Friday, January 9, 2015

1988 Giants @ Falcons

Week 8

The Setup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Game Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post Mortem/Interesting Tidbits

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

1986 Giants @ Vikings

Week 11

The Setup


des·ti·ny- a power that is believed to control what happens in the future

There were a few definitions to choose from for the term destiny, and while they are used in various contexts either religiously, politically/geographically (manifest destiny) or throughout Star Wars (Luke, it is your destiny), one of the most ascribed versions is to sports.  The term "fan" comes from "fanatic"  Again, dipping into Websters, a definition for fanatic is "filled with or expressing excessive zeal".

So, take a term fanatic in a sports context, add in the idea of sporting "Gods" (the football gods, baseball gods, etc) and it's not hard to see where the belief that some teams have been blessed by a higher power which will end in a championship.  But how does a team and it's fans/media suddenly decide that they are clearly the chosen ones and destined to win it all?

Usually it comes about at some point in early or mid season, a flukey play, a strange circumstance, that will eventually lead to victory that fans can point to that shows that there is something special about their team and raises the expectations to see a title, so much so that it would be a shock for it not to happen.

The Giants have been fortunate enough to win 4 Super Bowls.  However, in 3 of those seasons, it's tough to point to a moment that you could define as Destiny that fans and media alike pointed to a special moment to say, "Wow, this team could win it all" at some point in the mid point of a year.  Let's work backwards on the last 3 championships to see does it fit the bill to say the Giants were a team of destiny:

2011- The Giants were at 7-7 going into a Christmas Eve game against the Jets as a road team.  The Giants were lucky that the Cowboys blew several games and did not put the Giants away when they had them down at home.  Most fans generally point to the Victor Cruz 99 yard TD against the Jets as the turning point in their season (and the Jets as well, the wheels fell off for Rex since that point).  So yes, I'd say that the Cruz TD suddenly gave the Giants life to win the NFC East.  But did anyone really feel "Super Bowl" after that play?  And yes, there were paralells to 2007 (Eli beating Brady on a late TD, The Giants facing 2 teams in the playoffs who beat them in the regular season, etc).  So there were hints that the Giants were going to follow the same path for a Super Bowl.  But again, in my arguement, a team takes on a feel of destiny earlier in the season that validates a march to a title.  The 2011 Giants were an inconsistent group, with a bad running game, that was fortunate to play in a mediocre division.  Yes, they had great comebacks on the road in Arizona, New England, and Dallas.  However, they looked like trash against the Redskins (twice), against an Eagle team at home with Vince Young at QB, and the Saints handed them their ass.  But they got the break they needed, they got healthy come playoff time and got hot thanks to Eli's heroics.  But a clear team of destiny...maybe after Week 15, and iffy at best.

2007- This team came in with the departure of their best player (Tiki Barber), the defense looked like trash in the first 2 games and just righted their ship thanks to a Goal line stand in Washington in Week 3 that saved the season.  But a team of destiny?  Hardly.  The Cowboys put the division away in early November in beating the Giants a second time and took the #1 seed with a 13-3 record.  The Giants were in trouble to make the playoffs until they were able to come back and beat the Bills in Buffalo in a game that featured a rain and snow squall and the Giants fell behind 14-0 early.  Thanks to a big defensive 4th quarter with 2 TDs (by Mitchell and Webster), the Giants were able to pull away from the Bills (a team that would finish 7-9).  Many point to the last game of the year, when the Pats were playing for a perfect season and the Giants had nothing to play for, and the Giants went toe to toe with them, losing in the end 38-35, but showed that they could hang with the best.  Can you say you are a team of destiny because you almost beat an undefeated team?  I don't think so.  And again, they got hot after that and went on their run.  Maybe destiny didn't rear it's head until Tyree snagged a ball off his helmet.  But that's about as late as you can imagine a team believing it's destiny, a final drive for a TD in the 4th quarter of a Super Bowl.

1990- This team was a jugger naught for a long stretch.  Went 4-0 in preseason and started 10-0 in the regular season.  They pretty much ended the NFC East race before Halloween.  However, the Niners went 10-0 as well.  In their famed Monday Night matchup, the Giants lost 7-3.  Maybe you point to Jeff Hostetler coming on after Simms was hurt against the Bills (Hostetler was unable to lead a comeback and they lost that game).  If anything, the mantra from the media (and fans alike) was that no backup QB has ever won a championship, so the Giants will end up losing to the Niners on their way to a three peat.  Hostetler didn't do anything especially exciting in late wins against a couple of bad teams on the road (Cardinals and Patriots).  He played great against the Bears, but destiny?  That feeling didn't happen until after Matt Bahr had buried his 5th and final field goal to beat the Niners, 15-13 and go to the Super Bowl.  But throughout the Giants early 10-0 run, they stomped a lot of teams, but so did the Niners.  The only destiny part was you knew that the Giants and Niners would meet up in the NFC Championship (and that was in doubt after the Simms injury).  But a championship?

That brings us to the first championship, 1986.  You have to keep in mind how the NFL worked in the 1980s.  In the time before free agency/salary cap, teams would take a long time to build up a foundation, become better slowly over time and then either it worked and the team became playoff quality to championship quality, or it didn't and the team would start over.  It was also the era of the dominant team in a single season, something which is no longer the case in the NFL.  In addition to having the dominant team, you usually had the challenger that would take the mantle away year to year.

For example, go back to 1984.  The 49ers finished at a dominant 15-1.  In their playoff run, they would beat the Giants, shut out the Bears in the NFC Championship, and then pound the Dolphins 38-16 in the Super Bowl.  The next year, the challenger (the Bears) would step up and wrest control from the Niners.  The 1985 Bears would also go 15-1, go back to San Francisco in the regular season and hang a 26-10 beating on them, en route to shutting out both the Giants and Rams in the playoffs and then toyed with the Patriots in the Super Bowl, 46-10.

By 1986, the team who most considered the obvious challenger and then biggest kid on the block?  The Giants.  They had back to back playoff seasons in 1984 and 1985.  In both cases they won a playoff game, only to lose on the road to the eventual champion.  They had Phil Simms in his prime, coming off a Pro Bowl MVP.  Joe Morris broke out with 1336 yards and 21 TDs.  And a 2nd year TE named Mark Bavaro was ready to assume the mantle as the best TE in football.  Add in a veteran offensive line and the offense was looking strong.  Meanwhile the defense was loaded, with a number of guys in their prime as well, and things would line up with Lawrence Taylor, the most dominant linebacker in NFL history, preparing for his tour de force season of his career.  So, going into 1986, the Giants had very high expectations that they would be the team to unseat Chicago.

After an opening loss on the road to the Cowboys, the Giants would hit their stride, winning 8 of their next 9 games, tying them for first in the NFC East with the Redskins at 8-2.  Meanwhile, the team who the Giants were looking to unseat, the Bears were also 8-2.  The Bears had lost a Monday Night game at home to the Rams by the score of 20-17 on a 50 yard field goal by Mike Lansford.  But they dropped their first game on the road in Minnesota.  With Jim McMahon out with and injury, the Vikings jumped all over backup Steve Fuller and took a 23-0 lead before allowing a window dressing TD in a 23-7 blowout victory.

So it was the Giants turn to take their shot against the Vikings in the Metrodome.  In their first 8 wins, there was nothing really there that would kind of give a Giants fan that divine feeling like this was going to truely be their season.  A comeback win over the Saints after falling behind 17-0?  Nah.  The Jim Mora Saints were an improving team, but not that good just yet.  A comeback win over the Raiders?  Nope, that Raiders team would fall to 0-3 and finish the season 8-8.  Beating Dallas to take over the lead in the NFC East might have meant more, but in that game Carl Banks broke Danny White's wrist, and the Cowboys would go from 6-2 entering that game, to having the wheels fall off and lost 7 of their final 8 games, making them 7-9 in 1986, their first losing season in 20 years.

With the Vikings at 6-4 and looking to put another notch in their belt to knock off the Giants and put themselves squarely in the playoff picture, the Giants and their fans would be set up with a game against a very good team and, for the first time in the Super Bowl era, have that destiny moment that can be summed up simply as 4th and 17.

The Game Highlights

Raul Allegre would start off the game by kicking off and the ball bounced around the 10 yard line, near the sidelines, but fortunately for the Giants, would bounce into the end zone.  Alfred Anderson would run and grab it in the end zone and kneel down for a touchback, if not, Perry williams was racing in to fall on it for an easy touchdown to start the game.  Tommy Kramer, the #2 rated QB in the NFC, would lead the Vikings offense on to the field starting at the 20 yard line.  Kramer would begin with a play action pass, and had some time to throw early, until Leonard Marshall was able to get pressure and force an incompletion.  However, a penalty on Harry Carson on a defensive hold gave the Vikings a free 5 yards and a first down.  Now at the 25, a pitch to Anderson to the right went for 4 yards, before he was tackled by Carl Banks and Carson.  On 2nd and 6, Kramer took a short drop and dumped the ball off to Darrin Nelson just beyond the line of scrimmage, and Nelson was able to get free from the pack and take the ball out ot the 43 yard line, where Gary Reasons finally stopped him, but he was able to get a first down.  Kramer began with another play action pass, but this time his young offensive line had a break down as Marshall split a double team and sacked Kramer for a 5 yard loss to the 38.  2nd and 15, an inside draw to Nelson was completely stacked up by George Martin and Jim Burt for only a 2 yard gain.  Looking at a 3rd and 13, Kramer was in the shotgun and had time to rainbow a deep pass towards Hassan Jones, but the Giants deep coverage stood up, as Mark Collins and Herb Welch converged on the ball and batted it away.  Punter Greg Coleman would boot the ball away to Phil McConkey, and his 59 yard moonshot would end up soaring into the end zone for a touchback, as McConkey's convincing fair catch held up the Vikings coverage team and prevented them from being in position to knock the ball back into play.

The Giants offense would come out on the their 20 yard line and similar to Kramer, Phil Simms would begin with a play action pass and would connect with Stacy Robinson on a 14 yard pass, where he was forced out of bounds by Carl Lee, but good for a first down.  Now at the 34, a pitch to Joe Morris was snuffed out by DE Mark Malleney after a 2 yard gain.  On 2nd and 8, another play action pass left Mark Bavaro over the middle, and Simms would hit him for a 15 yard gain, and he would be tackled by Jesse Soloman at the 50 the catch would move the chains.  Morris would run to his left and gain 4 yards before he was stopped by DT Tim Newton.  Now at the 46 yard line, Simms would drop back to pass, however the Minnesota pass rush would force Simms up into the pocket and he would scramble for a 3 yard gain.  Now 3rd and 3, Simms would get plenty of time to throw from his offensive line and he would hit McConkey on a crossing pattern at the 31, and he would turn it up field to the 25 before he was caught from behind by Lee, but not before getting the first down.  On first down, a quick inside handoff to fullback Mo Carthon didn't go very far, maybe a 1 yard gain, before he was taken down by Soloman and Newton.  On 2nd down, Simms dropped back to throw, and tried to hit Morris on a streak in the end zone, but the ball just sailed through his hands, showing the downside to Morris' 5'7" frame.  On 3rd and 9, Simms again in the shotgun, and again with time to throw, passed the ball to Robinson over the middle for what should have been a first down at the 8 yard line, however he was smashed by Lee and Mike Lush and the ball fell incomplete.  Allegre would come on and easily convert on a 41 yard field goal attempt, giving the Giants a 3-0 lead with 7:48 to go in the first quarter.

Allegre's kickoff went to Tim Brown (no not that one) at the 3 yard line, where he was smashed down by Robbie Jones at the 21 yard line.  The Vikings offense started with a swing pass in the direction of Allen Rice out of the backfield, but LT's blitz got Kramer unnerved and rushed his throw and the ball sailed out of bounds.  On 2nd and 10, Kramer backpeddled and nearly fell over, but ended up dunking off on a screen to Anderson, who hid behind his blockers and was able to get up a head of steam before he was finally stopped by Harry Carson and Terry Kinard past the 30 yard line and near a first down.  On 3rd and inches, Kramer took the handoff and just put his head down on a classic QB sneak, gaining 2 yards before he was stopped by the Jim Burt and Leonard Marshall.  On first and 10 at the 33, Nelson took a sweep around left end, but Burt made his way over to tackle him for no gain.  On 2nd and 9, Kramer handed off to Nelson on a sprint draw, who was able to break through the left side of the line, where he was finally caught by Burt at the 40 yard line.  3rd and 1, on what was actually a busted play, as Kramer turned the wrong way looking for Nelson, and ended up simply looping back through the middle for a 4 yard gain to the 44, where he was tackled by Carson and Perry Williams, but was able to get another first down.  Kramer started the next set of downs with a short drop and play action fake and drilled a pass in to Anthony Carter on a quick slant, and he was tackled by Kinard at the Giants' 45 for another first down.  The Vikings would then go to the ground, a hand off to Anderson, who first bounced into the line and then took it around right end for a 6 yard gain where he was knocked out of bounds by Kinard and Mark Collins.  Minnesota would follow up with a draw play that worked like a charm, as LT ran himself out of the play, allowing Nelson to skirt through a huge whole up the gut, and sprinted ahead for a 14 yard gain to the 25 yard line before he was tackled by Kinard and Gary Reasons.  The Vikings went right back to Nelson again on another draw going to the right side, however this time the Giants line held up and he was tackled by George Martin after a 3 yard gain.  Now 2nd and 7, Nelson continued to stay involved, this time catching a swing pass in the right flat (which was nearly snagged by Martin for a pick) and was taken to the 23 yard line and was hit down by Reasons for no gain.  It was a play that was very reminicient of Martin's interception TD that would come one week later against John Elway and the Broncos.  However, now 3rd and 7, Kramer was in the shotgun, and found himself under pressure almost immediately, and was nailed by Marshall as he was throwing the ball and it fluttered out of his hands, very nearly a sack/fumble, but the refs blew it dead and called it incomplete.  That would bring on Chuck Nelson to convert a 39 yard field goal, though it looked ugly and nearly didn't get there, but it counted, and tied the game at 3-3 with 1:19 to go in the first quarter, in all a 13 play, 57 yard drive that ate up 6:29 of time on the clock.

Nelson's kickoff was taken by Phil McConkey at the 11 yard line and he immediately headed right back up the middle of the field to the 34 yard line, where he was stopped by David Evans. The Giants offense began with a sweep to Morris around left end for a 3 yard gain to the 37, where he was stopped by DT Mike Stensrud.  The carry put Morris over the 1,000 yard mark for the season.  On 2nd and 7, Simms had time to throw and dumped the ball off to Morris who got open out of the backfield and he was able to chug all the way out to the Vikings' 45 yard line, where he was tackled by Issac Holt, but he was able to gain a first down.  Morris would get stuffed by Chris Martin after a 2 yard gain on the final play of the first quarter.  Starting off the second quarter with a 2nd and 8, Simms dropped back to throw while the Giants offensive line picked up an all out blitz.  As the pass rush was pushed beyond him, Simms took off running through a lane and was clotheslined by safety Joey Browner at the 32 yard line and fumbled the ball, but the refs called him down and it was good enough for a first down.  A hit like that today on a QB in the open field and there would be no question that the field would be littered with flags for a personal foul. As it was, Simms was lucky to get up off the ground after that hit, and decided to hand off to Morris on the next play, who took a delayed draw up the gut, followed a big block by Chris Godfrey, and sprinted to the 16 yard line for another first down.  The Giants gave Mo Carthon some token work, a quick handoff up the middle was good for a 4 yard gain to the 12 yard line.  On 2nd and 6, Simms took a short drop and had time to throw, and looked to Bobby Johnson who was open at the 2 yard line, but the ball sailed on him and went incomplete.  Looking at 3rd down, Parcells called his first time out and whatever the coaching staff come up with didn't work out, as Simms was almost under immediate pressure and was sacked by Mullaney, who has beaten Karl Nelson on the play.  Allegre would come on to hit a 37 yard field goal and give the Giants a 6-3 lead with 12:46 to go in the half.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Giants tried to get cute and attempted a pooch hick into one of the open areas between the blockers.  It would bounce in the air and would be snatched by 6'7", 300 pound tackle Tim Irwin at the 26 yard line.  Being an offensive lineman, he wasn't used to handling the football and got drilled by Soloman Miller and was piled on by the rest of the Giants.  Irwin would be injured on the play, but he held on to the ball.  The Vikings would start with a handoff to Nelson, but as he cut back, LT was waiting for him and send him flying backwards for no gain.  On 2nd down, Kramer would throw a dart to Steve Jordan over the middle, and he was able to take the ball all the way to midfield, where he was tackled by Carson, Reasons, and Banks.  A new set of downs began with Kramer floating an out towards Nelson, however the ball fell incomplete.  On 2nd and 10, Kramer again dropped back, scrambled around, and threaded a pass in to Anthony Carter for another first down, as he beat Elvis Patterson at the 35 yard line.  The Giants would stuff Allen Rice on an inside handoff and he was lucky to squirt for a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, Perry Williams came on a corner blitz, but it was read by Kramer, who hit Carter on the hot read and got the ball to the 23 yard line, where he was bulldogged down by Kinard and another first down.  On first down, the Vikings attempted what looked like a near Statue of Liberty play, and on the long sweep to the right side was diagnosed by the Giants, who blew the play up and Banks dropped Nelson for a 4 yard loss.  The Giants defense wasn't done setting Minnesota back

LT, moving over to the right side of the line, stunted with George Martin and took the Vikings offensive line with him, leaving Martin open to come in on Kramer.  Kramer would step up to avoid the rush, but LT would split the offensive line and dropped Kramer for a big sack back to the 30 yard line, giving Taylor an NFL leading 15.5 sacks at the time.  Looking at a 3rd and 19, Kramer was in the gun, and just bearly got away from LT and scrambled up the middle for a 6 yard gain before he was taken down by NT Jerome Sally.  The field goal unit would come on and Nelson would pop through a 44 yarder, tying the game at 6-6 with 6:53 to go in the half.

McConkey would field Nelson's kickoff at the 3 yard line and he would get taken down on an ankle tackle by Walker Lee Ashley at the 23 yard line.  Simms would come out and with plenty of time to throw, dump off another pass to Morris, who got the ball out to the 29 yard line, stopped by Chris Martin.  The Giants would try Morris on draw to the left, which looked like a loss as Martin had him in the backfield, but he got away from Martin, only to get dragged down by Browner for no gain.  On 3rd and 5, Simms would find former Viking Tony Galbreath (playing the spot that Meggett would perfect as a 3rd down back in the shotgun), who gained 12 yards to the 39 yard line.  On first down, Simms would hit Bavaro on a wheel route, and the big TE took the ball up the field for a 25 yard gain out near the 36 yard line, stopped by Soloman.  Simms would stay in the air and with lots of time to throw, again go back to Bavaro all the way down to the 11 yard line on a post pattern, beating Browner in coverage.  Morris would take a sweep going to his right and cut it back up the middle, stopped by most of the Vikings defensive line after a 2 yard gain.  Another draw to Morris was met up by a purple wall for a 2 yard gain.  On 3rd and 6, a pass went towards Carthon out near the first down was bobbled and dropped.  So the Vikings defense bent, but did not break, on came Allegre and he would hit his 3rd of the day, from 24 yards out, putting the Giants up 9-6 with 2:23 to play before half time.

Allegre's kickoff went to the goal line and was taken out by Bess, who was able to break a few tackles going up the sidelines and would step out of bounds at the 24.  Kramer would begin the next drive with a play action fake and sprint out to his right, where he was chased by Andy Headen but just got away from him, and was able to get the pass off to Jordan who got the ball up to the 42 yard line, tackled by Kenny Hill, a fellow Ivy Leaguer to bring the game to the 2 minute warning.  Working on first down, Kramer would drop back and hit Rice for a 9 yard gain, near midfield and was forced out of bounds by Greg Lasker and Perry williams.  On 2nd and 1, again in the shotgun, Kramer would give the ball to Nelson on an inside draw, who was able to weave his way around the left side, going through a huge hole opened by Gary Zimmerman and darted all the way to the 36 where he was finally chased down by Headen.  The Vikings would call their first time out after this play stopping the clock at 1:46, but also giving Kramer a chance to regroup after he tweaked his ankle during the play.  1st and 10, Kramer would audible to another quick hitter to Nelson up the middle, and the change in the play worked, with Nelson bursting to the 26 yard line, stopped by Mark Collins, and the Vikings would call their 2nd time out with 1:39.  On first down, a sprint draw to Rice was good for 4 yards, stopped by Carson, and Kramer would call the team to a quick huddle and rushed back up to the line.  On 2nd and 6, the Giants would blitz and it wasn't read by Anthony Carter, who didn't follow up with the proper sight adjustment to his route and Kramer threw the ball to an area that he expected from a hot read, but no one was there.  Now 3rd and 6, Kramer again had another big pass rush in his face, this time Eric Dorsey pushed the pocket back, and Kramer would float a deep pass in the end zone, somewhat towards Alfred Anderson, but the running back broke off his route and it fell incomplete.  After 2 straight miscommunications by the Vikings in the passing game, Chuck Nelson would trot out to knock through a 39 yard attempt,...a gimme in the dome, right?

Nelson should have easily hit this one, but Elvis Patterson came around the corner and caused the kicker to mess up his technique and he missed the attempt wide to the right.

So the Giants dodged a bullet and got the ball at the 21 yard line with :55 to go in the half.  Simms began in the gun and dumped the ball off to Galbreath over the middle for a 6 yard gain, stopped by Bess.  Staying aggressive, the Giants went to a hurry up, and Simms would drop a quick pass over the middle to Bavaro, who chugged towards the 45 yard line, stopped by Soloman and Simms would call the Giants' 2nd time out with :30 to go.  With a new set of downs, Simms would get a little bit of a rush, but he would get away from Doug Martin, move to his right and drilled a pass in to Bobby Johnson at the 37 yard line, where he would fall forward but kept the clock moving.  Simms would hrry the offense to the line, and with the clock running, dumped off a pass to Galbreath for a 2 yard gain, stopped by Soloman.  Back in 1986, you couldn't take the snap and spike it to stop the clock, it was called intentional grounding back then, so they had to run a play.  However, a penalty on Brad Benson would cost New York 10 yards, and with :05 to go in the half, the Giants decided not to try a Hail Mary.  Instead, they would bring Allegre out to try a 60 yarder, which surprisingly very nearly got there, as it was a tad short and to the left.  Regardless, the kick was no good, and the Giants and Vikings went into the half with the Giants holding a 9-6 edge in a battle of field goals.

The Giants would get the ball to start the 2nd half and Nelson would kick it off about 5 yards deep into the end zone and McConkey took a knee for a touchback.  Simms would start with a pass play, which was slow developing and ended with a throw that floated over Morris' head for an incompletion.  On 2nd and 10, a draw to Morris was read by Browner, who barged in on the play and hit Morris in the backfield, but Joe was able to slip away and fall forward to the 21 yard line.  On 3rd and 9, Simms was in the gun and he tried to sling a deep pass over the middle towards Robinson, but the ball would sail on him and go right inot the hands of safety Mike Lush, who dropped a gift interception and with it went a golden chance for a turnover.  Landeta's punt would be a boomer out to Bess at the 18 yard line, 61 yards in the air, and Bess would take it to the 20 yard line where he was able to avoid Perry Williams, but Pepper Johnson came on to clean it up.

Minnesota would start with a playaction fake Nelson, which gave Kramer plenty of time to drill a slant into Leo Lewis, as he fit the ball in between Reasons and Williams for a first down at the 40.  Anderson took the carry on the next play, and was first caught in the backfield, but he was able to cut back and push the pile for 6 yards where he was stopped by Banks.  On 2nd and 4, Kramer would pump fake to his right and then hand off behind him on a near Statue of Liberty play to Rice who took the ball around left end, and sprinted for a good gain to the Giants' 43 yard line where he was tackled by Collins.  The drive would continue with another play action fake, but this time the Giants defense was not fooled and Kramer was sacked by LT and George Martin for a short 2 yard loss.  On 2nd and 12, Kramer dropped back and was able to sling a pass to Nelson in the flat, who made a nice one handed catch for an 8 yard gain and took it out of bounds, with Headen trailing in coverage.  The medieval variation of instant replay in 1986 kicked into motion, as the teams to wait for the replay official in the booth to review and confirm that it was good.  Back then, there wasn't any red flag on the field, no real indication that anything was being looked at.  The players all just stood around as the refs huddled together.  The referee for this game, Pat Haggerty, took to the mic to announce that the replay official had confirmed the ruling on the field and set up a 3rd and 4 at the 38 yard line.  Kramer would come under center for this snap and with a pocket to throw in, threw another dart to Nelson, who came out of the backfield and found a soft spot in the Giants' zone for a first down at the 22 yard line, and was touched down by Hill.  However, a holding call on the Vikings erased the play as Headen was yanked down on a blitz up the gut.  Now with 3rd and 15 at the 48 yard line, you would think it wouldn't be a good position against this Giants' defense, however Kramer went into the gun and hit Lewis on a streak right down the seam to the 24 yard line and a first down, despite having LT in his face.  With a new set of downs, Nelson went in motion and Kramer tried to hit Lewis on an out pattern with Hill coming in on him on a safety blitz, but the ball was rushed and fell incomplete.  On 2nd and 10, Rice slipped out of the backfield, and Kramer threw the ball to him on a wheel route, beating Carson in coverage and took the ball up the sidelines to the 12 yard line, stopped by Collins, but good enough for another first down.  The Vikings would go the ground, however Jim Burt slipped right by the center and nearly took the handoff by getting in the backfield and smashed Anderson for a 1 yard loss to the 13.  2nd and 11, Kramer tried a quick out to Nelson in the flat, and he was punished by Headen, knocking the ball loose and falling incomplete.  On 3rd and 11, Kramer was in the gun and he would hand off to Nelson and LT completely blew up the play, hitting him for a big loss, however NT Jerome Sally lined up offsides to give the Vikings new life on 3rd and 8.  The Vikings would make the Giants pay

On what was clearly a blown coverage, Rice slipped out of the backfield and no one picked him up as the Giants defense all followed Anthony Carter across the field.  He was so open that even play by play announcer Tim Ryan was able to essentially make the TD call before Rice caught the quick flare from Kramer.  The blown assignment looked to be either Kinard or Herb Welch, but regardless, Minnesota was able to get into the end zone for the first time on the day.  In a wacky play on the extra point, punter Greg Coleman who acts as the holder, was unable to field the low snap and tried to roll out to his left and was met by LT, and was tackled by Kinard as he flung the ball up in the air.  However, a facemask penalty on Kinard gave them another chance, and Coleman got into a scuffle after the play with LT, which would have been the last thing he ever did if he kept jawing.  Anyway, the Vikings got another chance, and this one went through on a line drive, giving the Vikings a 13-9 lead with 8:34 to go in the 3rd.

Nelson's kickoff was taken by Miller at the 3 yard line, and he was only able to get to the 15 before he was stopped by Lush and Lee.  The Giants began with a pitch to Morris running to the left for a good 4 yard gain before he was tackled by Scott Studwell (one of the best linebacker names ever).  On 2nd and 6 at the 19, Simms on play action aired it out for Robinson and he got into a pushing match downfield with Lee going for the ball, which drew a flag for pass interference on the defense.  The boos cascaded down in the Metrodome from the crowd, but the ball was placed at the Vikings' 44 yard line and a first down.  Morris would take the next handoff and power his way to the 40 yard line, stopped by Issac Holt, and a 5 yard facemask penalty would tack more yards on, bringing it to the 34 and setting up a 2nd and short.  Rather than hand off, Simms would roll out and connect with McConkey who was wide open at the sideline at the 20, and he would turn up the field and make it to the 11 yard line before he was slammed to the ground by Chris Martin.  Another first down and driving, the Giants would give the ball to Morris, and he was hit about 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, by Stensrud, but he broke off that tackle and would push his way back to the 17 yard line before he was hit by Doug Martin and taken down for a 5 yard loss.  On 2nd and 15, Simms was back to throw and he dumped the ball off to Carthon at the 16 and Mo would bull his way to the 11, where  Studwell would knock it loose and the ball would end up going out of bounds with Browner and Stensrud in pursuit at the 14 yard line, mainly thanks to Morris shoving Stensrud forward and witht hat momentum knocking the ball out of harms way.  So the Giants dodged a big turnover in the red zone....right?

Simms was under center because it was too loud for the shotgun and he tried to hit McConkey coming across the field at the 5 yard line.  However, Simms was hit just as he threw the ball and it sailed a little and over McConkey's head and into the waiting arms of Holt at the 4 yard line.  Holt would burst his way up the sidelines before getting knocked out of bounds at the 29 yard line with 6:12 to go in the 3rd, while a disgusted Simms threw his helmet off the turf in furstration.

Coming off the turnover, the Vikings would start with what looked like a delayed pitch to Allen Rice to the right, and it seemed as though they were setting up for a halfback option pass, but Martin was all over it and nailed him at the 25 yard line for a 4 yard loss.  On 2nd down, another delayed sprint draw to Nelson went to the left, however this time the Giants defense took away his blockers and he was hit by Carson for another 2 yard loss.  With the Minnesota offense marching backwards, on 3rd and 16, Kramer in the gun, and with only a 3 man rush, was forced to scramble up towards the line to try to find an open receiver but he was smashed by LT just as he got the ball off in the direction of Lewis.  The ball fell incomplete and the Giants defense had a huge hold and brought on Coleman to punt to McConkey

Phil McConkey was never the best punt returner in the NFL.  He never returned a punt for a touch down.  He never led the league in punt return yardage.  But what he did better than anyone was make sure he fielded a punt to keep the ball from bouncing past him and not sacrificing yards and maintaining field position.  To do that, you had to be tough because you were going to take a hit and you needed sure hands.  McConkey had both.  In this case, Coleman got off a pretty poor punt, and McConkey raced in to make sure he caught it and kept the good field position.  For his efforts, he was decked by Lee and bounced off the turf.  What did McConkey do?  Took the huge hit.  Held on to the ball.  And just popped up off the ground (or here, the sidelines) at the 42 yard line with 4:30 to go in the 3rd.

Simms started with another pass, and would hit Robinson for a 9 yard gain on a comebacker by the sidelines to the Vikings' 48 yard line.  Morris would get stuff on 2nd and 1 by Solomon for no gain, and on 3rd and short, the Giants would go with the heavys, playing William Roberts at TE and Damien Johnson at fullback.  The power formation would work, as Morris ran to his left around Roberts, who caved in the left side of the line and Morris got the ball to the 43 yard line and a first down where he was taken down by Holt.  The next play would turn out to be a carnival act

Well, that was interesting.  Simms back to throw, again had Stensrud all over him, as he blew right by Billy Ard, and hit Simms as he threw the ball.  The ball would get intercepted by Holt, his 2nd on the day, but as he ran with the ball, Bobby Johnson knocked it loose and it was recovered by Bavaro at the 46.  The Giants got the ball back, and a first down, but lost 4 yards on the play.  Underred, the Giants would go back to the air, and Simms tried to hit McConkey on a go route up the sidelines, and while he just missed making the connection, a pass interference penalty was thrown on Holt at the 15 yard line, good for a 31 yard gain, which again triggered the boo birds in Minnesota to react.  On first down, Carthon took the handoff, but was met by Martin, who stonewalled a pulling Ard and dropped the fullback for a 4 yard loss.  On 2nd and 14, a blitz up the middle hurried Simms, who dropped back and flipped the ball over Carthon's head and just avoided a sack (and intentional grounding).  3rd and 14, Simms took a shot in the direction of the end zone, but Doug Martin batted the pass down.  Allegre would come on to convert on a 37 yard field goal attempt, which made the score 13-12 with 1:08 to go in the 3rd quarter.

Allegre's kickoff was taken by Bess at the 1 yard line and he returned it to the 24 where he was tackled by Robbie Jones.  Kramer began with a handoff to Nelson up the middle, and he was able to push the pile for 4 yards before he was stopped by Carson.  A hard count by Kramer actually would work against him, as he got Tim Irwin to move for a false start, and it would make it 2nd and 11 as the 3rd quarter ran out.  In starting the 4th, Kramer was under pressure and flipped the ball out to Jordan, who broke off his route in seeing the safety blitz by Hill, and gained 6 yards to the 16, where he was stopped by Kinard.  On 3rd down, the Giants defense from 1986 would claim another QB victim

Kramer was in the gun and got pressure up the middle from LT, who stunted there after rushing from the right side.  LT would crush Kramer as soon as the threw the ball, which was completed to Lewis at the 20 yard line, but he was just short of a first down, covered by Kinard.  However, behind the play, Kramer was in pain and flexing his thumb as Coleman came on to punt again.  Coleman's kick was taken by McConkey at the 35, he got a Viking to miss, and took it right up the middle of the fieldbefore he was tackled by Soloman at the Viking 49 yard line.  His good return was ruined by an illegal block by Headen and brought the ball back to the 30.

Simms would begin with a playaction fake to Morris, which held up the Vikings for about half a second before the defensive line poured in on Simms, forcing him to dump it off balance to Morris, who snagged the ball and got it to the 33 yard line, where he was taken down by Browner.  On 2nd and 7, a pitch to Morris running to his left and he turned the corner, but was stopped by Lee and Studwell after just a 2 yard gain.  On 3rd and 5, Simms would drop the snap in the shotgun, but had the presence of mind to pick it up, and as the Vikings were bearing down on him for a sack, he did a side arm sling pass to Galbreath, who dove and caught it at the 42 yard line for a first down.  Working on first down, Simms was back again and dunked it off to Carthon as a safety valve, and Mo gained 4 yards before he was dropped by Chris Martin.  On 2nd and 6, with Rouson in motion out of the backfield, Simms dropped back for another pass, and yet again dunked it to Carthon, and Mo was able to take it up the middle, bounce off a big hit by Soloman, but got the first down to the Minnesota 48 yard line.  On 1st down, the Giants went to their bag of tricks, Simms handed off to Rouson running to his right, and he gave the ball back to Bobby Johnson on a reverse running to the left.  Soloman lost contain and was sealed off by a block "attempt" by Simms kind of diving at him, and Johnson took off up the field for a big gain out to the 25 yard line, good for a 22 yard pick up.  Johnson wasn't done making big plays

With the Vikings defense on their heels, Simms went back to pass again, and had plenty of time to throw thanks to a play action fake to Morris, and as former Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw would see in the booth, Johnson got wide open behind Holt, as well as Browner who bit on the play action, on a post pattern for a big TD.  Simms would celebrate the 25 yard TD, and Allegre's extra point would be good, despite Stensrud coming offsides, and the Giants took a 19-13 lead with 9:30 to go in the game.

Allegre's kickoff went, surprisingly, 8 yards deep in the end zone for a touchback.  Meanwhile, Kramer's day was done with the thumb injury, so backup, and more mobile, Wade Wilson came on to take over as QB.  Wilson, who had only thrown 6 passes in the season to this point, started off with a draw to Nelson up the middle, and he again had a good burst for a first down out to the 32 yard line, stopped by LT and Hill.  wilson's 2nd play was a roll out on a bootleg and would connect with Jordan for another first down, this time out to the Giants' 48, tackled by Williams, as Wilson absorbed a hit from Carson behind the play.  Wilson would throw again on the next play, this time he had LT draped all over him, and he would hit Jordan at the 34, stopped by Headen, but again moved the chains.  The party would end for wilson on the next play, as a safety blitz in his face from Welch forced a pass to Anderson that was snuffed out by LT, and the Vikings were lucky he dropped the ball, or else they would have suffered a 12 yard loss.  Minnesota would stay in the air again, this time Wilson had time to throw and he tried to loft a touch pass to Jordan, who had beaten Banks in coverage, but the ball was out of reach and fell incomplete.  On 3rd and 10, Bill Belichick wanted to rattle Wilson again with a blitz, but whenever you blitz you take a risk.

In this case, the Giants came with an all out blitz from their linebackers, but the Vikings' line picked it up.  When that happens, you leave your corners in a man to man situation against the receivers.  Perry Williams happened to be matched with Anthony Carter, and that wasn't a good thing for New York.  It further didn't help that Welch didn't come over to help out but rather stayed up to shadow Wilson.  Of course, AC burned Williams to haul in a perfectly thrown pass for a TD in the corner of the end zone, good for 33 yards and with the extra point made the score 20-19 Minnesota in the lead with 6:53 to go in the game.

Nelson's kickoff would go to Miller at the 8 yard line, and he took it to the 22, stopped by Carl Hilton.  On first down, Simms would flip a pass out to OJ Anderson as a safety valve in the flat, and OJ would turn it up the field to the 32 yard line, close to a first down, stopped just short by Studwell.  On 2nd and a short 1, Jeff Hostetler came out at WR, but Simms would take the snap and plow forward on a QB sneak to the 33 and a first down.  Simms would again dunk the ball off to OJ who would run over Studwell and take it for a 6 yard gain to the 39.  Simms had so much fun throwing to OJ, he did it again on the next play, dumping it off to him at the 40, but this time Studwell and Martin came charging in to nail him after just a 2 yard gain.  On 3rd and 1 at the 41, Simms tried to hit Morris on a wheel route down the sidelines, but the ball was overthrown, even though Morris had beaten the Vikings' Harris by several steps.  Morris argued for a pass interference penalty, but no flag was forthcoming.  Landeta would punt the ball towards Bess at the 4 yard line, where he fielded it and raced up the sidelines to the 17 yard line before going out of bounds with 3:53 to go in the game.

The Vikings were clearly in clock killing mode at this point.  They began with a sprint draw to Nelson, but he was taken down by Reasons after a 2 yard gain to the 19.  Wilson would drop back and hit Nelson out of the backfield, but he was swarmed by Carson and Martin and finally slung backwards by Burt at the 20.  The Vikings needed a play to keep the clock running and keep the ball from the Giants.  Yet again, the Giants defense made a play

While Wilson hadn't had much experience, he wasn't a young QB.  He was in his 6th year and was 27 years old.  So in this situation, he was aware of not throwing an incompletion or pick, and also staying out of bounds.  Wilson rolled around past Banks and Martin, and looked to try to get a pass off a bootleg.  However, Burt forced him to run up the field and Wilson tried to dive as close as he could to the the first and stay in bounds.  Carson was able to make his way over and stopped him at the 25 yard line, and the Giants called a crucial time out with 2:29 to go in the game.  Coleman came on to punt, and got off a high kick to the 29, but he out kicked his coverage, allowing McConkey to field it and sprint his way up the field to the 40 yard line, stopped by Soloman with 2:14 to go.

Simms would begin with a deep shot to a wide open Stacy Robinson, who had gotten behind Holt and the pass was right in his hands and he dropped what would have been a sure 60 yard TD.  That was Robinson's MO sadly.  The fastest Giant, but with iffy hands.  On 2nd and 10, Simms was under pressure from Studwell and with the linebacker around his waist, Simms would power away from him (and avoiding an in the grasp sack) and slung a pass to Johnson at the Vikings' 45 for a big first down at the 2 minute warning.  On first down, Simms would flip another pass to OJ, who caught it at the Vikings' 49, and chugged up the field, stiff arming Browner to the ground, but Browner took him down with him at the 43 yard line and a 2 yard gain.  With Galbreath in motion, Simms threw a crossing route to Johnson, but it went high and off his fingertips for an incompletion with 1:18 to go.  On 3rd down, the Vikings took a time out to regroup on defense.  In the gun on 3rd down, the Vikings came on an all out blitz, and Simms was engulfed by Doug Martin, Doleman, and Tim Newton.  Simms tried to float a pass in the direction of Galbreath, but he was ruled in the grasp and sacked at the Giants' 48 yard line with 1:12 to go in the game.  The Giants would call at time out on 4th and 17.  And then it happened

Simms was under center because it was far too loud to be in the shotgun.  As he took the snap, he was under pressure from Stensrud, who had bulled past Bavaro's attempted block.  However, Simms had just enough time to look for where Holt was on the field, as New York had been picking on him all day.  Johnson got past Holt and settled down at the 30 yard line, in front of Harris, where he caught the ball and was pushed out of bounds.  Simms ended up on the ground and had made an amazing, career defining type throw as the Metrodome crowd went quiet in disbelief.  With 1:06 to go, Doug Martin jumped offsides and was flagged for encroachment, giving the Giants 5 free yards to the 25.  Morris would take the handoff, burst around right end and was just ankle tackled by Chris Martin at the 17 yard line on a touchdown saving play.  Still, it was good for a first down, and the Giants would let the clock run down, as Jerry Burns apparently fell asleep on the sidelines while the clock went down to :30 before they would snap it again and hand off to Morris, who ran to the right again and the 15 yard line, stopped by Browner.  The Vikings would call their 2nd time out with :22 to go in the game.  On 2nd and 8, Morris took the ball right up the middle to set up a better field goal shot, and the Vikings called their final time out with :15 to go in the game.  On 3rd down, the Giants decided to take their shot at the field goal then and there, adhering to the old adage, if you botch the snap, you can fall on it and take another chance on 4th down.

None of that would be needed, Allegre, the former Colt who wasn't on the team as they broke camp, knew it was good immediately on the 32 yarder, and started his jump celebration as soon as he kicked it, and landed in the waiting arms of Gary Reasons.  His 5th field goal of the day gave the Giants a 22-20 lead with :12 to go in the game.

Allegre's kickoff would be a low line drive grabbed by Nelson at the 30.  However, with a chance to perhaps set up for a Hail Mary, the Vikings decided to go all Cal-Stanford and throw the ball all over the Metrodome, and ended with Chris Doleman, of all people, with the ball and 4 Giants surrounding him, putting an end to the lateral circus and gave the Giants a huge 22-20 win, keeping them in first play in the NFC East at 9-2, keeping pace with the Bears for the best record in the NFC, and set the state for talks of destiny.

The Post Mortem/ Interesting Tidbits

  • Going into this game, the Giants led the NFL with 40 sacks, as LT and Marshall had provided 24 of them.  In this game alone, LT got 2 sacks and Marshall got 1. 
  • OJ Anderson would catch 4 passes in this game.  Anderson was seldom used after coming over from the Cardinals in 1986, and it would stand up as the most catches he had in a game until he caught 5 passes in a 31-10 beating at the hands of the Rams in LA in 1989.  In all, Anderson was an underrated pass catching back.  In 1984, he caught 12 passes for 124 yards in the season finale loss at Washington and he also caught 11 passes a few weeks prior in a loss to the Rams.  Anderson would end up catching 70 passes in 1984.
  • This was the first back to back road wins by the Giants since 1981, when they beat the Seahawks by the score of 32-0 and then went on the road to beat the Falcons 27-24 in OT.
  • The Giants didn't wait too long to match the feat again.  They were able to do it a few weeks later in 1986, beating the 49ers on a Monday Night, and then the Redskins to essentially win the NFC East.  It was the Giants final road game of 1986, until Super Bowl XXI
  • After 1986, the Giants won back to back road games again in 1988, winning two underwhelming games at Atlanta and in overtime in Detroit.
  • This was the Giants first meeting vs. the Vikings in 10 years, when Minnesota beat the Giants 24-7 in Metropolitan Stadium.  That Viking team would finish 11-2-1, beat the Redskins and Rams in the playoffs and lose Super Bowl XI to the Oakland Raiders, coached by John Madden, by the score of 32-14.  It would be the final appearance in a Super Bowl by the Vikings after making the trip 3 previous times since 1970, all losses.  The Giants record in 1976?  3-11.
  • In a weird schedule quirk, the Giants would not face the Vikings again in Minnesota until 2001, where the Vikings "avenged" the 2000 NFC Championship curb stomping by beating the Giants 28-16 on a Monday Night game
  • In the meantime, between 1986 and 2001 the Giants would face the Vikings in the Meadowlands 8 times
    • 1989: Giants 24 - Vikings 14:  A Monday Night game on the night before Halloween.  Simms would get hurt and Hostetler would come off the bench to win, thanks to 3 Vikings' turnovers, including 2 Alfred Anderson fumbles on kickoff returns and a Pepper Johnson pick 6.
    • 1990: Giants 23 - Vikings 15:  Game known for Parcells coming out of the hospital to coach despite an attack of kidney stones the night before and a late comeback thanks to LT's 2.5 sack effort.
    • 1993: Giants 17 - Vikings 10:  Wild Card Playoff game.  LT and Simms final home game.  Rodney Hampton runs for 161 yards, including a 51 yard TD run.
    • 1994: Giants 10 - Vikings 27:  Another Monday Night game.  This time Warren Moon outduels Dave Brown.  Shocker.
    • 1996: Giants 15 - Vikings 10: The Vikings were 4-0 and somehow blew this game to a terrible Giants team.
    • 1997: Giants 22 - Vikings 23: Horrible choke by the Giants in the Wild Card round.  The Giants defensive players were literally fighting with each other both on the sidelines and during the game.  The Gmen blow a 1-3 lead and botch an onside kick recovery that would have won the game.  Let's not discuss this anymore.
    • 1999: Giants 17 - Vikings 34:  Randy Moss would throw a TD to Cris Carter
    • 2000: Giants 41 - Vikings 0: NFC Championship game.  The score was 34-0 at the half.  The only thing that stopped the Giants that day was the end zone.  The entire 4th quarter was played with Jason Garrett at QB and Joe Montgomery at RB.  Talk about garbage time.
  • This game featured a battle between 2 Ivy Leaguers.  Kenny Hill, the Giants safety, went to Yale.  The vikings' TE Steve Jordan, who would earn his first of 6 straight Pro Bowls in 1986, went to Brown University.   The Giants team featured a few other Ivy Schoolers over the years on their roster as well.
    • Jason Garrett: Princeton.  Known now as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys (until Jerry decides to fire him when he goes 8-8 again), Garrett made his name as a backup QB to Troy Aikman during the Cowboys dynasty years and his most memorable performance came in 1994, when he filled in for an injured Aikman in the Thanksgiving Day game against the Packers.  The Packers would take a 17-3 lead in the 2nd quarter, and Garrett would lead the Cowboys on a furious comeback, going 15-26, 311 yards and 2 TDs in a 42-31 win.  He would win 2 rings with the Cowboys, in 1993 and 1995.  Garrett would play for the Giants from 2000 - 2003 and would function as Kerry Collins' backup during the Super Bowl season, and actually came in for mop up duty early in the 4th quarter, where he would only throw 4 passes and basically hand it off to Joe Montgomery to wind down the clock in the 41-0 win.  Garrett would finish his career in 2004, starting with Tampa Bay and finishing in Miam
    • Keith Elias- Princeton.  If there ever was a Hall of Fame for the pre-season, Elias would be a first ballot entrant.  A legend.  Elias was an all out heart player, who would put up huge numbers in August playing in the second half against the oppositions late round draft picks/ UDFAs and that would do enough to impress the coaching staff to win out on some of the final roster spots.  However, he never made much of an impact as a running back over the course of wht would turn out to be a 5 year career (3 with the Giants and 2 with the Colts) before he was out of football by the 2000 season.  Elias' biggest impact play came in 1995, when he technically caused a fumble (instead of a blocked punt) from the Eagles' Tommy Hutton and it was returned 41 yards for a TD by Omar Douglas in a 17-14 loss in a game better known as the one in which Tommy Maddox started at QB and put up a 0.0 rating.
    • Jeff Hatch: UPenn.  Hatch was a cautionairy tale in so many ways.  Hatch was a 3rd round pick in 2002, and the Giants were looking for help on the OL.  So, in a case where they drafted for a need, and with not much else available at tackle, they decided ot pick Hatch.  13 picks later, another draftee was taken who also played his college ball in Philadelphia, that would be running back Brian Westbrook out of Villanova, for the Eagles.  To be fair, you can play this draft game in hindsight for anyone, but it is what it is.  The bigger problem for Hatch, he just wasn't very good.  His biggest mark came when he balked at joining the rookie camp, which was standard, because he was looking for an injury protection clause before participating.  It was an unprecidented request, and when you think about it, does make sense (this is a UPenn guy after all).  However, it rubbed the organization the wrong way, and Hatch was behind in his development and limited by injury.  He would last only 2 seasons with the Giants, starting 4 games for the Giants in 2003 after the wheels had completely come off the Fassel bandwaggon.  Coughlin sent him packing and Hatch spent time with the Rams and Bucs before fading away from the NFL after the 2005 season.
    • Jim Finn- UPenn.  Finn was a local guy, pretty much Bergen County, NJ through and through.  Born in Teaneck, raised in Fair Lawn, played at Bergen Catholic.  Finn was a running back in college, when he left he had totaled the 4th most rushing yards in Quaker history.  Finn was also given the honor as being Mr. Irrelevant, the final pick of the 1999 NFL Draft, taken by the Bears.  Finn was waived and spent the season on Chicago's practice squad.  He went to the Colts in 2000, where he played for 3 seasons, helping to clear a path for Edge James in the Peyton Manning led offense.  He signed with the Giants in 2003 as a free agent, and he helped block for Tiki Barber during Tiki's career rebirth.  Finn's career was cut short due to shoulder problems and was forced to retire after the 2006 season, just missing out on a ring the next year.  In recent years, Finn has been in the news related to a nasty divorce with actress Rosa Blasi.
    • Kevin Boothe- Cornell.  Boothe was drafted by the Raiders in the 6th round of the 2006 draft.  Boothe would be released by the Raiders in 2007, and picked up by the Giants and placed on their practice squad.  The Giants would take their time in developing Boothe, and he would begin to work his way into the starting lineup by 2010 after injuries took their toll on the line.  By 2011, Boothe would settle in at left guard and would start every game in 2012 and 2013.  Boothe would rejoin the Raiders as a free agent in 2014.
    • Zak DeOssie- Brown University.  Can you make a case for DeOssie as the Giants' best Ivy League player in the team's recent history, even as "just a long snapper?"  DeOssie was a linebacker in college, who was taught the skill of long snapping on punts and field goals/extra points by his father Steve, a former NFL linebacker, who played for the Cowboys, Patriots, Jets, and won a championship with the Giants in 1990.  While his father was able to get in the regular defensive rotation with the Giants, Zak hasn't been able to see the field on defense.  But after the debacles of the 2002 season with long snappers, leading to the tragic Trey Junkin moment in the playoffs in San Francisco, the Giants placed a premium on long snapping.  When DeOssie was taken in the fifth round of the 2007 draft, he started as a long snapper on punts (fellow rookie Jay Alford handled the extra points/field goals.)  He would take over the full time long snapping duties after an injury to Alford and has since become one of the most consistent long snappers in the game, and to boot, he's usually one of the first down on punt coverage involved in the tackles.  DeOssie has been named to the Pro Bowl twice (2008 and 2010) and is one of the team captains.
  • Tommy Kramer had 21 TDs going into this game and was enjoying his best season as a pro.  Kramer would go to the Pro Bowl in 1986, the only one of his 14 year career.  After the injury suffered to the Giants, Kramer would end up missing the next 3 weeks of the season, with Wade Wilson taking his spot.  Kramer would return in Week 14 against the Packers and lead them to a blowout victory, 32-6, which put the Vikings' record at 8-6 and in control of their own destiny for a Wild Card berth.  However, in playing against the 3-11 Houston Oilers in the Astrodome, Kramer's and the Vikings' season would come to an end.  The Oilers were an up and coming team despite their record, with Warren Moon beginning to estabilish himself, and a young defense loaded with talent.  Minnesota would turn the ball over 6 times, Kramer would injure his elbow and miss the remainder the game, and the rest of the season, as the Vikings would lose 23-10, dropping their record to 8-7 and eliminating them from the playoffs because they would have a worse record than the Redskins, 49ers, and Rams.
  • There were actually many parallels to the Kramer/Wilson QB tandem to the Simms/Hostetler QB duo.  Kramer was a pocket passer and Wilson was more mobile (similar to Simms/Hostetler).  Wilson was Kramer's backup for about 6 years, he finally got his chance in 1987, and helped lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship game.  He continued to share the starting duties with Kramer for a while, until Rich Gannon comae long to take the job from both of them and Kramer would join the Saints in 1990 before retiring.  Wilson continued to play, spending time with the Falcons, Saints, Cowboys (where he won a ring as a backup in 1995) and finish with the Raiders.  
  • Jerry Burns was a 59 year old "rookie" head coach, however, he had been coaching in the NFL since 1966 when he was on Vince Lombardi's staff in Green Bay for 2 seasons.  He joined the Vikings staff in 1968 as the offensive coordinator under Bud Grant for 18 years through 1985, when Grant retired.  Keeping the lineage alive, rather than go for a young head coach or someone new to the team, Burns took over in 1986.  With Floyd Peters as his defensive coordinator, Burns focused on the offense and Peters on defense.  Burns would lead the Vikings to the playoffs in 1987 (NFC Championship game, losing to the eventual champion Redskins) and also in 1988 (losing in the 2nd round to the eventual champion 49ers).  By 1989, the Vikings were considered to be Super Bowl quality.  They had one of the best defenses in the NFL.  They had play makers in Anthony Carter and Steve Jordan.  What was missing was an explosive running back and were middling at 3-2.  Enter Herschel Walker.  The Cowboys had stripped down their team in 1989, firing Tom Landry and hiring Jimmy Johnson.  Johnson wanted to rebuild his team and he was able to trade his one remaining chip, Walker.  And what a trade it turned out to be.  The Cowboys and Vikings would agree to what eventually became an 18 player swap.  Walker, at age 28, was dealt before the deadline to the Vikings.  Walker would never really fit in with the Minnesota scheme, rushing for 669 yards in 11 games and never provided the huge impact as expected.  the Vikings would eventually right their ship and win the NFC Central at 10-6, toppling the Bears' dynasty, but would, again, bow out in the playoffs at San Francisco in the 2nd round by the no so close score of 41-13.  That would be as far as Burns would take the Vikings again.  they stumbled in 1990, going 6-10 and scuffled to 8-8 in 1991.  Burns would retire in 1991 and the Vikings would name Denny Green as their new head coach.  Dallas meanwhile took the Walker trade and was able to turn around and draft a few nobodies like Emmitt Smith, Alvin Harper, and Darren Woodson.  Yes, Giants fans have nearly as much reason to hate former Vikings' GM Mike Lynn as any Viking fan for reloading the Cowboy dynasty.