Thursday, March 21, 2013

1990 Giants vs Cardinals

Week 7

The Setup

In the 1990 season, the NFL was really dominated by two NFC heavyweights.  The Threepeat hunting 49ers and the Giants.  The Niners would start off their season, as two time defending champs and would come out of the gate at 10-0.  The Giants would have their own answer for the Niners, not only going 4-0 in the Pre-season, but also starting out at 10-0 in the regular season as well, easily their best record to start a season in team history.  The Giants were a team that was dominant as well in this stretch.  In 9 of the 10 games in this streak, the Giants never trailed at any point in the 4th quarter.  The only time they did trail was in one of their most unlikely matchups, a week 7 game against the 2-3 Phoenix Cardinals.

When you go back and look at the 1990 schedule, the Giants had a very odd quirk in there.  In their first 7 games of the season, they played 6 games against NFC East opponents.  By the time the Giants had met up with the Cardinals for their week 7 matchup (they had a bye already in week 5), the Giants had already beaten the Eagles at Giants Stadium in the season opener and also swept the season series with Dallas.  The week prior to the Cardinals game, the Giants won a typical slugfest with the Joe Gibbs' Redskins in RFK.  In the week after the Cardinals, the Giants were going to face the Redskins again to complete the season series.  Parcells' team was in position, if they beat the Cardinals, they would have their rematch with the Redskins and a sweep there would give the Giants a 7-0 record, a massive 3 game lead in the NFC East, which was actually 4 games considering they would have swept Washington and for all intents and purposes, end the NFC East race before mid-season.

Clearly, one would think the Cardinals would be a pushover.  The Giants were a 13.5 point favorite over the Cards.  The Meadowlands was a house of horrors for the Cardinals leading up to this game.  They hadn't won a game at Giants Stadium since 1980, when Jim Hart was their QB and they relied on 168 yards and 2 TDs from their 2nd year running back named Ottis Anderson.  In fact, since 1984, the Cardinals were not only beaten, but got subsequently less and less competitive

1984- 16-10 loss
1985- 27-17 loss
1986- 27-7 loss (Giants would set a then team record of 9 sacks of Neil Lomax and the Cards only TD was on a Stump Mitchell late halfback option pass to Roy Green)
1987- 30-7 loss (Giants first win of 1987 after starting 0-5, and Cards were down 30-0 until a late TD)
1988- 44-7 loss
1989- 35-7 loss

The 1990 Phoenix Cardinals were in yet another rebuild.  This time, they hired former Redskins assistant coach Joe Bugel to take over after a 5-11 season in 1989, which resulted in Gene Stallings' midseason firing after a 2-0 start.  The Cardinals handed their QB duties over to Timm Rosenbach, who was a supplemental #1 pick out of Washington State in 1989 and had gotten the job from a caretaker in Gary Hogeboom.  The Cardinals also found a gem in the 7th round running back Johnny Johnson.  Phoenix started very inauspiciously, losing their opener to the Redskins 31-0.  But they raised eyebrows the following week by going into Philly and beating the Eagles 23-21, despite falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter.  The Cards would drop their next two games in blowout losses at New Orleans and home to the Redskins.  After a bye week, the Cards blew out the Cowboys 20-3, holding them to 100 yards in total offense and Troy Aikman to 61 yards passing.

So the Cardinals entered the game and there should have been some warning signs there for the Giants.  The Cardinals were the NFL's #2 rushing offense behind Johnson at this time.  Their defense shut down an up and coming Dallas offense the week before, and they did beat the Eagles at the Vet, something the Giants had not done themselves since 1987.  With the Giants attention on the Redskins the following week, and their history of blowing out the Cardinals at Giants Stadium, this game should be a walk in the park, or would it turn out to be your typical trap game?

Game Highlights

The Giants took the field on a picture perfect mid October weather game.  57 degrees and sun for a 4 PM game time start.  The Giants won the toss and Al Del Greco came on to kickoff to Mark Ingram, who returned the ball to the 30.  Phil Simms, at the time was the NFL top rated passer entering this game, and he had a re-worked offensive line, with Eric Moore shifting over from guard to play left tackle, as Jumbo Elliott was out with a broken leg.  Their first play of the game was a pitch to OJ Anderson who dragged Cardinals for 5 yards.  OJ would follow that up with a 3 yard run up the middle and set up a 3rd and 2.  The Giants would stay on the ground, giving a shotgun draw handoff to Rodney Hampton, however, he was short of the first down with 4th and less than 1 to go, the Giants brought out Sean Landeta to punt

Well, looky here.  Inside their own 40, Parcells called for a fake punt.  Bringing Hostetler in as the protect man, the Giants shifted out of punt formation, with Landeta shifting out wide.  Hostetler would pitch the ball back to Lee Rouson who would run for just enough to get the first down.  This said a few things to me in this game.  First, it showed Parcells confidence in his special teams unit to convert.  It showed confidence in his defense in case they didn't convert.  But also was probably a wake up call by Parcells with such an aggressive call so early in the game in case he was looking at a trap game.

Now at the 42 and Simms back on the field, the Giants called a draw play to Meggett who ran for 9 yards and got the ball into Phoenix territory.  The Giants would stay on the ground again, this time a hand off to Mo Carthon for a first down.  The Giants would run their first pass on the next play, but Howard Cross ran the wrong route and the pass fell incomplete.  Simms would drop back on the next play and this time complete his first pass to Mark Bavaro for 13 yards and a first down to the 34.  OJ would take the next handoff and burst around the end for 28 yards and got the ball down inside the 5 yard line.  After Cards safety Mike Zordich stacked up Anderson on first down, OJ would cash in vs. his former team on the next play

Anderson took the draw up the middle and rumbled for 4 yards and just got the ball over the plane of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.  Now, going back and looking at this play, OJ's knee was dangerously close to being down before the ball crossed the goal line.  In 1990, instant replay was still a bit of a mess, and in 2013 the play would have obviously been reviewed (since it was a scoring play), and quite possibly would have been overturned.  But at the time, no replay, Bahr booted the extra point, the Giants cash in for a TD on their opening drive and it looked to be just the start of yet another blowout of the Cardinals.

Bahr's kickoff was short and returned by the Cardinals out to the 28 yard line.  Johnson began with a big gain of 28 yards on first down around right end to the Giants 44.  He ran around the side vacated by Carl Banks, who had surgery on his wrist and was in the hospital and was replaced by Johnnie Cooks.  Rosenbach was pressured on the next play by a blitz up the middle by Pepper and threw an incompletion.  Johnson followed that up with a 4 yard gain before he was stopped by Steve DeOssie.  On 3rd and 6, the Giants blitz was picked up perfectly by the Cardinals and Rosenbach hit former 49er Derek Flagler for 16 yards and a first down.  Now at the 24, LT would push the Cards TE Walter Reeves into the backfield and drop Johnson for a 4 yard loss.  Rosenbach would get 7 yards back on a pass to JT Smith.  Now on 3rd and 7, Rosenbach threw to Roy Green, but he was nailed by Everson Walls and dropped the ball.  That set up a Del Greco 38 yard FG to cut the Giants lead to 7-3.

Meggett would return the kickoff out of the end zone and got it out to the 33.  The Giants first play was a screen pass to OJ, but it was snuffed out by Garth Jax for a 2 yard loss.  On second down, OJ would take a handoff and spin his way to the 38.  In the shotgun on 3rd down, Simms was swallowed up by Ken Harvey on the blitz and forced a Landeta punt which was returned by Via Sikahema to the 24.

The Cards first down play was a pass attempt by Rosenbach, who couldn't find anyone open, so he scrambled for a couple of yards before being forced out of bounds by Cooks.  Johnson was stopped for a short gain on 2nd down by Marshall and Walls and Rosenbach was sacked on third down by Erik Howard, which forced a Rich Camarillo punt, which sailed 56 yards and was returned by Meggett out to the 23.

With 1:47 to go in the first quarter, the Giants would begin with short run by OJ and followed up with another Anderson run for 4 yards.  On 3rd and 6, Simms went back in the shotgun

This was a nasty looking hit on Simms, as he was high lowed by the Cardinals.  Harvey beat Moore on the pass rush and was pushed into Simms' legs/ankles.  Meanwhile a blitz by defensive back Cedric Mack was not picked up and Mack nailed Simms up high.  Simms, who got off an incomplete pass to avoid the sack, lay motionless on the Giants turf as Jeff Hostetler quickly got loose.  Simms would get up and walk off the field gingerly, as well as get smelling salts on the sidelines, which could mean he also got a concussion in addition to an ankle injury which would send him to the bench for the remainder of the day.

Landeta punted the ball away and Sikahema returned it to the 30.  The Cards finished the quarter with a holdling penatly on Center Bill Lewis, which erased a 5 yard Johnson run.  Now 1st and 20, Johnson started with a 3 yard run before he has hit by Eric Dorsey and Pepper.  Another run by Johnson was again stopped by Dorsey at the 26.  Now 3rd and 14, Rosenbach was under pressure on a blitz by Dave Duerson, playing as a nickle linebacker, and under threw Roy Green and forced another Cardinal punt which was returned by Meggett out to the 37.

Hostetler came out and took over as the Giants QB with Simms out.  Hoss's first play was a rollout pass to Bavaro for 19 yards and a first down to the Cards 44 yard line.  The next play was an 8 yard run by Lewis Tillman, sprung thanks to a strong Carthon lead block.  However, the Giants narrowly averted disaster on the next play, Carthon was smacked by Freddie Joe Nunn and fumbled the ball.  Hoss alerted jumped on the loose ball at the 34 and maintained a 3rd and short (despite a short review to see if Carthon actually fumbled..which he clearly did).  OJ would convert on the next play, turning the corner and dragging Zordich for nearly 10 yards down to the 25.  Back to back runs by Tillman would get the ball to the 20 yard line.  Now 3rd and long, Hoss would take the snap from shotgun and scramble ahead for close to the first down but was shy by half a foot.  Parcells decided against trying a Bahr FG and sent out his 3 TE alignment (Bavaro, Cross, and Bob Mrosko) and look to push the undersized Cards defense around for a first down.

Hostetler took the snap and attempted a sneak, however the Cardinals Kani Kauahi, an offensive lineman by trade but put in short yardage by the Cards coaches, stacked up Bart Oates, Lonnie Young jumped over the top of the pile and the Giants got pushed backwards as they failed on 4th down.

The Cardinals got the ball at their own 14.  NJ native and member of a family filled with Giants fans, Ricky Proehl took a reverse and was one on one in the open field with LT in the backfield.  While normally a death sentence in this situation, LT was still making his way back from a hamstring injury back in Week 3 on the last play of the game vs. Miami and LT couldn't keep contain, allowing Proehl to turn to corner for 4 yards.  Johnson ran for 5 on the next play, setting up a 3rd and 1.  Johnson got the ball but was hit by Cooks and Howard and was short by inches of the first down with the ball at their own 26.  However, surprisingly, the Cards kept their offense on the field

Call it knocking the chip off the Giants shoulder or tugging Superman's cape, but when you would think the Cards would at most try to draw the Giants offsides (something Rosenbach was good at), Phoenix actually ran the play and Johnny Johnson dove ahead for the first down.....however.  Luis Sharpe, the usual left tackle, shifted over to the right side at TE, and while he motioned to the official that he was an eligible receiver wearing an ineligible number, Gene Barth never acknowledged him reporting.  So Joe Bugel's balsy call was undone by a penalty and forced a punt.  To make matters worse for the Cards, Meggett had a strong return of 29 yards as he bumped off a tackler and accelerated down to the Cardinal 30 yard line before he was stopped.

The Giants started off with some...trickery?

Now, it's tough to say if this was a planned play, or if it was a flea flicker and OJ saw that if he pitched it back to Hostetler, with a blitz on, the play would fail spectacularly.  Go back to the famous Joe Theismann broken leg play by LT.  That happened because the Redskins called a flea flicker against a blitz and when the ball was pitched back, Harry Carson was already crashing in to hold the play up before LT came in and finished it, and Theismann's career.  Either way, OJ faked the pitch back to Hoss, kept the ball and ran it up the middle for 20 yards, dragging tacklers until he was stopped inside the 10.  It's a play that I have not seen before or since.  OJ hurt his leg on the end of the run, so Tillman came in and he was dropped for a loss by Harvey on first down.  Hoss overthrew Bavaro by the goal line on 2nd down.  On 3rd down, Hoss dropped a low shotgun snap from Oates and fell on the ball before the Cards could.  The Giants would trot Bahr out to hit a 34 yard FG and make the score 10-3 with 4:15 to go in the half.

The kickoff was delayed first by the ball blowing off the tee.  As Bahr reset the ball and came back to kick it again, as he approached the ball, it again was blown off the tee, but Bahr followed through and squib kicked the ball down the field, where Garth Jax as a protect man got it at the 35.  Bahr actually kicked the tee on the play too, showing his soccer skills, and sent the tee past the 30 yard line.  Regardless, this showed why teams take one of the coverage unit to hold the ball on the tee and then go down in coverage, but the Giants didn't do that and Phoenix got the ball in very good position.  Rosenbach's first down pass would be dropped by JT Smith and Johnson was stopped for a 3 yard gain on second down.  On 3rd and 6, Rosenbach dropped a pass off to Flagler, who got up a head of steam and bowled into Greg Jackson and got enough for a first down at the 46.  On the next play, Rosenbach would roll out and hit Proehl for 23 yards to the Giants 31 yard line.  Johnson took a first down draw for a short gain which got the game to the 2 minute warning.  On 2nd down, Rosenbach would hit Reeves, who bounced off a Gary Reasons hit and the 265 pound TE continued up the field for a first down to the 19 yard line and a timeout with 1:46 to go.  The Cards continued to throw, hitting Proehl down inside the 10 yard line for another first.  The Cards began with a 2 yard run by Johnson and a time out with 1:16 left in the half.  On second down, Rosenbach hit Roy Green over the middle and was tackled by Reasons at the 1 yard line.  Now 3rd and Goal at the 1, the Giants would sell out for run

More trickery from the Cards!  As well as Johnson was running, the Giants would all go in on an inside run, with Cooks and Jackson losing their contain positions, trying to get inside for shots on Johnson.  Instead, the Cards ran the tackle eligible, this time Sharpe reported before the snap and the 300+ pound Pro Bowl tackle was wide open in the end zone and made the catch to tie the game at 10-10 with :23 to go.

Del Greco's kickoff was squibbed and picked up by Cross who got it out of bounds at the 35.  Hoss, under pressure, dumped the ball off to Meggett who got out of bounds at the 42 with :11 to go.  Meggett would take an inside hand off on the next play, get across midfield where he was stopped by Freddie Joe Nunn inside the 45, but the refs tacked on 5 more yards on an incidental facemask with :01 to go.  At the 39, Parcells decided to send Bahr out there for a career long 56 yard attempt (his career long at the point was 52).

I've highlighted this video not because Bahr missed the field goal.  If anything, it was up there percentage wise with a Hail Mary attempt anyway.  Factor in that the Giants had lost Simms, and the Giants 3rd string QB Matt Cavanaugh was deactivated so he was unable to play.  So from Parcells' perspective, why risk putting Hostetler out there for a low percentage play and potentially get a hit on his QB as it was shown the Giants offensive line was having trouble with the Phoenix pass rush.  The point to showing this was Dick Stockton's call.  "On target, but short, right down the middle, but short"  Ummmmm...WTF?  Yes, the ball was short, landing in the "N" portion of the end zone with the letters which spell "GIANTS".  But right down the middle, it was a good several yards outside the right upright.  Stockton has always sounded the part of a sports broadcaster.  He has more or less been on the 2nd or 3rd announcing team on CBS and FOX behind the Gold Standard that was Madden/Summerall.  For a stretch, Stockton was the main voice of the NBA on CBS.  In the NFL however, I've never been that impressed by his work.  He's still calling games today, and he'll turn 71 during the season this year, so I'd expect to hear more botched calls like this.  But in 1990 he was 47 years old, well in his "prime" as a broadcaster.  I know the old Giants Stadium press box wasn't the best in the world, but it wasn't that bad either.  I have no clue how he thought that kick was down the middle.

Anyway, the score was tied at 10-10 at halftime.  The Giants looked the part of a heavyweight favorite team, who came out flat and suddenly found themselves in a dog fight which they weren't prepared for against what should have been an inferior opponent.

The Giants would kick off to start the second half and Sikahema would return it to the 30.  The Cards first play was a playaction roll out by Rosenbach to Green for 12 yards.  Johnson would carry the ball on successive plays and make nice gains, getting the ball to the Giants 42.  After another 2 yard run by Johnson, the Giants would tack five yards on to that due to Erik Howard jumping offsides.  The Cards kept feeding Johnson, running to his left side, and at LT, and getting a first down at the 31.  The Cards had to burn a timeout before the next play, and it was yet another Johnson run for 4 yards.  A Giants blitz on second down would force an incompletion, however in coming in to blitz, the Giants jumped offsides and gave up another 5 free yards.  The 2nd and 1 play would be converted by Johnson for another first down.  The Giants would jump offsides for a third time on this drive, as Howard came across on the hard count by Rosenbach, who took the opportunity to take a shot at the end zone and just missed Roy Green.  Now at the 15 yard line, Johnson would take the next carry down to the 5 yard line, for yet another first down, and the Giants crowd began booing the effort.  Johnson would be held to just 1 yard on first down, getting hit by John Washington.  Rosenbach threw to Green on second down, but hit the receiver on the thigh and the ball fell incomplete.  On third down, Rosenbach tried a QB draw, however he was held up initially by a blitzing Pepper Johnson, and then was finished off by Dorsey and Howard, stopping him at the 1.  Bugel decided against challenging the Giants defense here and took the points and 18 yard Del Greco FG made the score 13-10 and capped off an impressive 12 play, 69 yard drive which ate 6:43 off the clock.

Meggett would return the kickoff to the 25.  Hoss began with a handoff to OJ for 1 yard as the crowd groaned.  But the crowd hadn't seen anything yet

Again, Eric Moore was having fits with Ken Harvey, as Harvey turned the corner and drilled Hostetler in the back.  The ball was knocked loose and Ron Saddler recovered for Phoenix at the Giants 29.

The Cardinals started with a 5 yard pass to their H-back Jorden.  Johnson would carry for 2 yards, getting stopped by Cooks and DeOssie.  On 3rd and 2, Johnson would get stacked up at the line, but would bounce off the pile and run around left end for a first down before being cut down by Walls. Rosenbach was nearly picked off by Reasons, as he was under pressure from LT and threw the ball at Reasons, who dropped it (and also prevented Cooks from picking it off as he was waiting behind him).  Rosenbach would scramble for 3 yards on the next play.  On 3rd and 7 at the 19, Rosenbach threw into the flat, where Greg Jackson nearly had a pick 6, but he too dropped the ball.  Del Greco came on to drill a 34 yarder and give the Cards a 16-10 lead.

Del Greco's kickoff was returned by Ingram, who was dropped by Ernie "Indiana" Jones at the 16.  Hoss began with a deep out to Stephen Baker for 20 yards out to the 36.  The Giants would again try some trickery, this time a pitch to OJ, who handed off to Ingram on a reverse.  But Ingram bobbled the exchange that threw off the timing, but was able to get 4 yards (thanks in part to a block by Hoss).  Hoss would get flushed out on the next play and sacked by Harvey for an 11 yard loss, the Cards third of the day.  On 3rd and 17, Hoss would flip a screen to Meggett, who would get the ball back out to the 46 yard line, and just short of a first down.  Parcells did not want to gamble this time and sent Landeta out to punt.  However, the Cards defense got confused, thinking the Giants might go for it, safety Tim McDonald was on the field and seeing it was about to be a punt, he ran off the field.  But he did not make it in time and the 12 men on the field penalty gave the Giants a first down at the 50 with 1:05 to go in the 3rd quarter.  Hoss would pitch back to Meggett for 1 yard.  On second down, Hoss again was under heat

NT Jim Wahler barged through the line for the Cards 4th sack and a 9 yard loss to end the 3rd quarter.  This play was indicative of the Giants inability to control the Cardinals pass rush.  Now 3rd an 17, Hostetler uncorked a long pass to Manuel, but it floated out of bounds.  Landeta would get off a great punt, bouncing it at the 1 and Pepper Johnson downed it at the 4.

The crowd got back into the game, exhorting on the defense with the Cards so deep in their own end. Johnson was nailed in the backfield for a 2 yard loss by Cooks.  He'd follow that run with another up the middle where he was nailed at the 5 yard line by DeOssie.  On 3rd and long, and deep in his own end, Bugel went conservative.  A draw play to Johnson was stopped for no gain and it was 3 and out for the Cards, who punted from their own end zone and Meggett had a good return to the Phoenix 35.

The Giants fans were into the game now.  Hoss would start with a 6 yard pass to Cross.  OJ would have a big burst up the middle to inside the 15, but a hold on Bob Kratch set the Giants back.  Hoss would come back with a pass to Baker for 6 yards.  On 3rd and 8, Hoss was under pressure, but escaped the rush and scrambled upfield, and was stopped just short of a first down.  On 4th and 1, the Giants again trotted out their 3 TE lineup, but called a timeout with 9:41 to think it over.

Parcells considered his options, and decided to go for it a 3rd time in the game.  Carthon took the handoff this time, but was hit in the backfield by Zordich and the Giants again were stopped from converting and the score remained 16-10.

The Cardinals took over at the 25, Johnson was stopped for a loss by Washington on first down.  A pass to Green went for only 3 yards before he was drilled by Perry Williams.  On 3rd and long, Rosenbach was blitzed and threw a deep pass to Proehl but the ball landed out of his reach, so on came Camarillo for yet another punt that was fair caught by Meggett at the 25.

The Giants offense came back out.  Hoss started with a screen to OJ, but the ball was dropped.  Hoss would get sacked by Freddie Joe Nunn on 2nd down.  That would bring up another big 3rd down

Disaster.  Hostetler's pass sailed over Stacy Robinson's head and it was picked off by the Pro Bowler McDonald, who returned the ball to the Giants 25 with 7:21 to go in the game as the boos rained down on the Giants from the home crowd.

The Cards went for the throat on first down, going to the end zone and for Ernie Jones, but Everson Walls was in position to pick it off and had the ball in his hands...but he dropped it.  Johnson would run for just 1 yard that set up a 3rd and long.  As Rosenbach slowly came to the line, looking to milk the clock, he didn't read the defense and a Giants blitz resulted in Greg Jackson coming in untouched for the sack and forced a fumble, however the Cards fell on it to retain possession.  Al Del Greco would come on to hit his 4th FG of the day, this time from 45 yards out, and make the score 19-10.  It was this point many fans headed for the exits as the game seemed out of reach considering how poorly the Giants had played (* more on this at the end)

Del Greco started with short kickoff that was taken by Ingram out of bounds at the 23.  On first down, Hoss was under pressure again, but scrambled away for a 7 yard gain.  On 2nd down, Hoss threw a deep pass to Robinson, who dropped the ball and nearly got it picked again by McDonald.  On 3rd down, Hoss would hand off to Meggett out of the shotgun and Meggett got the first down out to the 35.  Now in the hurry up no huddle offense, Hostetler threw to Ingram who took it out to the 46.  The next play was another Hostetler scramble for 5 yards.  Meggett would take the next handoff out of the gun for a first down to the Cardinal 38.  Hostetler would throw the next pass out of bounds as all receivers were well covered.  The Giants would stick to the air attack on the next play

With 3:27 to go, Hoss would lob a perfect deep bomb to Baker down the left side, who got behind Lorenzo Lynch and McDonald for a 38 yard TD and suddenly the Giants found themselves down 19-17 thanks to a 8 play, 77 yard drive in 2:17.

Now the crowd was back into the game.  Bahr started off with a touchback on the kickoff.  The Giants defense needed a stop on the Cardinals to get the ball back on offense.  Johnson would take the first down carry and rumble for 9 yards, going over 100 yards on the day.  Johnson would convert the first down on the next carry and the Giants would call their second time out with 2:16 to go.  On first down, LT chased Johnson down the line for one of his patented tackles and a gain of 1 as the Giants called their final time out with 2:08 to go.  Bugel would stay conservative, with an inside handoff to Johnson for no gain as he was tackled by Leonard Marshall to reach the 2 minute warning.  On 3rd and 9, no time outs left, the Giants defense made a huge play

Knowing a first down seals the game, but not wanting to risk a throw, Bugel called for a QB naked bootleg. The Giants defense collapsed in on Johnson, including LT who lost complete contain.  Rosenbach, an underrated runner, had a lot of field in front of him, but Myron Guyton sprinted over to catch up with Rosenbach and stop him before he could get the first down.  The Cards let the clock run down, where they got off a wobbly punt that was downed at the Giants 29 with :58 to go in the game.

Hostetler came on, no time outs to work with and knowing a field goal wins the game.  Starting out in the gun with 4 WRs, Hoss began with a deep throw down the sidelines to Baker, who was double covered and the pass was nearly intercepted, but fell incomplete.  On 2nd and 10, Hostetler would throw a bullet pass up the middle, in which Ingram made a sliding grab at the 46.  Rather than spike the ball to stop the clock, Hoss came to the line and snapped it and threw a pass that fell incomplete.  However, a defensive hold on the other side of the field on Lynch gave the Giants five more yards and a first down.  Hoss got another bad snap from Oates, and was nearly sacked before throwing to Meggett, who tipped the ball and it was again nearly intercepted by the Cardinals with :24 to go.  On second down, Hostetler would throw another pass, which was again dropped by Robinson, and again nearly picked off by diving Cardinals defensive backs.  With :20 to go, 3rd and 10 at the 40, Hostetler and the Giants would finally make good.

Hostetler had a blitz in his face and he avoided an onrushing defender, scrambled a bit and hit Lionel Manuel with a perfect pass at the 23 yard line.  With no timeouts and the clock running, the Giants got to the line and Hostetler made sure everyone was set properly and took the snap and spiked the ball hard to stop the clock with :03 to go.  Parcells took off his headset, knowing this was the last play and on trotted Bahr for the game winning 40 yard attempt.  Unlike today's NFL, the Cardinals did not call at time out to ice the veteran Bahr.  Instead, Bahr calmly setup and nailed the 40 yard field goal right down the middle.  The crowd went nuts.  Stockton gave yet another underwhelming call considering the circumstances.  Parcells excitedly hauled ass off the field, eschewing the customary post game handshake with Joe Bugel (which I always thought was kind of cheesy by Parcells here, why run off the field and not acknowledge Bugel afterwards?)  Bahr would get mobbed by his teammates, nearly get squashed by Brian Williams in a bear hug.  The Giants had escaped with a 20-19 win and went to 6-0, keeping a 2 game lead on Washington and giving the Giants the best start in their team history.

Interesting Tidbits/ Post Mortem

  • It goes without saying, watching Hostetler lead the Giants down field for a last second game winning field goal by Bahr, this Cardinals game was a harbinger of things to come in San Francisco, when this combination pulled off the same trick in the NFC Championship Game, with Bahr hitting a 41 yarder (his fifth FG of the day) to beat the 49ers 15-13 and go on to the Super Bowl.
  • As mentioned at the start, the Meadowlands was a nightmare for the Cardinals franchise.  This was as heart breaking a loss as they suffered there.  But they didn't lose all their games there after 1980.  They actually tied the Giants in 1983 in a 20-20 game that is widely regarded as one of the worst Monday Night Football games ever broadcast.  The teams would combine for 6 turnovers, 20 penalties, 9 sacks and Cards kicker Neil O'Donoghue would miss 3 field goals that could have won the game (eat your heart out Jay Feeley in Seattle).
  • The Cards would continue to lose in Giants Stadium after this game
    • 1991- 20-9
    • 1992- 31-21
  • In 1993 there was an eerily similar loss to the 1990 one for the Cardinals.  The Cards had the lead late, but lost 19-17 on a Brad Daluiso 54 yard booming kick into a 15 mph wind at the end of the game.
  • The Cardinals would finally break the jinx in 1994.  The Giants held a 9-3 lead late in the game, but Steve Beuerlein would throw at TD to Bryant Reeves to give the Cardinals a 10-9 win.  That loss would be the Giants 7th straight of 1994.  After a 3-0 start, the Giants seemed dead at 3-7.  However, amazingly, after this loss to the Cards, the Giants would rip off 6 straight wins, finish 9-7 and lose a tie breaker to the Packers who beat the Buccaneers to claim the last spot.
  • Jeff Hostetler's 21 attempts was the second most in his career to this point.  His previous high was in Arizona in 1989 in a 20-13 win.  In that game, Hostetler threw 23 passes and accounted for all 3 Giants TDs (2 rushing, 1 passing)
  • Hoss coming in would actually establish a pattern of him taking over for an injured Simms to play the Cardinals.  As mentioned above, in 1989, Simms was knocked out of a Monday Night game against Minnesota and Hostetler came off the bench to help lead a comeback victory (thanks mainly to a Pepper Johnson Pick 6 and two Alfred Anderson fumbles on kickoff returns) and then started the next week at Arizona.  In 1990, not only did Hostetler come off the bench to win this game, but later in the season, when the Giants played the Bills, Simms would go down with a foot injury that would shelve him for the remainder of the season.  The following Sunday, with Hostetler as the starter...was in Arizona again, and Hoss led the Giants to a 24-21 win and would not lose a game the rest of the way.  To a much lesser extent, Hostetler also saw garbage time at QB in their 35-7 blow out of the Cardinals in 1989.
  • OJ Anderson would run for 88 yards in this game, his season high to that point and it would end up being his third best output of the 1990 regular season, behind his 92 yards vs. Washington which came the following week.  OJ would only go over 100 yards in one game in 1990, in his Super Bowl XXV MVP performance with 102 yards against Buffalo.
  • OJ's 28 yard run was his longest of 1990.  In fact, it would be the longest run for the remainder of his career, which ended after the 1992 season.
  • Carl Banks was in the hospital as this game was played.  He played with a broken wrist the week before in Washington and had a huge cast on his arm.  At the end of the game, he had done more damage and needed surgery and was lost until the famed December Monday Night game against the Niners.  So in this game the Giants split his duties with Johnnie Cooks playing on running downs and the late Dave Duerson on passing downs.
  • Greg Jackson's sack was the first of his career, and the first of 4 he'd register in 1990.  Over the course of Jackson's 12 year career, he'd never register another sack in any other season.
  • This game also featured a very little known brother vs. brother battle.  Everyone knows about the Eli vs. Peyton matchups.  Not to mention the Barber twins (Tiki and Ronde).  But in this game we saw Giants TE Mark Bavaro go up against his brother, rookie LB out of Syracuse David Bavaro (who wore #59).  David Bavaro would end up playing 5 seasons in the NFL after coming into the league as a 9th round pick.  He would be on the 1991 Super Bowl Bills team, spend 1992 in Minnesota and finished his last 2 seasons of his career in New England, coached by Bill Parcells before retiring after the 1994 season.  To add some symmetry, his more famous brother Mark would also retire after 1994, and spending his final 2 seasons in Philly as an Eagle.  We Giants fans don't like to think about things like that.
  • In addition to the list above, there were a few cases of the Giants having a member of their team while their brother played on another team.  Among them
    • Sinorice and Santana Moss
    • Brad and Troy Benson
    • Martellus and Michael Bennett
    • Matt and Chris Bahr
    • Tim and Matt Hasselbeck (and their dad Don Hasselbeck was a Giant TE)
    • Shawn and Stacey Andrews (both would actually play for the Giants)
    • Pete and Charlie Gogolak
  • An interesting point was raised by Merlin Olson in this game I hadn't heard before.  When the Giants traded for OJ Anderson in 1986 to act as an insurance policy in case of an injury to Joe Morris, apparently the Giants also tried to trade for Roy "Jet Stream" Green at the same time.  Green, a big play WR, would have made sense for the Giants in 1986 as their WR core was decimated by injuries around midseason, and it got so bad that Hostetler actually was playing at WR.  The Cards wouldn't do it however.  
  • Cardinals rookie Johnny Johnson became the first RB to go over 100 yards vs. the Giants in 20 games, when Gerald Riggs of the Redskins ran for 111 in the 1989 season opener.  Johnson would be the only RB to go over 100 yards vs. the Giants for the regular season.  The Giants would allow one other RB to gain over 100 yards against them however, Thurman Thomas ran for 135 yards in Super Bowl XXV, though that was by design as the Giants played 2 DL and chose to hit the Bills receivers in the K-Gun big play offense and give up the run.
  • The Cardinals 5 sacks registered in this game were a season high allowed by the Giants in 1990, which is pretty remarkable considering they went up against the Eagles and Redskins twice, and then the 49ers and Bills later in the year.  You wouldn't figure the Cardinals would give the Giants their biggest problems in pass protection.
  • Al Del Greco kicked 4 field goals in this game, a feat he would accomplish 12 times over the course of his 17 year career.  He actually kicked 4 FGs in 3 consecutive games in 1993 as a member of the Houston Oilers (vs. the Falcons and Browns in the Astrodome and then on the road in Pittsburgh).  His career high was 5 FGs in 1995, also as a member of the Oilers in a 38-28 win at Cincinnati.
  • Luis Sharpe was a left tackle for the Cardinals for 13 years and made 3 Pro Bowls.  His TD on the tackle eligible play was the only catch and only TD of his career.
  • As mentioned, Johnny Johnson was the only back to rush for over 100 yards vs. the Giants in 1990.  The only QB to pass for over 300?  Timm Rosenbach in their second matchup vs. the Giants passed for 381 yards, far in a way the most passing yardage the Giants gave up that season.  Considering they played against Joe Montana (twice), Randall Cunningham (twice), Troy Aikman (twice), Jim Kelly (twice), and Dan Marino, that is pretty amazing.
  • 20-19.  That final score was one which we would see again in 1990, when the Giants won Super Bowl XXV.  The last time they played a 20-19 game was on November 17, 1974 at Detroit when Errol Mann hit a 37 yarder to win the game for the Lions.  However, other than these three games, the Giants have not been involved in a game that finished in a 20-19 score before or since.  And I went all the way back through to 1925, when the Giants were facing teams like the Providence Steam Rollers and the Dayton Triangles.  
  • They actually came close to having a 20-19 score back in 1986 when the Giants were playing in Minnesota.  That would have been the score, if not for a 4th and 17 pass from Simms to Bobby Johnson and a game winning 33 yard FG by Raul Allegre to make the score 22-20.
  • Taking that one point game a step further.  Since 1990, the Giants have been involved in 7 games that were separated by 1 point and have gone 1-6.
    • 1994: 10-9 loss to the Cardinals
    • 1997: 23-22 loss to the Vikings (Playoff game)
    • 1999: 16-15 win over the Eagles
    • 2001: 10-9 loss to the Eagles
    • 2002: 39-38 loss to the 49ers (Playoff game)
    • 2009: 21-20 loss to the Chargers
    • 2012- 17-16 loss to the Redskins
  • * To address the point raised above about the crowd leaving the game after Del Greco's 4th FG to make the score 19-10.  It's tough to admit, but I was at this game, in my usual seats in the lower level end zone, section 120.  I was 16 years old and went to this game with my father.  Being a spoiled Giants fan at this point, I got angry at how badly the Giants were playing, couldn't believe that they would lose to the Cardinals.  So I was a pain in the ass complaining and told my father I wanted to leave.  He asked me if I was sure, I said yes.  So we left.  As we were heading down the spirals and to the parking lot, I heard the crowd roar and knew the Giants had scored a TD (it was the Baker TD).  But we kept walking, got to the car and started driving home as we heard Jim Gordon call the game winning FG by Bahr.  If we had stayed, both the Baker TD and Bahr FG would have been right in front of our seats.  Since that time, I have vowed to stay to the end while a game is still within reasonable doubt.  Sometimes it works out badly (see the 1997 Wild Card game against the Vikings and the 2010 Eagles game).  But I also was there for the 1998 win over the Broncos (Toomer's catch was in my end zone) and the 2005 win over the Broncos (again, Toomer's TD from Eli was right in front of me) and the 2002 win and in game vs. the Eagles.  But for this game, I didn't see the end of the comeback live. Boos to me.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

1984 Giants vs Chiefs

Week 13

The Setup

1984 was one of the most significant seasons in Giants history.  To fully understand the impact of 1984, you need to go back to the end of 1981.  The Giants had finally gotten over the hump of 18 years of futility.  They beat the Cowboys 13-10 in OT a the end of the regular season to finish at 9-7 and coupled with the Jets win over Green Bay the following Sunday, put the Giants in the playoffs.  Not only did they make the playoffs, but the Giants made noise in the playoffs, beating the defending NFC Champion Eagles team in Philly, jumping on them taking a 20-0 first quarter lead and held on to beat them 27-21.  They would fall the following week in San Francisco against the eventual Super Bowl champion Niner team.  The Giants were a team on the rise and for the first time in a generation, fans were excited about the future.  However, 1982 was a huge disappointment.  The Giants started the season 0-2, dropping home games to the Falcons and the Packers on a Monday Night.  And then came the work stoppage which killed off nearly 2 months from the season.  The Giants returned from the strike and lost to the Redskins to go 0-3.  In a 9 game season, that could have been a death knell.  Though the Giants would regroup, win their next 3 games to even their record at 3-3.  The Giants would drop their next 2 and finish the season a disappointing 5-6 and out of the playoffs.  There would be more turnover after 1982, Ray Perkins would step down as Giants coach to go back to his alma mater and take over the University of Alabama.  The Giants would hand the head coaching reigns over to their 41 year old defensive coordinator and NJ native Bill Parcells.  Parcells would make the decision to start Scott Brunner as his quarterback and bench his 29 year old former first round pick, Phil Simms.  Simms asked/demanded to be traded, but George Young never pulled the trigger.  Simms played in only 2 games, started none, and the Giants crashed and burned to the tune of 3-12-1 in 1983 and made Ray Handley's first season as head coach look like a Vince Lombardi effort by comparison.

Enter 1984, the media vultures were already circling over Parcells.  People were saying he was in over his head as the Giants coach.  He was best staying as a defensive coordinator and nothing more.  But Parcells weathered the storm and the pressure.  His first move was to rectify his mistake from 1983 and reinstate Phil Simms as the starting QB.  He decided to bring in more explosive players on offense.  Joe Morris, the 3rd year running back was starting to get more playing time instead of still effective but slowing down/plodding FB Rob Carpenter.  George Young also was able to have a strong draft, bringing in an infusion of new talent in Carl Banks, William Roberts, Jeff Hostetler, Gary Reasons, and Lionel Manuel and signed Bobby Johnson as an UDFA.  Factor in that a number of impact players were entering/still in their prime on defense: Harry Carson, Lawrence Taylor, Mark Haynes, Leonard Marshall and Terry Kinard the Giants had talent that would belie a 3-12-1 team the season before.  The Giants would jump out quickly, starting 2-0, beating Philly and Dallas at Giants Stadium.  But inconsistency again reared it's ugly head for the young Giants as they would lose 4 of their next 6 games to sit at 4-4 at the halfway point.  Then the Giants got hot, winning 3 of their next 4, including blowout wins over Washington at Giants Stadium, and winning in Dallas to give the Giants their first season sweep over the Boys since 1963.  The Giants would go on and beat yet another NFC East foe in Week 12, beating the Cardinals 16-10.  By starting out 5-2 vs the division, the Giants were suddenly in unfamiliar territory in Week 13, they were 7-5 and were in a 3 way tie for the division lead with Washington and Dallas and one game ahead of the Cardinals.

The Giants would play host to a struggling AFC West Chiefs team, who came into this game at 5-7 and had the ceiling cave in on what was a promising season to start the year.  The Chiefs also started 2-0 and also were 4-4 at the halfway mark.  But they stumbled after that, losing 3 straight games heading into the Meadowlands.  The Giants suddenly were in the position that they were expected to win, and Vegas had them as a 7.5 point favorite.  The Cowboys had already won their traditional Thanksgiving game earlier in the week as they beat Patriots 20-17 and the Redskins were facing a brutal 1-10 Bills team at RFK.  It was clear the Giants needed to win this game to keep pace and couldn't afford to slip up a must-win game at home against a lesser team, but a team that nevertheless had beaten the Giants in 1983, as Bill Kenney torched the Giants for 342 yards and 4 TDs as the Giants gave up 28 straight points in a 38-17 rout.  Expectations were high as the Giants took the field.

The Game Highlights

The weather was about as good as you could expect for a post-Thanksgiving weekend game in the NY/NJ area.  A sun splashed field and temperatures in the mid 40s.  The Giants started out by kicking off as Ali Haji-Sheikh sent one down the field to JT Smith, who would rip off a nice return out to the 40 before he was stopped by Mark Haynes, playing on specials despite the fact he was a Pro Bowl corner.  Bill Kenney, a Pro Bowler in 1983, was back at QB after missing 5 weeks with a broken thumb.  He looked rusty, missing his first 2 passes and on third down took a shot from Casey Merrill and hurt his arm, which got his backup, Todd Blackledge warming up on the bench.  The 3 and out culminated in a Jim Arnold punt which was taken by Phil McConkey to the 23 yard line, where he was drilled and would not return to the game.

Phil Simms took his offense on to the field and started with a dump off to Carpenter for 2 yards.  On second down, Carpenter would plow through the line and near a first down, where was stopped just short by Deron Cherry.  Joe Morris would convert the first down on the next play, by going around left end to the 35.  A first down pass from Simms was batted down by Art Still and Bill Maas would stuff a draw play to Morris on second down.  A 3rd and 9 play would turn into a free play as Simms drew Mike Bell offsides on a hard count but his long bomb fell incomplete.  Now 3rd and 4, Simms would dump the ball off to Tony Galbreath out of the backfield, but he was stopped a yard shy of the first by Cherry and Dave Jennings would come on to punt it back to KC, where Smith would fair catch it at the 11.

Kenney recovered from the knock on his arm and came back on the field.  Billy Jackson took the first down carry and rumbled out to the 23 for a first down.  Herman Heard followed that up with a 3 yard run up the middle and then a sweep around right end for 2 more to set up a 3rd and 5.  Kenney, back in the shotgun, floated a long pass downfield to Carlos Carson, who had beaten Perry Williams on the play.  Carson dropped the ball and brought on Arnold, who punted it away to Lionel Manuel who returned the ball to the 35.

Simms' drive began with another pass knocked down by Still at the line.  A 2nd down run by Carpenter was good for 5 yards.  Simms would convert on the next play, as he hit Byron Williams for 14 yards and a first down.  Now at the 46, a trap play to Morris got the ball down to the 37.  Carpenter barely converted on short yardage, but the Giants had a new set of downs and were nearing long field goal range.  Simms took a shot deep to Manuel, but had the play broken up by Lloyd Burress.  On 2nd and 10, Simms threw a deep pass to Morris, but overthrew the 5'7" running back.  Simms 3rd down pass to Zeke Mowatt was nearly picked off by Burress.  The Giants trotted out the Sheikh to try a 52 yarder, which was right down the middle but well short and the Chiefs got the ball back.

Starting at the 35 (remember, in 1984, you got the ball from the line of scrimmage on a missed field goal, not from the point of the kick, which is what the rules are today) Kenney would hit Carson deep, but he couldn't get 2 feet down and the pass was incomplete.  LT would harass Kenney on the next play and force a hurried dump off to Heard which fell incomplete.  On 3rd down, Leonard Marshall came bearing down on Kenney and forced yet another incompletion and a 3 and out punt, which was returned by Manuel to the 29.

On first down, Morris started with a 1 yard gain and on second down, Simms dumped it off to Morris in the flat who took it to the 40 for a first down.  The Giants decided to be aggressive on their next first down play

Simms' play action pass was forced deep down the middle to Mowatt, and Cherry cut in front and picked it off and returned the ball to the 43.

Things quickly snowballed, as Kenney went deep on the first play and hit Carson who took it to the 1 yard line for a 56 yard gain and set up KC with first and goal.  A first down carry by Ken Lacy was stuffed by Jim Burt and LT for no gain.  A second down play action pass was hurried by Carl Banks, who forced an overthrow to TE Ken Beckman.  On 3rd down, Kenney missed Heard at the goal line as he threw the ball too hard and the Chiefs brought on Nick Lowery, who had never missed from inside 30 for an expected 3-0 lead

Arnold, the Pro Bowl punter, mishandled the snap and his attempted scramble to get outside and run for the TD was snuffed by LT.  It was a Tony Romo play some 23 years prior, and the game remained deadlocked at 0-0.

Carpenter would begin with a big run around the corner for 20 yards out to the 31.  After a short gain by Carpenter on the next play, Simms would be sacked by Still on 2nd down.  On 3rd and 15, Simms threw a deep pass to Byron Williams, but had the ball knocked away by Albert Lewis and set up a Jennings punt, which was fair caught at the 44.

A hold on KC's first down play set them back at 1st and 20. Rookie Gary Reasons would slam Heard on first down for no gain.  A second down run by Heard went for 11 yards before he was stopped by Kinard and set up 3rd and 9.  Kenney would throw to Henry Marshall down field, but Reasons and Haynes came up to hit Marshall short of the first and force yet another Arnold punt, who's coffin corner attempt didn't go as well as planned, with the ball going out at the 17.

Carpenter started with a 3 yard run.  Simms was sacked again, this time by Calvin Daniels and set up a 3rd and long at the 11 yard line.  Simms would throw from his own end zone to the flat to Galbreath, but the ball was broken up by Burress.  Jennings would then have a short kick which was returned by Smith out to the 39.

Billy Jackson's first down run went for no gain, but Kenney would hit Marshall for a first down to the 28.  Heard took the next carry for a short 2 yard gain and a 2nd down pass from Kenney was knocked down by Reasons.  That set up a 3rd and long and with Kenney in the gun and with time to throw, would make the Giants pay

Kenney made a risky throw down field.  Either Perry Williams or Kenny Hill was in position to pick off the ball.  And while it looked like Hill was in position to pick it off, Paige took the ball away from him for a 26 yard TD and a 7-0 lead.

The subsequent kickoff was taken by Butch Woolfolk to the 21.  Simms first down pass was a screen to Carpenter for a 10 yard gain out to the 31 and close to a first down.  Morris would get the first on a short run on the next play.  Simms would go deep to Bobby Johnson for 20 yards out near mid field.  Morris would follow that for a sweep for 16 yards and another first down to the 34.  Morris would lose 2 on his next carry, but the Giants would keep moving, as Simms hit Mowatt for 24 yards down to the 12.  After Carpenter was hit for no gain, Simms threw to Morris, who was split out at WR and Morris got it down to the 1 yard line.  On first and goal, Carpenter would cash in

The veteran fullback, following TE Mullady's block as he came in motion and plunge into the end zone tied the score at 7-7 and took some pressure off for the Giants.

The kickoff was taken by Smith out to the 26 and Kenney's first down pass was good for 22 yards to Carson down to the 48.  But the Giants defense would step up on the next play

Kenney faked his handoff and rolled to his right, where he set up and threw a pass into traffic, which was tipped and picked off by the safety Bill Currier.  Currier would return the ball to the 43.  Simms would start off by dumping a pass to Carpenter, who ran it across mid field for another first down and was finally stopped at the 44.  But Simms got sloppy on the next play

Simms had time to throw and decided to go for the home run and threw a deep pass to Williams.  However, the pass was a little behind him and the rookie Kevin Ross jumped in to make the INT and raced it back to the Giants 40.

Heard started off with a 5 yard run to the 35 where he was stopped by Banks and George Martin.  LT would stuff Heard for a short gain on 2nd down.  Kenney would hit Theotis Brown for a first down at the the 2 minute warning.  Kenney would miss Marshall on first down.  A draw to Jackson was snuffed out for a 5 yard loss as he tripped on his own feet and Harry Carson rushed in to stop him for good.  Kenney would hit Marshall for 10 yards, but not enough for a first and brought on Lowery to nail a 42 yard FG and a 10-7 KC lead with :47 to go in the half.

After a return out to the 24 yard line, Simms would start off with a dump off to Galbreath over the middle to the 30 and Simms would go to the hurry up to try to get some points to tie the game.  But disaster would strike

Wow, you couldn't draw it up any worse for the Giants.  Simms pass was tipped at the line for a 3rd time by Art Still and Lewis grabbed the deflection and ran it back to the 8 yard line.  With the crowd booing the turnover, they hadn't seen anything yet, as the next play Kenney hit TE Willie Scott over the middle for an easy TD as Harry Carson lost him in coverage and the Giants had given up 10 points in under a minute and where now down by 10 points at 17-7.

The Giants got a good return, out to the 37.  Simms in the gun threw another deep pass, which was amazingly almost picked off by Lewis again as Bobby Johnson didn't react to the pass.  With 3 seconds to go, and sufficiently spooked, Parcells mercifully called for a kneel down and a regroup at halftime down 17-7.

The second half began with a KC kickoff for a touchback.  Simms came back on the field, with 3 INTs in the first half already on his record and people wondering if he had the stuff to play in a pressure game.  Morris got the offense going with an 11 yard run on first down.  Carpenter took the next carry, cut back over the middle and gained 17 more yards to near midfield as he carried members of the KC secondary for a little ride.  Carpenter would get stuffed by Daniels for 1 yard on the next play.  Simms would miss an open Morris down the sidelines, again he was split out wide, for what would have been a good gain.  On 3rd and 9, Simms would throw a bullet to Bobby Johnson for 19 yards and a first down (though the Giants got lucky because he was ruled down on the play and he actually fumbled.  But no replay in 1984, so them's the breaks).  Morris would run for 9 more down to the 19 and Carpenter would convert for a first down on the next play.  Simms next pass was an out to Johnson, which was again nearly picked by Lewis.  A draw to Carpenter would be snuffed for just 1 yard.  On 3rd and 9, Simms would hit Galbreath, who would spin his way down to the 1 yard line and a first and goal.  Morris would get stopped for no gain on first down.  On second down, Carpenter attempted to leap over the pile again, but was also stopped short.  The Giants would go to the well again on 3rd down

The bruising fullback would get over the pile this time for a crucial TD and cut the lead to 17-14.

With the Giants crowd back to life, the Chiefs took the kickoff out to the 27.  On first down, Kenney was sacked by rookie Carl Banks on a blitz for a 10 yard loss.  An 8 yard run by Heard set up a 3rd and 12, and a pass to Scott over the middle was stopped just short of a first down on a tackle by LT, which set up another Arnold punt, who returned it 22 yards out to the 43.

Unfortunately, even with the momentum, the Giants offense stalled.  Morris was stuffed by Still, and passes to Mowatt and Galbreath were not enough for a first and Jennings punted it back to KC where Smith returned it to the 23.

Heard started with no gain on first as he was swallowed up by Marshall and LT.  Kenney would hit Carson deep down the sidelines for 25 yards, as Carson beat Haynes on the play out to near mid field.  Kenney would miss Marshall on the next play as he was under pressure from Jim Burt and LT.  Andy Headen and Reasons would nail Heard for a loss on second down to set up yet another 3rd and long.  Kenney's pass was dropped by Perry Williams and ruined a sure INT (Kenney actually rocked back on the play out of the gun before the snap.  That would have been a false start in 2013.)  Arnold had a punt block rush on him and he hurried the kick, shanking it out at the 35.

The Giant would start with a short gain by Morris and Simms would follow that with a bullet pass to Williams for a 24 yard gain out to the 40.  Carpenter was stuffed for no gain on first down and a hold on the next play set the Giants back at 2nd and 20.  Simms would then throw a deep pass to Johnson for 19 yards and just shy of the 30 for a 3rd and 1.  Carpenter would get upended and fall short of the conversion.  Deciding against trying a long FG after the Sheikh's earlier miss, Parcells decided to go for it.  But instead of handing the ball off to his bruising fullback (Carpenter) or his promising young RB (Morris), he decided to out think himself and went for the shotgun draw to Tony Galbreath.  Galbreath ran into a pile and was held short.  Turnover on downs.  Momentum squashed.

The Chiefs took control of the ball and a Billy Jackson burst was good for 19 yards, a first down and was the final play of the 3rd quarter.  On the first play of the 4th, LT pressured Kenney, who dumped it off to Heard for a 4 yard gain.  A short run by Lacy was followed by a first down pass to Carson out at the Giants 35.  A short run by Brown and 2 incomplete passes to Brown and Marshall led to a 53 yard Nick Lowery FG, to give the Chiefs a 20-14 lead.

Joe Morris returned the ensuing kickoff, but was dropped at the 10 yard line.  On first down, Simms retreated into his own end zone, and he dumped a safety valve pass to Carpenter for a 1 yard loss.  On second down, Simms narrowly avoided getting sacked for a safety, but missed a deep pass downfield to Stacy Robinson.  Simms' third down pass was knocked down by Albert Lewis and the Giants were forced to have a Jennings punt from his own end zone, which was fielded at the 50 by Smith and a short return out to the 48.

Kenney started off with an incomplete pass intended for Carson.  Lacy was stuffed for a gain of one yard by LT.  On 3rd and 9, Kenney's pass was tipped by Andy Headen, however he got enough on it to be caught by Paige for a first down.  After a Heard run for a short gain, and 9:30 to go in the game, Kenney went deep

Carlos Carson continued to burn the Giants, and Mark Haynes in particular.  In this case, he hauled in a 36 yard TD and it looked like the back breaker vs. the Giants as the Chiefs took a 27-14 lead and ruin the Giants division title hopes.

The following kickoff didn't start well, as Woolfolk bobbled the return and had to scramble to get it to the 10 yard line, where he was resoundingly booed by the Giants crowd.  Simms would come out throwing however.  He hit Mowatt on consecutive passes for 27 yards and 25 yards which got the ball to the KC 41. Another bomb by Simms, this time to Johnson, was knocked down by KC.  Undeterred, Simms threw another deep pass, this time to Morris (again at flanker) and Lewis missed the INT, which allowed Morris to get the ball to the 22 yard line.  KC's defense was on it's heels, so Simms kept up the pressure

Simms lobbed a perfect pass to Johnson, who beat Ross on the play, for a 22 yard TD catch and the Giants were right back in the game 27-21 on a 90 yard drive.

The crowd was right back in the game, as the kickoff was returned by Smith to the 27 yard line and the Chiefs offense took the field with a 6 point lead and 7:20 to go in the game.  Instead of running to kill the clock, Kenney would hit Marshall for 13 yards out to the 40 and a first down.  Martin and Burt would hit Lacy for a 2 yard gain on first down.  The 2nd down play was a safe checkdown pass to Lacy, who was hit by Carson and set up a huge 3rd and 3 play.  Kenney's third down pass was out of Brown's reach in the flat and stopped the clock.  After Arnold's punt sailed into the end zone for a touchback, the Giants go the ball at the 20 with 5:03 to go in the game.

Simms first pass, he scrambled out of pressure and threw a deep pass to Manuel, who was only able to get one foot down for an incompletion.  Simms would keep throwing, hitting Morris for 16 yards and a first down out to the 36.  Simms would take off himself on the next play, scrambling up the middle and got the ball down to the 50.  With the clock running and 4 minutes to go, Simms would hit Mowatt to the 35 and stopped the clock at 3:57.  Simms and Mowatt kept up the hot hand, this time connecting for a huge 32 yard gain down to the 3 yard line as the crowd went crazy.  The first down play was a short run by Carpenter.  But the Giants would make good on their comeback on the next play

Zeke Mowatt got open in the flat, as you could hear announcer Bob Trumpy call him out as being open seconds before Simms throw it.  The Sheikh nailed the extra point, and comeback was complete.  Giants were now in the lead 28-27 and Giants Stadium was up for grabs.  Now it was on the Giants defense to hold it.

The Chiefs started off with a return by Smith out to the 23 and the Chiefs just needed a field goal with 2:22 to go in the game and a great kicker in Lowery who already boomed a 53 yarder earlier.  On first down, Kenney would hit Marshall on a deep pass over the middle for a first down out to the 40 which took the game to the 2 minute warning.  Kenney's next pass was a deep one which was tipped and nearly picked off by the Giants' Ricky Shaw, however, his tip was nearly caught by a KC receiver for what would have been a huge gain.  On second down, the Giants defensive captain made the play.

Kenney threw the ball out to Brown, who took about one step before Harry Carson was all over him.  Carson knocked the ball loose, the Chiefs tackle Rich Baldinger had a clear shot at the recovery and blew it.    Anthony Hancock, their former first rounder at WR, also botched the attempt and actually pushed Baldinger forward.  In doing so, the ball squirted behind Baldinger and Haynes jumped into the pile to grab the ball.  As the mass of bodies had formed, Haynes snuck out of the pile with the ball and ran off to the side (which incidentally is always great when you see this happen.  The players and refs are all involved in the scrum, with all the confusion going on to see who has possession, and some guy came out of the pile already with the ball and is standing a few yards away as the refs try to figure out what happened).  In the end, it was the Giants ball at the 47 with 1:43 to go in the game.

The Giants, needing to just run out the clock, got 5 free yards when Art Still jumped offsides.  Carpenter ran for a short gain and KC called time out.  On second down, another Carpenter run up the middle, but for a first down, another KC time out with 1:26 to go.  The Giants would need 2 more Carpenter runs to seal the game and give them a huge 28-27 win which was needed to keep them alive not only for a playoff spot, but the NFC East as well.

Interesting Tidbits/ Post Mortem

  • To say the Giants needed this win was an understatement.  As noted above, the Giants needed to keep up with the Joneses in their own divison.    The Cowboys were already at 8-5 after beating the Patriots on Thanksgiving.  The Redskins blew out the Bills, 41-14 to also go to 8-5.  The Cardinals beat the Eagles, knocking Ron Jawarski out for the season in the process, and they went to 7-6.  So that was 4 teams within 1 game of each other, no margin for error.
  • As the rest of the season would play out, the Giants would beat the Jets the following week to get to 9-5.  However, they would end up dropping their last 2 games, on the road at St. Louis and then amazingly they lost a brutal 10-3 game on a Saturday at the Meadowlands to a 6-9 Saints.  The Giants, a 10 point favorite going into the game, were sacked 7 times, Simms threw 2 INTs and managed 189 total yards.  But the Giants still had hope...but it was a long shot. 
    • The Rams, who lost on the Friday before to the Niners, were 10-6, and had a better record than the Giants.
    • The Redskins (10-5) were playing the Cardinals (9-6) at RFK on Sunday. A Cardinal win would end the Giants season and give St. Louis the NFC East title as they would have swept the Redskins in 1984.  A loss would knock the Cards out of the playoffs due to the tie breakers.
    • Lastly, Dallas (9-6) was playing on Monday Night vs. the Dolphins (13-2) at Miami.  The Cowboys had lost the previous week in Dallas vs. the Redskins 30-28 on a late John Riggins TD. A Dallas win or tie and the Giants are out of the playoffs.
    • If Dallas and St. Louis both lost, a 9-7 log jam in the NFC East would somehow give the Giants the last Wild Card slot.
  • So What happened?
    •  The Redskins would blow a 26-17 lead, as Neil Lomax led them to a field goal and then a TD pass to Roy Green to take a 27-26 advantage.  The Skins would respond and win the game on a late Mark Moseley 37 yard FG and clinch the NFC East with a 29-27 win and an 11-5 record.  Cardinals, now at 9-7 were out of the playoffs because they couldn't make it in a 3 way tie with the Giants and Cowboys, and if Dallas had a win or tie, the Cowboys were in.
    • The following Monday Night, the Dolphins were playing for home field advantage, as the Broncos has won their Saturday game at the Seahawks to win the AFC West at 13-3. The Cowboys controlled their own destiny.  A win or tie and they face the Rams in the Wild Card round.  A loss and the Giants make the playoffs.  The Cowboys and Dolphins had fought to a 21-21 tie in the 4th Quarter, but Dan Marino would throw his 4th TD pass of the game, a 63 yarder to Mark Clayton would cap a 340 yard passing day, give him an NFL record 48 TD passes (which stood until Peyton Manning broke it 20 years later with 49...and was then broken by Tom Brady with 50 in 2007).  His TD would hold up, the final score was 28-21 Dolphins. Cowboys were out of the playoffs.
  • Improbably, the Giants gained the final playoff spot at 9-7.  And they actually made some noise when they got there, beating the Rams in LA in the Wild Card round, as they jumped ahead 10-0, held Eric Dickerson, who set the NFL record of 2105 rushing yards in 1984 (a record which barely withstood Adrian Peterson's charge in 2012) to 107 yards on 23 carries and scored a 16-13 upset win.  The Giants would go to San Francisco the next week, where they would fall behind 14-0 quickly, but fought back to make it 14-10 before losing 21-10 to the eventual champion Niners.  But none of this is possible if the Giants don't come back to beat KC and put them in position to win 9 games.
  • One other note about that 3 way tie.  If you want to measure the true strength of a team on it's points scored/points allowed differential, well, the St. Louis Cardinals got screwed.  The Giants and Cardinals both went 5-3 vs. the NFC East.  Dallas went 3-5.  However, the Cardinals were +78 in points scored/points allowed, good for 8th in the NFL.  The Cowboys were at a net 0.  The Giants... -2.  
  • UPDATE- Thanks to feedback from other fans, it turns out I got a detail wrong.  The season finale game vs. the Saints, actually meant nothing to the Giants, win or lose.  As it turns out, the Rams lost on Friday Night to the 49ers, which set them up at 10-6.  Meanwhile, the Giants' fortunes were totally dependent on the Cardinals and Cowboys, needing them both to lose.  If either team won, they would end up 10-6, and even if the Giants won and went to 10-6 themselves, the Giants would lose out in the tie breakers with Los Angeles in the mix.  So even though they put up a garbage effort against the Saints on the final Saturday of the season, the Giants hopes to make the playoffs came on Sunday with St. Louis and Monday with Dallas.
  • Phil Simms would throw for 343 yards in this game.  It would be his fourth 300+ yard game of 1984 (and he threw for 290 in a loss to SF earlier in the season).  Included in this stretch was a 407 yard, 4 TD effort on opening day vs. the Eagles.  His 4 games over 300 yards tied his season career high, which he also matched in the 1986 Super Bowl Championship season.  It should also be noted that Simms threw for over 300+ yards 3 times in 1985, included in there were back to back games of 432 yards vs. Dallas and 513 yards at Cincinnati.  Back in the 1980s, huge passing stats usually meant you lost the game, and that was the case here as well, as the Giants dropped both games despite nearly 1000 yards passing in 2 games from Simms.
  • Simms set 2 passing records for the Giants in this Chiefs game.  He broke Fran Tarkenton's most passes in a season mark and YA Title's season passing yardage mark.
  • Rob Carpenter scored 2 TDs in this game.  It was the only time in his Giants career that he rushed for multiple TDs in a single game.  The last, and only other time, he accomplished this feat was in 1978 as a member of the Houston Oilers in a 26-23 win at New England.
  • Carpenter's 86 yards rushing were his 2nd highest total of 1984, behind his 87 yards in a 28-7 win over Dallas in Week 2.
  • The Giants were so strapped for TE help at the goal line due to injuries in this game that they lined up DE George Martin and LB Andy Headen at TE to block.
  • Currier's interception was his first of the season for the Giants.  He would only intercept one more pass in his career, in the 1985 shutout win over the Eagles, 21-0.
  • Zeke Mowatt would have a career game for the Giants with 7 catches for 126 yards.  His next closest total yards in a game was 80 yards in a win vs. Dallas and 77 yards in a loss at St. Louis, both in 1984.
  • Mowatt had a breakout season in 1984, with 698 yards on 48 catches for the 23 year old former UDFA out of Florida State.  But his career got derailed due to a blown ACL that cost him the 1985 season.  As he went down, a rookie TE out of Notre Dame named Mark Bavaro took his spot in 1985 and would become the best TE in the NFL by 1986.  Ironically, it was a blown ACL suffered by Bavaro in a win at San Diego in 1989 which gave the starting job back to Mowatt for the remainder of the season.
  • Mowatt was also embroiled in a controversy in 1990.  Mowatt signed as a Plan B free agent by the Patriots, as his roster spot was taken by Bavaro's return from surgery and Howard Cross' continued development.  Mowatt was prominently involved in a sexual harassment scandal with Lisa Olsen, who was covering the Pats for the Boston Herald.  Mowatt would last just one season in New England and was released.  However, Mowatt would again intertwine with Bavaro.  In 1991, Bavaro failed the Giants pre-season physical and was released.  The Giants picked Mowatt back up and he played his final season in the NFL back in NY.
  • Lionel Manuel returned 3 punts in this game, and it was the first time that he was asked to return punts in the NFL as he was forced into action after McConkey's injury in the first quarter.  In all, Manuel would return 11 punts in his career, which all came in 1984 or 1986.  In fact, it was an injury to Manuel in 1986 in the Week 3 win at the Raiders that brought McConkey back to the Giants.  With Manuel out, the Giants tried Tony Galbreath and Mark Collins at returner, with Galbreath getting 1 yard on 3 returns.  The Giants needed a returner badly.  Meanwhile, McConkey had been released and was in Green Bay.  George Young reached out to the Packers and traded for McConkey, who was back with the team by Week 5 in St. Louis, where McConkey would return 7 punts and remain with the Giants through the 1988 season.
  • The Giants offensive line featured 4 key members of the "Suburbanites" group which would eventually gel to win the 1986 Super Bowl.  Brad Benson, Billy Ard, Chris Godfrey, and Karl Nelson were all on this line.  As was promising 2nd year center named Kevin Belcher, who became a starter in 1983. Belcher's career was tragically cut short due to a car accident suffered in 1985, which resulted in nerve damage and he never played again.  The Giants would replace Belcher with a former USFL star in Bart Oates.  Oates would go on to play for the Giants for 9 seasons, helping to win 2 Super Bowls and go to 3 Pro Bowls.  Oates would leave the Giants as a free agent and finish his career with the 49ers, where he would go to 2 more Pro Bowls and win another Super Bowl.  Sadly, in 2003 Belcher passed away at age 42 in his home in Texas.
  • Joe Morris came out of the backfield and lined up at WR several times in this game, which is interesting as in his prime years in 1985 and 1986, Morris was not known as a good receiver, and if anything, was subpar.  Morris' 4 catches vs. the Chiefs were a season high, as was his 56 yards.  This output was second only to his 59 yard receiving effort vs. the Redskins in 1986 in a Monday Night win (in which he also ran for 181 yards and was better known as the game in which the Mets won Game 7 of the World Series and Joe Jacoby famously was called for a false start because he was startled by the crowd cheering for the Mets as they watched on their portable iPhones back then).
  • Morris' 50 yards rushing vs. the Chiefs was a more significant number.  It was his second highest output to that point in the season.  He would follow that with 83 yards the next week against the Jets and then 107 yards at St. Louis, his first 100 yard game of his career.  This was the point in which Parcells started to gain more confidence in Morris and began to give the ball more to the explosive Little Joe, rather than the plodding war horse in veteran Rob Carpenter.  This would set the stage for Morris' 1985 season: 1336 yards and 21 TDs.
  • Banks' sack was the lone one of the game for the Giants.  It was his first sack at Giants Stadium, but not his first career sack.  He registered that in a 19-7 win at Atlanta (he had 2 sacks that day).
  • Dave Jennings was showing signs of age by this time in his career.  A few times the Giants needed a big punt deep from their own end and Jennings couldn't get the job done.  He averaged a pedestrian 38.6 yards on 5 punts vs. the Chiefs.  In fact, in the last 9 games of 1984, Jennings never averaged more than 40.0 yards on punts a game.  It was no surprise that after 1984, the Giants moved on from Jennings and signed another former USFL'er in Sean Landeta.  Jennings would finish up his career staying in NY by going to the Jets.
  • Though the family of Lamar Hunt might be thought to be in control of the Chiefs, the Giants tend to own them when they meet.  Since their loss in 1983, the Giants are 6-1 vs. the Chiefs.  Their only loss in that stretch was at Kansas City in OT in 1995.  In that game, the Giants blew a 17-3 lead, highlighted by Keith Hamilton picking up a fumble and rumbling it back 87 yards before running out of gas and fumbling, which was then recovered by Tito Wooten for a TD.  The Giants were unable to convert a 3rd and 1 as they were driving for a score, because Dave Brown's shoe fell off on a QB sneak and he got stuffed and the Giants had to punt.  In overtime, the KC running back Greg Bell fumbled the ball, but Mo Douglass of the Giants missed the recovery and set up a Lin Elliott game winner.
  • The Chiefs would actually rebound well from this gut wrenching loss to the Giants.  They went on to win their last 3 games and finish the season 8-8.  Part of this streak included a 34-7 blowout victory over the Seahawks, who would finish the season at 12-4, and had blown out KC by the score of 45-0 six weeks prior and started the Chiefs midseason swoon.  That loss would haunt Seattle, as they finished one game behind the 13-3 Broncos and made them a Wild Card team.  Seattle would beat the Raiders in the Wild Card round, but would lose the following week at Miami to the eventual AFC Champions.
  • KC had a young secondary which would become one of the best in the NFL.  They featured Deron Cherry (6 Pro Bowls), Albert Lewis (4 Pro Bowls), Kevin Ross (2 Pro Bowls), Lloyd Burress (1 Pro Bowl).  A grand total of 13 appearances for this quartet from 1983-1990.
  • A little more about Albert Lewis, who picked off 2 passes in this game.  Lewis was an amazing special teams player in his career.  He blocked an amazing 11 kicks over the course of his career with KC.  Included in there was a blocked punt in the AFC Wild Card game as he blocked a Dave Jennings punt and returned it for a TD in the Chiefs loss to the Jets in 1986.
  • Carlos Carson, a Pro Bowler at WR in 1983 for KC, torched the Giants for 153 yards on 5 catches for an average of 30.6 yards per catch, his highest single game total of 1984.  His 153 yards was the second best of the season, behind 165 yards in a win over the Chargers.
  • JT Smith was the Chiefs return man and he actually had a remarkable career in hindsight.  Smith joined the Chiefs in 1978 after he was released by the Redskins.  He would become one of the NFL's best return men in KC, leading the NFL in punt return yardage in 1979 and 1980 and made the Pro Bowl as a returner in 1980.  He also scored 4 TDs on punts in that 2 year span.  By 1981, Smith was transitioning more into a WR, catching 63 passes.  Injuries set in though, limiting him to 14 games total in 1982 and 1983.  Smith returned to health in 1984, but at age 29, was putting up journeyman type stats on returns (8.5 yards per return).  Smith would be let go from the Chiefs and landed in St. Louis where he would start his comeback.  At age 30, he caught 43 passes in 1985.  In 1986, he improved more, catching 80 balls for 1014 yards.  By 1987, Smith led the NFL with 91 catches and 1117 yards (it should be noted, Smith crossed the picket line and played in the 3 replacement games, catching 15 passes for 217 yards in that span).  At age 33 in 1988, Smith would make the Pro Bowl as a WR with 83 catches for 986 yards.  He would finally retire after the 1990 season, but in his six seasons with the Cardinals, he caught 377 passes, all after age 29.  Maybe the Chiefs should have hung on to him.