Every now and then, in an NFL season, you have two heavyweights belly up late in a season in a matchup that you know will have playoff implications, and in some cases Super Bowl implications. The Giants have had several of those over the years, particularly the 1990 Monday Night game at San Francisco, when the Giants dropped a 7-3 decision to the two time defending champs. Also in 1990, a few weeks later, the Giants would face the Bills on a Saturday afternoon game in the cold and rain (the nastiest weather game I ever attended) and in a matchup that saw both starting QBs go down (Jim Kelly hurt his knee and was lost for the remainder of the regular season and Phil Simms was lost for the year entirely), in a game that the Bills would end up winning.
But in 1986, you had really 3 power house teams in the NFC going into Week 14. The defending champion Chicago Bears, who had the great fortune of playing in a joke of a conference at the time in the NFC Central (only the Vikings were decent, going 9-7, including handing the Bears their first loss. Meanwhile the Lions went 5-11, the Packers went 4-12 and the Tampa Bay Bucs finished with the worst record in the NFL at 2-14 to put them in position to draft Vinny Testaverte first overall) were sitting pretty at 11-2 getting ready to host said joke of a Buccaneers team at Soldier Field.
The other two teams both came from the NFC East, the Giants and the Redskins. The Redskins went into this game at 11-2, and they had won 5 straight games featuring a potent passing attack with Jay Schroeder at QB and throwing to his big time WRs in Art Monk and Gary Clark and a newcomer named Ricky Sanders. Meanwhile he had George Rogers still in his prime at running back and former USFL running back Kelvin Bryant to work with. However, the only team hotter than the Redskins? The 11-2 Giants, who had won 6 straight games, including beating the Redskins at the Meadowlands by the score of 27-20. The Giants had run a gauntlet of tough games leading up to this one, including winning last second games at Minnesota and then at home to the Broncos.
Both teams had tough games leading up to this matchup. The Redskins, playing on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals, found themselves in the middle of a surprising dog fight, tied at 17-17 in the fourth quarter, and had to win the game 20-17 on a Max Zendejas field goal. Meanwhile, the Giants were tasked with a Monday Night game at San Francisco, and after falling behind 17-0 the Giants stormed back with 3 TDs in the 3rd quarter to beat the Niners' by the score of 21-17 (I reviewed this game earlier).
The game also featured the two best defensive players of 1986. The Giants' linebacker Lawrence Taylor and the Redskins' defensive end Dexter Manley. Both were at the top of their games rushing the passer. Dexter came into the game leading the NFL with 17.5 sacks. LT was just behind him, at 16.5 sacks. In a big build of their own, the question was which dominant defensive player was going to make an impact. Would it be LT up against the Redskins former Pro Bowl offensive tackle, the 300+ pound Joe Jacoby (back in 1986, 300 pounds was considered massive)? Or would it be Dexter up against the Giants veteran offensive tackle Brad Benson, more known for his cut on his nose that would never heal and he'd have it bleeding all over and was just getting started as a car salesman in his off-seasons.
Of course, the biggest prize in this game was control of the NFC East and the inroads to home field advantage in the playoffs. For the Giants, if they had won their last 3 games (at Washington and home against two poor teams in the Cardinals and Packers), they would finish at 14-2 and win out in the tie breaker against the Bears since they would have only lost 1 game against the NFC (to the Cowboys in the opener, the only other loss was on the road to the Seahawks who were in the AFC West at the time). Meanwhile the Bears dropped games to the Vikings and Rams. On the flip side, a Redskins win would set them up with a one game lead over the Giants (though they had to play at Denver the following Saturday) and if they finished in a tie with Chicago at 14-2, they would need to look at point differentials to determine home field. Needless to say, this was a game that got Pat Summerall and John Madden out to RFK to call the action.
The Game Highlights
Starting with an intro? Well, when the intro was the 1980s vintage CBS intro, you bet. For my money, nothing was better in setting the mood to sit down for a big game than the pre-kickoff highlights with Pat Summerall's voice over. There is nothing today that holds a candle to it, even if we get to see some chick dancing around and singing to start the game. Anyway...on to the game.
On a beautiful early December game in the Nation's Capitol, the Giants would get the ball first, as Redskins punter Steve Cox, who doubled as their kickoff man, booted the ball down to Phil McConkey at the goal line and he returned the ball to the 18 yard line where he was cut down by defensive lineman Dean Hammill. The Giants offense took the field and Phil Simms started off immediately going to the air, hitting his favorite target, TE Mark Bavaro over the middle, as he beat linebacker Neal Olkewicz in coverage and stiff armed Darrell Green to the ground and took off down field for a 41 yard gain out to the Skins 41 yard line. Keeping with that theme, Simms play action fake to Joe Morris again resulted in a pass to Bavaro, this time another first down catch to the 29 yard line. Two plays, two passes, two first downs, things were looking good for the Giants
Well, third time was not a charm. Again Simms went back to pass on another play action fake to Morris, who had torched the Skins for 181 yards and 2 TDs in their previous meeting at Giants Stadium, so with the Skins keying on him, he had plenty of time to throw. However, as Simms looked for a deep pass in the corner to WR Bobby Johnson, he under threw the ball, allowing Green time to react and jump in front of the pass to snag the interception at the 4 yard line and kill what would have been a huge scoring chance right off the bat.
The Redskins took over, deep in their own territory, with Jay Schroeder at QB. On first down, the Skins attempted to pass, but Schroeder was under pressure by the Giants defensive line and dumped a pass towards his check down TE Donnie Warren and it fell incomplete. On second down, Joe Gibbs stayed with the pass, and Schroeder's 2nd down pass was air mailed over Art Monk's head. With 3rd and 10, on their own 4, Schroeder would make his first mistake on the day
On this pass attempt, Schroeder retreated deep into his own end zone, coming dangerously close to running out of the back line for a safety as he was chased by George Martin and a hellbent LT. Schroeder would uncork a deep pass down field into a crowd, and on a pass that looked to be intended for Monk, was instead picked off by rookie safety Greg Lasker at the 49 yards line.
So much for the two best teams in football, with two turnovers in the first few minutes. However, what in essence was punt for the Redskins, the Giants would send Morris in motion and Simms would throw his 4th straight pass, this time to fullback Maurice Carthon on a dump off and he would take it 8 yards to the Washington 43. The Giants would finally go to the ground on the next play, handing off to Morris who got close to a first down, but was stopped just short by Curtis Jordan. On 3rd and short, Morris ran around left end and hurdled through the line for a good gain out to the 31 and a first down. With a new set of downs, Simms started with yet another play action pass, this time it was knocked away from Carthon by Redskins' LB Calvin Daniels. Morris would get stacked up for no gain on 2nd down by Oklewicz setting up a 3rd and 10. Simms would never get the chance to pass, as DE Charles Mann bullrushed the Giants Karl Nelson and dumped Simms for a sack which also knocked the Giants out of Raul Allegre's field goal range. So on came punter Sean Landeta who perfectly placed a 33 yard punt to the 4 yard line where it was downed by Perry Williams.
Again, back deep in their own territory, Schroeder starts off with an audible and fires a quick pass to Ricky Sanders (wearing #46) for a fast 9 yard gain where he was stopped by Lasker. On 2nd and 1, Schroeder would again throw another quick pass, this time to Gary Clark for a first down out to the 19 where he was downed by Williams. George Rogers would take a draw play and get good yardage behind Jacoby for a 6 yard pickup to the 25. However, the Skins would give back 5 yards as they lined up for the next play and Schroeder took too long reading the defense and audibling at the line. Now 2nd and 9, LT would announce his arrival in the game
LT would first engage Jacoby and then explode around him, launching himself into Schroeder for a sack and force a fumble. The ball would pop away from the line of scrimmage and would be recovered by Rogers, who got walloped by Harry Carson and Carl Banks for his troubles. The sack would bring LT into a tie with Dexter for the lead in the NFL, now at 17.5 sacks and set up a 3rd and 12. Schroeder would find himself under pressure again on the next play, as he had to escape an onrushing Leonard Marshall and Andy Headen, and would just fling the ball back across the middle of the field in the direction of Warren for an incomplete pass. Cox came on to punt and his poor effort went only 30 yards as it was downed by Todd Bowles at the 44 yard line.
The Giants would start off their 3rd drive of the day but wouldn't do much with it. A 3 and out would be the end result from a short Morris gain and two incomplete passes intended for Johnson and Tony Galbreath. On one of the passes, Simms was nailed at the back of the knees by Dexter after the pass, it would have drawn a penalty, and likely a fine in today's NFL. Landeta's punt to Ken Jenkins was not fair caught at the 14 yard line, which allowed Pepper Johnson to drill him as soon as he caught it.
With 5:16 to go in the first quarter, the Skins were still pinned down in their own end. Schroeder started off with a pass to Monk that fell incomplete. On 2nd down, a draw play to Kelvin Bryant up the middle worked out well for the Skins, as he weaved his way through the Giants defense for an 11 yard gain out to the 25 yard line where he was stopped by Carson and got Washington a first down. Rogers would gain 3 yards on his next carry, when he was stopped by Carson. On 2nd and 7, LT again got around Jacoby and hit Schroeder as soon as he released the ball and it fell harmlessly incomplete. Now 3rd and 7, Schroeder dropped back and again had LT coming after him, but he was able to sling the ball to Warren, who caught i and put his head into Banks' chest and plowed forward for a first down out to the 36 yard line. Rogers was able to get a short gain on first down, getting stacked up by LT and Jerome Sally. He would only gain one yard on a 2nd down draw play, as he was met hard by Carson. Now 3rd and 7, with LT charging in on Schroeder, a dump off pass to Bryant was hauled in over the middle for first down near mid field. Rogers would get a good 5 yard gain on a first down carry up the middle, where he was hit by Carson and Sally. Rogers would end the first quarter with a carry out to the 40 yard line and was dropped by Carson and Terry Kinard. Now 3rd and 1, the Skins would trot out 7 offensive linemen in their short yardage team, including a 260 pound TE in Warren in the backfield ahead of 230 pound George Rogers. Rogers followed the beef in front for a 2 yard gain and a first down to the 39. Choosing to stay on the ground, the Skins tried their bread and butter counter trey run, but rookie NT Erik Howard split the blockers and nailed Rogers for a 2 yard loss. Schroeder to look to Bryant again on a pass, gaining 7 yards until he was tackled by Gary Reasons and Carson. On 3rd and 4, the Giants pass rush would step up again. This time it was LT who would stunt inside and occupy 3 blockers, allowing Marshall a free path around the offensive line and into the line of sight of Schroeder who was rolling to his left to get away from LT. Schroeder would get sacked by Marshall and Sally for a huge loss out near midfield and knock them out of field goal range. Cox would punt the ball away to McConkey, who fair caught the ball at the 23 yard line, another poor effort by the Redskins punter.
On first down, Morris would get nailed and fumble the ball, but amazingly as it fell by the feet of several Washington defenders, the Giants' Soloman Miller would jump on the loose ball and keep possession and was able to get a first down on the play as well. Simms would go back to Bavaro, who juggled the ball initially and then hauled it in and turned up field for a good gain out to the 37. However, on the pass, behind the play, the Redskins' Daryl Grant would fall on Simms' legs and seemed to hurt him. Simms would hand off to Morris, who seemed bottled up on the sweep, but bounced outside for a 5 yard gain. While Morris was running, Simms seemed to be moving gingerly, so much so that backup QB Jeff Rutledge quickly started warming up on the sidelines. On 2nd and 5, another handoff went to Morris, who again bounced around the corner for a good gain and a first down, but he got dinged up on the play and was forced out of the game. Now first and 10 at the Redskins 27, the Giants went with a handoff to Lee Rouson who only gained 2 yards. The Giants tried some razzle dazzle on the next play, setting up a reverse from Rouson to Bobby Johnson. However, Dexter read the play and was waiting for the reverse, so Rouson held on to the ball up the middle and was swallowed up for a 1 yard loss. Now 3rd and long, Simms would go back to pass but would get sacked by Mann fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Grant. However, a delay of game gave the Giants new life and set them up for a 3rd and 14 at the 31 and would turn out to be a huge play in the game. Simms would roll out to his right and avoid the pressure, set up and hit Bobby Johnson for a huge 19 yard gain to the Redskins' 13 yard line and a first down. With Morris back in the game, the Giants would drop back for another pass, and with Mann in his face, Simms would dump the ball off to Carthon for an incomplete pass. On 2nd and 10, Morris would get stopped by Mann after a 3 yard gain. Now on 3rd and 7, the scoreless tie would be broken.
Simms would have time to throw, and would fire a bullet in to Bavaro, who beat Bowles on the post pattern and snag the ball as he crossed the goal line for the first TD of the day for the Giants and after Allegre's extra point, would give them a 7-0 lead with 8:35 to go in the half.
Allegre's kickoff was taken by Clarence Verdin at the 4 yard line and returned to the 26 yard line by Reasons and Miller. On first down, a fake draw to Rogers quickly became a hurried dump off to Rogers, thanks to an onrushing LT, and the pass fell incomplete. On 2nd and 10, with Bryant in the game, Schroeder tried to drill a pass in to Monk, but it was nearly picked off by Carson and fell incomplete. However, Schroeder wouldn't be so lucky on his next pass
Schroeder, who yet again found himself scrambling for his life away from the Giants pass rush, this time in the form of Marshall, threw another deep pass down field in the general direction of Clark. Giants safety Herb Welch jumped in front of the pass and picked it off and returned it to the 40 yard line.
The Giants would go big on first down, bringing out 2 TEs, and handing off to Morris, though the Skins would be up to the task, stopping him for a 1 yard gain. On 2nd and long, Simms would go deep to Bobby Johnson, who had a step on the Redskins' defensive back, but for the second time, Simms under threw the ball and it was knocked away at the last second and ruined a TD. It would get even more frustrating on the next play, as a blown coverage by the Redskins' Monte Coleman turned Bavaro loose up the middle and he was all alone by a good 15 yards but Simms over threw the wide open tight end on what would have been one of the easiest TD catches in his career. Leaving 2 straight TD passes on the field, Landeta came on to punt the ball away and it was fair caught by Jenkins at the 15.
The Redskins would start off with a handoff to Rogers, who was stuffed by Reasons and Banks for no gain. Schroeder would go underneath to Bryant for a 5 yard gain, with Carson in on the stop. Now 3rd and 5, Schroeder would find himself under pressure by Headen, who hit the quarterback as soon as he threw the ball. But he was able to get the pass off and it went to Clark over the middle. Clark would finally make an impact play, as he weaved in and around Giants defenders before he was finally tracked down by Elvis Patterson at the Giants' 26 yard line and a 54 yard gain. Schroeder would over throw Warren on first down for an incompletion. On 2nd and 10, a draw to Bryant would go for 4 yards until he was hit down by Banks and Eric Dorsey. Now 3rd and 6, Schroeder would dump the ball off to Bryant, who broke a tackle and powered forward for a first down out to the 15 yard line. Bryant would keep the momentum going, this time taking a handoff and plowing forward to the 4 yard line, where he was stopped by Kenny Hill but set up a first and goal. With Rogers back in the game, along with the 7 offensive lineman set, the handoff to the former Saints' Pro Bowler would get stacked up by Banks for a 1 yard gain to bring the game to the 2 minute warning. Gibbs recognized the hot hand when he saw it and would bring Bryant back on the field
Bryant, a former top player in the USFL, took the handoff and hammered his way around the right end, powering his way through Reasons for a TD. After Zendejas' extra point, the Redskins would tie the score at 7-7 with 1:55 to go in the half.
Very frustrating. With the Giants having a chance to make the score 14-0 (or even 21-0), they now found themselves playing in a tie game late in the first half on the road...with Washington getting the ball to start the second half. McConkey would return the kickoff to the the 19 yard line and the Giants offense would take the field with all 3 of their time out remaining. Simms began with the old Giants' staple, the inside draw out of the shotgun, with Galbreath gaining 6 yards. Simms would go back to Galbreath on the next play, hitting him for a 12 yard gain to the 36 yard line and a first down. Rather than take a time out, the Giants went to the hurry up and took a deep shot to McConkey but the ball fell incomplete. Now 2nd and 10, another inside handoff to Galbreath, however he was stopped after just 3 yards. Still holding on to their time outs, the Giants got to the line and Simms would hit Johnson down the sidelines and Johnson made a circus catch around cornerback Barry Wilburn for a first down at the 25 yard line and out of bounds with :39 to go. Parcells would call a time out to help reset his offense. This time with Simms under center because there was too much noise for the shotgun, the Redskins would come on an all out blitz, which was picked up beautifully by Morris and Carthon and allowed Simms to hit Stacy Robinson. Robinson, would make the grab and break his way up field before he was tackled by Tim Morrison at the 7 yard line with :29 to go. On first and goal, the Giants would take control of the game and never look back
Simms, again with time to throw as Benson was keeping Dexter off of his QB, was able to sit in the pocket and then start to run up the middle to draw the Redskins defenders. As he got close to the line of scrimmage, Simms fired a pass to a wide open Johnson in the back of the end zone for a huge touchdown that got the lead back for the Giants, with Allegre's extra point making the score 14-7 Giants with :23 remaining.
With RFK now stunned, Jenkins took the ball out to the 35 yard line and the Skins tried to set up for maybe a long FG.
LT however would have none of it. Rushing only 2 down lineman and LT, Taylor was able to again get around Jacoby and chased down the Redskins' QB for his 2nd sack of the game, and 18.5 of the season, now giving him the outright NFL lead over Dexter. After a Skins time out with :12 to go, Schroeder would try to uncork another pass, however Martin chased him around and his attempted pass to Monk fell incomplete. On 3rd and long, Schroeder would essentially just heave up a Hail Mary, which would get picked off by Welch, his second of the day and Schroeder's 3rd INT. At the half, a game dominated by the Giants but they were able to at least grab the lead before the teams went to their respective locker rooms.
The Redskins would start off by getting the ball. Verdin took the kickoff and after an initial fumble in fielding it, was able to stretch his way off the goal line and almost broke it for a big gain, but was stopped at the 18 by Robbie Jones and Rouson. Schroeder began with a pass over the middle to Monk, who broke a tackle by Carson and was stopped just beyond the first down marker by Reasons. However, the most significant part of this play happened away from it, as safety Terry Kinard would hurt his knee on the play and end up missing the remainder of the season and the Giants would start Welch for the rest of the Super Bowl run. LT would knock down Schroeder's next pass at the line of scrimmage. Kelvin Bryant continued his big day, catching another pass and turning it into a 12 yard gain, and a first down as he would eventually get tracked down by Carson and Banks. Bryant would gain 4 more yards on a sweep, getting dropped by Welch and Williams. On 2nd down, Schroeder would complete a pass to Monk, who was stopped just short of a first by Reasons. On 3rd and short, the Skins would attempt a pass, but Schroeder would have Marshall in his face again, and would float a pass towards Clark which was nearly picked off by Patterson. Cox would boom the next punt over McConkey's head for a touch back.
The Giants would begin at their own 20 and start with a 3 yard run by Carthon around left end before he was stopped by Rich Milot. On 2nd and 7, Simms would complete a pass down the seam to Rouson for a nice gain out to the 43 yard line and a first down. Morris would tack on 5 more yards on a run to the outside, where Green would push him out of bounds. A carry by Carthon up the middle was good for 2 yards as he was stopped by Dexter. Now 3rd and 3, and in the gun, Simms would move around in the pocket and hit McConkey for a 7 yard gain and a big first down to the Washington 43. Simms would keep the pressure on, hitting Bavaro for a 22 yard gain out to the 20 yard line, as he sat down in the Redskins zone and another first down. Morris would gain 2 yards on the next 2 carries, getting stuffed by Grant and then Coleman respectively. On 3rd and long, with Dexter yet again held at bay by Benson, Simms had time to hit Galbreath for an 8 yard gain and a first down to the 11 yard line. On first down, an intended fade pass sailed on Simms, who threw the ball into the Redskins' band. Morris would get stuffed by Dave Butz on 2nd down. Now third and goal at the 8 yard line, Simms would yet again have time to throw and hit Johnson over the middle. Johnson would get the ball down to the 2 yard line, where he was stopped by Ken Coffey and Green...though a 12 men on the field penalty would give the Giants another shot. However, the Giants could not take advantage as no one got open and Simms late attempt to Carthon near the goal line fell incomplete. So Allegre came on to put through the 21 yard chip shot for a 17-7 lead with 4:33 to go in the 3rd quarter.
While the Redskins averted disaster, the Giants were slowly pulling away from them, now with a 2 score lead. Verdin took the kickoff out to the 22 yard line where he was knocked out of bounds by Patterson. The Skins needed to get momentum back, but Schroeder did the exact opposite
For one of the few times on the day, Schroeder was actually not under duress and had time to throw. However, with the Skins running game more or less shut down, the Giants inside linebackers were able to drop deeper in coverage. As a result, Schroeder's attempted pass to Monk was snagged by Carson at the 35 yard line and Harry rumbled his way up field with the ball returning it to the 14 yard line for a 20 yard gain, as LT jumped on him in celebration.
The RFK crowd was getting nervous. Morris would get stuffed for a 2 yard loss as Coleman barged in the backfield to drop him. Simms' 2nd down pass to Carthon, who was open and with room to run, was dropped by Mo. It was 3rd and 12, the Skins were still in the game as the Giants were not cashing in for TDs. That would change
Simms, again with plenty of time to throw as Dexter was getting handled by Benson, threw a corner pattern to McConkey. The former Navy helicopter pilot somehow beat a future Hall of Famer in Darrell Green and juggled the perfectly thrown pass but hauled it in as he went to the ground. The 16 yard TD, and celebration as Bavaro easily hoisted up the 170 pound McConkey, would put the Giants firmly in control following the extra point, giving them a 24-7 lead with 3:11 to go in the 3rd quarter.
The Giants had now scored 17 unanswered points and the game was slipping away from the home team. Jenkins would return the kickoff to the 20 yard line where he was stopped by Byron Hunt. The Skins needed to do something and get back in the game. The only answer was to go to the air. Schroeder started with passes to Monk and Bryant for a first down. Another pass to Bryant was good for 6 more yards. On 2nd and 4, Schroeder somehow avoided a sack by Howard, and scrambled forward for a yard before he was slammed down by Carson. On 3rd and 3, Bryant would haul in another pass from Schroeder, and get another first down as the 3rd quarter came to an end. The Bryant show would continue in the 4th quarter, gaining 8 yards before he was tackled down field by Sally, tracking back from his nose tackle position. The next 3 plays would all go to Bryant, who would get the ball down the field to the Giants' 20 yard line. Schroeder to Monk was good for 7 more yards to the 12 yard line where he was stopped by Banks. Just as the Skins started to feel good about themselves, it all came crashing down
Schroeder's offense at this point was little more than dump offs over the middle to Bryant, as the Giants decided to take Gary Clark away as an option. This time another attempted pass over the middle would get tipped at the line by George Martin and the ball would get snatched out of mid air by Leonard Marshall at the 20 yard line, Schroeder's 5th INT of the day and ended the threat.
The Giants would do little with the ball on the subsequent drive. Dexter would hit Morris for a 2 yard loss and 2 Simms incompletions would bring Landeta back on the field. But the Skins weren't done shooting themselves in the foot
Landeta got off a beauty of a punt and sent Jenkins back on his heels to catch it. With Greg Lasker in a full sprint towards him, rather than call a fair catch and set up, Jenkins muffed the punt and got leveled by Lasker for his efforts. The ball bounced free away from the pile and was recovered by Zeke Mowatt at the 27 yard line. Jenkins, not surprisingly, got hurt on the play and would be forced from the game, but it would be Washington's 6th turnover on the day.
It looked like the Giants were ready to go in for the pile on scores and really put the game further out of reach. On first down, Morris took a pitch and turned the corner for an 8 yard gain before Jordan pushed him out of bounds. On 2nd and 2, Simms and Morris messed up the handoff, bumping into each other and ultimately the play went for no gain. The Giants avoided a turnover on this play, but not so much on the next one
Simms got greedy here. He had time to throw, as again Dexter was not a factor on the pass rush, but he tried to squeeze a pass in to Bavaro, however the ball was picked off by linebacker Rich Milot. Milot actually would fumble the ball on his return as he tried to head upfield, but fell on it at the 16 yard line.
So Washington avoided the knock out, but they were still down 3 scores. On first down, Schroeder was forced to run for his life with Marshall in pursuit and dumped the pass off to Warren to gained 5 yards out past the 20 yard line. On second down, Gary Clark was able to get open and caught a 14 yard pass down the sidelines for a first down at the 34. The Skins continued to move the ball, this time with another pass to Warren who got the ball out to the 42 yard line as the clock wound down under 9 minutes. Though Jay Schroeder wasn't done doling out turnovers
By this stage in the game, anytime Giants got near him, Schroeder reached the chuck and duck phase. In this instance, Schroeder tried to throw a sidelines pass in the direction of Bryant. However, with his mechanics long since gone, the ball sailed and was snagged by Headen at the Redskins 45 yard line. It was Schroeder's 6th INT of the game.
The Giants were in clock killing mode and made some changes on the offensive line, including sitting Brad Benson down (though he had a great game blocking Manley), and swapped in former first round pick William Roberts, a better run blocker. Morris started off with a nice 13 yard gain as he broke into the secondary, however, Roberts was called for holding. Morris would get stacked up for 2 yards by Mann on 1st and 20. Two more Morris runs would gain 14 yards, before stalling at the 39 yard line. However, the clock continued to run as Landeta came on to punt. After running the clock down and taking a delay of game penalty (though the Skins declined the yardage). With Ricky Sanders now at punt returner due to injuries suffered by Verdin and Jenkins, Landeta's kick would soar through the end zone for a touchback with 5:30 to go in the game.
Washington took over at the 20 yard line. On first down, Schroeder was under pressure right up the middle and threw a pass to Bryant, who ended up going backwards and only gained 1 yard. On 2nd and 9, Schroeder had LT charging in on him but would hit Bryant up the seam for a 23 yard gain out to the 44 yard line and a first down. With the Giants playing the dreaded prevent defense, Schroeder is able to settle down and begin completing passes. He hit Monk to the Giants' 43 and then a pass to Keith Griffin for 14 more yards (plus tack on 5 more for a delay of game as Kenny Hill held him down to try to keep him from getting back to the huddle). Schroeder took a deep shot in the end zone for Monk, who was blasted by Welch, and separated him from the ball, however it looked like on the hit he probably knocked himself out...but being 1986 and it was the dark ages around concussions, he stayed in the game. Schroeder would hit Griffin on the next play and gained 16 yards before he was tackled in bounds by Welch. Though it was garbage time, no one told LT to take it easy
Maybe LT missed saying hello to Schroeder. So this time, rather than rushing from his blind side, LT moved over to the right side and went around tackle Mark May and easily beat an overmatched Griffin to nail Schroeder for his 3rd sack of the game. Schroeder deserves credit for managing not to fumble on the hit directly at the ball by his chest, which was something that we saw Jim Everett do in the 1989 playoff game at Giants Stadium on a similar rush. Regardless, the Skins were forced to call a time out, but they would regroup nicely
Kelvin Bryant was more or less the only guy on the Washington offense who hurt the Giants defense on this day. Bryant would get open down the seam again, catching a 22 yard TD and throwing the ball into the crowd in celebration...or frustration? Either way, with 3:24 to play, the scoreboard was not his friend, as Zendejas' extra point made the score 24-14. One point to mention here, in the highlight, it was noted that there was a blown coverage on the play, and Pat Summerall joked that rather playing in a prevent zone, Herb Welch was just "in a zone". The reference was clearly to Welch's concussion a few plays earlier on the hit on Monk. These things were funnier back in the 1980s, before we knew about CTE.
The Redskins would onside kick and it was easily handled by Bobby Johnson with 3:20 to go in the game at the 44 yard line. Morris would gain 1 yard after getting stopped by Grant and forced the Redskins to take their 2nd timeout with 3:15 to go. Morris would get stuffed for no gain on the next play by Dexter, forcing the Skins to take their final time out with 3:10 to go and 3rd and 9. On third down, Simms attempted a naked bootleg around the left end as he tried to trick the Redskins defense, however they were waiting for him and he was stopped after only a few years. Interestingly, Simms ran the exact same play in the NFC Title game a month later near the goal line and nearly scored. After another delay of game was taken by the Giants brought the clock to 2:21, Landeta came out with the Skins trying to go for a punt block, however he got the kick away and it went into the end zone for a touchback.
Now at the 20 yard line, and more garbage time, Schroeder went back and hit Warren who flipped the ball to Bryant on a hook and ladder, with an extra 5 yards tacked on because of a facemask by Headen, got the ball to the 35. Schroeder then decided to just show off his arm, and hucked a deep pass towards Sanders, which was nearly intercepted by Williams with 1:57 to go in the game. 2nd and 10, Schroeder was chased out of the pocket by LT, who beat May and RC Theilmann on the play and dragged the Redskins' QB to the ground just as he got the pass away for an incompletion. With 1:49 to go, Schroeder again chucked up a deep pass to Clark, who actually made his way through the zone, but lost sight of the ball and it fell to the ground. On 4th and 10, Schroeder went back to pass, had Bryant open over the middle, but Bryant dropped the ball and turned it over on downs.
All that was left in the game was for the Giants to go into their Victory Formation. Two Simms kneel downs would run out the clock, and give the Giants a huge win on the road, that gave them a sweep over their division rivals and all but clinched the NFC East and put them in position to clinch home field advantage through playoffs. Once Harry Carson capped off the festivities with the Gatorade shower of Parcells, the Giants were on their way towards destiny.
Interesting Tidbits/ Post Mortem
- This game effectively ended the NFC East race. Though one game ahead in the standings, the sweep essentially gave the Giants a 2 game lead with 2 to play. The Giants would actually clinch before they even took the field in their next game against the Cardinals. The Redskins would travel to play at Denver on a Saturday evening game. Washington would go up 13-0 and would end up losing the game despite a furious comeback by the score of 31-30 (Zendejas missed the extra point on their first score, a 10 yard TD to Ricky Sanders). With that loss, the Giants clinched their first NFC Eastern Division title.
- The build up of LT vs. Dexter prior to the game, the two best pass rushers of 1986, was a one sided affair. Taylor played like a man possessed, registering 3 sacks of Schroeder and generally terrorizing him throughout the game, forcing him to throw the ball before he was ready and basically unnerving the QB to the point that he was so rattled that he was throwing into coverage and got picked off 5 times. Taylor would finish the game with 19.5 sacks and would register one final sack on the season to finish with 20.5, leading the NFL.
- It was the 2nd time that season that LT had 3 sacks vs. the Redskins. He did the same trick back in their first meeting at the Meadowlands on a Monday Night game. That game was also known for the time the crowd let out a random cheer during the action, which turned out to be a Daryl Strawberry home run, and caught Joe Jacoby off guard and he was called for a false start.
- LT, who was named both the Defensive Player of the Year and League MVP, registered at least 2 sacks in a game six times in 1986. His high was 4 sacks in a 35-3 blowout win over the Eagles at Giants Stadium
- LT had one other game he registered 3 sacks vs. the Redskins, sacking Joe Theismann for the hat trick in a 31-22 loss at Washington in 1983.
- While LT had a great game, on the other side, Dexter Manley did not. What Manley did do was draw so much attention to Brad Benson that Madden made it a focus throughout the broadcast. Over and over the highlights showed Benson stalemating Dexter at the line of scrimmage, frustrating the pass rusher over and over. Because of this attention, Benson actually won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, the first time the honor went to an offensive lineman. It also got him enough positive press, along with the Giants success, he was named to his first and only Pro Bowl.
- Benson also made some headlines because before the game. Though now known as a car dealer for Brad Benson Mitsubishi and his...creative?.. radio bits, at the time Benson raised pit bulls. He said that he was going to name one of them Dexter in honor of his matchup with Manley.
- Simms threw 3 TDs in the game, it was the second time he did so in the 1986 season (the first coming in the season opening loss in Dallas). He would match that number 2 weeks later in the season finale blowout of the Packers. In the playoffs however, Simms would get hot. He threw 4 TDs in the Giants domination of the 49ers and threw 3 more in his MVP Performance in Super Bowl XXI against the Broncos.
- Perhaps surprisingly, considering how many times Simms played the Redskins, he only passed for 3 TDs in a game against them one other time in his career. That happened in his final season, in his last visit to RFK Stadium during a 44-7 blowout win.
- Bavaro had 111 yards receiving in the game, a season high for him in 1986, just edging out his 110 yards he gained in a win over the Saints. The Saints game was memorable for Bavaro as he put up those numbers after having some teeth knocked out and breaking his jaw, but he kept playing.
- Bavaro's 111 yards was also the best output of his career against the Redskins.
- Joe Morris was kept well in check in the game. He gained only 62 yards on 22 carries, his 4th lowest output in 1986. The Redskins defense focused on Little Joe, and for good reason, he torched them for 181 yards and 2 TDs, including one late that won the game for the Giants.
- Phil McConkey's TD over Darrell Green was his only one in the 1986 regular season. It was also only the 2nd TD reception of his career. His first came on a 20 yarder from Simms in a 27-17 win over the Cardinals in 1985. That would be the sum total of McConkey's regular season scores over the course of his 5 year career, which included stays with the Giants, Packers, Chargers, and Cardinals.
- Amazingly, McConkey would match his career total in TDs in the 1986 playoff run. He hauled in a 28 yard TD in the 49ers win. And in Super Bowl XXI, he narrowly missed scoring a TD after a 44 yard gain on a flea flicker. As McConkey headed up field, he was hit and flipped by former Giant Mark Haynes and landed on the one yard line. Joe Morris would score on the next play. McConkey would get a reprieve though as later in the game, a pass from Simms bounced off of Bavaro in the end zone. However, McConkey was trailing the play and caught the rebound for his Super Bowl TD.
- Jim Burt missed the game due to a back injury. The Giants went with veteran Jerome Sally and rookie Erik Howard to hold down the nose tackle spot.
- Greg Lasker's INT, in his rookie season, would turn out to be the only one in what would have to be labeled a disappointing career for a second round draft pick. The safety would only last 2 full seasons in NY and was released after 4 weeks into the 1988 season. Lasker would sign with the Cardinals and bounce to the Bears and would be out of the league by 1989.
- Terry Kinard hurt his knee in this game and was replaced by Herb Welch for the remainder of the 1986 season and missed out on the playoff and Super Bowl run. Many felt that Welch would be targeted by the opposing offenses, but they never really were able to expose him. With the Giants the best in the NFL at stopping the run, would force long yardage situations and turn loose LT, Marshall, Banks, Pepper, et al after the QB and never give them any time to go after Welch. Welch would register an interception in the 49er game and his lateral to Elvis Patterson set the Giants up in Niner's territory. Joe Morris would take the next snap and break away for a long TD run that essentially got the ball rolling towards the eventual 49-3 blowout.
- Kinard would make his way back from the knee injury and return as a starter in 1987. He would take an interception back 70 yards for a TD against the Bears in the season opener. Kinard would be named as an alternate to the Pro Bowl in 1988, his only appearance in Hawaii. In 1989, Kinard would pick off 5 passes, including a TD return against the Cardinals. However, in 1990, at age 30 with knee problems, the Giants chose to leave Kinard unprotected as a Plan B free agent and the plan at the time was to pair Myron Guyton with former second round pick Adrian White at safety. Kinard would sign a contract with the Houston Oilers and would pick off 4 passes, including another TD return, this time in a 58-14 trouncing of the Browns. It would turn out to be his final season in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Giants would end up losing White to an ACL tear in the pre-season, which gave second year safety Greg Jackson an opportunity to start and eventually be part of the Giants Super Bowl XXV championship team. In all, you had to feel bad for Kinard. He was a big part of the defensive resurgence in the 1980s and helped build the team up to championship caliber. But injury cost him his chance to play in the 1986 Super Bowl, and timing cost him the 1990 Super Bowl.
- On the flip side, Jay Schroeder had a nightmare game against LT and company. Of course, Schroeder will forever be linked to Taylor. 1985 was the scene for one of the most infamous and gruesome sports injuries ever. In a Monday Night game, Joe Theismann was the victim of a flea flicker gone wrong. On the pitch back to Theismann, instead of slowing down the pass rush to react to the running back, Harry Carson crashed into the backfield and grabbed a hold on Theismann. As Theismann was trying to break away from Carson, LT came swooping around and grabbed Theismann, sacking the Redskins QB and in the process broke his leg, literally in half. The hit obviously ended his season and as it would turn out, his career. Jay Schroeder would come off the bench and with his team down 21-14 in the fourth quarter, lead the Skins on 2 scoring drives and win the game 23-21. Schroeder would start the rest of the season for the Redskins, going 4-1 and a 10-6 record overall, however they would miss the playoffs due to tie breakers.
- Schroeder's 6 INTs were a career high for him. His next highest output was 4 INTs, which he did in a game twice after he was traded to the Raiders in 1988 (for tackle Jim Lachey). Schroeder actually did this in back to back games, losses at home to the Bengals and Dolphins.
- The Giants were a nightmare for Schroeder in 1986. Washington went 12-4 on the season and Schroeder would throw for 4109 yards and 22 TDs. He led the team to playoff wins at home against the Rams and then on the road he beat the defending World Champion Bears in Chicago. However, he would go 0-3 vs. the Giants. In each game, he got progressively worse. He was excellent in the first game, when Gary Clark went off, but the rest of the sledding got harder
- Game 1: 22-40, 420 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs in a 27-20 loss
- Game 2: 28-51, 309 yards, 1 TD and 6 INTs in a 24-14 loss
- Game 3 (NFC Championship): 20-50, 195 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT in a 17-0 loss
- Schroeder started to lose his control over the team in 1987. He began the season as the starter, but the strike messed things up along the way. After the players returned, backup Doug Williams would find his way into games and perform very well when he was out there, including leading a Week 16 comeback win over the Vikings in Minnesota. Come playoff time, Coach Joe Gibbs had seen enough and named Williams the starter in the playoffs. Williams helped lead victories in Chicago and then at home against the Vikings to go to the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XXII Williams would have one of the NFL great performances, leading the Redskins to 5 second quarter touchdowns and won the MVP award with an 18-29, 340 yards and 4 TD day. Even more significantly, Williams dispelled the notion at the time that an African American could not play quarterback and win a championship (crazy at it sounds, this was a storyline in 1987). By 1988, Schroeder was no longer in the Redskins plans, so he was dealt to the Raiders for Pro Bowl tackle Jim Lachey.
- Schroeder would play 5 seasons in LA and help lead them to the AFC Championship Game in 1990, where they were resoundingly thumped by the Bills 51-3. Schroeder would round out his career with the Bengals and Cardinals before retiring after the 1994 season.
- Hand in hand with Schroeder's spiraling play against the Giants was that of WR Gary Clark. Clark, a former USFL player with the Jacksonville Bulls, joined the Redskins in the 1985 season and had a good "rookie" season. By 1986, Clark exploded on the scene, earning his first Pro Bowl selection with a 74 catch, 1265 yards and 7 TD season. Clark became a Giant Killer almost right away when he joined the NFL. In his first game against Big Blue, Clark put up 11 catches for 193 yards in a 17-3 loss at Giants Stadium. He would top that output the following season, also at the Meadowlands, going off for 11 catches, 241 yards and 1 TD. In this rematch game at RFK, he was held basically in check, 3 catches for 73 yards (including his 54 yard catch). Come the 1986 NFC Championship Game, Clark, like his team was shut out. Though he had several high profile drops along the way, including one on a perfectly thrown bomb by Schroeder into the wind that he dropped which would have gone for a long TD.
- Clark had one other game in excess of 200 yards in his career. In the Skins 1991 Championship season, Clark hauled in 4 catches for 203 yards and 3 TDs in a 56-17 domination of the Jerry Glanville led, all clad in black, Falcons team.
- Kelvin Bryant had one of the best games of his career vs. the Giants. He scored 2 TDs (1 rushing and 1 receiving) and his 13 receptions and 130 yards were both single game highs for him, not only in the season but for his 4 year career. His next best output in his career was 9 catches at Green Bay in 1988 and 82 receiving yards at Dallas in 1988. He did best the 2 TDs in a game with a 3 TD performance in that same Dallas game in 1988 (1 rushing and 2 receiving).
- Bryant was one of the best players in USFL history. Bryant was a star, figuratively and literally, as he spent his 3 year career with the Baltimore/Philadelphia Stars, coached by Jim Mora. Bryant in his rookie USFL campaign rushed for 1440 yards and 16 TDs. In his second season he went for 1406 yards and 13 TDs in leading his team to a championship. His final season, Bryant ran for 1207 yards and 12 TDs and another championship. Bryant's rights were owned by the Redskins, who drafted him in 1983, and once the USFL folded, he joined the Skins talented backfield with George Rogers and was mainly used as a pass catching back.
- Both teams used the USFL to their advantage, the Skins signing Bryant, Clark and Sanders. The Giants getting Bart Oates, Chris Godfrey, and Maurice Carthon.
- The Giants actually had one other USFL signing who ended up having a bigger impact on the team thanks to a trade. Gary Zimmerman was a prototype left tackle who was on the LA Express where he helped block for Steve Young. To avoid an open bidding war for the USFL players as the league was coming to a close, the NFL set up a USFL (and CFL) Supplemental draft. The first overall pick went to the Buccaneers who chose Steve Young. The Houston Oilers took former Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier. The Giants picked third and decided to draft Zimmerman. However, Zimmerman decided that he didn't want to play in NY and refused to sign. George Young decided that rather than wait on him and lose an asset, he would trade Zimmerman to the Vikings for 2 second round picks. Those picks would turn into Mark Collins and Erik Howard. Collins and Howard would turn into defensive leaders on the Giants, helping them win 3 NFC East Titles, 4 Playoff appearances and 2 Championships. Zimmerman would go on to a Hall of Fame career with the Vikings and Broncos.
- So who went #4 in the USFL Supplemental draft? Reggie White, DE from the Memphis Showboats was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles. While Collins and Howard became big contributors...still, the thought of White on the Giants defense in the mid 1980s? LT on one side with Leonard Marshall and Reggie White on the other side? With Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, et al. All in their primes? You would be hard pressed to think of a defense that would have been more dominant, likely in NFL history.