elway.  Elway would slip in the snow a bit at around the 44 yard line, enough to let Leonard come in on him and dive towards Elway and get his hand on him.  With John Washington also coming towards them, that was enough for Markbreit to consider Elway in trouble and blow the play dead for a sack back at the 42, even though Elway got the ball away.  Extra points enjoyment after the play as Leonard was celebrating having Elway just slip and eat it before they went to the replay.  Now 3rd and 17, with Elway in the gun, he would throw a dart into Vance Johnson at the 30, who made the catch with Collins all over him, but short of a first down.  With a bad field, the Broncos had to go for it on 4th down and 5 yards.

Elway in the gun, with Michael Young in motion, had time to throw and he would fire a patented Elway bullet towards Jackson on a crossing pattern right by the yard marker.  But Elway, an owner of one of the legendary strongest arms for a QB in history, as Pat Summerall would say, just threw it too hard through the elements and it bounced off and through Jackson’s hands as he was taken down by Kinard.  So the Giants would get the ball back with 4:14 to go in the half.

Simms would come back with the ball at the 30 and gave to OJ trying to run to his left, but he was spun down after no gain by Atwater.  2nd and 10, the ball back to OJ, running to his right and cut back to the middle and he was popped down hard by Kragen and Carreker after a 2 yard gain.  3rd and 8, Simms in the shot gun gave the ball to Meggett on a draw up the middle and for a moment it looked like he might break another one, but he got taken down by Atwater and Smith just shy of the first down.  The Broncos would call a timeout with 2:40 to go in the half and Landeta came on to punt.  And then came a bit of a preview for something that would end up in Giants’ lore

Well well well…  On 4th and 1 from their own 39, Bill Parcells again went for the gamble and pulled out the special teams fake.  Now, you have bad field conditions, so the safe thing would be to boom it away.  But Parcells never coached like that, for as much of a conservative coach as he was offensively, he always pushed the element of surprise.  Steve DeOssie would snap it back to Reasons, who took the ball up the middle and ran slightly to his left and shook enough off the tackle by Steve Sewell and good for a 3 yard gain and a first down.  Of course, one year later, in the NFC Championship game in San Francisco in the 4th quarter, the Giants called the same exact play, a fake punt that worked like a charm as Reasons rumbled for 30 yards.  However, you can see the difference on the Denver fake because they had all 11 men on the field and Sewell was there to slow it down, even if he couldn’t stop the first down.  The 49ers only had 10 men on the field, hence the big lane that Reasons had to rumble with the ball.  The Giants would let the clock run down to the 2 minute warning.  Now at the 41, Simms back would try to hit Lee Rouson on a deep seam pass, which was open, but Mecklenburg dove and knocked it down.  But after the pass was knocked down, Dennis Smith blasted Rouson and drew a personal foul.  So the Giants got a first down and 15 free yards at the Broncos’ 44 yard line while the crowd booed.  Simms would fake the handoff and dumped off to Carthon at the 40 and the fullback would rumble his way to the 35, hit down by Mecklenburg and a 9 yard gain.  2nd and 1, Carthon got the ball again, ran up the middle and bounced off an Atwater hit behind the line and lunged forward for a 3 yard gain, taken down by Holmes but a first down.  1st and 10 at the 32, Simms would drop back, and with Brooks coming down on him, got the pass off on the same play to Rouson as before, and the running back was open, but Rouson alligator armed it as Atwater came over for a big hit, perhaps remembering the shot he took from Smith a few plays earlier.  2nd and 10, a draw to Carthon running to his left didn’t work as Holmes came into the backfield and took him down for a 3 yard loss.  The Giants would call their 2nd timeout with :31 remaining in the half.  3rd and 13 at the 35, Simms in the gun, would get called back under center by Bart Oates because he couldn’t hear him, and with a blitz coming, Simms just took the ball and rumbled forward, taking it out to the 30, hit down by Mecklenburg and the Giants wound the clock down to 1 second as Jeff Hostetler, the holder, came running out to call the time out and set up a 47 yard Bjorn Nittmo field goal

As Madden and Summerall made fun of Nittmo’s looks and how he probably was more of a tennis player than a kicker, came on took a shot at it but the ball would flutter from left to right and off course and you could understand why Dan Reeves passed up long field goal earlier.  But for a last second shot at a 17 point lead, it was a good gamble as the Giants went into the half with a 14-0 lead.

David Treadwell came on to kickoff to start the 2nd half and squibbed one down the middle and short and was picked up by Mark Ingram at the 10 yard line, and he took it out to the 25 yard line before he was thrown backwards by Carrington.  First down, and the ball went to Carthon up the gut and he got 3 yards, hit down by Carreker.  2nd and 7, Simms faked to OJ, and threw a pass on the outside to Zeke Mowatt, who caught it at about the 33 yard line and took it to the 37 yard line and was knocked out of bounds by Braxton but good enough for a first down.  With Manuel in motion, Simms faked to Rouson and tried to throw a seam pass, but Greg Kragen got past Bart Oates and knocked the pass down.  2nd and 10, the ball was given to OJ running to his left, and he plowed for a 5 yard gain, taken down by Kragen and Holmes.  3rd and 5, Simms in the gun, had his arm hit by Mecklenberg and the ball fell in front of Manuel.  Landeta on to punt and he would shank the ball as it soared out of bounds at the 34, a poor 24 yard effort for a very good punter.

Elway started by dropping back and firing a pass to TE Clarence Kay at the 36 yard line, and Kay would head up the field to the 43 yard line, stopped by Reasons.  2nd and 1, Humphrey took the handoff running to this right, he got around Washington, and cut past Guyton and started to get a good head of steam, but he was met by Collins at about mid field who put a shoulder in the running back and stood him up and shoved him out of bounds.  While it was good for a first down, it could have been for much more if not for Collins.  1st and 10, Elway back to throw and had some time initially, but was flushed out of the pocket by Cooks and he scrambled towards the line of scrimmage and threw a pass down to Vance Johnson at the 39 and he took the ball out of bounds at the 30, however a hold on the Broncos’ Gerald Perry (again), brought the boos from the crowd, as he had to grab Marshall.  So 1st and 20 at their own 40, Elway was in the gun and had time and threw a dart to Michael Young on an out pattern and out of bounds at the Giants’ 48 yard line, for a 12 yard gain, as the ball just went over Collins’ jump.  2nd and 8, Elway back again, threw an outlet pass to Humphrey at the 48, and he was able to head up to the 44, dumped by Collins and Pepper.  3rd and 4, Elway in the gun again, would try to draw the Giants offsides and almost got Marshall to jump, but stood back and threw a laser to Jackson at the 27 yard line, he spun off Adrian White, and ran across the field, avoided Sheldon White and and actually lost 2 yards trying to dart around a Giant defender when Marshall and Pepper came charging back and hit him down, but still good for a first down.  Elway gave the ball to Humphrey, but had Reasons come in like a rocket into the backfield and slowed him up for a moment, allowing Washington and Howard to wrap him up for a loss.

2nd and 11, Elway was back against the blitz, and the Broncos picked up it, giving Elway time to throw to the end zone for Vance Johnson, who got behind Collins, but Collins recovered enough to knock it away and prevent a TD.  3rd and 11, Elway in the gun, tried to set up a screen as the Giants came in on a blitz, and Elway threw towards no one and it fell incomplete.  However, Keith Kartz was downfield and the refs threw the flag.  Parcells decided to accept the penalty and set the Broncos back to a 3rd and 21 at the 36 yard line.  Elway again in the gun got pressure from Cooks who hit him as he threw and he tried to hit Young on another deep out pattern, but this time Collins did knock it away.  On the play, another penalty was called on the Broncos, this time a tripping call on Perry, as the Denver fans lost their minds booing his 3rd penalty.  The Giants would decline and on came Horan to punt, and the coffin corner specialist did a bad job in the snow, as the ball nearly went into the stands and it was only an 18 yard punt to the 18 yard line with 9:40 to go in the 3rd quarter.

The Giants would start with a handoff to OJ running to his left and got only a 2 yard gain, hit down by Dennison.  2nd and 8, Simms back, and tried to hit Mowatt on a short out pass, but the ball bounced off the TE’s hands.  3rd and 8, Simms in the gun, had pressure on him and he scrambled up the field and was hit by Carreker and slung down, and as he was going down, Holmes took a big swipe at him and hit him across the head to try to force a fumble.  In 2016, that’s a penalty.  In 1989, though Simms got up to argue, there was no foul.  Laneta on to punt, and this time he got a better effort and it bounced past Nattiel and was downed at the 27 yard line by Rouson for a 49 yard punt.

Broncos ball with 8:12 to go in the 3rd, Elway was back and had time, and found Humphrey at the 28 yard line, where he caught and just avoided a hit by Reasons (and fumble) but was taken down by Banks at the 34 yard line.  2nd and 4, Elway faked a handoff, had pressure from Cooks and threw a pass towards Jackson which went over his head and out of bounds.  3rd and 4, Elway with plenty of time against a 3 man rush, moved around in the pocket as Adrian White came in late and he fired a deep pass to Johnson at the Giants’ 47 yard line, where he was hit down by Sheldon White but good for a first down.  A flag on the play on Perry Williams for illegal use of hands was declined (obviously).  First down, Elway back to throw again, and he had Marshall bearing down on him and forced Elway to float a pass over his head and it fell incomplete in front of Johnson.  2nd and 10, Elway again back to throw, and with pressure coming up the middle he threw a shot toward Kay who dropped it.  3rd and 10, Elway in the gun, would again get pressured, this time by Erik Howard, who flushed him to the right, but Elway got around him, and then got past Pepper, somehow stayed in bounds and he would tip toe up the sidelines in the snow all the way to the 36 yard line, and a first down before Collins shoved him out of bounds.  On a few of those steps, he might have actually been out of bounds, but with the snow it was tough to tell.  And without HD TV around to really blow the picture up for a replay, you just had to go with the call and a first down.  Denver would fake a pitch to Humphrey, Elway would roll to his right, and tried to hit Johnson, but the ball short hopped him.  2nd and 10, Elway gave the ball to Sammy Winder on a draw play, he would get past Banks in the backfield and as he tried to run to his left, he lost his footing and was touched down by Guyton after no gain.  So it was 3rd and 10, Elway was in the gun and he threw another bullet towards Young, who bobbled it about 2 times before he dove and made the catch before it hit the ground and was good for a first down at the 23 yard line.  First down, the ball went to Humphrey trying to run to his left, and he was strung out and hit by Reasons at the 20.  Reasons wasn’t done hitting

John Elway was one of the most athletic QBs in NFL history.  Big, strong and fast.  And early in his career, he was more of a scrambler to go with a cannon of an arm.  In this case, Elway would find himself under pressure, first he would get away from Washington and avoid a sack, and he would make his way up field and spin off a tackle attempt by Marshall.  But in spinning off Marshall, he never saw Reasons zero in on him and take a huge hit at the 16.  You rarely see a QB take a shot like that from a linebacker and get up.  On the play, Perry got injured for Denver.  So it was 3rd and 3, Elway was in the gun and he gave the ball to Winder on an inside draw, and Winder took off to his right and made his way to the 10 yard line, taken down by Washington and Collins.  It was first and goal at the 10, Humphrey would take a draw and find a huge hole on the right, and he would barge all the way down to the 2 yard line, taken down by Guyton and Collins.  2nd and goal at the 2, Elway would give to fullback Melvin Bratton, who tried to dive over the pile, but Steve DeOssie came in and hit him just as he tried to jump and ruined his momentum and he only made it to the 1 yard line.  3rd and goal at the 1, Humphrey took the carry running to his left and smack into Reasons and DeOssie, who kept him out of the end zone.  On 4th and goal at the 1, Reeves decided that a field goal was no good, they had to go for it.  So they took their chances to try to cut the lead to 7.

When you think about it, very few players actually have a “defining moment” in their career.  But in this one moment, you had it for Gary Reasons.  In the snow, on 4th and goal, the ball went to Humphrey who attempted the old Marcus Allen JOP (jump over the pile) play.  But whether it was luck or preparation, Reasons was ready for it.  Reasons started his jump and blasted Humphrey before he could start his jump.  As Summerall would simply call “No! a shot!”  As his teammates celebrated you could hear a pin drop in Mile High Stadium.  Madden would say it was one of the best hits he’s seen Reasons or anyone make and as he simply said “That is football”.  And for a few years after the play, I was curious what that thing was which flew out from Humphrey’s helmet.  I thought it was his mouthpiece, but it turns out it was his earpad inside the helmet.  And it is also a minor technological miracle that I still have a clear video of this play, since I must have rewound/replayed it a few thousand times on my VCR and didn’t destroy the tape.

The Giants got the ball at the 2, gave to Carthon trying to run to his left and got 1 yard, though Fletcher threw him back into the end zone.  2nd and 9, Carthon again running, this time to his right, was met at the line by Atwater, who tried to strip the ball, but couldn’t do it and Carthon lurched forward to the 5 yard line.  3rd and 7, Simms would send Ingram in motion, drop into the end zone, scramble around, and just got out of the end zone as he was sacked by Fletcher and very nearly a safety on the final play of the 3rd quarter.  Landeta had to stand right on the back end zone line, and got it off, and had a good effort to Natteil at the 50, who took it off his shoe tops and ran it up to the 32 yard line, hit down by Rouson.  

Elway would start out with another pass, and he avoided a sack by Banks, scrambled away from Washington and threw a side arm pass towards Jackson and it went out of bounds.  2nd and 10, Elway back again, tried to hit Kay at the 25, who couldn’t take in the low pass, and was hit by Reasons for good measure.  On 3rd and 10, Denver would finally break through

Elway was again in the gun and the Giants would only rush 4 guys, giving the QB plenty of time.  He would step up and away from Howard, and head towards the line of scrimmage.  As it looked like he might run, he stopped and fired a deep pass to Young, who got behind the Giants safeties and hauled in an easy TD.  Treadwell put through the extra point to make the score 14-7 with 14:29 to go in the game.

The shutout was now gone and the game was close.  Treadwell again squibbed the ball down the field and short, but it bounced over Ingram’s head and for a moment was laying there on the ground.  Ingram scooped it up at the 7 and was blasted by Ken Lucas at the 12 yard line.  The Denver crowd was into the game and the ball went to OJ over the middle for a 4 yard gain, hit down by Holmes.  2nd and 6, Simms back, with pressure coming up the middle, was able to find Stephen Baker at the sidelines at the 28 yard line and thrown out of bounds by Henderson.  First down the Giants dodged a bullet

OJ took the carry going up the middle and would only gain two yards, but in the cold and snow, the ball came loose on a hit by Kragen.  The crowd didn’t know if they should cheer or not because Broncos players kept pointing they had the ball, and then a Giants player would point their way.  Jerry Markbreit had to literally get on the ground and into the pile to figure it out and finally decided it was the Giants ball as somehow Rouson came out of there with it.  So 2nd and 8, Simms would drop back, dump it off to Carthon who took it to the 36, hit by Randy Robbins and Mark Mumford.  3rd and 2, Simms again back and with a blitz tried to hit Baker on an out pattern but the ball sailed out of bounds.  Landeta on to punt again, took a low snap and went out to Nattiel at about the 28 yard line and he would get dropped at the 31 by Reyna Thompson and Greg Cox with 12:05 to play in the game.

Elway was back, scrambled to his right, dumped to Bratton at the 26, and he only made it to the 32, force out by Reasons.  2nd and 9, and with the defense tired and the Giants holding on, for the first time in the game, Lawrence Taylor came on the field, despite the back spasms and broken ankle.  Elway would try to throw towards Jackson, but it was tipped by Marshall and nearly picked off by Perry Williams but would hit the ground incomplete.  

3rd and 9, Elway in the gun, made a one handed catch on a bad snap and fired the ball towards Nattiel who dove and caught it and would have had the first down.  However, he would lunge backward for some reason and since he wasn’t touched, did not have forward progress and was touched down short of a first down by Pepper Johnson.   Dan Reeves, at their own 40, and perhaps spooked by the goal line stand, sent out Horan to punt, nearly had it blocked, and it was fair caught by Meggett at the 22 yard line, with 11:05 to go in the game.
OJ got the handoff, running to his right, powered to the 25, a 3 yard gain, hit down by Brooks.  2nd and 7, Simms would drop back, get hit as he threw and the ball sailed out of bounds near no one and the Giants avoided an intentional grounding.  

3rd and 7, Simms would come under center and drop back, with the pocket breaking down, would run up and away from the rush, somehow would juke around Atwater in the open field, who slipped down, and then took off up the middle of the field and dove for the first down, past Henderson at the 36.  A huge first down kept the ball for the Giants, who pitched to Tillman running to his right and was hit by Brooks for no gain.  2nd and 10, Simms back, avoided the rush and dumped to Carthon at the 39, where he was hit immediately by Smith.  3rd and 7, Simms again under center, would drop back, and drill a pass in to Meggett at the 48 yard line and another huge first down.  So the drive would continue, and the pitch to OJ to the right, and he would plod for a 3 yard gain, hit down by Dennison.  2nd and 7, again OJ got the ball up the middle and kind of slid forward for a 1 yard gain as the clock went under 6 minutes.  3rd and 6, Simms would drop back, with plenty of time and he had Meggett down the field, who beat Atwater, but Meggett would drop it.  Landeta on to punt and he would have the ball bounce at the 2 and go into the end zone for a touchback.

Down by a TD at the 20, Elway would drop back and throw a curl to Johnson who caught it at the 30 and out of bounds for a first down.  Elway would fake the handoff and took a deep shot to Jackson, but was well covered by Collins, who nearly picked it off.  2nd and 10, Elway was back, with time, dumped it over the middle to Johnson at the 39 and knocked down by Pepper.  3rd and 1, Elway was back, and found Johnson over the middle at the 45 yard line, hit down by Reasons but good for a first down with the clock running under 4 minutes.  Elway again back, threw a pass in to Kay at the Giants 48 yard line, and he would at it to the 42, where he had the ball stripped by Perry Williams, but he fell on it and gave Denver another first down.  The clock was still running and Elway dropped back again, had some pressure, hit Humphrey at the 40 on a check down and the running back took off up the sidelines and got a first down at the 29, knocked out of bounds by Collins with 3:05.  The Giants defense was exhausted, as the thin air of Denver was taking it’s toll.  Elway back, got a little rush and slipped as he tried to hit Bratton by the sidelines but it went out of bounds.  2nd and 10, Elway back, had Marshall put some pressure on him, but he hit Humphrey out in the flat at the 34, and he would take off, this time up the left sideline and a first down at the 18 yard line, hit by Guyton.  The clock was running, now under 2:30 and the Giants looked like a team about to give up their lead.  Bratton took the carry up the middle, got the ball to the 15, hit by Pepper to take the clock to the 2 minute warning.  2nd and 7, Elway was back to throw and tried to hit Humphrey over the middle, but he dropped it.  3rd and 7, Elway in the gun, took the snap, had time and tried to hit Nattiel in the back of the end zone, but it soared out of bounds.  Now it was 4th and 7 at the 15 and the Giants needed to dig deep

With 1:51 to go in the game, Elway was in the gun, tried a hard count, which got the Giants to flinch, but not jump, and he would fire a bullet to Sewell, who had it bounce off his hands and launch towards the end zone.  In a jump ball situation, Myron Guyton made a great play to box out Johnson, similar to a basketball player and bat the pass down.  Clarence Kay,  near the play, nearly caught the deflection for what would have been a back breaking TD.  

With 1:45 to go, Denver had all 3 time outs.  OJ took the carry up the middle, gained 1 yard, stopped by Holmes and the Broncos took their first timeout with 1:40 to go.  2nd and 9, the Giants would fake a dive to OJ and gave the ball to Rouson on a reverse, he would run to his left, get past Fletcher, and be stood up by Henderson after a 6 yard gain to the 22 yard line.  Denver would stop the clock with 1:31 to go.  3rd and 3, Parcells had a decision, go for the throat or go to force Denver’s final timeout.  They gave to OJ up the middle, stopped after a 1 yard gain by Mecklenberg and forced them to take their final time out.  So that left it up to Landeta.

There are good punters.  Pro Bowl punters.  There are punters who can boom off a good kick early in a game when the pressure is not on.  And then there is a situation where you are trying to make a team go a long field to try to tie a game in bad weather.  But it is not just a punter, but a cover man too.  Reyna Thompson was the best special teams player to ever play when he was in his prime.  Period.  Consider the situation here.  John Elway is playing at home, down 7.  He is known for his comebacks and the Giants just withstood a drive and held him out of the end zone and they are exhausted.  Denver now has no time outs.  So Landeta comes on and just blasts a punt away, taken by Nattiel at the 23 yard line.  That was amazing in and of itself in this weather.  But even more amazing, was Reyna Thompson, sprinting down the field, and since the Broncos were in a safety return situation with 2 returners, had to fight off a block by Vance Johnson and took down Nattiel in the open field where he would have had forever to run if he had a chance.  Remarkable.  And you know that when Bill Parcells hugs you after a play, in a close game, it’s a big deal.  

With 1:15 to go at the 23, Elway started out in the gun, and had time and fired towards Johnson, who had the ball bounce off his hands and fall incomplete.  1:10 to go, 2nd and 10, Elway back, and because the Giants defense was so tired, they couldn’t get off the line, so Cooks did the next best thing, just jump up and knocked the ball down.  3rd and 10 with 1:04, Elway back, again with all kinds of time, hit Young at the 47, hit down by Sheldon White who kind of layed on him to kill more time.  Elway hurried to the line, and rather than spike it, took the snap and tried to find someone open.  He got a little pressure and scrambled up the field, hit down by Howard and Cooks at the 50, but the clock continued to tick down.  Elway finally got to the line and spiked the ball with :23 to go.  3rd and 5, Elway in the gun, with plenty of time, threw a dart to Jackson by the sidelines at the 33, who caught it and went out of bounds with :15 to go.  The Giants, who had little left in the tank, were out there as Elway threw a Hail Mary to the right corner of the end zone, but it was batted out of bounds by Guyton with :08 to go in the game.

Elway was back, set up shop and threw another deep one towards the same area, trying to hit Nattiel.  But there were only 2 Broncos and about 6 Giants around the ball.  Sheldon White and Carl Banks nearly both picked it off, but they knocked it to the ground.  The clock struck 0:00 and the Giants escaped with a 14-7 win and kept them in a first place tie with the Eagles.

Post Mortem/ Interesting Tidbits

  • First meeting since Super Bowl XXI between the Giants and Broncos
  • Dave Meggett’s 57 yard TD was not his longest of the season.  That would come in the opener in Washington on a 62 yard catch and run for a TD.  It would turn out to be his 2nd longest catch of his career however.  Two weeks prior, Meggett caught a 53 yard TD on a short pass and run at San Francisco. After his rookie season, Meggett only had one more catch of 50 or more yards for the remainder of his career, when he caught a 50 yard bomb from Phil Simms at Philadelphia in 1993, which helped set up a TD pass to Mark Jackson in a 7-3 Giants win.
  • Lawrence Taylor missed most of this game.  He had broken a bone in his ankle 2 weeks prior on a Monday Night loss in San Francisco.  He played the next week in the loss to Philly but was clearly slowed down, even with the emotional lift of him being out there.  He was supposed to play in Denver, but back spasms forced him to the bench.  LT would come out to play later in the 2nd half as the Giants were clinging to the lead and were starting to run out of gas
  • The fake punt to Gary Reasons was his only official rush in his career, the 1 carry for 2 yards and a first down.  Of course, he would do it again in the NFC Championship game 1 year later, good for a 30 yard gain, and if not for a great tackle by John Taylor, it would have been a TD.
  • Mo Carthon’s 18 yard run was not only a season long, it was a career long rush for the fullback who made his name as a lead blocker.  
  • The Giants did not fare very well in Denver over the years.  The Giants have played 5 games in Denver, and this was the only one which they came out the victor.  Of course, they did face the Broncos on a neutral site in 1986 at the Rose Bowl when the Giants beat the Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI.
  • Bobby Humphrey as a supplemental pick.  Giants fans learned all about the Supplemental Draft in 1992, when they used their would be 1993 First Round pick on Dave Brown (their 2nd rounder would turn out to be Michael Strahan).  The Broncos used a first round pick in the Supplemental Draft on RB Bobby Humphrey out of Alabama.  Humphrey would impress in his rookie season, rushing for 1,151 yards in the Broncos Super Bowl run season in 1989.  In 1990, Humphrey would put up better numbers, 1202 yards and 7 TDs and be named to the Pro Bowl.  Believing that he outpaced his contract, Humphrey would hold out in the 1991 season and didn’t actually sign until Week 14.  By that time, Gaston Green had taken over as the Broncos lead back, and himself gained 1037 yards in just 13 games.  Humphrey was made expendable and was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 1992 for Sammie Smith.  Humphrey would play 2 seasons with the Dolphins and be out of the NFL by 1994.
  • The late Bum Phillips was on the sidelines in his big cowboy hat watching his son Wade as Defensive Coordinator.  Was was in his first year as defensive coordinator with the Broncos. Wade got his start as a defensive coach on his father’s staff in Houston with the Oilers from 1976-1980.  When Bum went to New Orleans as head man, Wade followed him and was the defensive coordinator there from 1981-1985, and he would actually take over for his father as interim head coach in 1985 after Bum stepped down.  Wade would end up as the Eagles defensive coordinator, working under another top defensive mind, Buddy Ryan, from 1986-1988.  Phillips would remain on the Broncos staff as the defensive coordinator from 1989-1992 and would replace Dan Reeves as the head coach in 1993-1994.  From there Wade would bounce around either as a Head Coach or Defensive coordinator in Buffalo, Atlanta, San Diego, Dallas, Houston (this time the Texans) and then back to Denver as the defensive coordinator in 2015 when he finally won a Super Bowl after spending nearly 40 years as a coach in the NFL.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

1990 Giants @ Rams

Week 10

The Setup

The game of football is many things.  It teaches life lessons: teamwork, overcoming adversity, dealing with bad luck and or falling into good luck, the joys of winning, the agony of losing, etc.  There is another aspect to life that football also allows you to experience, and it's much more visceral.  Revenge and catharsis, and an opportunity to just beat the hell out of a rival (figuratively, and in the case of football, literally).

The Parcells era Giants had several rivals.  The Redskins under Joe Gibbs won a Super Bowl during Parcells' tenure with the Giants and met up with them in the NFC Championship.  The 49ers were considered the team of the 1980s, winning 4 Super Bowls.  They would knock the Giants out of the playoffs twice.  Of course, Bill Parcells would send the Niners home in 1985, 1986, and in the NFC Championship in 1990.

But when it came to teams who just gave the Giants fits and had trouble beating, there were 2 that immediately come to mind.  The Eagles and the Rams.  They were two completely different styles though.  The Buddy Ryan Eagles were infuriating because they would win in so many different and unorthodox ways.  Their defense would force turnovers and score TDs.  Their offense would make big plays on broken plays, such as the 1988 TD when Randall Cunningham bounced off a would be Carl Banks sack, stay on his feet by literally holding himself up with the football (and not fumbling), and throw a TD.  And of course, LT blocking a field goal in OT in 1988, only to see DE Clyde Simmons run it in for a TD.  Oh...and they were dirty too.  For anyone who thinks the Ryan brothers are loud mouths, look no further than their father to see where they got it from.  And he was on full display during "Buddyball" in Philly.  And worst of all, they beat the Giants.  Buddy joined the Eagles in 1986 and lost his first 4 games to the Giants.  After that, he would finish 5-1 against the Parcells Giants.  

Not nearly as antagonistic, but no less effective were the John Robinson led Rams.  Robinson, a childhood friend of John Madden, took over the Rams in 1983 after spending the majority of his career as a college coach.  His only NFL experience came in 1975, when he was a running back coach under Madden with the Oakland Raiders.  Robinson made a name for himself as the head man at USC, going 104-35-4 from 1976-1982, winning 3 Rose Bowls.  Robinson would stay in Los Angeles and move over to the NFL, taking over as the LA Rams head coach.  Interestingly, Robinson's first career game in 1983 matched him up at Giants Stadium against another man head coaching his first NFL game, Bill Parcells.  The Rams, behind 91 yards rushing from rookie RB Eric Dickerson, would beat the Giants 16-6 in a turnover filled mess of a game, featuring 10 turnovers (5 by each team) and 15 penalties.  Parcells' Giants, with Scott Brunner at QB looked every bit the 3-12-1 team they would finish at in 1983.  Robinson meanwhile, would have much better luck, turning the Rams into a winning team, going 9-7, making the playoffs and beating the Cowboys in Dallas in the Wild Card round 24-17 before getting destroyed in Washington 51-7 in the 2nd round.  

So Robinson got the Rams back on track in 1983, and he would turn them into winners, making the playoffs every season from 1983-1989, with the exception of the 1987 strike season.  They made the NFC Championship game twice.  And Robinson oversaw the Rams transition from a power running team behind Dickerson, to a switch of offensive coordinators with Ernie Zampese that featured more of a passing attack, after the Dickerson trade and giving the ball to Jim Everett to throw it down the field.  

Parcells would be 1 season behind the Rams in his turnaround with the Giants, getting them into the playoffs in 1984.  The Giants would visit LA twice in 1984.  The first time was a special teams trainwreck, including allowing 3 safties, in a 33-12 loss.  The Giants would avenge that loss in the Wild Card round, beating the Rams 16-13 and giving Parcells his first playoff win.  The Giants would keep their momentum in 1985, as they overcame a 16-7 defecit and beat the 8-1 Rams 24-19 at Giants Stadium.  That would even the Parcells vs. Robinson head to head matchups at 2-2.  But that was during the Dickerson era, when the Rams looked to pound the ball behind their big offensive line, and played right into the Giants' hands defensively as their strength was taking on running teams with their big DL and LBs.  

Dickerson would be traded to the Colts in 1987 and that signaled a change in the Rams philosophy.  Zampese was the offensive coordinator during the Air Coryell days in San Diego, when Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts was putting up huge passing numbers that featured the downfield passing game.  Zampese would work with Everett and take advantage of his big arm.  He also had a number of offensive weapons to work with as well.  Big play WRs in Henry Ellard, Aaron Cox, and Willie "Flipper" Anderson.  Good hands TE in Pete Holohan.  And a group of good running backs like Greg Bell and Robert Delpino.  The Giants would get their first look at this new offense in 1988 at Giants Stadium, and in Week 4, the Rams would light up Parcells and Belichick's defense, to the tune of a 45-31 beating.  The 45 points would be the most scored against the Giants during the Parcells/Belichick tenure.  

If only to add insult to injury, in 1988, as the Giants season imploded with a late loss to the Jets in the season finale, and the Eagles win vs Dallas to give Philly the NFC East.  The Giants needed the 49ers to beat the Rams in San Francisco to give the Giants a wild card.  The Niners would take a 3-0 lead early, pull their starters and get rolled 38-16 in a game in which Phil Simms said the Niners "laid down like dogs".  Because of the Week 4 victory earlier in the season, the Giants and Rams both finished 10-6, but the Rams got the tie breaker, earned a Wild Card slot and were bounced in the first game at Minnesota 28-17.

In 1989, the Giants would start out hot, going 8-1 and had the best record in the NFL.  That would set up a showdown in LA against the Rams.  With Phil Simms returning at QB after missing a start due to an injury suffered in a Monday win against the Vikings two weeks before, the Giants looked to be ready for the 5-4 Rams, who had just lost the previous week to that same Vikings team in OT, thanks to a safety when LB Mike Merriweather blocked a punt out of the end zone (the first OT game to end in a safety).  The Rams jumped all over Giants, going up 10-0 in the first quarter and 24-3 at the half.  They would roll up 28 first downs, rush for 150 yards, and Everett would throw for 295 yards and 2 TDs.  The final score was 31-10, thanks to a window dressing OJ Anderson TD in the 4th quarter.  

The Giants would recover from this beatdown, rally to a 12-4 record and take the NFC East title away from the Eagles thanks to a late 3 game winning streak and the Eagles slipping up in a loss to the Saints in New Orleans on a Monday Night.  Meanwhile the Rams would finish 11-5 and enter the playoffs as the #5 seed as a Wild Card on the road in Philly.  The fair weather Rams would go into 34 degree Philadelphia and hand the Eagles a stunning 21-7 hammering, thanks to 127 yards from Greg Bell.  That would set up a rematch with the Giants at Giants Stadium for the 2nd round of the playoffs.

The Rams were in the Giants' heads by this point.  LT, dominant against everyone else, was chided by Parcells to go fly to New Orleans to switch jerseys with LB Pat Swilling, who was able to beat tackle Irv Pankey for several sacks.  The Giants defense and fans were ready, especially LT for the Rams.  And early on in the game, it looked good for the Giants.  LT got 2 early sacks, including a sack/fumble early in the game on Everett inside the 10 yard line to stop a scoring drive.  Everett was under pressure the entire half.  The Giants moved the ball with OJ, but only had a 6-0 lead late in the first half.  But a late Simms INT by Michael Stewart set up a Rams TD to Flipper Anderson and a 7-6 LA lead at the half, which the Giants had dominated.  In the second half, it was a back and forth game, with the Giants going up 13-7 on a powering OJ Anderson TD.  Two Mike Lansford field goals sent the game to OT.  The Rams captain Jackie Slater would win the coin toss and take the ball.  The Rams wouldn't give it up as Anderson streaked past Mark Collins, who was playing with a broken bone in his foot, for a game winning OT 30 yard TD as he ran into the tunnel and the Giants season was over.

Now the Giants were heading into 1990 with revenge on their minds.  The Rams loss gave them a purpose and they were not messing around.  They went undefeated in the pre-season.  They would meet up with the Rams, again in LA, in week 10 with the Giants sporting an 8-0 record.  They were at their best.  Meanwhile, on the other side, something was off with the Rams.  A team which went to the NFC Championship Game to take on the 49ers the year before, and was considered to be a contender at the start of the season, but something was wrong.  They started their season with a loss at Green Bay and went on to a shocking 3-5 start their season.  With the 49ers similarly jumping out to a 8-0 record, the NFC West was long gone as an option.  But looking deeper at the Rams, you could see the problems.  Their offensive line, so long a strength on the team with a bunch of Pro Bowlers, showed signs of age and decay.  Doug Smith was 34.  Jackie Slater was 36.  Irv Pankey was 32.  That would impact the Rams ability to control the line of scrimmage and give Everett the time he needed to execute the offense.  But the biggest factor in the Rams collapse was their defense.  Perhaps it was the laid back LA image or that they were known for offense or a big star like Dickerson, but one of the most underrated units in the 1980s was the Rams defense.  They were perhaps a notch below the Giants, Bears, Redskins, and 49ers, but not too far.  However, the wheels came off in 1990 and it showed in points scored.  Going into the Giants game alone, they allowed 36 to the Packers, 27 at home to the Eagles, 34 to the Bengals, 38 to Chicago, 24 to Atlanta, and 41! on the road against the Bubby Brister led Steelers.  Though the Rams found a way to beat Houston the week before, they came up against a Giants team on a roll, who owed their team a beating, and the Rams had a shaky offensive line and a bad defense.  As a fan, there are times you go into a game and think your team should beat the hell out of another team.  And when it’s been a team that has frustrated you over the years, you hold out hope that you can see them finally whack them around.  Many times it doesn’t work out that way.  In this instance, on a hot day in November in Los Angeles, Giants fans got what they wanted.

Game Highlights

Giants would kickoff with Matt Bahr with the heat reaching over 100 degrees on the field.  Bahr’s kickoff was a line drive that bounced at the 6 yard line and fielded by Gaston Green at the 2 yard line.  Green would run it up the right side and follow his wedge until he was cut down by David Whitmore at the 29.  The Rams offense would take the field and begin with a handoff to Cleveland Gary up the gut, taken down by Eric Dorsey at the 35 for a good 6 yard gain.  2nd and 4, Jim Everett went back to throw, given a good pocket and tried to hit Henry Ellard deep down the middle, but the ball sailed a tad and Ellard alligator armed it with Greg Jackson roaming over ready to deliver a big hit.  3rd and 4, Everett would take a 5 step drop and fire a pass out to the right and found Aaron Cox at the 40 and he would take it to the 41, hit down by Mark Collins and Reyna Thompson.  First down, the handoff to Gary running to his left, and he found enough of a hole to get to the 47, taken down by Gary Reasons.  2nd and 4, Gary took a draw going to his right and just got across the 50 yard line, but was caught from behind by Lawrence Taylor on his patented play of coming down the line to stop him short of a first down just as he was going to rip off a big gain.  3rd and 1, as they handed off to Buford McGee for a would be first down, a false start called on Duval Love would kill the play.  Now 3rd and 6, Everett back and he would have a blitz coming off the edge from Jackson forced a weak throw towards Cox on the left sidelines and it fell incomplete.  Keith English on to punt and he would send a high punt to Dave Meggett at the 14 yard line.  Meggett would field it and immediately accelerate up the middle and to the 30 yard line for a 16 yard return, tackled by Mike Stams.  

The Giants offense would trot out on the field and Phil Simms would step back and tried to hit Stephen Baker on a comeback route, but the ball sailed over his head and into the sidelines.  2nd and 10, Simms would give to Rodney Hampton running to his left and was only able to get about 3 yards, taken down by Larry Kelm.  3rd and 7, with Simms in the shotgun, the Giants would go to a guy no one had heard of

Simms would have plenty of time to set up and throw a frozen rope to a rookie WR named Troy Kyles, just activated off the practice squad, who was coming across the middle on a crossing pattern.  Kyles would catch the ball in stride at the 40 and turn it up the field and all the way to the Rams’ 33 yard line for a 34 yard gain.  So after the big gain and first down, the ball went back to Hampton, who ran to his right and just turned the corner and was taken down at the 30 by Michael Stewart.  2nd and 8, the Giants would set up a screen to the left side to Hampton, who hauled the ball in at the 31, followed a nice block by William Roberts on Mike Wilcher (who was pretty clearly knocked unconscious on the hit by the Pro Bowl guard), but was tripped up and fell forward to the 27.  3rd and 5, Simms again in the gun and had some time to throw and tried to hit Lionel Manuel on an out pattern, but the ball sailed over his head an incomplete.  On would come Matt Bahr from 44 yards out and he would bury it down the middle to give the Giants a 3-0 lead with 8:53 to go in the first quarter.

Bahr would kickoff after a short delay with an official getting injured and needing some assistance and he would boot it on a line drive taken by Latin Berry and would get it up to the 23 yard line, where he was hit down by Lewis Tillman.  First down, the ball went to Gary up the gut, taken to the 26, hit down by Erik Howard and John Washington.  2nd and 7, Everett dropped back in the pocket and had pressure from behind by LT and dumped it out in the flat to Gary at the 23 yard line, and he had his legs taken out by Collins at the 29 on a nice open field tackle.  3rd and 3, the ball went to Gary running to his right and he ran into a pile and was knocked down by Pepper Johnson at the 33 and with the measurement was given a first down.  Green would take the next carry, running up the middle would find nothing, so he would cut back to his left and turn the corner and accelerate around a missed tackle by Everson Walls at the 38 yard line and took off up the sidelines where he was finally shoved out of bounds at the Giants’ 36 yard line by Myron Guyton, and standing on the bench was Meggett, who actually leveled Green by accident.  First down, Everett back, would hit Pete Holohan, an annoying Giant killer, at the 16 yard line over the middle, hit down by Guyton.  Gary would run around the left end, and pick up 3 yards, hit down by Reasons.  On 2nd and 7, you would see a call that wouldn’t happen today

Everyone knows the rules today in the NFL related to avoiding intentional grounding.  All a QB has to do is get outside the tackle box, and throw the ball at or beyond the line of scrimmage to avoid the penalty (and also save a hit on the QB, which is why they put the rule in place.)  Well, in 1990, that rule didn’t exist yet.  So Everett fake the handoff and rolled to his right where he was chased down by Johnnie Cooks.  As Cooks dove for him, Everett uncorked a pass out of the corner of the end zone.  Should have been harmless for the most part.  But the officials decided to call intentional grounding on Everett saying that he was trying to avoid the sack.  So with the loss and the loss of down, it made it 3rd and 17 at the 23 yard line.  Everett would drop back, with LT baring down on him, tried to hit Ellard by the goal line, but the ball sailed on him, hit off Ellard’s hands and was nearly picked by Walls.  So the drive stalled and on came the veteran barefoot kicker Mike Lansford to attempt a 40 yarder.

Lansford was having a horrible year to this point and continued with the same problems.  This time he would just hook it and it would sail wide to the left as John Robinson hung his head in disgust.  

The Giants would get the ball at the 23 yard line and gave it to OJ up the middle to the 25, stopped by Doug Reed.  2nd and 8, Simms back, with a pocket to set up in, rifled one into Meggett, who was split out at WR, and he caught it at the 35, and spun forward to the 37, taken down by Jerry Gray.  First down, OJ took a delayed handoff and he was stopped for no gain by Kelm.  2nd and 10, Simms again back, would swing it out to the left flat over to Hampton, who was chased down by Stams for no gain.  3rd and 10, Simms in the gun, would try to hit Lionel Manuel on an out pattern, but the ball sailed on him and went out of bounds.  Landeta on to punt, and he got off a high punt to the 10, and Ellard would run sideways across the field and was chased down by Gary Reasons on the 17 yard line.

Everett would drop back and hit Holohan in the right flat at the 23 yard line and he would turn up the field to the 28 yard line, hogtied by Jackson to the ground, but good for a first down.  Gary would take the carry up the middle and it looked like he had a huge hole on a cutback to the right and tripped at the 30, touched down by Pepper but he looked to have a huge gain if not for losing his footing on what would be the final play of the first quarter.  2nd and 8, Gary again on the carry and he would rumble up the gut to the 36, hit down by John Washington.  3rd and 2, Everett back with LT coming in on him, had to hurry a pass to Holohan at the 40, and he would snag it and push ahead to the 42, hit down by Steve DeOssie and Myron Guyton, good for another first down.  Everett again back, and he would try to throw a deep pass, some what in the direction of Flipper Anderson, but the ball sailed way out of bounds.  2nd and 10, Gary took the handoff up the middle, got whacked in the hole by LT at the line of scrimmage, but spun off the hit and fell forward to the 44, taken down by Leonard Marshall.  3rd and 8, Everett back, would hit Derek Faison on a crossing pattern at the Rams’ 48 yard line, he would sprint his way to the Giants’ 49, taken down by Perry Williams and about a half a yard short of a first down.  The Rams decided not to go for it and brought on the punting team, and it would be fair caught by Meggett at the 12 yard line as John Robinson chose to play field position.

The Giants would start off with a handoff to OJ running to his left for a 3 yard gain, hit down by Stams.  2nd and 7, Simms back, and with time was able to hit Mark Ingram on an out pattern from the slot at the 25, and he turned up the field and out of bounds at the 29 yard line, shoved out by Stewart for a first down.  Again the ball to OJ, again just a short gain, running to his right, hit down by Stams at the 32.  2nd and 7, Simms back and would dump it off to OJ at the 26 and the big back would chug up the field and looked to plow over a Ram on the play and would start to use that right hook stiff arm he would make famous in the Super Bowl, but would get his legs cut out from under him by Bobby Humphrey at the 35.  3rd and 4, Simms in the gun, with Meggett out wide and Hampton in the backfield, and Simms would go to Hampton who was wide open at the 40 on an option route, and he would take it to the 44, taken down by Stewart, but good for a first down.  First down, the quick draw to Hampton and he would get it just to the 45, taken down by Brett Fairenez.  2nd and 9, Simms again back, with all day, and he would hit Ingram over the middle, behind the linebackers in the zone at the Rams’ 38 yard line.  Ingram would weave his way out of bounds at the 24 yard line, shoved out by Vince Newsome.  OJ would take the carry running to his left and plow forward to the 20, taken down by Piel.  2nd and 7, OJ would get stacked up at the line of scrimmage and was taken down by Reed.  3rd and 6, Simms in the gun and would look for an open man, but one never came and he would get sacked by Piel at the 29 yard line.  So one would come Bahr to try another FG

Bahr would hit the field goal from 45 yards out, but a flag was thrown on the play.  The refs would call a hands to the face on the Giants, but Jerry Seeman would then reverse course and call it on the Rams on Alvin Wright and an automatic first down.  On a 4th and 15, Parcells would accept the penalty and take points off the board as Robinson screamed on the sidelines.

So with new life at the 24, OJ would take the handoff running to the left and he would turn the corner, take it out to the 11 yard line, shoved out by Humphrey, but a flag on the Giants for a hold on Bob Mrosko would set them back to 1st and 20 at the 34.  Simms back to throw, would set up a screen to the left to Meggett and he would be hit right at the line of scrimmage and shoved back by Stams.  2nd and 20, Simms under center would drop back, dump it off to OJ at the 38 and he would lumber his way down to the 26, taken down by Stams.  3rd and 12, Simms in the gun, would stand in and hit Kyles, this time open at the 17 yard line and under the zone, and Kyles would take the ball down to the 9 yard line, for a 16 yard gain and a huge first down.  So first and goal at the 9, the Giants would go to a more familiar combination

If the fans didn’t really know about Simms to Kyles, they sure did know all about Simms to Bavaro.  And here Simms would run a little play action fake and bootleg to his right, and would go back over the middle, where Bavaro had simply stopped his route in front of the goal line leaving him open.  Meanwhile, Howard Cross kind of drew coverage away and it was an easy pitch and TD as Bavaro absorbed the hit, and fell into the end zone before taking a knee a la Tebow many years later.  Bahr’s extra point would make the score 10-0 with 3:34 go to in the half.

Bahr’s kickoff would go to Latin Berry who caught a line drive that backed him into the end zone and a touchback.  Starting at the 20, Everett back, with time, would go up the field to Flipper Anderson, who caught it up the seam at the 45, and rolled forward to midfield, where Myron Guyton actually tripped on him to down him, but it was close to a no touch and Flipper could have run the rest of the way.  After the 30 yard gain, it was first and 10, and Gary took the ball up the gut, danced around but was taken down by Howard and Dorsey for a 1 yard gain.  2nd and 9, Everett again back and had some time early, but got happy feet and was sacked on a delayed safety blitz by Greg Jackson back at the 45 which took the game to the 2 minute warning.  3rd and 15, Everett with time and had Henry Ellard open between 3 Giants at the 35 yard line and the ball in his hands, but Guyton reached in and pulled it loose for a drop.  4th and 15, Keith English on to punt, and he got off kick to Meggett at the 12 yard line and he danced to the 24 where he was downed with 1:43 to go in the half.  

Simms in the gun set up a screen pass to Meggett to the left side, Meggett caught it at the 20, broke a tackle by Fairenez and turned up the field to the 31 yard line, taken down by Stams.  On 2nd and 3, Simms again in the gun, gave the ball off to Meggett on an inside handoff, but he was swallowed up by Mike Piel at the 31 for no gain.  With the clock running and all 3 time outs, the Giants took their time to set up and hand off to Anderson running to his right on a sweep around the end but was stopped by Gray after a 1 yard gain and he stayed in bounds, forcing a Rams time out with :40 to go in the half.  Landeta on to punt, and was taken by Hendley at the 17 yard line and he was able to initially get away from Reyna Thompson at the 20, where he would juke his way to his right, dodge another tackle and make his way up the field to the 32 yard line, where Thompson got up and chased him down from behind with :25 to go in the half just as it looked like he might have a big return.  

Everett would throw over the middle to Ellard, who caught it at the 42 yard line and he would back up actually and take it to the 47, knocked down by Dave Duerson and the Rams called their 2nd time out with :19 to go.  First down, Everett back again and threw a deep shot down the left side towards Flipper, but he was double covered by Williams and Everson Walls, and his feet got tangled with Walls and was tripped up and fell.  2nd down, with pressure coming from LT up the middle, Everett dumped it over the middle to Holohan at the 50 and he did a quick hook and lateral back to Buford McGee, but it was read perfectly by Jackson and was thrown out of bounds at the Giants’ 47 yard line, stopping the clock with :08 to go.  3rd and 3, Everett would try a Hail Mary

With little time remaining, the Rams opted for the Hail Mary, and with just a 3 man rush, Everett was flushed out by LT and would uncork a deep pass in the direction of Faison, who actually had it in his hands for a moment but bounced off his helmet and up in the air where Walls was waiting in the end zone to bat it to himself and would pick it off in the corner of the end zone for a touchback to end the half with the Giants leading 10-0.

The Giants would get the ball to start the 2nd half with Lansford kicking off to Rodney Hampton on a short kick, settling under it at the 9 yard line.  Hampton would accelerate up the middle and out to the 27 yard line.  Simms led the offense out and started with an attempted screen to Anderson, but was batted down by Fairenez and luckily not picked off.  2nd and 10, Simms would handoff to OJ on a sprint draw to his right and he was grabbed from behind by Kevin Greene and yanked down at the 30.  OJ would come up yelling at the refs for missing a facemask, which they did and was surprising because OJ had one of the larger facemasks for a running back at the time.  3rd and 7, Greene would make an even larger impact

Kevin Greene was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL when he was in his prime and he used to kill the Giants when they faced the Rams.  In this case, coming off the right side, Greene barged past Doug Reisenberg and smashed into Simms who was attempting to throw and knocked the ball free.  As the Rams attempted a scoop and score, they kicked the ball up the field, where it was recovered by Greene at the 10 yard line.  

So suddenly the Rams found themselves in great field position on first and goal and began with a handoff to Gary running to his left, broke a tackle attempt by Reasons, and powered into Guyton at the 5 and charged to the 3 where he was finally bent back by Jackson, Walls, and Dorsey.  The Rams would keep hammering on the next play

Not much to this play, just a power run to the right side by Gary, who got a head of steam and powered into the end zone, taking Dorsey with him.  Dorsey apparently lost his mind for a moment, grabbing Gary by the head and facemask while they were already 2 yards into the end zone and tried to drag him back out of there as about 4 flags came flying for a personal foul.  After a procedural penalty on Greene for not reporting as an eligible number lining up to block on the extra point, Lansford put the kick through to make the score 10-7 with 13:03 to go in the 3rd quarter.

So now LA had come alive and with the penalty, Lansford kicked off from the 50.  Lansford would pooch it to the goal line and taken by Hampton and run back up the middle again and squited out to the 16, stopped by Pat Terrell.  With Darryl Strawberry, newly signed by the LA Dodgers, hanging out on the Giants sidelines, the Giants team had to deal with a crowd now back in the game.  Simms back, and went over the middle to Bavaro at the 23, and he would turn up the field and get to the 28 yard line, stopped by Stams and a first down.  OJ would take the carry trying to run to his right, but Alvin Wright got into the backfield to engulf him for a 1 yard loss.  2nd and 11, Simms back with some time, dumped it off to OJ at the 31, and he would spin his way up to the 39, diving forward and looking like he might have fumbled on the hit by Gray, but the ref called him down, and just short of a first down.  3rd and inches, the ball went to Mo Carthon, who plowed into the line and looked to be stood up, but after the measurement had clearly gotten the ball for a first down.  1st and 10, Simms back, with a blitz coming on, settled in the pocket and threw a pass over the middle to Mark Ingram, who jumped and snagged it at the Rams’ 46 yard line for a big first down, tackled by Gray and a 15 yard gain.  First down, Simms back again and like a surgeon drilled the pass into Bavaro at the 35, over the linebacker, and down to the 32 yard line for another first down on a 13 yard gain.  With the life draining from the crowd as the Giants marched down the field, the ball went to OJ running to his left, got around the edge, and turned up the field, spinning off a tackle attempt by Humprey at the 25 and lunging forward to the 17, stopped by Newsome, but another 15 yard gain.  First down, Simms would give to OJ, but this time he would get tripped up by Doug Reed in the backfield for a 1 yard loss.  On 2nd and 11, OJ would get replaced by Hampton and the rookie would show why he was a first round pick

Hampton would take the draw from Simms running to his right, he would cut inside a block by Carthon to go up the middle, follow another block by guard Bob Kratch, and then cut to his right to get around a tackle by Newsome and then cut back to his left as Stewart and Stams fell at his feet and chugged right into the end zone as the crowd of thousands of transplanted New Yorkers cheered the touchdown run, and it was so loud that even Madden had to make mention of it.  Bahr’s extra point made the score 17-7 with 7:46 to go in the 3rd quarter.  

Bahr’s kickoff would go to Berry at the 4 yard line and he would head towards the middle of the field and would be met by Duerson and Thompson at the 19.  On first down, Gary headed towards the middle and cut to his left, but he would get hit and strung out by Howard and then Marshall, and then Pepper and Williams for a loss.  2nd and 12, Everett back, and would hit Aaron Cox on the left sidelines for a first down at the 32 yard line, knocked out of bounds by Williams.  And then would come a play which showed the difference in one year to the next

Everett would drop back and have time to throw.  He would pump fake and then launch a deep shot down the right sidelines.  Flipper Anderson would have a step on Mark Collins and was in position to haul in a 68 yard TD pass.  One year earlier in the playoffs, Flipper beat Collins for a TD on a similar pass in OT (and Collins was actually playing on a broken ankle, they found out after the fact).  But this time, the ball would bounce off his arms and fall incomplete as Everett held his head in frustration.  After that missed opportunity, Everett again dropped back, and this time would roll slightly to his right, and with pressure coming from Johnie Cooks would fire over the middle and too high for Cox near midfield and incomplete.  3rd and 10, Everett again back, would dump it off to McGee coming out of the backfield at the 29 yard line.  McGee would turn up the field and get to the 41, but was held short of the first down thanks to Duerson, Thompson and Collins driving him back.  On would come English to punt on 4th and 1, and took a delay of game to give a better angle to go for the coffin corner.  English’s punt would go to Meggett at the 24 and he would take it to the 33, stopped by Terrell with 5:06 to go in the third.

Simms started with a handoff to Anderson, who running to his right plowed into the line for a 2 yard gain, stopped by Wright.  2nd and 8, with Carthon in motion, Simms dropped back and tried to hit Howard Cross on a deep seam pass, and Cross had his man beat, but pressure on Simms forced an overthrow.  3rd and 8, Simms in the gun, took the snap and had the ball defected at the line by Brian Smith, but got enough on it to make it to Stephen Baker at the 44 yard line on a diving catch and good for a first down.  1st and 10, OJ got the handoff, and he chugged over the middle for a 3 yard gain, stopped by Reed.  2nd and 7, Simms back and tried to hit Baker on a sidelines pass, but was knocked away by Humphrey.  3rd and 7, Simms back in the gun again, with plenty of time to throw would go to Ingram over the middle at the Rams’ 43 yard line.  Ingram would get his head taken off by Newsome and knocked the ball loose.  If that play had happened today, it would have been a penalty for helmet to helmet, but in 1990, anything goes.  Landeta on to punt booted it towards the goal line, bounced at the 5 yard line, and then went sideways and was downed at the 3 yard line by David Whitmore.

Deep in their own end zone, the Rams began with Everett dropping back in his end zone and threw a deep shot over the middle towards Cox, who had it at the 23 yard line but had it ripped out by Collins for a drop.  2nd and 10, Everett again back, with pressure coming up the middle from Howard, dumped it off to Gary who caught it in the end zone and got around LT and made it out to the 9 yard line, shoved out of bounds by Walls.  3rd and 4, Everett again had pressure coming up the middle from Howard and Marshall and tried to throw deep over the middle towards Ellard, but Reasons got a hand up and deflected the ball away.  

On came English to punt again, and the line drive was taken by Meggett at the Rams’ 49, and he would run to his right, cut past the first wave of Rams, and get tripped at the 42, however he would keep his balance by using his arm to push forward and made it all the way to the 30 yard line as he was thrown down by Robert Delpino.

Deep in the Rams end, OJ began with a run to the left, and he powered around the end as Carthon blasted Farinez down to the ground and sealed the edge for OJ to turn the corner and chug down to the 21 yard line and a 9 yard gain, stopped by Newsome.  2nd and a short 1, Simms would send Ingram to the other side of the formation and hand off to Carthon up the gut to the 18 yard line for a first down, stopped by Stams.  First down, OJ running to the left, dropped his shoulder and powered to the 14, hit down by Stams on the final play of the 3rd quarter.  2nd and 6, OJ again with the carry up the middle, absorbed a hit, and fell forward to the 10, hit down by Wright.  3rd and 2, OJ running to his left, found a crease, cut to his left and charged all the way to the 3 yard line, spun down by Newsome.  That would set up a first and goal

Simms would pitch the ball back to OJ running to his right, he would take a couple of slow steps backwards as if he intended to throw the ball, but when nothing materialized, Anderson decided to just keep it and accelerate (as much as a 33 year old OJ could) and powered over the goal line, dragging Larry Kelm with him.  A flag on the play was first called a hold by Jerry Seeman on the Giants but was after a discussion with Aaron Pointer (the Pointer Sisters’ brother), the call was changed to a hold on the Rams and they gave OJ the TD.  Bahr’s extra point made the score 24-7 with 13:25 as Pat Summerall gave the proper evaluation of the Giants, that they “choke” the other team out and wear them down.

 Bahr’s kickoff would go to Berry halfway deep in the endzone for a touchback.  Everett at the 20, dropped back and threw an outside route to Cox at the 25 and he would get to the 27 where he was grabbed up around the chest and thrown out of bounds by Collins.  Forced to go to the air to get back in the game, Everett fell into the Giants’ trap

Everett dropped back and with some time tried to force the ball to the middle of the field towards Holohan, but Reasons dropped deep in coverage and snagged it at the 40 and was taken down by Cox and Holohan as a bikini clad Giant fan in the crowd celebrated (gotta love LA).  Madden would note that the Giants had taken the life out of Everett and gave some props to a young Bill Belichick as the defensive coordinator.  

Giants ball at the 40 and Lewis Tillman would be in at running back and would plow straight ahead to the 37 yard line, hit down by Wright.  2nd and 7, Simms would fake the handoff to Tillman and Greene was unblocked on a bootleg and with a free shot coming, Simms ducked down after Greene’s 2nd sack.  3rd and 12, the Giants would call a timeout to get set and come back with Simms in the gun and ran a screen to Meggett to the right side, and just as it looked like he was about to break one, Newsome got him around the ankle and just got him down after a 5 yard gain.  Playing field position, the Giants brought Landeta back out and took a delay of game to give him a better angle.  

In a few years time, when Dan Reeves took over as head coach in 1993, Sean Landeta was released mid season and Reeves signed his old Bronco punter Mike Horan because he was a “directional kicker”.  Well, here was Landeta, in 1990 probably the best punter in the NFL showing his finesse, and angled it out at the 2 yard line with 10:37 to go in the game.

The Rams, again backed up in their end zone, had a rush in his face right up the middle and forced a quick pass over the middle to Holohan at the 10 yard line which was dropped.  So 2nd and 10, Everett just avoided a safety as he was hit by Marshall in the end zone on a stunt but he got the ball off and it went to Cox over at the 17 yard line and he was taken down at the 18 by Perry Williams.  First down, Everett uncorked a deep shot to Cox by the sidelines and the ball was batted out of bounds by Cox, trying to keep Collins from picking it off.  2nd and 10, the ball went to McGee over the middle and he got the ball to the 21 yard line, hit down by Jackson and Duerson.  3rd and 7, in the no huddle, Everett hit McGee in the right flat and he was able to find room in the semi-prevent at the 22 yard line and took the ball up the field to the 31, hit down by Thompson but good for a first down.  The ball would go to McGee up the middle and was hit down by Marshall at the 36, but a flag thrown was an offsides on the Giants by LT was accepted and set up a 1st and 5.  And then the Giants secondary started to hit people

Everett again was back to throw and as he had LT in the vicinity, fired a pass towards the sidelines to his TE Holohan.  However, the throw was a little high at around the 42 yard line and out of reach.  Perry Williams came over and blasted Holohan with a clear helmet to helmet hit which would have been a penalty in today’s NFL.  But back then, a good clean hit and had Madden chuckling about it and we got a replay of the sound effect of the hit, along with Madden noting that it would “clean the sinuses out”.  The next play, with Everett retreating, he dumped it to McGee at the 35, and he took it to the 45, taking a bit hit from both Jackson and Duerson.  First down, Everett again with some pressure around him from LT, scrambled up and dumped the ball to McGee at the 47 and he would make his way to the Giants’ 47, popped by Duerson.  2nd and 3, Everett again dropped back, but this time the Giants’ rush got to him and he was dumped by Howard for a sack back at the Rams’ 47.  On 3rd down, Everett threw to Holohan at the 45 yard line and he would get laid out by Walls and the ball would fall incomplete.  On 4th and 9, the Rams had to go for it, but the Giants weren’t done drilling LA receivers

One of the most underrated Giants in the late 1980s/early 1990s was safety Myron Guyton.  He was a solid player, but could lay some big hits along the way.  In this case, on 4th and long, Everett, under pressure from Pepper Johnson, tried to hit Ellard at the 30 yard line and he had found a small opening between Guyton and Collins, but that opening closed quickly as Guyton drilled Ellard on a big hit (again using his helmet) and knocked the ball free.  The Giants defense celebrated and came off the field with 7:18 to go.

Giants ball at the Rams’ 47, and Simms began with a handoff to Tillman running to his left and took it out to the 43, stopped by Reed.  2nd and 6, the Giants kept it on the ground, cut back up the middle and was stopped after a short gain by Wright.  3rd and 4, again to Tillman, this time running to his left, and only gained 1 to the 40.  The Giants just trying to kill clock, had Landeta back to punt and again took a delay of game for a better angle.  And wouldn’t you know it

And again, Landeta showed that he can bury a team deep.  This time the ball bounced at the 4 yard line, and went sideways and Reyna Thompson guarded the goal line.  But the ball would die at the 3 being covered up by Reasons.

So, again deep in their own end, Reasons wasn’t done getting his hands on the ball

Everett, again back in his own end zone, and feeling Marshall heading towards him, threw a dart over the middle towards Holohan and the ball banged into traffic at the 25 and off of Walls and went backwards towards Reasons who was trailing in coverage.  Reasons snagged the rebound at the 27, and he took it up to the 15 where he was spun down by Cox.  On the play, Guyton looked to take a shot to his stomach/ribs but was ok as the Giants took over with 4:33 to play in the game.

Again, sticking to the ground, Tillman took the ball around the left side, but he would find a lane and cut up the field and get the ball down to the 5 yard line, stopped by Kelm and Newsome.  2nd and 1, Tillman ran a similar play running to his left, and again cut it back and took the ball down to the 1 yard line, stopped again by Newsome, and on the play Greene was injured in what looked like a concussion as they gave him smelling salts on the field.  First and goal at the one yard line, Tillman ran to his right, but was stuffed for no gain by Stams.  2nd and goal at the one, the Giants would put the icing on the cake

With all the backups in along the offensive line, and Lee Rouson at fullback, Tillman went over the middle to plow his way just over the goal line.  OJ Anderson, who referred to Tillman as his puppy, ran out on the field to congratulate him on the score and Bahr’s extra point made it a resounding 31-7 lead with 2:11 to go.

Bahr’s kickoff went to Berry at the 10, and was shoved out of bounds at the 21 by Jackson.  Now the Rams decided to clear the bench, bringing out Chuck Long at QB and a former big name running back in Marcus DuPree who was out of the game for 5 years.  DuPree got the carry and was hit in the backfield by Mike Fox and lunged forward to the 23 yard line, and narrowly avoided a fumble to take the game to the 2 minute warning at 1:58.  2nd and 9, Dupree took the ball, cut back over the middle, made it to the 29, hit down by Bobby Abrams.  3rd and 2, DuPree took the ball up the middle, found a crease and got into the secondary, and took on a hit from Duerson at the 36 and fell forward to the 40 for a first down.  Dupree got the ball again, running to his left, spun off a tackle attempt by John Washington, and cut up the field where he was finally hit down by Abrams and DeOssie at the 44.  At that point, both teams had enough and let the clock run down to 0:00 and the Giants walked off with a big 31-7 win to go to 9-0 on the season.

Interesting tidbits/ Post Mortem

  • Prior to this game, the Giants had never beaten Jim Everett.  Everett was 3-0 going into this game against the Giants. 
  • Thought the Giants finally beat him, Everett remained a problem for the Giants throughout his career.  If there was a game that you could point to and say “something’s wrong here” with Ray Handley, it didn’t take very long.  In fact, it was Week 2 of the 1991 NFL Season.  The Giants had just won an exciting Monday Night opener vs. the 49ers, 16-14 on a late Matt Bahr field goal, just like the NFC Championship game the year prior.  The Rams, coming off a crash and burn 5-11 season in 1990, would be even worse in 1991, going 3-13.  The Parcells Giants would have wiped the floor with this Ram team at home.  But, this wasn’t the Parcells’ Giants.  They would come out completely flat, sleep walk to a 19-6 deficit thanks to 4 Tony Zendejas field goals, and despite holding Everett to a 7-16, 83 yard game, they would allow a scatback named Robert Delpino to run for 116 yards and a TD in the Giants 19-13 loss.  Everett would face the Giants 5 more times in his career (with the Rams and then with the Saints) and go 3-2.  In all, in his career, he would go 7-3 against Big Blue.
  • Lewis Tillman scored his first career TD.  Tillman never really got his shot as the Giants main back.  He was a good special teams player and was always referred to as a change of pace back/ “slasher”.  Tillman was drafted in 1989 out of Jackson State, where he broke Walter Payton’s records and there was thought he would get a chance to play when Joe Morris was lost in the pre-season.  As it turned out, OJ Anderson came out of dry docks and posted a 1023 yard, 14 TD performance.  By 1990, Tillman had to compete with not only Anderson, but first round pick Rodney Hampton as well.  And 3rd down duties were handled by his fellow draft classmate Dave Meggett.  So Tillman only got a handful of carries.  He would just score 5 TDs in his 5 years with the Giants, as Hampton became the lead back.  But he got 3 of them in a 2 game stretch when he was forced into action when Hampton got hurt in 1993.  Tillman responded with back to back 100 yard games, going for 29 carries for 104 yards in a blowout in Washington and then a career high 169 yards on 21 carries and 2 TDs vs. the Eagles.  Tillman would leave the Giants as a free agent to sign with the Bears in 1994, and scored 7 TDs that season.
  • Rodney Hampton’s 19 yard TD was also his first rushing TD with the Giants.  He had scored 2 previous times, both on receptions (vs the Eagles and Cowboys, both at Giants Stadium).  He would only score one more TD in his rookie season, a 2 yarder vs. the Cardinals in Arizona in Hostetler’s first start after taking over the rest of the season for Phil Simms.
  • Troy Kyles, a rookie free agent out of Howard, caught his first 2 NFL passes in the game, catching 2 for 52 yards, including a 35 yarder.  He would only catch 2 more passes his entire career, in the Giants first loss of the season at Philadelphia.  Other than that, he was active as a special teamer in the Bears playoff game and in the Super Bowl vs. the Bills.  He would be out of football in the 1991 season and apparently made his way on to the 1992 49ers roster.
  • Mark Bavaro’s scored the penultimate TD of his career with the Giants in this game.  His final TD would come in the Giants loss at Philly.
  • Playing the Rams in LA was not a kind place for the Giants.  Beginning in 1947 when the Giants went to play them on the West Coast the Giants were 3-8 against them (one win was the 1984 Wild Card however).  The Giants would face the Rams in LA just two more times, losing both games in 1992 and 1994.  When the Rams moved to St. Louis, the Giants didn’t fare much better, losing their first 3 times on the road, including a heart breaking 15-14 loss in 2001 when Michael Strahan terrorized Kurt Warner.  However, things turned around more recently, with the Giants winning their last 3 trips to the Rams, including a 37-27 win in 2014 when Odell Beckham Jr. burned the Rams, who were trying to injure/intimidate him and got burned for 8 catches, 148 yards and 2 TDs.
  • Marcus Dupree got his first action as an NFL running back and we saw him in action as a reminder of what could have been for one of the more talented running backs to come along, but he never "made it".  Dupree burst on the scene at the University of Oklahoma in 1982 where as a freshman, his head coach Barry Switzer compared him to Earl Campbell as a combination of size and speed.  Dupree would rumble for 1393 yards and 12 TDs in his freshman season.  But then came the injuries, which limited Dupree in his sophomore season and only gained 396 yards and 3 TDs.  Dupree would disappear from the team and then announce that he was transferring to the University of Southern Mississippi, but because of the NCAA rules, he was told he had to sit out the rest of 1983 and also 1984.  Dupree would bail the college scene and go to the USFL,  where he was signed by the New Orleans Breakers.  Dupree would be generally effective, gaining 684 yards in splitting time with (future Saints RB) Buford Jordan.  In 1985, Dupree would severely injure his knee, and ended his USFL career.  Dupree would be out of football for nearly 5 years and balloon to over 300 pounds.  After a meeting with Walter Payton, Dupree would get himself in shape, shed 100 pounds and try out for the Rams and make the team.  Dupree would wear #34 in Sweetness' honor.  Dupree would gain 22 yards on 4 carries in garbage time vs. the Giants.  He would only play in 15 games over the course of the 1990 and 1991 seasons for the Rams, finishing with 251 yards on 68 carries and 1 TD before being released in 1992 and retiring.  
  • And the guy handing the ball to Dupree was another former big name in college who never quite reached his potential as a pro.  Chuck Long became a big time college QB at Iowa where he broke several Hawkeye records, including a domination of Texas in the 1984 Freedom Bowl, when Long helped lead a 55-17 blowout and would go 29-39, 461 yards and 6 TDs.  Because Long had redshirted his freshman season, he could have decided to go to the NFL (or USFL), but decided to stay one more season at Iowa where he became an instant Heisman candidate. Long had Iowa ranked #1 in the country for a time, including beating #2 Michigan.  But they finally lost to Ohio State and Long would end up in the Rose Bowl for his final game, and played in a record 5 Bowl Games thanks to redshirting rules which have since been changed.  Long would finish 35-13-1 at Iowa and hold almost every passing record at the school by the time he graduated.   Long would enter the NFL draft in 1986 and would be taken in the 1st round (#12 overall) by the Lions.  He was the 2nd QB drafted (behind only Jim Everett at #3 overall, drafted by Houston and then traded to the Rams) and one round ahead of fellow Big 10 QB Jack Trudeau out of Illinois.  Long would only play in 3 games in 1986, sitting behind veteran Joe Ferguson and in 2 starts would go 0-2 and throw for 247 yards and 2 TDs and 2 INTs.  The Lions would give him the starting job in the 1987 strike season, going 3-9 with 2598 yards, 11 TD and an NFL leading 20 INTs.  In 1988, Long would be limited to just 7 starts due to injuries, going 1-6 in those games and throwing for 856 yards and 6 TDs and 6 INTs.  By 1989, the Lions had changed their offense.  The brought in Mouse Davis to install the run and shoot offense.  They drafted Barry Sanders as the lynchpin of the offense.  Needless to say, Long's skillset didn't fit this system.  The Lions gave the job to veteran former scab player Bob Gagliano and then eventually to rookie Rodney Peete.  Long only got in 1 game and didn't start.  He was traded to the Rams in 1990 and only completed 1 pass for 4 yards.  Long would end up back in Detroit in 1991 as a backup to Peete and would retire after the 1991 season at the age of 29.
  • As was typical during a blowout game when Madden and Summerall were doing it, they would find a way to keep you entertained watching the game even though it was no longer a contest.  Remember, back in 1990, there was no fantasy football, at least not mainstream.  So they focused on guard William Roberts, sitting on the bench, having a guy standing about 10 feet away from him, pulling off the wrap from his arm.  Madden noted that it was Steve Valencia a quasi-stretching and conditioning coach who was on the staff, but not actually paid by the organization, but was paid by the players.  It would seem to be a throw away note of interest.  However, fast forward about 2 months from that time, before Super Bowl XXV.  Parcells wanted to add in extra security due to the beginning of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq/Kuwait.  So he hired a 32 year old cop from Florham Park named Mike Murphy.  Not only was Murphy brought on to help with security, but Parcells had another problem.  Someone was stealing jewelry and money from the players.  So Parcells asked Murphy, who he happened to meet earlier in the summer down the Jersey Shore in Sea Girt, to look into it.  Murphy and an FBI colleague found the guilty party, Valencia.  The day of the Super Bowl, Murphy essentially had Valencia arrested and placed in a private car and whisked away.  Valencia was never heard from again, and died years later in the Brooklyn House of Detention.  Murphy has remained a fixture on the Giants sidelines from that point forward in 1990, being seen behind all the head coaches, from Parcells through Coughlin and now Ben McAdoo.