Monday, December 23, 2013

The All Madden Teams

Most sports casters or announcers have some sort of awards presentation or post-season trophies or something like that.  Phil Simms has some All Iron thing now.  In College Football, on ESPN Kirk Herbstreit has the Herbies.  From 1984-2001, John Madden created the All Madden team, made up of the players he felt best exemplified football and for the former Raider coach, would be players that he would like on his team.  While there were other awards before it, and certainly since, in my mind, the All Madden Team was the best of these selection teams, across any sport.

The All Madden Team didn't really have any roster rules.  Madden would essentially stack the roster as he saw fit.  He could have as many QBs, defensive linemen, linebackers, etc as he wanted.  There was only one stipulation, to make the team, John (and by extension his partner Pat Summerall) would have to have announced the game they were playing in.  The show started as a small segment and soon enough turned into an hour long feature, in prime time, usually the Saturday Night before the Super Bowl.

As a Giants fan, and without internet at the time, I was starved for any Giants related content I could find.  And since the Madden/Summerall partnership, and the All Madden Team, happened to coincide with the Giants run as one of the NFL powerhouses, particularly in the 1980s, this show became appointment viewing.  So the expectation was that Madden would have several Giants on the team, and he would not disappoint.  

Luckily, in digging through my old tapes, I was able to recover 2 episodes, the 1989 and 1990 All Madden Teams.  

1989 All Madden Team

This was shot down in New Orleans, ahead of  Super Bowl XXIV, when the 49ers would repeat as World Champs, in destroying the Denver Broncos 55-10.  It would prove to be the final Super Bowl in the Reeves/Elway run, as the blowouts got progressively worse against the Giants in 1986 and the Redskins in 1987.  Needless to say, the team had lots of 49ers on it.  But it also featured the following Giants:

  1. Lawrence Taylor
  2. Leonard Marshall
  3. OJ Anderson
  4. Dave Meggett (returner)
  5. Reyna Thompson (special teams)
  6. Pat Summerall  (kicker) **
More on Summerall later, but since I was too lazy to really edit this clip, there is some of the 1989 NFL Films All Pro Team tacked on there for good measure.  So Happy Holiday and enjoy that as well.

1990 All Madden Team

This episode was shot in the All Madden "Headquarters", basically probably some CBS studio since before Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Florida, there actually was not 2 weeks before that Super Bowl.  The Giants, fresh off knocking off the 49ers on Matt Bahr's 5th field goal, had to fly right from San Francisco down to Tampa and get ready to play the following week.  Since John Madden did not fly, and went everywhere on his Madden Cruiser, they had to basically shoot the show before hand as he wouldn't have time to create the show, edit it, and find his way down for the Super Bowl (though it was broadcast on ABC back in 1990). In an announcing scheduling glitch, Madden and Summerall never called a Buffalo Bill game in 1990 for CBS.  As a result, no Bills were on the All Madden Team.  Needless to say, because the Giants were Super Bowl bound, there were plenty of Big Blue reps on the roster.

  1. Lawrence Taylor
  2. Erik Howard
  3. Pepper Johnson
  4. Jumbo Elliott
  5. OJ Anderson
  6. Reyna Thompson (special teams)
  7. Dave Meggett (returner)
  8. Sean Landeta (punter)
  9. Matt Bahr (kicker)
  10. Bill Parcells (coach)
In looking at this list, you see that Madden actually rounded out his entire Special Teams roster with Giants.  In seeing how far the Giants special teams have fallen, particularly in 2013 when they have been among the worst I have seen the Giants field in the time I've watched the team, it makes you long for these days of not only special teams competence, but actual excellence.  One could argue that Reyna Thompson was the best Plan B Free Agent signing of the entire existence of that era, for any team in the NFL.  He was a monster as a cover man.

Now, recall the ** from earlier about Summerall.  The gag, or whatever, you want to call it on the All Madden Team, was he never chose a kicker.  Partly because kickers were not big fat guys (Sebastian Janikowski was only about 11 years old at the time), they were more or less discounted.  So, by default, he gave the spot to Summerall, who kicked for the Giants from 1958-1961.  However, Matt Bahr first caught Madden's attention in the NFC Divisional round against the Bears, when he made 2 tackles on kick off returns.  On one tackle, he actually ended up suffering a concussion and was helped off the field by the trainers.  He actually was suffering post-concussion symptoms all week leading up to the NFC Championship Game and nearly didn't fly out there as the Giants had to rush to try out kickers.  But Bahr sucked it up (remember, in 1990 there were no concussion protocols) and ended up beating the Niners on the last second FG, which would result in as Summerall called in the game "there will be no Threepeat".  That was enough for Madden to give the kicking nod to Bahr over Summerall.

Friday, December 6, 2013

1986 Giants Among Men Championship Video

"The best of the 4 Giants Championship Videos"
- Me

That sounds like a rave review, why such high praise.  Well, as I had said when I first started this blog, during much of my formative years as a football fan, and a Giants fan in particular, there was no internet available to the masses.  So when the Giants would play, I would tape their games and go back and watch them, and I was starved for more information.  Yes, ESPN did have highlights, but back then, ESPN wasn't the 24 hour Sportscenter world it is today.  So I bought books, magazines, etc.  But the most influential was the NFL Films videos.

The Sabol family and NFL Films were, and continue to be a God send.  I would watch the highlights made available on the This is the NFL series, the team yearbooks, the Game of the Week highlights.  The best, in my opinion, was the HBO Inside the NFL weekly show hosted by Len Dawson and Nick Bouniconti.  It was perfection.  From the football centric conversation, the interviews, the picks, etc.  Of course, the best of all were the highlights.  The NFL Films music, the camera work, the tight angles and slow motion, and Harry Kalas' voice over work.   I had several episodes taped between 1986-1991, and sadly lost most of my 1987 and 1988 collection, as well as a good chunk of 1986.  I used to watch those tapes to the point where I would nearly break the tape by getting it chewed up in the VCR from rewinding over and over my favorite parts.

And of course, that would lead us to the offshoots from NFL Films, the Giants Championship videos.  Fortunately, as a Giants fan, we have 4 to choose from.  The 1986 one, Giants Among Men, as the quote above shows, I think was the finest of them all.  It not only showed the highlights, it told the story of the team, the franchise and history.  It focused on individual players that were well edited and interspliced into the video.  And this one had the benefit of not only the music, but former Giant, and late/great broadcaster Pat Summerall doing the narration.  So while the 2007 and 2011 versions had much better quality video and sound, those videos really were just game highlight compilations.  And while I do love the America's Game videos, still the top of all of it was the first of them, the 1986 Giants Among Men.

Friday, November 15, 2013

1993 Giants @ Dolphins

Week 14

The Setup

1993 was one of the more enjoyable seasons for a Giants fan.  After the joy from the 1990 Super Bowl run, we saw a proud Championship core team fall into disrepair and eventually to mediocrity and then worse under Ray Handley.  While I didn't necessarily agree with everything Dan Reeves would do in his Giants tenure, this is no question that he righted the ship from the remaining members of Parcells' players, with some new players added in (yes, even the NJ Broncos).  Say what you want about Reeves, you can't ignore the fact the man was a head coach in the NFL for 23 years, went 190-165, won 7 division titles, and took 4 teams to the Super Bowl, including both from the AFC (Broncos 3 times) and the NFC (Falcons).  Reeves was able to take the Giants team, one in which most people felt would be in 4th or 5th place in the old NFC East and made them competitive.  To be fair, they were more than competitive, though they were playing in the same division as the defending Super Bowl Champions Cowboys, who were right in the middle of their dynasty, they were right with them.  Reeves got off to a fast start, going a very Coughlin like 5-1 out of the gate.  However, after 2 straight losses, including a convincing 31-9 beat down at Texas Stadium, the Giants were 5-3 and the general sense was that the good vibes in NY were ending.  However, heading into this Week 14 matchup, Reeves would turn things around.  The Giants would win 3 straight games.  In the week before this, the Giants would find themselves in a battle at home against the Cardinals, a team who the Giants usually would handle easily at the Meadowlands.  The Cards would jump ahead 10-0 and then eventually grab a 17-13 lead going into the 4th quarter.  With a 15-20 mph wind in the Giants face in the 4th quarter, they got a huge 54 yard field goal, into the wind, by kickoff specialist Brad Daluiso to steal a 19-17 win.  A win that would give the Giants a 1 game lead over the Cowboys.

How did they get that 1 game lead?  Well, a few days before that Cardinals game came one of the most memorable Thanksgiving Day games in history.  In an ice/snow storm in Dallas, the 7-3 Cowboys would face the 8-2 Dolphins.  Miami had Steve DeBerg at QB, as the 39 year old was coaxed out of his plans to become a coach and back up Scott Mitchell after their legendary quarterback Dan Marino was lost for the year after an achillies injury.  After Mitchell got hurt, DeBerg took over.  The Dolphins stunned the Cowboys with a 77 yard TD run by former Eagle Keith Byars, who fell down in the end zone and attempted to make a snow angel before he was piled on by his teammates in celebration.  The Cowboys would take a 14-10 lead in the 4th quarter.  A Pete Stoyanovich field goal would make the score 14-13 and the Dolphins would eventually get one more gasp to win.  Late in the game, Stoyanovich lined up for a 41 yard field goal to win the game, but it would be blocked by the Cowboys.  As the ball fluttered and fell beyond the line of scrimmage, and was surrounded by some Dolphin players, the game should have been over.


DT Leon Lett, inexplicably would come running over to pick it up, and slipped on the icy field.  Batting the ball forward, it became a live ball and Miami fell on it at the 1 yard line.  Of course, Ed Hochuli would be the ref for this game and have to explain what happened, which other than being the most jacked ref in the NFL, is his forte.  Stoyanovich would come back out and nail the 19 yard FG to give the Dolphins an absolutely stunning 16-14 win and forever teach fans and teams all over the NFL the rules around blocked field goals.  And a side note, it will never ever ever ever ever ever get old seeing disgusted Jerry Jones highlights on TV, and stunned Jimmy Johnson isn't so bad either.

So this game pitted 2 of the best teams, record wise, in the NFL against each other.  The AFC East leading Dolphins with a 9-2 record and the NFC East leading Giants, with an 8-3 record.  An interconference game, on CBS with Madden and Summerall at the mike for a December matchup of top teams?  Why yes, I'll have some of that thank you.

The Game Highlights

In weather that was not what the Giants are used to in December, they found themselves in hot and humid Miami, with a game time temperature of 74 degrees.  Weather that really was not good for the cold Northeast team, and particularly their bigger guys on the offensive and defensive lines.  So much so, that Reeves decided to dress only 3 WRs in the game and activate more linemen.

Miami would win the toss and Daluiso booted one of his patented kickoffs through the uprights and out of the end zone for a touchback.  Steve DeBerg, at age 39, came out at quarterback for the Fish and promptly had his first pass knocked down at the line by NT Stacy Dillard.  On 2nd and 10, a draw play to Keith Byars was stacked up for just a 1 yard gain by Dillard, Mike Fox, and Keith Hamilton, pretty much the entire defensive line.  On 3rd and 9, and in the shotgun, DeBerg tried to throw to former Giant Mark Ingram, but the ball was broken up and nearly picked off by Corey Raymond.  Dale Hatcher came on to punt the ball away, and he kicked it out of bounds to avoid Dave Meggett, and it went out at the 42 yard line.

Phil Simms at QB, now the second oldest player in the NFL thanks to DeBerg's arrival, started with Rodney Hampton as a single setback.  The Giants would also start off with a play action pass, but they would complete it to TE Aaron Pierce for a good gain and a first down to the Dolphin 37 yard line.  With Hampton and Lewis Tillman both in the backfield, Simms botched the handoff to Tillman who was able to cut back over the middle for a 1 yard gain.  On 2nd and 9, with Meggett in motion, Simms dumped the ball off to Jarrod Bunch, and the big fullback would break a tackle before powering to the 26 yard line and a first down, where he was finally stopped by Bryan Cox.  Bunch would get the next handoff for a 2 yard gain and would be tackled by Dwight Hollier.  On 2nd and 8, a sweep to Meggett would get the ball to to the 23 yard line where he would be met by Cox.  On 3rd and long, Simms' pass to Mark Jackson was completed, but he was grabbed from behind and slung backwards by the back of his jersey (it would have been a horsecollar penalty today).  The tackle though was legal then, and Jackson would be a yard short.  Rather than go for a very makeable field goal, Reeves kept his offense on the field.  The Giants went the power route, as Simms took the ball on a QB keeper, went in behind guard Bob Kratch and pushed forward for a first down as the Dolphins defense was still getting set.  With the momentum of an aggressive playcall, the Giants would keep Miami on their heels.

From 14 yards out, Hampton would run to his right, and followed a great block by Howard Cross, who collapsed the end of the line, and Bunch on Jarvis Williams, allowing Hampton to get up a head of steam and run through 2 Dolphins' defenders to get into the end zone, as a huge contingent of Giants fans in South Florida gave a roar.  David Treadwell's extra point was an ugly line drive, but still counted for a point, and the Giants had a 7-0 lead after their opening drive with 9:19 to go in the first quarter.

Daluiso's kickoff, predictably, sailed over OJ McDuffie's head for a touchback so the Dolphins would begin on their own 20.  DeBerg would hand off to Mark Higgs, who would be rudely met in the backfield by Carlton Bailey for a loss.  On 2nd and 11, a little dump off pass to Terry Kirby, who got lost in the Giants' zone and was able to rumble for a first down out to the 39 yard line where he was finally stopped by Bailey.  On first down, DeBerg would have time in the pocket and stepped up to hit former Eagle and forever Giants killer Keith Jackson heading up the sidelines for a huge gain to the 17 yard line, finally getting caught from behind and tripped up by Michael Brooks.  Kirby would take the next carry, and what looked to be a good run would be swallowed up by Brooks after only 2 yards.  DeBerg's 2nd down pass was intended for Byars but was knocked away by Bailey.  However, the refs decided the coverage was too good, as in illegal and threw a flag on Bailey, and the pass interference call put the ball on the 6 yard line.  The Dolphins would cash in.

 From one Giant killer (Jackson) to spark the drive and finished by another Giants killer (Byars), who took the handoff up the middle, spun off a tackle attempt by Bailey and powered his way into the end zone for a 6 yard score.  Pete Stoyanovich's extra point would knot the game at 7-7.

Meggett would field the short kickoff at the 10 yard line and take it out past the 37, however a block in the back by Tillman would bring the ball back to the 16.  With 2 TEs on offense, Simms would hit Chris Calloway on a quick pass in the flat, and he would turn it up field for a first down out to the 29 where he would be tackled by Jarvis Williams.  Meggett would get the handoff and be stopped for no gain by John Offerdahl and Williams.  2nd and 10, Simms would find himself under pressure on a screen pass to Meggett, who would get the ball out to the 32 yard line where he was shoved out by Hollier.  3rd and 6, Simms would hit Jackson on a slant that was just good enough for a first down and continued Simms hot start, going 6-6 for 64 yards.  A pitch to Hampton running right would only gain two yards as Jeff Cross and Hollier stopped him at the 44.  Simms' next pass would fall off target, intended for Jackson.  3rd and 8, Simms had time to throw, scrambled to his left and tried to hit Calloway, but Troy Vincent would knock it away.  Mike Horan would come on, and after taking a 5 yard delay of game penalty, would get off a beauty of punt that bounced at the 3 yard line and was downed at the 1 by Willie Beamon.

In the shadow of their own goal posts, Byars would get stopped after just 1 yard by Brooks.  On 2nd and 9, DeBerg's pass would get batted down by Corey Miller, on a pass intended for Byars in the flat.  3rd and 9, the Dolphins would execute a perfect shovel pass to Kirby, who broke a tackle by Greg Jackson and took it out to the 19 yard line for a big first down.  Higgs would get a short gain on the next play, getting stacked up by Bailey and Hamilton.  DeBerg's next pass would be complete to Irving Fryar on an out pattern, and he took it out of bounds at the 33 for another first down.  After an incomplete pass, DeBerg would stand in against the blitz and absorb a shot by Miller, but got the ball in to Jackson for a 5 yard gain, where he was stopped by Greg Jackson and bring the first quarter to a close.  On 3rd and 5, with DeBerg in the gun, he would hit Ingram for a would be first down, however an offensive pass interference on Miami would wipe out the gain.  Now 3rd and 14, the Dolphins would go backwards again, this time a false start on tackle Ron Heller.  Forced to throw on 3rd and 19, DeBerg would find himself under pressure and get sacked by Erik Howard.  Howard, playing at DE and going up against Pro Bowl tackle Richmond Webb, made a nice club move to get around Webb and register the sack.  Not bad for a guy who made his name as a Pro Bowl nose tackle years earlier.  Hatcher's punt to Meggett was covered well by Miami and got a 3 yard gain to the 37.

The Giants would start with a pitch to Meggett, who looked like he was going to set up and throw the ball, but the Dolphins were not fooled and forced him to take the ball down and run with it.  Meggett would reverse field, get a good block by Simms and get a first down out by mid field.  Hampton would take a draw carry over Jumbo Elliott for a 6 yard gain and was tackled by Mike Golic.  2nd and 3 at the 43, Hampton got up another head of steam and powered over Vincent for a first down out to the 27.  Simms would get sacked by Marco Coleman, who beat Jumbo out of his stance.  Now 2nd and 16 at the 33, Simms draw out of the shotgun to Meggett got back 3 yards to the 30.  Now 3rd and 13, Simms dumped a pass off to Meggett, who avoided a few defenders and was dropped at the 22.  David Treadwell came on to kick a 38 yarder and give the Giants the lead.

 What should have been a chip shot was blocked by JB Brown, on what did look like a low kick.  The ball bounced around and was recovered by Derek Brown, but the ball was turned over to Miami.  Obviously, after the Leon Lett play, everyone was well aware of the rules.

Higgs would start off with a 7 yard gain, finally stopped by Miller at the 39.  Howard would stuff Higgs after just 1 yard on the next carry.  3rd and 1, Byars  now in the backfield, and would get the ball and jump over the pile, get knocked down by Michael Strahan at the 44, but good enough for a first down.  Ingram snagged an 8 yard gain on a play action pass as he was knocked out of bounds by Raymond at the 48.  Higgs would convert on the next play, despite a big hit by Howard.  At the 45, DeBerg would start off with a time out with 6:45 to go in the half and come back with a pass to Jackson over the middle to the 35 yard line.  DeBerg would stick to the air on the next play, hitting Byars for another first down to the 24, where he was stopped by Myron Guyton.  A sweep to Higgs looked like it was going to be for a big gainer, but Raymond came up to stop him after a 3 yard gain.  As it looked like the Dolphins were going to continue their march, the defense made a play.

 A strange turnover, as DeBerg hit Byars over the middle, and as he was breaking a tackle from Corey Miller, the Giants' linebacker held on to him and end up slipping towards the ball, which was held in Byars' left arm.  As Byars was struggling forward, LT launched himself towards Byars' arm, losening his grip just enough for Miller to rip it away for a fumble recovery.

Thanks to the fumble, the Giants got the ball at the 14 yard line and began with a handoff to Hampton for no gain by Coleman.  2nd and 10, Simms would go to the air and hit Jackson, who put on a double move, and turned up the field for a first down at the 28.  And then it was highlight reel time next

 A play action fake to Hampton held up the linebackers, allowing Pierce to get open down the field.  He would stick his hand out and make a nice one handed snag of the pass and absorb a hit at midfield by Braggs.  Offerdahl would get dinged on the play and be helped off.  Trying to take advantage of the linebacker's absence, the Giants would run Hampton into the line and gain 3 more yards before he was stopped by Cox at the two minute warning.  Coming out of the timeout, Simms had time to hit Calloway on a slant for a first down at the 33 yard line, again stopped by Cox.  Hustling his team to the line, Simms threw in the direction of Cross, but it went off his hands and fell incomplete.  On the next play, Simms would go back to Cross again, this time he caught it broke a tackle by Williams to bull his way to the 20 yard line, and another time out called by the Giants with 1:18 to go.  Simms wasn't done going to his big TE

 Again with time to throw, Simms would go to one the staples of the Giants offense for years, the seam pattern up the field to the tight end, in this case Howard Cross, who caught it at the 3 yard line and powered over a couple of Dolphins, avoiding Williams shot at the ball to knock it loose, and spin into the end zone for a big TD before the half.  As Madden would say in the highlight, Simms' ability to throw that pass to a TE was unmatched by his peers.  And another quick note, similar to the Hampton TD earlier, the huge crowd of Giants fans cheering at Miami was obvious.  Treadwell's extra point made the score 14-7 with 1:12 remaining in the half.

Daluiso kept on with this usual, another touchback on the kickoff.  DeBerg's first pass towards Ingram fell incomplete as he was under pressure, again by Howard. On the next play, the Giants defense would continue to force mistakes

 DeBerg out of the gun, threw a deep pass down the sidelines in the direction of Tony Martin, but Collins was in great position and made a nice pick, particularly for a guy who had a knock on him for having bad hands.  Collins interception gave the Giants the ball at the 30 yard line.  Meanwhile on the other end of the play, rookie Michael Strahan was able to hit DeBerg as soon as he threw the ball and put him on the ground.

With :56 to go in the half, the Giants started with a swing pass to Meggett for a 9 yard gain, and he was knocked out of bounds by JB Brown with :50 to go.  Simms would get sacked by Craig Vescey on the next play, getting a late push to knock the Giants back to the 35 yard line, as Simms yelled at his receivers that they should have been going downfield.  Now 3rd and 5, Simms rolled out to his right and avoided some pressure to set up and throw all the way across the field to Bunch who was open.  However Bunch did not look the ball into his hands and dropped it, messing up what would have been a first down if not more.  Horan snagged a bad snap and booted the ball to the 30, where McDuffie fair caught it at the 30.  With just :05 remaining in the half, Shula decided to just take a knee and go in at the half, down 14-7.

The Giants would get the ball to start the 2nd half.  Meggett would return the kickoff from the 1 yard line and would be tackled by Bernie Parmalee at the 16 yard line.  Hampton took the first carry and ran a sprint off left tackle, but was stopped by Cox after just 1 yard.  On 2nd and 9, Simms looked for Meggett on a wheel route down the sideline, however Cox had great coverage and the ball bounced off his hands as Cox narrowly missed a pick.  The Giants would go three and out after a pass break up by Vincent on Calloway.  Horan's short punt to McDuffie was fielded at the 40 and returned into Giants territory at the 49, where he was stopped by Tillman.

DeBerg came back at QB and after a playaction fake, hit Fryar over the middle to the 30 yard line and a first down, where he was tripped up by Guyton.  Higgs would gain 4 yards on the next play and would be tackled by Collins.  On 2nd and 6, DeBerg would stick to the air, hitting Byars over the middle and he would bounce off of Bailey and Miller, before going down at the 15 yard line and another first down.  A draw to Higgs would net 5 more yards.  Byars would feel his way down the line on the next play, but only gain 2 yards as Brooks finally took him to the ground.  3rd and 3, DeBerg went towards Martin in the end zone, however pressure by Hamilton forced a poor throw that fell incomplete.  On came Pro Bowl kicker Stoyanovich for what should have been an easy 26 yarder to make the score 14-10.

 Former Eagle 2nd round pick Jesse Campbell came swooping inside and blocked the field goal, which bounced around behind the line of scrimmage at the 11 yard line.  Greg Jackson tried to pick up the ball and run with it, but he bobbled it.  However, in the pile up for the ball, the Dolphins never got a chance to pick it up and advance it.  Again, by this time, every fan in the NFL knew the blocked field goal rules thanks to Leon Lett.

The Giants took over at the 15 yard line with the ball.  Maybe most thought they would keep on the ground with Hampton.  But Reeves kept to the air

 On a perfect play action pass, that not only fooled Pat Summerall, but the Dolphins defense as well.  It left Pierce wide open where he was able to grab the ball at the 33 and break a tackle and begin chugging up field, where he was eventually stopped by Cox at the Dolphins' 32 yard line for a 54 yard gain.  Hampton would gain 3 yards around left end, and was tackled by Coleman.  Meggett would also sweep around left end, following good blocks by Bunch and Cross to get to the 20 yard line for another first down.  The Giants would continue pounding the ball, handing off to Hampton, who dove over the pile for a 5 yard gain.  However, a hold on Howard Cross wiped out the gain and made it 1st and 20 at the 30.  A misdirection hand off to Meggett who followed a pulling Reisenberg got the ball to the 22.  Hampton would catch a little dump off pass and get drilled by Hollier at the 19 yard line.  Now 3rd and 9, with Meggett deep in the backfield, Simms would get blasted by cornerback Bruce Alexander on a blitz and was dropped at the 27 yard line after Meggett missed the blitz pickup.  Treadwell could come on form 42 yards out, near the end of his range (Daluiso was the long range kicker), and the former Clemson Tiger put it right down the middle to give the Giants a 17-7 lead.

Daluiso put the ball through the end zone for yet another touchback, giving the ball to Miami at 20.

 The Giants came with an overloaded blitz and DeBerg saw Fryar matched up with single coverage on Collins.  DeBerg would loft a beautiful pass up the sideline and Fryar would take it away from Collins for a big gain out to the Giants' 42 yard line.  However, behind the play, DeBerg would get sandwiched by Hamilton and Miller, not mention a forearm shiver by Miller as they fell to the ground.  Hamilton and Miller's helmets would all connect with DeBerg's chin, bloodying him on the play.  If this were to happen today, it would look like a flag convention and Hamilton and Miller would easily get a hefty fine by Goodell.  DeBerg would get up off the ground and sprint into the locker room to get stitches, while backup Doug Pederson came in at QB.  They started with a handoff to Kirby for a 3 yard gain.  The next play saw LT come crashing in off right tackle and hit Pederson's arm, knocking the ball loose.  As Pederson was going to the ground, the ball bounced up into his gut for the recovery, but Taylor's sack made it 3rd and 11 at the 43.  With Pederson in the gun, Howard would again bullrush in from DE and force Pederson up in the pocket and get off a poor pass in the direction of Jackson, which fell incomplete.  Hatcher would get off a high punt that was fair caught by Meggett at the 17.

Simms would start out with a pass in the direction of Jackson, who was open but dropped the pass.  The Giants would get lucky though as an illegal contact foul on Vincent gave them 5 free yards and a first down.  Hampton would get stuffed on a draw on the following play for a short loss.  Simms would hit Meggett in the flat, who would get the ball out to the 28 yard line, and was taken down on a nice tackle by Vincent.  On 3rd and 5, Simms tried to squeeze the ball in to Calloway on a slant, but it was broken up by JB Brown.  Horan came back out to get a punt down to McDuffie, who fielded it at the 20 and weaved his way to the 34, where he would get tackled by special teamer Andre Powell with 2:33 to go in the 3rd quarter.

Pederson was still in at QB with DeBerg in the locker room, started with a pass to Byars in the flat for 7 yards, and he was finally corralled by Raymond and Miller.  Kirby would stutter step his way across the line but would get tackled a yard short of the first by Bailey.  Now 3rd and 1, Byars as the lone back, took the handoff and was met by Brooks in the hole for what would have been a questionable measurement.  However, an offsides penalty on Howard (who was over the ball at NT!) gave the Dolphins a first down.  Kirby took a another draw play and made Jackson miss him in the backfield, and got the ball out to the 45 where he was taken down by Collins and Fox.  The 3rd quarter would end on a run by Kirby, who spun off a tackle attempt by Brooks and gained just enough for a first down.  Coming out to start the 4th quarter, DeBerg came sprinting out of the locker room and right into the huddle, bandaged up with 7 new stitches.  His first pass sailed over Fryar's head for an incompletion.  On 2nd and 10, with Fox pressuring DeBerg, he got the pass off to Kirby who took the ball to the 37 where Brooks put him down.  Now 3rd and 4, DeBerg was in the gun, and a blitzing David Tate inexplicably pulled up on the free run towards the QB, which allowed DeBerg to get a pass off to Kirby, who as he was getting dragged down by LT, stretched the ball out and was just inches short of a first down.  Shula decided to go for it, and gave it to his big back Byars, who used his choppy steps to spin off a tackle and gain 3 yards for a first down with Kanavis McGhee draped on him.  DeBerg had Byars lined up at WR and threw a pass out to him, but it was knocked away by Brooks.  On 2nd and 10, with time to throw, DeBerg got the ball to Kirby, who took it down to the 21 and was stopped just short of a first by Bailey.  DeBerg would go to Kirby again on 3rd down, hitting him wide open over the middle and Kirby chugged his way up the field, getting stopped by Jackson and Beamon at the 5 yard line.  First and goal at the 5, a handoff to Byars was stacked up by Bailey, Collins, and Hamilton, as as he was fighting for more yards, he took a shot by Fox and looked to be a fumble, but the whistle had blown on forward progress. A 2nd down handoff to Byars got the ball close to the goal line, but a hold on the Dolphins' center Dellenbach set them back to the 14 yard line.   Miami was now in a throwing down situation, and the Giants would make them pay

 DeBerg, again in the gun, had Hamilton break free late and put pressure right in his face.  The veteran QB looked to be throwing towards Jackson or Kirby, but somehow Bailey missed knocking the ball down, and it was picked off by Greg Jackson at the 3 and he took the ball down to the 7 with 10:13 to go in the game.

The Giants began their drive with an inside handoff to Bunch, who plowed over the middle to the 10 yard line where he was met by Cross.  On 2nd and 6, a handoff to Tillman around right end, as he followed William Roberts in the hole and got the ball to the 15 yard line and near a first down.  On 3rd and 1, Simms again went with the QB sneak behind Kratch to get the first down.  With the Dolphins defenders creeping up towards the line, Simms would go deep on the next play, hitting Calloway on a perfect pass down the sidelines, beating Vincent in coverage for a first down to the 47.  Hampton would pound the ball into Miami territory on the next play, stopped by former Colt linebacker Cliff Odom.  Tillman would get stopped for no gain on 2nd down by Vescey.  After a false start on Roberts to make it 3rd and 12, Reeves went conservative and just handed off to Meggett on a draw to gain a handful of yards, with Cox knifing in to tackle him.  With a 10 point lead and the clock running, Shula called a time out with 5:38 to go in the game, but the Giants offense did a great job to get the ball off the goal line and kill some clock, not to mention forcing the Dolphins to take their first time out.  Horan came on and got off a beauty of a punt, nailing it to the 3 yard line where it bounced backwards and was downed by Jesse Armstead on the 5 yard line.

Horan's effort not only changed field position, but it gave the Giants more breathing room, as the defense would show on the next play

 DeBerg was in the shotgun and dropped back into his own end zone to throw.  Hamilton overpowered Ron Heller in a one on one matchup and would blast DeBerg in the end zone for a huge safety.  In 1993, the Hammer would begin to show what a dominant force he would be on the defensive line, and he started out as a DE before moving over to DT.  Hamilton's safety made the score 19-7 and one part of this clip I always enjoyed was Summerall talking about how Reeves should factor in for Coach of the Year honors and Madden noting how well coached they were and they were winning without the best talent.  As it would turn out, Reeves would end up winning Coach of the Year in 1993.

Meggett would field the free kick at the 35 yard line, but great coverage by the Dolphins would result in no gain from there.  Hampton would take the ball up the gut for a 4 yard gain, but a hold on Jumbo Elliott brought the ball back and set up a 1st and 20.  Hampton would take a delayed handoff up the middle where he was hit by Jarvis Williams after a 5 yard gain, and force the Dolphins to take their 2nd time out.  The Giants would stay on the ground again, with Hampton going around left end and as he was being run out of bounds, he went to the ground to avoid going out and stopping the clock, which forced the final Miami timeout with 4:27 to go in the game.  A 3rd and 10 draw up the middle by Tillman was snuffed out by Cox for no gain as the Giants chose to go conservative to keep the clock moving rather than try for a conversion. Horan's directional kick was again a beauty, fielded near the sidelines by McDuffie at the 9 yard line and he ran clear across the field, with the Giants coverage unit not allowing a lane until he was taken out of bounds on the entire other side by Campbell with 3:30 to go.

Now with a 12 point lead, the Giants knew that it would take 2 TDs for the Dolphins to get ahead of them, so they would go into their prevent defense to force Miami to take underneath throws, stay in bounds and eat up the clock.  DeBerg's first pass was intended for Kirby, but was broken up by Armstead.  A 2nd down pass to Fryar was good for a first down, though he ended up losing about 5 yards running backwards trying to veer his way out of bounds, but he was stopped by Beamon on the 23 yard line with another (then legal) horsecollar tackle.  The clock would go under 3 minutes and a dump off to Kirby was good for 6 yards and he got out of bounds.  After a pass to Fryar at the 40 (and again out of bounds), DeBerg again got a pass off to Kirby, who made several moves as he made his way through the secondary to the 43 yard line.  Luckily for Miami, a defensive hold on Raymond was declined, but stopped the clock.  DeBerg would take a shot at the end zone towards Martin, trying to hit the big play, but it was broken up by Collins (and nearly picked off).  DeBerg would move the chains with a pass to McDuffie for a first down and out of bounds at the 30 with 2:22 to go in the game.  After an incomplete pass towards Fryar, DeBerg avoided a hard charging pass rush by Miller to dump the ball off to Byars on a perfectly set up screen.  With blockers in front, Byars got up a head of steam and took the ball down to the 21 yard line where he was tackled by Jackson and the clock would wind down to the 2 minute warning.  Another pass, this time to Martin over the middle got the ball to the 15, however the clock continued to run.  Hurrying up to the line, DeBerg dumped the ball off to Byars over the middle at the 10 yard line, where he was more or less mugged by Raymond and Armstead.  While he did get a first down, he got into a battle with Armstead on the ground, who was trying to hold him down to kill more clock.  Byars, in frustration, first put an elbow in Armstead's ear hole and then actually stomped on his arm as he got up, which drew a 15 yard personal foul.  At the end of all of that, there was 1:29 on the clock and the Dolphins were on the 25 yard line.  Beamon nearly picked off a 2nd down pass intended for Ingram.  On 3rd and 20, the Giants would jump offsides, and DeBerg's free play was picked by Collins in the end zone, but they still gained 5 yards and kept the ball.  Now 3rd and 15 with 1:16 to go, DeBerg lobbed a perfect pass to McDuffie in the corner of the end zone, but the former Nitney Lion couldn't hold on to the ball as he went to the ground and it fell incomplete.  After a delay of game on Miami, they would have to have prayer answered to keep the game alive on 4th and 20

 In one of the shorter Hail Mary's you've seen, that prayer was answered.  DeBerg lofted the ball up into the end zone, where it looked like a team photo in the end zone with all the players.  Guyton tried to bat the ball down, but it actually ended up getting tipped up into the air and into the waiting arms of Tony Martin for a shocking TD.  For all the good work the Giants had done, they were only up by 5 points, 19-14 with 1:01 to go in the game.  As a Giants fan, we still would wait for that unexpected collapse.  Granted, this was 1993, so the 1997 Vikings Playoff game, the 2002 San Francisco Wild Card game, and the 2010 Eagles came hadn't happened yet.  Though the Herm Edwards fumble, and several other previous collapses (such as vs. the 49ers and Jets in 1988) had given the Giants enough scars.  Could they find a way to blow this too?

Everyone in Joe Robbie Stadium knew what was coming from Stoyanovich, it was going to be an onside kick.  Stoyanovich was able to strike what looked to be a textbook onside kick, hitting the top of the ball, having it take a short bounce and then a huge bounce up over the head of the Giants front hands line, and in this case, Calloway.  The ball actually was nearly in the arms of a Miami coverman, but it got away from him, and went into the arms of Ed McCaffery, who secured it and went to the ground.  In the scrum for the ball, Bryan Cox apparently got all hot and bothered, and started yelling at the official and was ejected for the remainder of the game and was escorted off the field by assistant coach Mean Joe Greene.  Cox didn't miss much, two Simms kneel downs in the victory formation gave the Giants a 9-3 lead and maintained sole possession of first place in the NFC East, ahead of the Cowboys.

Interesting Tidbits/ Post Mortem

  • The Giants would go on to win 2 more games after they left Miami with a victory.  They beat the Colts by the count of 20-6 at the Meadowlands and then went into New Orleans on a Monday Night and won a ho-hum game 24-14.  That would put the Giants record at 11-3, winners of 6 straight games heading into Arizona to play the 5-9 Cardinals.  Meanwhile, Dallas was fighting to keep pace, sitting at 10-4, a game behind New York, as they rallied from the Leon Lett play and won 3 straight of their own. The Cowboys were matched up with a brutally bad Redskins team, playing them in Texas Stadium.  In order for the Giants to win the NFC East, they had to beat the Cardinals and hope for a Cowboys loss.  If Dallas won their game, the Cardinals game was essentially meaningless for the Giants, as it would set up a winner take all game the following week at Giants Stadium, since the Cowboys had already previous beaten the Giants.  The Giants would get out to a 6-0 lead at halftime in their game.  However, the Cowboys, after falling behind 3-0, would turn on the after burners and dismantle the Redskins, going up 21-3 at the half and made it 28-3 early in the 3rd quarter, on route to a 38-3 blowout.  The Giants, who saw the score and realized the Cardinal game meant nothing, had the air go out of their sails and would end up losing the game 17-6.  That made their record 11-4, tied with Dallas, going into their fateful final game, which the Cowboys would win thanks to Emmitt Smith and a FG in OT by Eddie Murray to win 16-13, giving Dallas homefield and putting the Giants in the Wild Card to host the Vikings.
  • The Giants and Dolphins didn't have much of a history playing each other.  Amazingly, this was actually the first time the Giants ever played against the Dolphins in Miami.  Their first game came in 1972, when the Giants (obviously) lost to the only NFL team to go Undefeated, losing at New York by the score of 23-13 to the Don Shula led Dolphins.
  • This was the Giants first trip to Joe Robbie Stadium.  They were supposed to have played the Dolphins at the new Joe Robbie, which would have been their first game there ever, after leaving the Orange Bowl after the 1986 season.  However, the NFL Players strike in 1987 after Week 2 resulted in all the Week 3 games being cancelled, as the owners began putting together their replacement/scab teams, who suited up for Week 4.  Technically the first game played at Joe Robbie was a 42-0 win by the replacement Dolphins over the replacement KC Chiefs, with the first TD scored by the immortal Ricky Isom on a 6 yard run.  The first "real" game played was a 34-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills on a Scott Norwood 27 yard FG in OT.  Norwood would obviously come to be known world wide for another kick, also in the state of Florida some 3+ years later in Super Bowl XXV, which he would miss wide to the right from 47 yards out.  And interestingly enough, act as the basis for the plotline of the movie Ace Ventura Pet Detective as kicker Ray Finkle who missed the field goal to win the Super Bowl as a member of.......the Dolphins.
  • The only other meeting previous to this one was in 1990 in Week 3, when the Giants beat the Dan Marino led Dolphins by the score of 20-3 and shut Marino down, limiting him to 14-30, 115 yards and 2 INTs, no TDs, in dominating the game and holding the Dolphins offense to a mere 158 total yards.  After the game, Marino would call the Giants defense the best 3-4 defense he ever faced.
  • The only other game played in Miami, came in 1996, with Dave Brown at QB, would go in and beat Dan Marino by the score of 17-7.  This would end up being Dan Reeves final win as head coach of the Giants, in a lame duck season which the Giants would finish 6-10, and Reeves would leave to take over the Falcons job while the Giants would hire Jim Fassel as their coach in 1997.
  • Technically, the Dolphins were the "home" team in the 2007 matchup in London, England, held at Wembley Stadium.  In an uninspiring game, on a rainy and sloppy field, with Cleo Lemon at QB, the Giants would win by the score of 13-10 and could have set US/British relations back to 1812 levels for how God awful the game was.  At the least the Brits in attendance could say they saw the future 2007 Super Bowl champs in the Giants...and the 1-15 Dolphins.
  • There wasn't a whole lot of offense in this game, but one guy who stood out was TE Aaron Pierce.  Pierce's 54 yard catch and run would be the longest of the season for him, and the longest of his career.  
  • You can't talk about Aaron Pierce, a 3rd round pick, without talking about Derek Brown, a 1st round pick in the same draft.  This was a classic case of George Young's belief in cluster drafting.  If you have a need, since players are ultimately a crap shoot either way, you draft several prospects at the position and let them play it out to see who is better.  A sound strategy prior to a salary cap (and ultimately one of Young's undoings as the cap took hold after 1993).  Pierce's best catch went for 54 yards.  Brown's best effort?  14 yards a few weeks later in the loss at Arizona.
  • Some other Brown vs. Pierce numbers?
    • Pierce- played 6 seasons with the Giants.  86 catches, 927 yards and 5 TDs.  Hardly great numbers, but he gave the team versatility as an H-Back and TE.
    • Brown- called the next Mark Bavaro as a TE out of Notre Dame.  Infamously got his facemask broken by LT in his first practice at camp after his hold out and was looked on a soft the rest of his time with the team.  He would play 3 seasons with the Giants.  11 catches for 87 yards and 0 TDs.  The very definition of a bust.
  • Derek Brown would eventually have the Giants give up on him.  They left him exposed in the 1995 Expansion Draft, and would be picked by Tom Coughlin and his Jacksonville Jaguars.  He would eventually lose his job there to Pete Mitchell, Coughlin's former TE at Boston College, and a guy who would eventually sign with the Giants in 1999 and play 2 seasons.  Brown would last 5 more seasons, playing with the Jags, Raiders, and Cardinals before retiring after the 1999 season.
  • While the Giants were able to somewhat spring board from this loss and fight for the best record in the conference, the Dolphins were not so lucky.  The loss dropped them to 9-3 and then the wheels came off for the Fish.  They would lose their final 5 games of the season, including a gut wrenching 1 point loss to the Steelers.  Going into the final weekend, they played a game at Foxboro against the 4-11 Bill Parcells' led Patriots.  A win would put them at 10-6 and in as a Wild Card.  A loss would cost them a spot due to tie breakers with the Steelers and Broncos.  In a back and forth game, the Dolphins would tie it on a late Pete Stoyanovich FG from 24 yards out to send it to OT.  However, a touchdown pass from 36 yards out by Drew Bledsoe to Michael Timpson would cap off a 329 yard, 4 TD effort by the #1 overall pick as a rookie out of Washington State and knock Miami out of the playoffs.
  • Steve DeBerg was the Dolphins QB for this game, and he didn't even start the season with the team.  They began with Dan Marino, however a torn achillies tendon in a 24-14 win over Cleveland in early October ended the Hall of Famer's season.  His backup QB was the young lefty Scott Mitchell, a young player in Marino's shadow.  Mitchell would eventually himself get hurt and turn the job over to DeBerg, who had signed with the team in November.
  • DeBerg had an amazing 18 year career, playing for 6 different teams.  DeBerg was known, for better or worse, as a good QB who was always the mentor for a young QB with a bigger name who would supplant him.  He started with the 49ers and played there for 3 years before losing his job to Joe Montana.  He moved on to the Broncos, playing 3 seasons there, but would eventually turn the job over to a rookie named John Elway, who would lead Denver to a 9-7 season, and a spot in the Wild Card in an eventual loss at Seattle.  With Elway now clearly the man for the Broncos, it was time for DeBerg to move again.  This time he headed to the Southeast and to the Tampa Bay Bucs.  With the Buccaneers, DeBerg would last 4 seasons, and be challenged by not one, but two high profile QBs.  The top pick in the USFL Supplimental Draft, Steve Young out of BYU and the LA Express.  And then by #1 pick and Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde. Essentially, in the first 10 years of his career, he'd be bypassed by 3 Hall of Famers (Montana, Elway, Young) and a guy in Testaverde who would throw for over 46,000 yards and 275 career TDs.  He wasn't exactly losing his job to Dave Brown here.
  • DeBerg would actually reunite with Dan Reeves, for whom he played with the Broncos, and joined Reeves' coaching staff as QB coach with the Giants in 1995 and 1996, working with the young QBs in Dave Brown and Danny Kanell.  DeBerg would be let go after the 1996 season when Reeves' staff was dismissed.
  • Amazingly, DeBerg wasn't finished with his playing career.  He came out of retirement in 1998, to again join forces with Reeves.  In Atlanta, Chris Chandler was the clear #1 QB.  His backup QB was former Redskin Mark Rypien, however a family emergency with Rypien's young son forced him to leave the team after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that would eventually take his life.  Reeves, needing a veteran backup, had DeBerg reach out to him and signed the 44 year old backup QB and had him make the team in what would turn out to be a Super Bowl run by the Falcons.  Atlanta's only Super Bowl appearance, and DeBerg's only Super Bowl appearance as well.  
  • Tony Martin, who caught the Hail Mary towards the end of the game to make it closer, was more of a bit player on this Dolphins team, behind Fryar and McDuffie, mainly just a deep threat.  Martin would leave the Dolphins after the season and blossom with the Chargers at age 29.  In 4 seasons there, he put up the following lines (catches/yards/TDs)
    • 1994: 50/885/7
    • 1995: 90/1224/6
    • 1996: 85/1171/14.  With the 14 TDs leading the NFL and he made the Pro Bowl
    • 1997: 63/904/6
  • Martin would leave San Diego and sign for 1 season in Atlanta, where he would join Reeves and DeBerg, and help the Falcons make the Super Bowl, posting a season of 66/1181/6 at age 33.  Martin would then return back to Miami.  He kept on putting up productive numbers at WR, in 1999 he again went over 1000 yards (67/1037/5) and would play one more season with the Dolphins.  He would finish his career with the Falcons in 2001 at age 36.
  • It may have been the Giants vs. Dolphins, but it sure felt a lot like Philadelphia.  There were a number of former and future Eagles who played in this game including:
    • Keith Jackson
    • Keith Byars
    • Ron Heller
    • Irving Fryar
    • Mark Ingram
    • Mark Higgs
    • Jeff Dellenbach
    • Troy Vincent
    • Mike Golic
    • James Saxon
    • Doug Pederson
    • Jesse Campbell
    • Greg Jackson
    • Izel Jenkins

Thursday, October 3, 2013

1986 Giants @ Redskins

Week 14

The Setup

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.