Friday, November 14, 2014

1986 Giants @ Vikings

Week 11

The Setup


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Game Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Post Mortem/ Interesting Tidbits

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

Eli Manning Must Shape Up Quickly

Featured Article by FanDuel

The New York Giants are not exactly going into the 2014 season with a positive outlook. The preseason was not solid at all, and Eli Manning has not shown that he has turned things around after a dreadful 2013 season. If they get off to another terrible start, changes will need to be made sooner rather than later. Manning knows this, and that is why so much pressure will be on him this year.

While older brother Peyton was setting records out in Denver, Eli was struggling all year long for the Giants. His biggest issue came down to interceptions, as he threw a grand total of 27 in the 2013 season. Most quarterbacks in the NFL would face a lot more scrutiny following a season like that, but fortunately for him, 2 Super Bowl rings give him a little bit more leeway to work through things.

What makes some people optimistic about 2014 is the fact that the New York Giants have made some moves to try and improve around him. The offensive line has been addressed to help him work with a little bit more time. He has a new, exciting rookie wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. to throw the ball to. A pair of running backs in Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams have been added to balance everything out. At the end of the day, Manning has to be the leader and focal point of the offense for them to succeed in the NFC East.

Eli Manning has never been as good as his brother Peyton individually, and all one has to do is look at their fantasy football numbers to figure that out. However, the younger brother always seems to rise up to the occasion when people start to count him out. After a dreadful 2013 season, people are unsure whether or not he has anything left in the tank. This is the time he usually answers the bell and comes back as strong as ever.

- Mark Klug

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

1996 Giants vs Cowboys

Week 13

The Setup
When you get what you want in your search for self, and the world makes you King for a day.
Go to the mirror and look at yourself, and see what that guy has to say.
It isn't your father, mother, or wife upon whose judgement you must pass.
Because the fellow whose verdict counts most in your life is the fellow staring back in the glass
-- The Man In the Mirror this a Giants blog or a beatnik poetry reading?  Well, football has many methods of motivation.  Some coaches give firey speeches.  Some coaches give a quiet, but thoughtful and stern speech.  Some go bananas and throw things off walls.  Some say nothing at all and let the players and team leaders handle it.  In this case, it was Dan Reeves playing the role of Poet Laureate.  And it was this peom that Reeves left on the chairs of every player in the lockeroom leading up their home game against the defending World Champion Dallas Cowboys, who were still in their dynasty mode led by Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin.

Why is Dan Reeves turning to deep introspective literature before a big rivalry matchup?  Well, go back to 1996, and nothing else really worked up until that point.  The 1996 Giants team looked rudderless.  By this time, the bloom was long off the rose for Reeves.  He was in the 4th year of a 5 year contract with the team.  After winning records in 1993 (winning Coach of the Year) and 1994, the Giants crashed and burned in 1995.  In the first game of the season, with a festive crowd on hand for a Monday Night against Dallas, with Phil Simms jersey retirement cerimony at halftime, it was all set up for the Giants to establish themselves as challenge to the Cowboys dominance of the NFC East.  The Giants would give up a 60 yard TD run to Emmitt in the first quarter, be down 21-0 at the half on their way to a 35-0 beat down as Smith ran for 4 TDs on the day.  The Giants never recovered after that, going 5-11 in 1995.  Losing tends to magnify the problems, and the rifts over player control was showing between Reeves and George Young.  Reeves didn't like the style the Giants organization had, which was defned by Young in 1979 when he joined the team.  In the Young structure, it's very simple: Owners own, GMs GM, Coaches coach, Players play.  The GM picks the players and the coach is responsible for coaching them.  Reeves knew this when he took the job in 1993 after the Giants missed out on their first two choices (Coughlin and Wannstedt).  He said he'd be willing to accept that, and perhaps he thought his first 2 seasons would offer him more power, but it never came.

Entering 1996, pretty much everyone knew Reeves would be fired.  The Giants organization was not willing to pay a guy 2 years salary to sit around and do nothing.  So Reeves coached.  And the Giants and their fans were miserable as a result of this lame duck status.  The fans had grown tired of Dave Brown at QB, who after some flashes in 1994, didn't make anyone forget about Phil Simms or Jeff Hostetler.  Going into this game against the Cowboys, the Giants were 4-7, came off a loss at Arizona which put them in last place in the NFC East.  By this time, the fans just wanted the season to be over and clean house.

On the other side of the field however, were the Cowboys, winners of 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls.  What stung most during the Giants decline from power in the 1980s to also-rans in the 1990s was that the Cowboys had turned into a Dynasty.  Dallas owned the NFC East and were the dominant force in the entire NFL.  From 1991- 1995, the Cowboys accomplished the following:

  • 5 straight playoff appearances, including winning 13 games once, 12 games 3 times, and 11 games once (which was good enough for a Wild Card in 1991)
  • 4 straight NFC East Titles
  • 3 Super Bowl championships (and lost an NFC Title Game at San Francisco in 1994)

However, by 1996, though the Cowboys were get again defending champions, some cracks began to finally show in their armor.  To start with, they were led by Barry Switzer, who took over for Jimmy Johnson after an ego clash with Jerry Jones proved too much for them both to handle.  Switzer was a big time college coach (similar to Johnson) and while he did in fact win with Dallas, he really did so with Johnson's team.  Ray Handley coul have coached the early/mid 1990s Cowboys team and won a Super Bowl.  Switzer, on his own, was kind of a clown, and a loud mouth, and out of touch.  In other words, perfect for the Cowboys.

Beyond Switzer's questionable leadership, was the real issue...Dallas was getting old.  Aikman, Irvin and Daryl Johnston all turned 30 years old in 1996.  Emmitt was 27, but the milage was piling up.  Charles Haley was 32.  Deion was 29.  Aikman's security blanket TE Jay Novachek retired before the season.  But the biggest culprit might have been on their massive offensive line, a staple during Dallas' dominant run.  Mark Tuinei was 36.  Nate Newton was 35.  Ray Donaldson was 38.

Despite their age issues and perceived problems, the Cowboys had looked like they finally righted their ship after a very poor start to the season.  They began the year at 1-3.  After a 4 game winning streak had brought them to 5-3, they dropped a home game to the Eagles and looked like a very mediocre 5-4 team.  Shocking when you consider this was a team that would routinely go 12-4.

Following the Eagles loss, the Cowboys started to fall back on their championship pedigree.  They faced their two biggest threats in the NFC in successive weeks.  Dallas would beat the 49ers in an OT game by the score of 20-17, and then take on the young, upstart Brett Favre and the Packers at Texas Stadium on a Monday Night and handled them 21-6.  They were sitting at 7-4 and looked like a team that was ready to kick it into gear.

After facing the last place Giants, the Cowboys were looking at a Thanksgiving game against their hated rival, the Redskins, who were sporting an 8-3 record at the time, so were a real threat to the Cowboys conference crown.

The Cowboys had pasted the Giants in their previous meeting, a Week 2 beat down that was not even as close as the 27-0 score indicated.  The Giants "offense" managed 7 first downs the entire game and 105 yards in total offense. Deion Sanders would score his first TD as an offensive player for the 'Boys and it was 21-0 at halftime.  You get the drift.

So here were the Giants.  With little to play for behind a coach that was on his way out the door, with not much at his disposal to motivate the team beyond poetry.  The Cowboys, facing several playoff teams in a row and then more to come after this game knew what everyone was saying.  This is a trap game.  Don't let down.  Don't come out flat.  The Giants only playing the role of spoiler.  Everyone figured the Cowboys would simply pulverize the Giants and continue their march for another championship with their aging core.  As ESPN's Chris Berman is fond of saying " why they play the game."
The Game Highlights

The game would start with the Cowboys Chris Boniol kicking off, where it was fielded by Conrad Hamilton at the 5 yard line, and was able to get a good return, all the way out to the 32 yard line.  On came Dave Brown, going up against the NFL's #1 ranked defense.  The Giants would begin with a draw to Rodney Hampton, going over left end, and was able to make a nice 7 yard gain, all the way out to the 39 before he was taken down by Chad Hennings and Randall Godfrey.  Hampton would get the ball on the next play, and would shrug off a hit in the backfield by Leon Lett, but was able to push the pocket for 2 yards, setting up a 3rd and 1.  Reeves would decide to stick with the ground game, and a 3rd straight Hampton carry behind Ron Stone would get him to the 42 yard line, and a first down.  With a new set of downs, Brown would play action fake to Charles Way, and with plenty of time to throw, Brown tried to connect with Lawrence Dawsey, and the ball fell incomplete.  However, George Teague, beaten by Dawsey on the play, decided to pull down the former Buccaneer WR and the Giants got 5 yards and a first down on the penalty.  At the 47, Brown took a short drop and tried to connect with Chris Calloway on a deep fade, but with Deion Sanders blanketing him, he wasn't close to open and the ball fell incomplete, as Brown was knocked down behind the play.  On 2nd and 10, a draw to Hampton, again running left, was only able to gain about 3 yards to midfield, stopped by LB Fred Strickland.  On 3rd and 7, Brown was able to draw Jim Schwantz offsides with a hard count, making it a more managable 3rd and 2 at the 45.  Brown had some pressure right up the gut and showed happy feet and hurried the pass, which was tipped and nearly picked off by Strickland, as he tried to sneak a pass in to Howard Cross.  Mike Horan came on to punt to Deion, and got off a spectacular kick, right in front of the goal line, where it bounced up and Hamilton ran over and knocked it back to the 2 yard line where it was downed.

Troy Aikman would lead his team out, in the shadow of his own goal posts.  On first down, Emmitt Smith took a carry and dove into the middle of the line, but was stopped after just 1 yard by Keith Hamilton and Robert Harris.  On 2nd and 9, a playaction fake to Emmitt and a dump off pass to Daryl "Moose" Johnston got the ball out to the 7 yard line, before he as dropped by Corey Widmer.  On 3rd and 5, Aikman would have plenty of time to throw, and hit Kelvin Martin for a 6 yard gain and a first down to the 14 yard line, where Jesse Armstead would take him down.  On first down, Emmitt would find a hole around the right end and burst through for a 5 yard gain, stopped by Armstead and Tito Wooten.  On 2nd and 5, Emmitt would take another draw, find another lane, and take it to the 25 for a first down, where Jason Sehorn made the stop.  Aikman's pass on the next play was an underthrown incompletion to Williams on a comeback route.  Now 2nd and 10, Emmitt would gain 4 yards around left end, beating Marcus Buckley to the corner and get shoved out by Sehorn.  Now with a 3rd and 6 at the 28 yard line, Aikman would find a wide open Kevin Williams over the middle for another first down, where he was dropped by Armstead.  On first down, Emmitt would get drilled by Harris and Chad Bratzke, however, an offsides on Harris would wipe out the nice play, making it 1st and 5 at the 40.

The Cowboys decided to take a deep shot, and this time Aikman was able to rainbow a long pass down the field to Irvin on the right sidelines for a big 38 yard gain, beating Phillippi Sparks on the play and took it out of bounds at the 22 yard line.  Dallas would stay to the air, with Aikman dumping off to Johnston for just 2 yards, before he was drilled by Widmer.  On 2nd and 8, Emmitt took the handoff and was caught for no gain by Armstead and Bratzke.  Now 3rd and 8, Aikman again had time to throw, dumped the ball off to Johnston over the middle and he was able to get 7 yards, but was stopped by Armstead and Wooten just short of the first down.  Boniol who kicked 7 field goals the previous week against the Packers, was able to easily convert the 31 yard kick, his 20th straight field goal, and gave Dallas a 3-0 lead on a long, time consuming drive.

With 4:30 to go in the first quarter, Boniol kicked it off to Hamilton at the 9 yard line and it was returned out to the 29 before he was surrounded and engulfed by the Dallas special teams unit.  The Giants offense would begin with a play action to Hampton and a pass out to an open Cross in the flat, and he took it up the field for an 11 yard gain and a first down before Godfrey shoved him out.  Hampton would pick up 3 yards, getting tripped up by Kevin Smith, who came up from his corner spot in run support.  On 2nd and 7, another play action pass resulted in yet another completion to Cross and the resulting 7 yard gain was good for another first down.  On first down, Hampton would get stopped by Tony Tolbert after a 3 yard gain.  Brown would try to hit Hampton in the flat on 2nd down, however he was drilled in the face on a nasty hit by Kevin Smith (that would have been an easy penalty) and the ball fell incomplete, but a hold on Scott Gragg set the Giants back to a 2nd and 17.

One play after avoiding a penalty that would have resulted in a fine for himself, Smith was able to make an impact.  With time to throw, Brown rifled a pass, I guess in the general direction of Dawsey, but it was overthrown and picked off by Smith at the 28.  His momentum took him up the field, but he changed course and was able to return it down the sidelines and out of bounds near midfield, good for a 17 yard return and stopped the clock with 1:47 to go in the first quarter.

After the turnover, the Cowboys got the ball at the 48 yard line and looked to extend their lead.  Emmitt started off with a carry but was quickly brought down by Armstead and Bratzke.  On 2nd and 9, Aikman would pass over the middle to Irvin for a 10 yard gain and a first down, taken down by Wooten at the 41.  Bringing in Herschel, playing at fullback, the Cowboys seemed confused with the playcall and Aikman called a timeout with :26 to go in the first quarter.  Coming out of the timeout, perhaps Switzer should have come up with a better play.

For the first time in the game, Aikman actually had some pressure on him, this time in the form of Keith Hamilton right in his face, and knocked him down after the throw was away.  Aikman attempted to lob a deep pass down the left sidelines, and again it was a shot towards Irvin.  However, unlike the previous time when he was throwing against Sparks, this time Irvin was matched up with the physically bigger corner in Sehorn.  Sehorn would adjust to the pass and pick it off at the 14 yard line, get up and run it back to the 32 yard line.

The Giants had dodged a bullet and their offense took the field.  This time Tyrone Wheatley was in the game for Hampton, and began with a run up the gut for 5 yards to end the First Quarter.  The Giants would start the 2nd quarter at the 38 yard line, and on a 2nd and 5, Wheatley took the handoff, and again picked his way up the middle before he was tackled by Broderick Thomas.  Reeves kept to the ground, handing off again to Wheatley on 3rd and 1, and he followed a Stone block for a nice burst out to the 50 yard line, before he was tackled by Smith.  Sticking with what worked, a 4th consecutive carry by Wheatley, again behind Stone, gained another 6 yards before Godfrey stopped him down field.  If it worked 4 times, why not 5, so yet another carry by Wheatley on 2nd and 4, went up the middle for a 3 yard gain, stopped by Thomas.  On 3rd and 1, the Giants got a break on a head's up play by their WR

Reeves must have thought Wheatley was Hampton, and gave him the ball a 6th consecutive carry, who took the draw play in the backfield and made a few moves up the field for a first down.  As he was going to the ground, the ball was stripped out by Strickland and it popped loose.  Calloway, near the pile, grabbed the ball and stood there for a second with it.  When he realized there was no whistle, he started to run and gained a few more yards before he was tackled by the Cowboys at the 32 yard line.  If Calloway had actually known right away it was a fumble, he might have been able to get past Woodson and maybe even score.

Regardless, it was a first down, and Reeves decided to actually try something other than a Wheatley run, this time a play action pass.  Brown would have time to throw, and tried to signal to backup TE Brian Saxton to go deep, but Brown would scramble around and try to avoid the Cowboys rush, and as only Dave Brown could do, slipped trying to fling the ball forward and the referee said he was contacted and resulted in a 5 yard sack.  Now 2nd and 15, Brown would drill a pass in to Kevin Alexander at the 28 yard line, setting up a 3rd and 6.  Brown would try to sling a quick slant in to Dawsey, who was actually open, but the ball was thrown a little low, and Dawsey didn't lay out for it, and the ball fell incomplete.  Brad Daluiso would show his experience with the Giants Stadium winds, and hooked a 45 yarder inside the right upright to tie the game at 3-3.

Dalusio came on to kickoff in front of a new reborn Giants crowd that was suddenly in the game.  For the past few years, the Giants would usually be 2 or 3 touchdowns behind at this stage in the game against the Cowboys.  Charlie Williams took the kick at the goal line and got it out to the 21, where he was run out of bounds.  On first down, Emmitt would get drilled on a run blitz by Armstead for no gain, who used his speed to catch the future Hall of Famer and take him down.  On 2nd and 10, it was another running play to Smith, and again Armstead broke through the line to tackle him for no gain.  3rd and 10, Aikman would be forced to dunk the ball off to Moose, and was only able to gain 3 yards before he was taken down by Randolph and the three and out brought on punter James Jett, who booted the ball to Arthur Marshall at the 38 and he picked his way all the way up to the 48 yard line before he was stopped by Johnston.

Reeves started his next drive as he did most of the his previous one, with a handoff to Wheatley, this time running left behind Greg Bishop, and gained 5 yards before Woodson took him down at the 48.  With the Cowboys now forced to respect the Giants run, Brown went back to pass and fired a strike to Calloway who was wide open over the middle.  He got past Strickland before he was slung down and out of bounds by Deion at the 34.  On the play, Calloway would tweak his knee and had to come out, but he was able to get that crucial first down.  The Giants again went to Wheatley, but this time Lett blew the play up in the backfield and Godfrey finished it off for a 1 yard loss.  2nd and 11, Brown went back to throw and connect with Gary Downs out of the backfield for a nice diving catch good for 6 yards.  Now 3rd and a long 5, Brown was back with some time to throw, but he gave up on finding a receiver and put his head down and scrambled...right into Hennings.  He did manage to gain about a yard to the 29 yard line.  On came Dalusio, this time from 46 yards out, and again he would use the wind to draw the ball back inside the right upright and give the Giants a stunning 6-3 lead.

With a concerned looking Switzer on the sidelines, Daluiso kicked off to Herschel, who took the ball at the goal line and was caught from behind by Rodney Young at the 18 yard line.  With the crowd in full throat, Aikman started with an out pass to Irvin, but the ball fell short and was incomplete.  On 2nd and 10, Emmitt tried to pick his way around right end, but the defensive line surrounded him and Campbell came up from his safety spot to tackle him after a 3 yard gain.  Now 3rd and 7, Aikman would hit Williams on a slant at the 29, good for a first down in front of Conrad Hamilton.  With a new set of downs, Aikman had time to throw against the Giants' blitz, which was easily picked up, and hit Irvin for a 16 yard gain, stopped by Strahan who had dropped in zone coverage.  At the 46, Aikman had time to throw and slung an underneath pass to Johnston for a big 24 yard gain, as Moose avoided the attempted tackle by Campbell and was finally dragged down by Buckley and Wooten at the 31.  Dallas would call a time out with 2:31 to go in the half to reset for a play.  Coming off a timeout, Aikman would have time, but only was able to dump the ball off to Emmitt over the middle, who weaved his way for a short 2 yard gain.  However, and illegal use of hands by Erik Williams on Strahan, pushing them out of field goal range (a penalty that Williams must have lead the league in year after year).  With the Cowboys pushed back, the Giants' defense would make a huge play.

Aikman, again with plenty of time to throw, went to Irvin on a crossing pattern.  Just as he was bringing the ball in to his body and took 2 steps, Widmer was able to just knock the ball free.  Wooten would scoop up the ball at the Cowboys 45 yard line and easily out run the pursuing Cowboys offensive lineman, as Dick Stockton gave one his patented lifeless calls on a big play happening in front of him.  Behind the play, Nate Newton was busy fighting with Armstead, but no flags were thrown on the play.  If this play were to happen today, it probably could have gone either way, but might well have been overturned.  You could question if Irvin ever made a "football move" with the ball and they could have called it incomplete.  But with no replay in 1996, the call on the field was the only one that mattered, and Daluiso's extra point gave the Giants a stunning 13-3 lead with the 2 minute warning at 1:53.

with the fans now delierous with a 10 point lead, Daluiso kicked off to Herschel, who fielded it halfway in the end zone and took a knee for a touchback.  Starting at the 20, Aikman began with what looked like a busted screen pass to Emmitt, but the running back was able to juke a few defenders and cut up the field, where he was tackled after a 10 yard gain by Conrad Hamilton, but he did not get out of bounds.  Aikman would throw to an open Kelvin Martin over the middle, but the WR dropped the ball and what would have been an easy first down, but he did stop the clock with 1:25.  On 2nd and 10, Aikman again dumped it off to Emmitt, but he was corralled by Sparks at the 33 yard line and the clock was down under 1 minute.  Facing a 3rd down, Aikman tried another quick pass over the middle and Armstead read the play and ran over to bat it away, and very nearly intercept it for what would have been an easy pick 6.  Jett came back out to punt the ball away.  The ball went to the 20, and despite the fact that there was not a Cowboy within 10 yards of him, Marshall called for a fair catch and the Giants had the ball with :49 to go in the half.

To the surprise of no one who has watched Dan Reeves coach a game without John Elway, he would play it safe.  Calling for two draw plays to Hampton up the gut to run out the clock and send the teams in the lockerroom at halftime with the Giants holding a 13-3 lead.

The Giants would celebrate the 1986 Super Bowl Champions at Halftime, their 10 year anniversary, with LT being featured.  After that, plus a lead going into the third quarter and it was party time in Giants Stadium.  Daluiso would start with a kickoff to Walker, who let the ball bounce away, but it went out of bounds, and the resulting penalty put the ball at the 40 yard line.  Dallas would take the good field position and immediately screw it up.  Aikman went back to pass and was tripped up by Moose who was coming up to help in pass protection, and fell down, where he was covered up by Robert Harris for an 8 yard "sack".  Now 2nd and 18, Aikman again had to dump off a safety pass in the flat to Smith, who would gain just 4 yards before Armstead tracked him down.  3rd and 14, Aikman again had time to throw, but the deep coverage was again solid, so the ball was dumped in the flat to Johnston, who was gang tackled by 5 Giants after just a short gain and Jett had to come back on and punt again.  Jett would get off a high kick that went to the 25, and Marshall would again play it safe and fair catch the ball.

Dave Brown would lead the troops out for their first drive of the second half, and he began with a play action fake to Hampton and hit Calloway on a comeback route for a 9 yard gain to the 35 yard line.  A plunge by Hampton over the middle where he was tackled by Hennings, but got enough to convert the first down.  Reeves would again keep the ball on the ground, a draw to Hampton which was stacked up by the Cowboys, but a hold on Lance Smith sent the Giants back to a 1st and 20.  With such long yardage, the Giants decided to throw, and Brown was under seige by the Cowboys DL, and he scrambled around before Lett took him down after just a 1 yard gain.  2nd and 19, Brown again was back to pass, and again scrambled around and was able to actually hit Calloway for what would have been a first down....but...a hold on Scott "Lurch" Gragg, who essentially tackled Tony Tolbert, brought it back and made the situation 2nd and 29.  Reeves pretty much conceded the possession at this point.  A draw to Hampton for 3 yards and then a dump off to Wheatley (who tipped it in the air and it was nearly picked off) ended that drive, mercifully  for the Giants without a turnover.  Mike Horan would come on and his directional kick was fair caught by Martin at the Cowboys' 34 yard line, and Dallas averted diaster as his own man nearly ran into him and could have caused a fumble.

With 9:13 to go in the 3rd quarter, after the teams exchanged punts, Dallas began with a handoff to Emmitt, who was only able to gain 1 yard, getting stuffed by Armstead and Bratzke.  On 2nd and 9, with Herschel in at WR, Aikman was under pressure from Harris and would roll away from the pass rush and hit Williams for an 8 yard gain, where he stepped out of bounds.  On 3rd and 1, Deion Sanders came out on offense, but Aikman hit Smith on a quick swing pass for a good gain and a first down to the Dallas 49 yard line, pushed out of bounds by Percy Ellsworth.  Deion might well have been a decoy on this play, but he wasn't on the next one

Sanders, counted on as a WR for much of 1996, beat Sparks on a deep post to haul in the pass at the Giants' 20 yard line.  Sparks would come over his back and strip it from behind, where Wooten knocked it forward.  His fellow safety, Jesse Campbell came over late to pick up the fumble at the 4 yard line, where Irvin would finally take him down.  But the end result was the Cowboys 3rd turnover of the day.

The good news, the Giants had the ball.  The bad news, they were deep in their own end to start out on offense.  Hampton would begin with a handoff right up the middle and fell forward for a 3 yard gain out to the 7.  Another draw to Hampton would go for no gain, as he tripped on the feet of Brian Williams.  Facing a 3rd and 7, and with a rush right in his face, Brown with a near submarine type motion, whip the ball to Dawsey for a 10 yard gain and a first down, tackled by Smith at the 17.  Hampton would again pound the ball to the 20, taken down by Strickland.  On 2nd and 7, yet another Hampton run, this time to the left, went for another pair and set the stage for a 3rd and 5 at the 22.  Brown, again showing textbook happy feet in the pocket, took the ball down and spun his way forward for just a 1 yard gain, however, to be fair he had no one open down the field.  Horan would come back and get off a poor effort, a line drive punt taken by Martin at the 38, who evaded Hamilton and accelerated to the Giants 41 yard line before he was taken down by Rodney Young and Sehorn with 3:33 to go in the 3rd quarter.

With good field position to work with again, you started to worry that Dallas would snap out of their funk.  The drive started well, Aikman hit Irvin on a comeback route for a 9 yard gain, tackled by Armstead and Sehorn.  On 2nd and 1, a usual gimme play for Dallas years ago, Emmitt would get strung out by Bratzke ended up dropping him for a 3 yard loss, and in the process ripped his shoe off.  Dallas kept moving backwards, as a false start on TE Derek Ware made it now 3rd and 9.  Showing some frustration, Aikman would try to squeeze a pass in to Kevin Williams, but Randolph's dive knocked the ball away and brought on Jett to punt.  Jett's kick looked like a masterpiece, bouncing at the 2 and high up in the air at the goal line.  Two Cowboys jumped up and knocked it back at the half yard line, where it was covered up by Jim Schwantz.....however, as it had gone for the Cowboys all day, his elbow touched the goal line, thus making it a touchback.

At the 20, Brown began by sending Calloway in motion and a play action fake to Hampton let Cross get open in the flat,and the big TE pushed his way for a 6 yard gain.  A 2nd and 4 sweep to Wheatley was doomed, as the faster Dallas defense easily strung it out and took him down for a 1 yard loss, with Smith leading the way.  On 3rd and 5, Brown was again under heavy pressure, and tried to hit Gary Downs in the flat, but the ball was a worm burner and fell incomplete.  With Horan on to punt, and he'd lose 5 yards thanks a false start on Brian Kozlowski, would get off a short kick and it was fair caught by Martin at the 50 yard line, a sub par 30 yard effort.

As was the theme, the Cowboys were again in great field position, and started with a handoff to Sherman Williams, who burst through a hole cleared by Larry Allen and gained 7 yards, tackled by Wooten and Sehorn to end the 3rd quarter.  Moose began the 4th with a quick hitter carry up the gut to gain the necessary 3 yards and was stopped by Widmer, but not before he got a first down.  Aikman would try a deep pass intended for Irvin, but he was hit by Harris and Hamilton and had the ball float incomplete, though Irvin was well covered by Sehorn anyway.  Aikman would again go for Irvin, and this time complete a comebacker to him, but his momentem took him out of bounds, just short of a first down.  On 3rd and 1, again the ball went to Moose, and again he made good, gaining 2 yards and moved the chains.  On first down, and finally with some momentum, Aikman had time to throw and tried to hit Irvin, who had just broken free on a post pattern, beating Sehorn, but the ball was out of his reach as Campbell got over late.  On 2nd and 10, the Cowboys tried a little trickery, an end around to Deion, who had his angle around the corner blocked off by Bratzke, forcing him up the field and into the waiting Ellsworth for just a 3 yard gain.  3rd and 7 at the 25, Aikman again had plenty of time to throw, but again the Giants took away everything deep, leaving only Sherman Williams underneath, and he was stopped just short of the first by Armstead and Randolph.  Boniol would trot on to convert the 27 yard field goal and cut the lead to 13-6 with 11:43 to play in the game.

Boniol's kickoff was a short one, taken by Wheatley at the 20.  This time it was special teams coach (and Dan Reeves son in law) Joe DeCamillis' turn to go to his bag of tricks.  Wheatley handed off to Conrad Hamilton on an end around for a nice gain out to the 35 yard line before he was forced out of bounds by Roger Harper.  During the change in direction of the end around, Herschel got his hands up on the facemask of a Giants player to tag on 5 more yards, putting the ball at the 40.  The Giants would start out with a nice pass from Brown to Calloway, who beat Deion on a comebacker and the ball was taken all the way out to the Dallas 40 and a first down.  Wheatley would plow his way up the middle, stopped by Hennings after a 3 yard gain to the 37.  On 2nd and 7, after a play action fake bought Brown some extra time, he hit Calloway on a crossing pattern, beating the Cowboys other corner, Kevin Smith, and another first down at the 29.  Wheatley, flashing power he rarely showed with the Giants, would pick a hole in the middle and trucked Myles and Woodson for an 8 yard gain to the 22.  Wheatley kept up the momentum, following a great block by Stone, pushed his way up to the 15 yard line and another first down.  Reeves continued to feed the former Michigan Wolverine, but this time, his run behind left tackle Greg Bishop didn't go as far, as Woodson came up in run support to take him down after a 2 yard gain.  A 4th straight carry by Wheatley, this time behind Lance Smith, went for a good gain out to the 10 yard line.  Smith would give 5 yards back on the next play, a false start pushed the Giants to the 15 yard line, making it 3rd and 9.  This is a play that you would think would go to a shifty WR like a Calloway to find and opening and get you those 9+ yards needed to move the chains.

Nope, how about a swing pass to a 250 pound second year fullback Charles Way.  Way would actually catch the pass at the 16 yard line, well short of the first down.  Way would spin off two would be Dallas tacklers, and then put his head down and power just enough over Harper for the first down, as the crowd roared when the ref noted his forward progress was just enough for a new set of downs.  With the clock now running under 6:30, and a first and goal at the 5, Reeves began with a draw to Wheatley, but Lett made his way into the backfield and broke the play up for no gain.  Switzer would call his first time out with 6:07 to go.  Coming out of the time out, the Giants would hit Dallas with a back breaker

Fans remember fondly Simms to Bavaro.  Perhaps even Eli to Cruz now.  Well, this play gives you Dave Brown to Brian Kozlowski.  A playaction fake to Wheatley would draw in the linebackers, and Kozlowski, the backup TE behind veteran Howard Cross, would sneak his way all alone into the end zone for an easy TD, as Brown celebrated with his teammates on the sidelines.  Replays would show that Kozlowski got open because Woodson would slip trying to change direction and fall down, leaving him essentially uncovered.  Regardless, the extra point made the score a stunning 20-6 with 6:01 to go in the game.

Daluiso's kickoff was a line drive (his days as a booming kickoff man were starting to wane by this time), and was taken by Herschel at the 10 yard line, and brought it back to the 33 where he was met by a hoarde of Giants.  The Cowboys would come out with Emmitt on the bench, and Williams in the backfield.  On their first play, Aikman would dump it off to Williams, avoided DT Coleman Rudolph, who had dropped back into coverage, and chugged forward to the 45 for a first down, where he was finally dropped by Armstead.  Now in a hurry up offense, Aikman hustled the team back up to the line and dropped back to throw, however Harris barged into the backfield and hit Aikman, forcing a bad pass that fell incomplete in the direction of Williams.  On 2nd and 10, Aikman was again hit, this time on a blitz by Armstead, and his deep shot towards Deion was batted away by Randolph.  Now 3rd and 10, it was time for yet another Dallas mistake

In line with how the Giants have been playing defense all day, they took away all of Aikman's deep options and forced him to dump it off to his back.  This time it was to his fullback Johnston, who made the catch at the 48 yard line, well short of the first down, and he had to try to maneuver his way up the field.  Johnston's legs would get cut out by Randolph, and as he went in the air, Sehorn would pop him, forcing the ball loose.  Armstead would frantically scramble over to recover the fumble before it went out of bounds at the Giants' 47 yard line with 5:06 to go in the game.  It was the Cowboys' 4th turnover of the night.

Brown led the Giants' offense back on to the field, and started with a run up the gut by Wheatley for what would have been a 5 yard gain, however a crackback block on Dawsey cost the team 15 yards.  On 1st and 25, Wheatley began with a run around right end, and nearly broke a good gain, but Woodson held on to his ankles and he tackled him after just a 3 yard gain.  Switzer would call his 2nd time out with 4:41 to go.  On 2nd and 22, another run up the middle by Wheatley for just a yard as he was met by Strickland and Hennings and their final time out was called with 4:35 remaining.  Not surprisingly, Reeves kept it conservative on 3rd and very long, a pitch to Wheatley and about a yard gain.  But with Dallas unable to stop the clock, Horan would stand next to the ref, waiting for the play clock to get all the way down to 1 before calling a time out with 3:50 to go.  Horan's punt was a high kick sent to Kelvin Martin at the 22 yard line, and he returned it ot the 26 where he was spilled by Scott Galyon.

Aikman, down 2 TDs, no time outs and 3:38 to go in the game.  The Cowboys would come out with 4 wides and would start with a crossing pass to Kevin Williams, who would get nailed by Armstead and Hamilton at the 30, and the clock kept moving.  Moving quickly, Aikman would connect with Deion for a first down at the 45, stopped by Wooten.  Another quick pass, this time a pitch to Williams in the flat, and he would go out of bounds at the 50 and stop the clock with 2:51 to go.  On 2nd and 4, Aikman would dunk to Sherman Williams, playing against a prevent defense, and he would sprint up to the 40, stopped by Wooten and Armstead, and another first down, however the clock kept moving.  A false start on Dallas would set them back 5 yards with 2:25 remaining.  The Giants would put a bow on the game on the next play

By this stage, Aikman had to take deep chances, even when nothing was really there, maybe hoping for a pass interference or miracle catch.  He got neither, as this pass to Deion in triple coverage was picked off by Percy Ellsworth, who was playing like a centerfielder in baseball.  Ellsworth would snag it at the 7 yard line, break Deion's tackle attempt, and run it out of bounds at the 34 yard line.  The rookie's interception was the Cowboys 5th turnover of the game, and gave the Giants possession with 2:11 to go.

In clear shut down mode, Reeves began with a run to Wheatley for a 2 yard gain that took the Giants to the 2 minute warning.  After the 2 minute time out, 2 more carries by Wheatley would come close to a first down, but fell just short.  However, the damage was done as the clock wound down to :25 to go in the game as Horan called a time out and the cameras caught pictures of stunned Cowboys players on their sidelines, looking on in disbelief at how they could stumble in such a big spot against a team they should have beaten.  Horan would eventually punt the ball away, and it would fall at the 22 yard line with no returner back as Dallas went all out for the block.

With :18 to go in the game, the Cowboys offense came out, but rather than risk a hit on one of their stars, or a 6th turnover, Barry Switzer made one of his smartest coaching decisions, just take a knee and get out of there accepting their whipping, in a stunning and satisfying 20-6 Giants' win in an otherwise lost season.

Post Mortem/ Interesting Tidbits

  • Other than the Dan Reeves poem, one of the items that made this game memorable was a quote from a person who did not play in the game.  In this case it was the owner, Wellington Mara.  Mara, one of the venerable owners in the sport, and a man who never had a controversial thing to say in the media, particularly against a fellow owner, had said this after the game when asked about the Cowboys and their owner Jerry Jones
"It's nice to see arrogance humbled.  I enjoyed it very much." 

  • Wellington's son, and current owner John Mara, is known to be much more outspoken than his dad.  But at the time in 1996, Wellington had just about enough of Jones.  If you are fan of today's  NFL and particularly a fan in Green Bay, Indianapolis, Seattle, Kansas City, etc (ie- smaller markets) and have enjoyed the parity of the NFL that has allowed your teams to be in the Super Bowl hunt, they all owe a debt of gratitude to Mara.  Why?  Because in the NFL's infancy, Mara, with the biggest market at his disposal, decided that it was more important for the expansion of the game to share revenue with the other owners and TV revenue as well, allowing for a better overall product on the field rather than building a powerhouse in New York (think the Yankees in baseball).  He could easily have just kept it for himself and bought all the best players every year, but didn't.  Jones, a beneficiary of this decision, didn't play by the same rules.  He cut his own deals outside the league just for the Cowboys.   Essentially flying in the face of what Mara had stood for, and rubbed it in with his Cowboys' dynasty.  It wasn't hard to see why Mara enjoyed knocking them down a peg.
  • Brian Kozlowski's TD was the first of his NFL career.
  • Tito Wooten's TD was not he first of his career.  That one came in Week 2 in an OT loss in Kansas City.  On that play, the Chiefs QB, Steve Bono, fumbled on a 3rd and goal and the ball popped up in the air where it was grabbed by DT Keith Hamilton.  The Hammer would rumble 87 yards with the ball, and was running out of gas as he headed towards the goal line and was caught at the 1 yard line by TE Keith Cash and fumbled the ball himself.  Wooten, following the journey down the field, was there to fall on the ball for the TD that would tie the game 10-10.
  • Wooten would score one more TD in his career, that would come in 1997, and that would also come against the Cowboys.  In that game, Wooten would pick off a Troy Aikman pass and race it back 61 yards for a TD which would put the Giants up 13-9.  This would end up being a significant game in it's own right.  The Giants would hold on to eventually win 20-17, and Danny Kanell would replace an injured Dave Brown at QB.  Brown would not start another game for the Giants in his career.
  • Percy Ellsworth's INT was his 3rd of the season.  Not bad for a rookie who was actually an undrafted free agent as a safety.  For comparison sake, among the more renown safties on the Giants in the past 30 years, here was their interception output in their rookie seasons
    •  Terry Kinard: 3 INTs
    • Adrian White: 0 INTs
    • Myron Guyton: 2 INTs
    • Greg Jackson: 2 INTs
    • Shaun Williams: 2 INTs
    • Gibril Wilson: 3 INTs
  • Sehorn's INT was the 2nd of his career.  His first game in a Week 2 loss to the Redskins by the score of 31-10.
  • Arthur Marshall returned 1 punt in this game for 10 yards.  It was his first punt return on the season, and unfortunately for him and Giants fans, he is identified with one of the worst personnel decisions in NFL history.  Dan Reeves wanted to replace the production (and similar playing style) of Mark Jackson for the Giants.  Jackson, who played for Reeves in Denver from 1986-1992, and after a decent season in 1993 with the Giants, Jackson was phased out during the 1994 season and was released during the season.  Meanwhile, in the 1994 offseason, Reeves decided to engineer a trade for Marshall, who he coached in Denver in his rookie year of 1992.  Marshall looked like he was a promising WR, a shifty guy with speed, and at age 25 coming off a 28 catch season in 1993, had an ability to return punts.  So Reeves made the call to acquire Marshall and decided to let Ed McCaffrey leave as a free agent, who would go on to sign with the 49ers.  Marshall would play 3 years in NY and catch 33 passes before he retired after the 1996 season.  McCaffrey would go on and after a season in the shadows in 1994 with the Niners (but he got a ring), would play 9 more seasons in Denver, catch 462 passes and 6200 yards and 46 TDs, plus make a Pro Bowl at age 30 and win 2 more championships in 1997 and 1998. 
  • Emmitt Smith was a Giants' killer in his career with the Cowboys.  He would face the Giants 25 times in his Hall of Fame career (going 14-11 against them) and he would average 81.1 yards per game in his career (which, somewhat surprisingly, was his lowest average among the NFC East opponents.  He averaged 101.7 yards a game against Washington).  He scored 21 TDs against the Giants and rushed for over 100 yards in a game 8 times.  In fact, from 1992-1995, Smith rushed for over 100 yards against the Giants in 6 straight games, with his coup de grace coming in Week 16 in the 16-13 OT win by Dallas, rushing for 168 yards and another 61 receiving.  However, in this game, Emmitt would get 11 carries for 18 yards and find himself on the bench late in the game.  It was his 2nd lowest output vs. the Giants in his career, only "surpassed" in 1990, in his first game against the Giants in Week 2, when the Cowboys were outclassed 28-7 at Dallas and he had 6 carries for 11 yards.
  • Somewhat lost or forgotten in a Hall of Fame career, you might not realize that Deion was actually a pretty consistent 2 way player for the Cowboys in 1996.  Many times we've seen a player who is really good on offense or defense go in for a play or two on the other side of the ball.  For instance, Keyshawn Johnson used to come in at safety during Hail Mary attempts to outjump the opposition and help play defense.  Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson have done the same in their careers.  Several times we've seen a defensive lineman come in at a fullback position to help block on the goal line, and sometimes actually get the ball (William "the Refridgerator" Perry the most glaring example with the Bears).  of course, the Belichick Patriots used to always use players on both sides either in specific situations (ie- Mike Vrabel, a linebacker coming in at TE on the goal line, and he had 10 TDs receiving in his career), and he used others to help out due to injury, such as Troy Brown moving from WR over to safety (Brown actually picked off 3 passes for the Pats in 2004, tied for 2nd on the team).  Even the Giants in the mid 1980s would put linebackers or DEs at TE to help out by the goal line when injuries hit (George Martin and Andy Headen as an example).  LT played at TE during a scab game against Buffalo in 1987 as well.  But Deion was someone who spoke up right away that he wanted to play offense as well as defense.  And, keeping in mind, he also played baseball, first for the Yankees and then for the Atlanta Braves (including playing in an NFL game on a Sunday afternoon and then the World Series later that same day).  Deion would play WR, but was mainly just a threat on the outside, add some speed and force the defense to cover him, but wasn't really a factor.  In 1996 however, due to some injuries on the Cowboys WR core, Deion got his shot to play more regularly on offense and he responded with a career high 36 catches for 475 yards and 1 TD.  Of course, in this game, he also had a huge fumble that cost the Cowboys dearly.  Still, to put those numbers in perspective, as a part time WR and full time dominant cornerback, the Giants' leading pass catchers were starting WRs Chris Calloway and Thomas Lewis, both with 53 catches.  The next best, fullback Charles Way with 32 catches.  Deion would have been the #3 guy on the Giants in 1996.
  • The Cowboys 6 points scored would tie a season low for them in 1996, matching their output in the season opening loss at Chicago to the Bears by the score of 22-6 on a Monday Night.
  • That Dallas was held without a TD in the game was a big deal.  If you consider that the Dallas rebirth as a power began with a 7-9 season in 1990 up and through this 1996 season, this was only the 2nd time the Giants had been able to keep them out of the end zone.  The Giants beat the Cowboys 22-9 in 1991 at Giants Stadium.
  • The 6 points that the Cowboys were held to were the fewest in a matchup against the Giants since Week 15 of the 1989 season, when the Giants shut out the Cowboys, 15-0, thanks to a goal line stand in the 4th quarter, which finished with a 4th down stop on a Paul Palmer sweep by Carl Banks.
  • Keeping with the theme, the 6 points is also the fewest points scored by the Cowboys against the Giants since 1996.  Twice they were held to just 7 points
    • 1997: 20-7 @ Dallas
    • 2002- 37-7 @ Giants Stadium
  • The win was just the Giants' 2nd against the Cowboys since they started their championship dynasty in 1992.  In many of those games, the Cowboys outright demolished the Giants
    • 1992 @ Dallas on Thanksgiving Day: 30-3
    • 1993 @ Dallas: 31-9
    • 1994 @ Dallas: 38-10
    • 1995 @ Giants Stadium: 35-0 (season opener which ruined the Simms jersey retirement ceremony and the beat down was so bad, the Giants never recovered and finished with a 5-11 record)
  • Even in their first meeting in 1992, the Cowboys were up 34-0 on the Giants in the 3rd quarter before a furious comeback got the score to 34-28 and it looked like the Giants would end up winning the game.... but it didn't happen
  • The Giants only other win in this span came in the season finale of 1994.  To be fair, Dallas had nothing to gain in this game.  They were 12-3 and locked in as the #2 seed behind the 49ers.  The Giants meanwhile, had a crazy season in 1994.  Started 3-0, lost 7 straight, and then won their next 5 games leading up to this one.  The Giants needed a win to get to 9-7 and a Green Bay loss at Tampa Bay to drop them to 8-8 would give the Giants a Wild Card berth.  Barry Switzer might have been crazy, perhaps borderline insane, but he wasn't stupid.  Playing a fired up Giants team on the road, in a cold and windy Giants Stadium with nothing to play for, Switzer decided to start his stars (Aikman, Irvin, Novachek, etc.)  However, he never dressed Emmitt.  Switzer also pulled his starters after halftime, putting in Rodney Peete at QB, making Blair Thomas the feature back, and playing it safe.  Dallas was actually tied at 10-10 with the Giants until Peete was sacked by Armstead and the ball popped loose and rolled out the back of the end zone for a safety.  The Giants would go on to win 15-10, in a game that Dallas didn't care about.  However, the Bucs could not help the Giants out on this Christmas Eve, and the Packers would claim the last playoff spot.
  • As for this game in 1996, the Giants didn't do much to pick up the emotion and momentum from this win. It put them at 5-7, still on the periphery of a playoff race.  And they went out and put up a stinker in Philly the next week, losing 24-0, getting sacked 5 times and generating 121 yards in total offense and turning the ball over 4 times.  Playing in a driving rain and 50 mph wind gusts, Brown was horrible: 3-11, 31 yards and 2 INTs. He would get benched for Kanell, who didn't do much better, 4-13, 47 yards.  In all, the Giants had a net of 31 yards passing.  It was the 2nd time they were shut out in 1996.