Anyone who knows or understands football, from the front office, players, media, and fans, it is generally acknowledged that the QB position is the most important on the field. Back in 1986, I found an old interview with George Young, the former GM of the Giants who was brokered to the team from the Colts front office via the efforts of then Commissioner Pete Rozelle. The Giants were a franchise in disrepair because of ownership and family in fighting between Wellington and Tim Mara. A flagship franchise, the NFL realized to help the league grow, they needed a strong NY team and a strong Giants team. So Young came on to turn the team around. When asked how he was able to build a championship contender, Young said the following (paraphrasing)
"You need to start with the passer. Every good team needs a quarterback. Once you get your quarterback, you need to find someone to rush the passer"
So Young brought in Phil Simms in the first round in 1979 and two years later drafted Lawrence Taylor, thus fulfilling his foundation for the team to build around.
So it's one thing to know you need a QB, but the question is, how do you get one? Generally speaking, QBs in the NFL lose their job if they are injured, if they aren't playing well, or if there is a young (highly paid) gun behind them. The worst thing for a franchise is to rest your hopes on a QB who doesn't pan out and you can set your team back years in development.
If you go back 20 or so years ago, it was said that if the most important player on your team was your QB, the second most important was the backup QB. In the 1980s alone, it wasn't at all surprising to see backup QBs, who were starting- if not Pro Bowl caliber players, riding the bench for 3 or 4 years before getting a chance. Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler being a prime example. Steve Young sat behind Joe Montana for 4 years while in his prime. Even on lesser scales, Tommy Kramer and Wade Wilson in Minnesota. The Cowboys spent first round picks on Troy Aikman and Steve Walsh in the same year (Walsh as a supplimental pick).
However, over the years since then, several changes to the game made this no longer an option. In tandem, the salary cap and free agency. A backup QB was no longer going to sit behind a starter if they felt they were starting quality. They wanted to get paid. So they were not going to wait 4 years to get a chance. That then led to the next impact- the salary cap. It no longer was feasible to pay 2 QBs to be on the roster at the same time, so it became a near impossibility to carry 2 QBs in their prime on the same roster.
Another huge change happened in the NFL, changes to the rules that made passing the ball easier. Again, 20 years ago and before that, the general sense was that the speed and toughness of the NFL made it a near impossibility for a rookie QB to come in and do well. They would have the usual "growing pains" and the preference for a young QB would be to carry a clipboard for a year or 2 before gaining playing time. Rookie QBs who excel, such as Dan Marino were by far the exception rather than the rule. But as it became tougher to stash QBs on the roster, the NFL decided to do more to protect the QB. Nothing is worse than watching a game with bad QB play. The NFL, cognizant on how their product looks on TV, knew that bigger ratings, more money is tied to better QB play. So the league set out to protect the QB more and more each year. Allowing them more opportunities to throw the ball away to avoid a sack, penalizing hits at or near the head (even if it's a brush foul), no hitting the QB near the knees. Less chance of injury, more chance of the better QBs staying on the field. The next step was to limit what the defense could do against the passing game. No more hitting or jostling receivers after the first 5 yards, more flags thrown for defensive pass interference on deep balls down the field. Hard hits on receivers given penalties for hitting a defenseless receiver. Granted, many of these fouls were in response to the concussion crisis in the NFL, but it still helped the offense.
The impact of all this in the past 5-10 years? More rookie and 2nd year QBs not only starting, but putting up huge numbers never thought possible 20 years ago. Andrew Luck, RG III, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, etc. You still have your young QBs struggle (Mark Sanchez front and center), but the learning curve is no longer so steep.
So what does this have to do with this game? Well, the Giants had been looking for their replacement since Phil Simms was waived and then retired after the 1993 season. Dan Reeves had been grooming former first round pick Dave Brown for the job and he beat out an 8th rounder in Kent Graham. Brown would take over as QB from the 1994-1996 seasons, the remainder of Reeves' tenure but he never endeared himself to the fans because, frankly, he wasn't that good. When your QB doesn't play well, he becomes a lightning rod. When that QB is in NY, multiply it by 1000. Enter 1997, new coach Jim Fassel, a QB guru is in charge. Many felt this was going to be Brown's last chance to succeed in NY. Brown would be challenged by a 2nd year QB, Danny Kanell. Kanell had made his name at a power house in Florida State. First backing up Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward and then taking over at QB going 19-3-1 in his Junior and Senior seasons with the Seminoles and was taken in the 4th round by the Giants.
Brown would win the starter job out of camp and began well for Fassel, winning his first game as head coach over the Eagles 31-17 with Brown going a ho-hum 13-27, 193 and 1 TD/0 INT. But after that, the Giants and Brown would lose their next 3 games to fall to 1-3. Brown would lead the Giants to a 14-9 win over the Saints, but the offense never got going. The next week, at home against Dallas, the Giants would trail 6-0 and Brown would get injured. Kanell came off the bench and helped lead the Giants to a come back win, despite the less than eye popping numbers (10-17,101 yards, 0 TD/0 INT). The fans were excited. It was always great to beat Dallas and the fans had tired of Dave Brown. The next week, the Giants offense would score 27 points at Arizona, their most points since the opener and again, Kanell put up numbers that weren't that exciting (13-28, 198 yards, 1 TD/1 INT). But it didn't matter. The hype was building. The Giants were now 4-3. Kanell was 3-0 (2-0 as a starter). He was looked at as a winner. He was looked at as a guy who had "it", that indefinable characteristic of a player who just found a way to win despite the fact that the numbers never showed that he should be all that effective.
So the Giants entered this game with momentum, with their new QB and hopes that the Giants had been able to finally find their successor to Phil Simms some 4 years later. The Lions, a dangerous home team filled with offensive talent were in the Giants way and looked like a threat to ruin the suddenly resurgent team.
The Game Highlights
The Giants would start off with Brad Daluiso kicking off. By 1997, Daluiso was no longer a sure thing as a touchback machine as he was in Buffalo, Denver, and his early Giants days. This time his kick reached the 3 yard line where it was fielded by return man Glynn Milburn and was taken out to the 25, where he was stopped by Kevin Alexander. The Lions explosive offense took the field, with Scott Mitchell at QB, and some of the finest offensive weapons in the NFL, including Barry Sanders at RB and Herman Moore and Johnnie Morton at WR. Mitchell took a deep shot down the field on first down, looking for Moore, but he was well covered by Phillippi Sparks and the pass sailed out of bounds. A 2nd down draw to Sanders was well read by the defense, and he was tackled for a loss by Scott Galyon and Tito Wooten. Now 3rd and 14, Mitchell went back to throw, however a huge inside push by DT Robert Harris swallowed up the Lions QB for a sack, with Galyon also crashing in as well on a blitz. Punter John Jett booted the ball to Amani Toomer at the 45 and was tackled up at the 48 yard line. However, a block in the back on Thomas Randolph sent the Giants back to their own 32 yard line.
Danny Kanell took to the field for the first time, as the Silverdome crowd picked up the noise level to help their defense. Kanell started with a slant to Chris Calloway, who snagged the ball and weaved his way up the field for a nice gain out to the Detroit 47 yard line and a first down. Michigan native Tyrone Wheatley, playing back in his home state for the first time since his celebrated career with the University of Michigan Wolverines in college, took the handoff up the middle and was only able to gain 1 yard as Luther Elliss closed down on him. On 2nd and 9, fullback Charles Way gained about 3 yards on a plunge up the gut. Now 3rd and 6 at the 44, Kanell in the shotgun tried to hit Alexander on a similar slant play that worked with Calloway, however the ball was thrown too high and went incomplete. Rookie punter Brad Maynard came on, and after a false start on Galyon, his punt was fair caught by Milburn at the 15 yard line.
Mitchell started his second drive by over throwing Sanders in the flat for an incompletion. A draw to Sanders on 2nd and 10 was met by a blitzing Wooten, who combined with Corey Widmer to stop him for a 1 yard loss. A false start on Larry Thorpe, who was lined up against Michael Strahan, made it 3rd and 16, and the Lions would fall short of getting the first, as Mithcell hit Morton to the 20. Jett's punt was fielded by Toomer at the 37 and he had a short return to the 40 yard line, where he was run out of bounds.
The Giants second offensive series began with a pitch to Wheatley, who followed a block around Scott Gragg and was taken out of bounds for a 2 yard gain. Kanell missed an open Aaron Pierce in the middle of the zone, as Pierce stumbled and fell, and fortunately the ball fell incomplete. The Giants would convert on 3rd and 8, as former Steeler RB Erric Pegram came out of the backfield and made the catch in the flat, lowered his shoulder and ran over a Lions defender and kept his balance to make it to the Lions' 45 yard line and a first down. Way would only gain a yard on first down, stopped again by Elliss. Now 2nd and 9, the audience would be treated to a completely wacky play
Kanell, again looking for Pierce up the seam as he did a few plays previous when Pierce fell down, overthrew the big TE and the pass was picked off by Detroit safety Van Malone. As he was trying to run up the field with the ball, he was grabbed by Calloway, who tried to strip the ball from him as he was going to the ground. Former Bear safety Mark Carrier, coming over to help block, actually helped jar the ball loose before he hit the ground. Charles Way, coming down field to assist on the tackle, actually fell on the loose ball to regain possesion for the Giants. Meanwhile, behind the play, Lions DE Kerwin Waldroup apparently lost his mind and went after Kanell as if he kicked his dog. Rather than just block the QB, Waldroup literally tackled Kanell and laid on top of him, giving Head Referee Jerry Austin an opporunity to throw one of the easiest unnecessary roughness calls in history, though still below the all time high water (or low water) mark when Charles "Too Mean" Martin on the Packers body slammed the Bears Jim McMahon to the ground after an INT and ended his season with an injured shoulder. Still, the net/net of all this craziness, the Giants got the ball at the 8 yard line and the Lions crowd was in full throat, booing the refs....though not sure why, they should have booed their own team for that keystone cops display. On first down, Wheatley took a draw and followed good blocks by Greg Bishop and Roman Oben to pound it down to the 5 yard line. Wheatley would follow up with another run and would be just tripped up as it looked like he was going to score, this time falling at the 2. On 3rd and goal, the Giants would cash in
The play action fake by Kanell was hardly Boomer Esiason-esque, as it didn't do much to fool the Lions pass rush, which got in his face and would knock him to the ground. However, Kanell was able to sling a pass to the goal line where Howard Cross was standing and he fell into the end zone for the first score of the game, and with Daluiso's extra point, gave the Giants a 7-0 lead.
Daluiso had a vintage kickoff, going all the way to the back of the end zone for a touchback. The Lions offense took to the field, after looking sluggish on their first 2 drives. Sanders began with a draw up the gut for 4 yards, where he was met by Harris and Widmer. On 2nd and 6, on another draw play, Sanders showed why he was such a great player. He took the ball and swept around right end, followed a nice block by Vardell on Sparks, which gave Sanders a lane, and from there he burst up the sidelines, stiff armed Wooten who had an angle on him, and was finally forced out of bounds by Sehorn at the Giants' 39 yard line. A first down blitz by Sehorn was read by Mitchell, who got the pass off to Moore for an 8 yard gain, where he was pushed out of bounds by Wooten. Mitchell was forced to call a time out on 2nd and 2, with 5:23 to go in the quarter as he couldn't get the call in time from the sidelines. Mitchell would hand off to Vardell out of the time out, and the fullback took the ball to the 27 for a first down, where he was stopped by Wooten. The Lions would run another draw to Sanders, but this time Miller read the play and shot in to tackle him for a short loss. On 2nd and 11, the Lions would shoot themselves in the foot.
They always say it's the little things or the details that can kill a football team. In this case, a tremendous drive was derailed when Mitchell messed up the most basic of football plays, the QB/Center exchange, as he dropped the snap from Pro Bowl center Kevin Glover, who was pointing to set the block assignments, and Mitchell lost his concentration and bobbled the snap. The ball would get kicked around and be recovered by Harris at the 30 yard line.
Kanell began the next series with an overthrow of Alexander for an incompletion. On 2nd and 10, a screen to Wheatley seemed to be set up at first, but the blocking took too long to develop and former Giant Corey Raymond came through to cut Wheatley down after just a 3 yard gain. On 3rd and 7, with Kanell in the shotgun, he would hit Way over the middle and Way would square his shoulders up the field and despite the hit from Stephen Boyd, fall forward for a first down at the 41. Wheatley would gain just 1 yard on a pitch to his left, getting tripped up by Carrier coming up in run support. Wheatley would get the ball again on 2nd down, taking the carry up the middle and follow his offensive line's surge to the 44. On 3rd and 6, Kanell was pressured by Elliss, who just got the pass off in the direction of Pegram, but fell incomplete. Maynard's punt would be fair caught by Milburn at the 22.
The Lions, back on the field after the turnover began with a run by Sanders, who was strung out by the Giants and would get tackled by Sam Garnes for no gain. On 2nd down, Mitchell had time and hit a wide open Moore over the middle, who settled down in the zone and took the ball up field to the 38 yard line, where he was knocked down by Wooten and brought the first quarter to a close. To start the 2nd quarter, Mitchell faked a handoff to Sanders and rolled out to his right and was able to hit Morton for a good gain to the Giants 48, where he was pushed out of bounds by Sehorn. The Lions would then burn their 2nd time out as Mitchell couldn't get the play in from the offensive coordinator in time. Mitchell would come back ou in the shotgun, but moved back up under center and handed off to Sanders on a draw that was taken to the 45 yard line, where he was stopped by Jesse Armstead and Keith Hamilton. Sanders actually appeared to fumble on the play and was recovered by the Giants, but the refs did not see it that way and Detroit kept the ball. Mitchell would rush a throw to Vardell that fell incomplete, setting up a 3rd and 6. A perfect fade route to Morton, who beat Sehorn on the play, was taken in at the sidelines, barely in bounds at the 24 yard line as Morton got a knee in bounds. On first down, another play action fake to Sanders drew the Giants defense and Mitchell overthrew the 16 year veteran, and former Buffalo Bill TE Pete Metzelaars. Now 2nd and 10, Mitchell would rifle one in to Moore on a slant route at the 14, and he would take the ball down to the Giants' 8 yard line, where he would get cut down by Sparks. First and goal started with a handoff to Sanders, who stutter stepped to the 5 yard line, where he was dropped by Strahan. Vardell took the 2nd down handoff to the 3 yard line, stopped by Harris. On 3rd down, Bobby Ross would take Sanders out of the game and bring in 4 WRs with Vardell at RB. Mitchell would take the snap, and looking like some old Archie Manning highlights, running around in circles as Keith Hamilton bore down on him and missed him twice actually on free runs at would-be sacks. Mitchell would finally throw to Tommie Boyd in the back of the end zone, but Boyd had his right foot out of bounds, so no catch and no TD. The replay by FOX showed that the play actually took 14.5 seconds from start to finish. Amazing and the Giants were lucky that no one got open on what would turn out to be a sandlot play. Kicker Jason Hanson came on to easily convert a 22 yard FG and make the score 7-3 wiht 11:03 to go in the 2nd quarter.
Hanson's kickoff went to Pegram at the goal line and he took it out to the 17 yard line. Kanell began with a pitch to Pegram, who ran left for a 3 yard gain, stopped by Pro Bowl DE Robert Porcher. On 2nd and 7, a draw to Way only went for 1 yard to the 21. On 3rd and 6, Kanell was again under pressure, and as he was nearly sacked, threw a side arm sling toward Pegram that fell at his feet. A three and out, and Maynard good off a good kick, down to the 30 yard line. Milburn took the ball up to the 41 where he was drilled by Brandon Sanders.
With good field position to work with, Mitchell began with a play action pass, and as he was about to be sacked by Hamilton and Strahan, was able to dump the ball off to Vardell for a 6 yard gain. A draw to Sanders, who made his usual assortment of moves cutting to his left and then up field for a first down into Giants territory at the 45, where he was knocked down by Randolph. After a false start on the Lions Kevin Aikman, Mitchell was under pressure again by the Giants and tried to hit Morton on a slant. On the play, Sehorn got there a tad too early, and pass interference was called at the 44 yard line and a first down. The next play it looked like Sanders was about to break a big gain as he got a head of steam, but Widmer was just able to get his leg and knock him down after a 6 yard gain. Sanders kept up the pressure, making a bunch of moves in the backfield, juking around several Giants, before he was finally caught way downfield by Strahan (who was blocked all the way down the field) to the 22 yard line. A quick hitter to fullback Cory Schlesinger went for 2 yards up the gut. The next play, the Lions stayed with Schlesinger, hitting him out of the backfield on a pass and he powered the ball to the 8 yard line. On first and goal, Barry Sanders showed why he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Unreal. Sanders was an amazing running back. He would make so many moves before even getting to the line of scrimmage. In this case, at the 8 yard line, Sanders was going towards the middle, met up with Wooten, bounced off of him, back up, and sprinted to his right, and burst into the end zone. He was the best. After the extra point, the score was 10-7, Detroit now had the lead.
Hanson's kickoff was taken by Pegram at the 2, and his run back wasn't much to behold, falling down on his own at the 15 and crawling to the 20. Kanell would start off with a pass to Cross over the middle for a 5 yard gain, where he was stopped by Boyd. A false start by Ron Stone negated the gain, setting the Giants back to a 2nd and 10, where Wheatley would take the carry around left end and pick his way to the 25 yard line. On 3rd and 5, with Kanell in the gun, he had just enough time to hit Calloway, who beat CB Robert Bailey on an out and up move, for a big gain to the Lions' 37 yard line and a first down. An incomplete pass to Wheatley, followed up by a pitch to Wheatley for a loss, as Reggie Brown got into the backfield and cut him down at his knees at the 42. Now 3rd and 14, with 3 WRs, Kanell again was under pressure, this time on a blitz by Boyd, and he dumped the ball to no one, drawing an easy intentional grounding penalty and yet another big loss, this time near midfield with 1:57 go in the half, and officially the 2 minute warning. Maynard would come on to boot a ball that went over Milburn's head and into the end zone for a touchback. On the play, the Lions' special teamer Harry Colon, in trying to set up a block, got nailed by Brandon Sanders and was knocked unconscious, and was down on the field for a long time, needing medical attention, and was taken off on a stretcher.
With 1:47 to go in the half, the Lions began with a draw to Sanders, to tried to bounce to his left, but Strahan came darting over to tackle him for a loss. Fassel would call a time out to stop the clock at 1:36. On 2nd down, Mitchell went back to throw and was chased across the field by Strahan and ended up sliding down for a sack, but stayed in bounds, which forced a second Giants' time out, this time with 1:22 to go. 3rd and 11 at the 19, Mitchell looked for Boyd in the flat, but the ball slipped out of his hands and fell incomplete, stopping the clock and saving the Giants a timeout. Jett's punt was fielded by Toomer at the 37 and he took it back to the 49 with 1:07 remaining in the half.
The Giants wanted to get some points before halftime. Kanell, in the gun, called an audible and tried to hit David Patten on an out pattern, but the ball fluttered and went out of bounds. On 2nd and 10, Kanell would throw a dart towards Alexander, but the ball was a little behind him and was knocked out of his hands. On 3rd and 10, out of the shotgun, Kanell dumped the ball off to Pegram, doing his best Meggett impersonation, made the catch and weaved his way just enough for a first down. Kanell would call the Giants final time out with :44 to go at the 41 yard line. On first down, with a blitz coming, Kanell dumped off a screen to Pegram, who not only lost 2 yards, but failed to get out of bounds. A double whammy. With the clock running, Kanell hit Calloway over the middle to the 35 yard line, but again he was unable to get out of bounds. Kanell lined the team up to spike the ball with :07 left in the half and brought Daluiso out for a 52 yard attempt. Daluiso, still with a strong leg, crushed the kick, easily sailing through from 52 yards out, and would have been good from well beyond that. With :02 to go in the half, the Giants went for the squib kick to finish off the 2nd quarter and go in with a 10-10 tie.
The Giants would get the ball to start the 2nd half, and Hanson's kickoff was fielded by Pegram at the 3 yard line and was returned to the 22. However, an illegal block on Cross set the Giants back to the 10 yard line. On first down, Way took the handoff, and on a slow developing play, suddenly powered his way up the field to the 25 yard line and was driven out of bounds and actually ran over one of the Giants team doctors, Dr. Levy, who bounced right back up and was ok. Another false start on Stone set the Giants back to the 20, where Way would gain 3 yards to set up a 2nd and 12. Kanell would hit Patten for 5 yards where he was knocked out of bounds by Raymond. Now 3rd and 7 at the 28, Kanell had 4 WRs on the field and in the gun, was under pressure and this time the Lions rush got to him and he would be sacked by Porcher at the 17 yard line. A false start on Galyon sent Maynard back further, and he would narrowly avoid a block and got it out to the 35 yard line, where Milburn would return the ball out to the 49 yard line, where he would be tackled by Marcus Buckley. However, the Giants would be helped out by an unneccessary roughness call on Van Malone that sent the Lions all the way back to the 21 yard line.
In the Lions first drive of the second half, they would begin with a Sanders handoff running to his left, but he was downed by Chad Bratzke for a 2 yard loss as he tried to back up to run forward, as was his running style. 2nd and 12, Mitchell was under pressure and connected with Sanders in the flat, who slipped and got back up and took the ball to the 30 where he was tackled by Widmer. With it now 3rd and 2, the Lions tried a run up the middle by Vardell, however he was met in the hole by Harris, Widmer, and Hamilton and stopped short of the first down. Jett came on to punt to Toomer, who took it at the 13 yard line and weaved his way to the 32. However, a 15 yard face mask penalty on the Lions Scott Kowalkowski, who pulled an onrushing Wooten down, forced a re-kick. That would turn out to be a very costly penalty.
With Jett now back by the goal line, he couldn't match his good effort on the previous punt, this time it was a line drive to Toomer taken at the Giants' 47 yard line. Generally speaking, low line drive punts are usually bad news for coverage teams as the returner is able to get up a head of steam quicker to run with the ball. Further exasperating the problem for the Lions, their coverage team was gassed because they just had to cover a punt the play before that was wiped out due to the penalty. That recipe for disaster for Detroit came to fruition. Toomer got a running start, fielded the punt and got a head of steam moving forward, made a few Lions miss, and after 2 different stiff arms, found himself in the end zone for a 17-10 Giants lead as the Lions faithful began to rain down the boos on to the field.
Daluiso again muscled up and booted the ball about 4 yards deep into the end zone. However Milburn came flying up out of the end zone, busted through the wedge (which was not outlawed in 1997), and was finally taken down on a touchdown saving tackle by Patten at the 32. Mitchell began with a handoff to Sanders, who started up towards the middle, but was stopped in ihs tracks and knocked backwards by the Hammer for no gain. On 2nd and 10, Giants defensive coordinator John Fox called a blitz and the defense engulfed Mitchell, but the 6'6" QB got the pass off to Morton at the 43, and was able to cut it up field to the Giants' 46 yard line, where he would be tackled by Sparks, but still good enough for a first down. Sanders would gain 2 on the next play, taken down at his ankles by Sparks, who came flying in on run support. Mitchell's 2nd down throw was nearly picked off by a diving Armstead, who cut in front of a pass intended for Moore and knocked the ball down. Now 3rd and 8, the Giants were drawn offsides, giving Mitchell a free play and he was able to hit Moore for a first down to the 32 yard line. The Lions would stay in the air, a play action to Sanders held the linebackers and allowed the ancient Metzellaars to get behind the defense for a 10 yard gain, where he was smacked hard by Garnes at the 21. A Sanders run would get to the 17 before he was stopped by Widmer and Harris. On 2nd and 7, a sack by Strahan was wiped out due to a defensive hold on corner Conrad Hamilton. Now 1st and 10 at the 13, Sanders took the ball to the 9 yard line, where he was met by a host of Giants, including Miller, Hamilton and Armstead. Again on 2nd and 7, a play fake to Sanders, Mitchell rolled out and was under pressure from Chad Bratzke and Hamilton, and he would fling the ball towards Morton in the back of the end zone, however he would catch it out of bounds. On 3rd and 7, Mitchell had time to throw and tried to hit Vardell down the sidelines, but it was defensed by Conrad Hamilton who batted the ball in the air and just out of Vardell's reach. Hanson came on to hit the chip shot 28 yard FG and make the score 17-13 Giants with 4:12 to go in the 3rd quarter.
Hanson would kick off to the back of the end zone for a touchback. Now at the 20, Kanell would start with a playaction fake to Wheatley, and then a pass to Wheatley who got lost in the coverage and would have been a big gain, but the pass floated away and fell incomplete. A draw to Wheatley would gain 2 yards where he would get swallowed up by the Detroit defensive line. On 3rd and 8, despite getting hit in the head by the Lions on a blitz, got off a bullet to Toomer, who grabbed the ball for a big first down out to the 38 yard line. With a new set of downs, Way took a handoff and powered his way up the middle for 3 yards. 2nd and 7, another handoff to Way, and this time the big fullback made a few little cuts as he was moving with the ball, cut up the middle of the field and chugged to the Lions' 43 yard line for a big gain, where he was taken down by George Jaimison. The Giants kept feeding the ball to Way, as he broke tackles, turned the corner and next thing you know, he's got a 7 yard gain to the 37 yard line. Way got a breather, but the Giants stayed on the ground, Wheatley this time would follow a block by Stone for a first down to the 32 yard line. Wheatley got the call on the next play as well, but this time was only able to gain 2 yards running behind Scott Gragg, which was the final play of the 3rd quarter. The Giants would start the 4th quarter with another handoff to Way, who bounced off about 5 tackles but was stopped at the 29 yard line. In the shotgun on 3rd and 7, Kanell was under a heavy rush and threw a deep pass towards Toomer, who was hit by Bryant Westbrook, and probably should have been a pass interference call, but the rookie was not called and knocked the ball away. Daluiso came on to kick a 47 yarder, that just snuck inside the right upright to make the score 20-13.
The kickoff went 5 yards deep into the end zone, but Milburn still brought it out and was able to just get it across the 20 yard line where he was dropped by veteran Robert Massey. On this drive, the Giants defense would stiffen, forcing a 3 and out after a 6 yard pass to Moore, a loss by Sanders, and then a quick pass out to Moore, who took his eyes off the ball with Sehorn bearing down on him and dropped it. Jett's punt was taken by Toomer at the 20, nearly fumbled, and he fell out of bounds at the 27.
The Giants looked to start off well, a quick hitter to Way up the middle and the big man burst through a hole, took Raymond for about a 10 yard ride and got the ball to the Lions' 45 yard line and a 28 yard gain. Another carry by Way was good for 4 yards to the 39 yard line. The drive would stall from there on out, a big 6 yard loss on a carry by Wheatley, as Gragg was beaten badly on an inside move from Porcher and a dunk pass to Way, which was dropped, brought on Maynard, who aimed for the corner, but Brandon Sanders just missed downing the ball and it went into the end zone for a touchback.
The Giants defense had hit it's stride, coming on to force yet another 3 and out from the high powered Detroit offense. This time stopping 2 handoffs to Sanders and then Mitchell missing a deep seam pass to Morton. As the ball sailed on Mitchell, Morton was drilled by Tito Wooten coming over in coverage. If that play had happened in today's football, it would have brought a 15 yard penalty, no question. But this was 1997, and CTE wasn't on the forefront of the news or medical and legal world, so there was no foul. Jett's punt would be fair caught by Toomer at the 30.
8:55 remained in the game and the Giants started with a pitch to Way around left end for a 3 yard gain, where he was stopped by Reggie Brown, who was injured on the play. Way would get stood up for no gain on the next play, stacked up by Porcher and Raymond. A delay of game on Kanell set the Giants back to 3rd and 11, where a screen was set up for Pegram, and nearly worked, as he weaved his way through the Lions defense until Jaimison tackled him just short of a first down. Maynard came on and dropped the long snap to him, and was able to get off a good punt down to the 15 yard line. However, because of dropped snap, the Giants coverage unit's timing was off, and not surprisingly a Giant was flagged for an ineligible man down field, the honors falling to Marcus Buckley. Maynard's follow up punt was fair caught by Milburn at the 25 yard line, giving the Lions a +10 yard advantage in field position.
With 6:06 to go in the game, the Lions would get off to a rough start on their drive. Robert Harris beat his man and came in to nail Mitchell for a sack, and the Detroit QB was lucky to not fumble on the hit. On 2nd and 15, Mitchell's pass to Morton was on the mark, but a hit on him by Widmer and Sehorn forced him to drop the ball. The Lions seemed to be in trouble, now with a 3rd and long, Mitchell was under pressure by Bratzke, and got off a pass that seemed to sail high, but the 6'4" Moore went up and grabbed it for a first down at the 41. The Lions would stay to the air, with another pass to Moore, however Miller and Sehorn would combine again to knock the ball loose. On 2nd and 10, Mitchell dumped the ball off to Vardell, who ran it out of bounds at the 46 yard line, with 4:48 to go. The Lions would give up that 5 yard gain due to a false start on Jeff Hartings thus setting up yet another 3rd and long. Again, Mitchell would respond, hitting Vardell on a perfect seam pass, all the way out to the Giants' 31 as the fullback beat Armstead in coverage. With a new set of downs, the Sanders took the next carry to the 26 yard line, where he was corralled by Hamilton and Sparks. Sanders would be hit for no gain by Garnes, setting up another 3rd down for the Lions, but this time a more managable 3rd and 4. Mitchell would go to his security blanket, Moore, who went over the middle, settled down in the zone, and got the first down at the 17 where he was tackled by Wooten. Sanders would gain just a yard on the next play. Now 2nd and 9, Mitchell slung the ball to Sanders in the flat, who used his usual array of moves and cut up the field, finally tackled by Sehorn at the 4 yard line, bringing the game to the 2 minute warning. Coming off the time out, and first and goal, the Lions didn't waste any time
A play action fake to Sanders, understandably, got the attention of pretty much the entire Giants defense. Mitchell would roll out to his left, and hit an open Morton in the end zone for an easy TD, with Wooten trailing in pursuit and Miller not in his proper area in coverage. Hanson's extra point would tie the game with 1:55 to go in regulation.
Hanson's kickoff was fielded for a touchback in the end zone by Pegram. Every Giant fan had the same question, would Fassel go for the win, starting with the ball at their own 20, but only needing a FG and with Daluiso having a good game with some long kicks. Out of the shotgun, Kanell started with an inside handoff to Pegram, who got off a good gain, out to the 31 yard line. Kanell would get to the line and dry a dump off to Pegram in the flat, however he was bottled up for a short loss. Though both teams had 3 time outs remaining, neither called one. On 2nd and 11, Kanell in the gun threw a bullet to Calloway for a 9 yard gain to the 39 yard line, which resulted in Fassel using his first time out with :46 to go. On 3rd and 2, Kanell would pitch back to Wheatley, who sprinted to his left, but was met by Boyd for no gain. Bobby Ross would then call his first time out with :39 to go. With Maynard on to punt, he got off an amazing kick, a high booming drive that hit at the Detroit 2 yard line and bounced backwards towards the 5 yard line, where it was downed by Widmer. Trapped that deep in their own end, Bobby Ross was left with no choice but to play for OT. Mitchell took the snap and a quick knee (there was no Greg Schianos around back then to try to dive and force a fumble) and both teams prepared for OT.
FOX would flash a graphic that to that point in 1997, the home team was 5-0 in OT games. Calloway would come out to call the coin toss, and his call of tails would be huge, giving the Giants a chance with the ball first and keeping the high powered Lions offense off the field. Remember, back in 1997, it was still first team to score wins the game (including field goals)
Hanson's kickoff was taken by Pegram at the 2 yard line and he ran it back to the 18. Kanell would start with a pass to Cross over the middle and he would plow his way up the field to the 26 yard line. On 2nd and 2, Kanell would audible to a run, and handoff to Way, who hammered around right end, for a good gain to the 32 yard line and a first down. Just when you would think the Giants would go for the methodical drive, they would shock the fans in the Silverdome, as well as fans watching at home, on the next play
Kanell would fake a handoff to Way, and on a perfect throw, hit Calloway on a deep shot near midfield. Corey Raymond, burned in coverage, tried to grab Calloway to keep him from catching the ball, and drew a penalty. However, he was not able to break up the play, and Calloway sprinted the rest of the 50 yards towards the end zone, erasing Westbrook's angle and side stepping across the goal line for a game winning 68 yard TD. As the officials came to sort it out, Roman Oben would let his teammates know for sure that the penalty was on Raymond and the Giants came pouring on to the field in celebration.
As exciting as this play was, there was one part that was always kind of sad about it, and that was Summerall's call. First, he confuses Chris Calloway with Charles Way, not sure how he could miss a small WR compared to a fullback who had at least 70 pounds on him. I guess you can say that the #80 and #30 kind of look the same from some angles, but would a fullback really be split out and sprinting up the sidelines? He also got mixed up that there didn't need to be an extra point after a TD to end an OT game. That only happens at the end of regulation. Madden had to correct him on the air. I loved Summerall, at the top of his game, he was the best, bar none. But by 1997, Summerall, at the time 67 years old, had battled health problems related to alcoholism, had lost a great deal off his fastball. It's always a shame to see the great ones as they were on the downswing of their careers.
As for the game itself, the win would put the Giants at 5-3, all alone at the top of the NFC East, ahead of the favorites in Washington and Dallas. No one saw this coming at the start of the season, and it was the first time the Giants were in sole possession of first place since 12/20/1993.
Interesting Tidbits/ Post Mortem
- This was Jim Fassel's first OT game as a head coach
- Kanell's 220 yards were a season high passing for him.
- This was also Kanell's first OT game in his career. He would play one other OT game in 1997, the famed 7-7 tie in Washington. The only other time he played in an OT game came in 1999, as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, where he came off the bench to replace Tony Graziani in a 19-13 loss at the Georgia Dome to the Baltimore Ravens, thus giving him a career OT record of 1-1-1.
- Calloway had a career game, putting up 145 yards, by far his best single game production. He had only 3 100 yard games in his career. This Lions game, and 108 yards in a loss at Washington in 1996 and 100 yards in a loss at KC in 1995.
- Calloway's 68 yard TD doubled as the longest TD catch, and longest catch of any kind, in his career.
- Calloway's TD would be the only OT game winner he scored among his 30 career touchdowns
- Keeping in the Calloway theme, he might well have been the best Plan B signing during that phase of free agency's life span. The Giants signed a handful of Plan B free agents, and had 2 of the best of them, in Calloway, who they signed from the Steelers, and Reyna Thompson, who would turn in a Pro Bowl special teamer, from the Dolphins. While Thompson had the adulation, Calloway had a very solid Giants career. In all, he played 7 seasons with the Giants, catching 334 passes for 4710 yards and 27 TDs. At a time in the mid 1990s, when the Giants were still trying to get some type of production out of their WRs, Calloway produced 4 straight seasons of 50 or more catches, with a high of 62 catches in 1998 (the highest since Lionel Manuel caught 65 in 1988), and he led the Giants in receiving in each of those 4 seasons.
- For the record, the Giants Plan B signings from 1989-1992:
- 1989: Reyna Thompson- CB/ST (Dolphins), Mark Duckens- DE (Redskins), Greg Cox- S/LB (49ers)
- 1990: Bob Mrosko- TE (Oilers), Howard Feggins- DB (Patriots), Randy Thornton- LB (Broncos)
- 1991: James Milling- WR (Falcons), Thom Kaumeyer- S (Seahawks)
- 1992: Chris Calloway- WR (Steelers), Greg Amsler- FB (Cardinals), Jeff Carlson- QB (Buccaneers), Millard Hamilton- WR (Pats), Ed Reynolds- LB (Pats)
- Toomer's 53 yard punt return for a TD was the 3rd and final one of his career. He scored 2 punt return TDs as a rookie in 1996 (wearing #89), scoring on an 87 yard TD at home against the Bills in a 23-20 OT loss, and then a 65 yard return vs. the Eagles in a home loss, 19-10. By 1998, as Toomer got more involved in the offense, he started to phase off of punt returns, giving the job to Tiki Barber. Toomer only returned 1 punt in 1999 and 8 in 2001, and that was it.
- Toomer's 3 career punt return TDs were the most since Dave Meggett had 6 TDs on punt returns between 1989-1994. Meggett would only return one other punt for a TD after 1994, and it happened to be in the season finale at Giants Stadium, when he returned a Mike Horan punt for a 60 yard TD to help the Pats erase a 22-0 deficit in a 23-22 win.
- While the Giants got 9 TDs out of Meggett and Toomer, since 1998, there was not as much production out of the Giants returns. In fact, in the past 15 years, the Giants only have had 3 punt returns for TDs: Tiki Barber (1999), Chad Morton (2005), Dominik Hixon (2009)
- Howard Cross, who caught a TD in this game, was the last remaining player on the active roster who was drafted by Parcells. The only other player to play for Parcells with the Giants was Rodney Hampton, but Hampton was out with knee problems, and didn't get into a game until Week 16 against the Redskins.
- Brad Maynard, the rookie punter, was a 3rd round draft pick. Since 1980, the Giants have had 3 Pro Bowl punters (Dave Jennings, Sean Landeta, and Jeff Feagles). And all the punters they had were free agent signings....except for one. Matt Dodge, drafted in the 7th round out of East Carolina in 2010. Dodge was a big, strong punter who had some anxiety issues and the Giants tried to work with him to replace the veteran Feagles, who retired after the 2009 season. Dodge was inconsistent, posting a decent gross average of 44.8 yards per punt. However, what Dodge will be forever identified with, as the Giants 2010 meltdown against the Eagles. The Giants would blow a 31-10 lead in the 4th quarter and with the game tied at 31-31, Dodge came on to punt the ball away with the dangerous DeSean Jackson back for the Eagles. Tom Coughlin instructed Dodge to punt the ball away from Jackson, however, he launched a line drive right at him, and Jackson made a few Giants miss, cut up the field and score on a 65 yard return as time expired in a devestating loss. Coughlin came on and screamed at Dodge for the screw up. By the next offseason, the Giants signed Steve Weatherford from the Jets, who beat out Dodge in the preseason to take the punting job. Dodge never played again in the NFL.
- Robert Harris had a 2 sack game, the first time he had done that in his career and would end up being a career high in a single game, matched on other time in 1998, in a 34-7 win vs the Cardinals. Harris was a very underrated signing by George Young, who took a long time to grasp free agency and the salary cap, but was able to get the job done in his final season as GM in 1997. Harris began his career in Minnesota as a member of the Vikings, but was stuck behind 2 Pro Bowl DTs in Henry Thomas and John Randle. With the salary cap in place, and with those two in place, the Vikings were not in a position to give a decent money contract to Harris, who the Giants signed before the 1995 season at age 26. After two seasons in which he got more playing time, he finally burst on the scene in 1997, finishing with a career high 10 sacks. This idea of signing younger players, rather than bigger names, was a boon for the Giants, who did a similar thing with Ron Stone. Stone, a guard with the Cowboys, was blocked (literally) by a Hall of Famer in Larry Allen and a Pro Bowler in Nate Newton. Coming off a championship in 1995, with plenty of stars to pay, the Cowboys had to let the 25 year old go and couldn't match an offer from the Giants. Stone would go on to become a starter for 6 seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2000 and 2001.
- The Lions in this game had the best RB in the NFL (Barry Sanders), and in 1997, argueably the best WR in Herman Moore. Sanders' exploits need no embellishng. He was that great on his own. In 1997, Sanders had his best season in his Hall of Fame career. At age 29, Sanders would lead the NFL with 2053 yards and 11 TDs. After his first 2 games, Sanders would rush for only 33 yards against Atlanta in the opener, and then 20 yards against the Bucs. He would not be held under 100 yards a game the rest of the season, ripping off 14 straight 100 yard games. The Giants "held" Sanders to 105 yards, tied for his lowest output the rest of the way.
- Sanders didn't have the best career against the Giants, and this would be the final time he would ever face them. In his 5 games against the Giants, he would end up with a record of 1-4. In all, he gained over 100 yards in just 2 of those games, and it was his best game effort, 146 yards in 1994, that helped the Lions to a 28-25 OT win at the Meadowlands. In that game, Sanders looked to have a breakaway 66 yard TD run in the 4th quarter, but he was caught from behind on the 4 yard line by cornerback Thomas Randolph to momentarily halt a TD. Moore would catch a 1 yard TD pass to cap off that drive. Still, the Giants held Sanders to 84.8 yards rushing per game, under his amazing career average of 99.8 yards per game.
- Sanders' WR partner in crime, Herman Moore, had set an NFL record with 123 catches in 1995, for 1686 yards and 14 TDs. At 6'4", 210 pounds, Moore was a mismatch for smaller defensive backs by 1997, the 28 year old was on his way to his 3rd straight 100+ catch season. Moore would again lead the NFL in 1997 with 104 catches, and would put up 1293 yards and 8 TDs in being named to his 4th Pro Bowl. Against the Giants in this game, Moore was held to good, but not great, numbers. 7 catches, 88 yards and 0 TDs.
- Moore was actually a member of the Giants for a very short time. As age and injuries sapped his his productivity in Detroit, he was out of football after the 2001 season. With the Giants suffering a slew of injuries in the 2002 season, losing Ike Hilliard and Tim Carter for the year, they reached out to Moore and he signed at midseason and actually got on the field for one game, in a loss at the expansion Houston Texans. Moore would be released and retire for good after that game, as the Giants essentially put the full onus on Amani Toomer, Tiki Barber, and Jeremy Shockey to carry the offensive load.
- For a non-rival really and outside the Giants division, the Giants have had a strange connection with the Lions over the years. This wasn't the Giants first OT game that they would play against the Lions at Detroit. They won a 13-10 OT game in the Silverdome back in 1988, when Paul McFadden, the barefooted kicker, booted a 33 yarder to win the game. In 2013, the Giants would end up ruining the Lions playoff chances. With the Giants already eliminated from the post season, they would tie the Lions late in the game on a Will Hill 38 yard interception return for a TD on a deflected pass and then go ahead and win on a 45 yard Josh Brown FG. The Lions were handed a golden opportunity because they needed the Packers and Bears to both lose to set up a win and in the following week. The Packers would lose in the snow at Green Bay vs. the Steelers and the Bears would get killed by the Eagles. But the loss to the Giants would ultimately be the final straw and cost coach Jim Schwartz his job.
- Back to 1988, there was a weird quirk in the schedule in that the Giants actually played the Lions twice that season, and twice in 3 weeks. By virture of their 6-9 and last place finish in strike/scab season, the Giants were "rewarded" with a last place schedule in 1988. Back then, before expansion and the evened out divisions/conferences, there wasn't the same setup where you would play an entire out of conference schedule. Instead, you got the lower seeded teams in each division/conference to play. So in 1988, the Giants got the Lions twice (who finished tied for last with Tampa Bay at 4-11 in 1987), Atlanta (last at 3-12 in 1987), the Rams (6-9 and 4th place in 1987), Kansas City (4-11 and last place in 1987), and as fate would have it, the Jets, who finished in last at 6-9 in 1987. The Giants finished the 1987 season against the Jets and beat them 20-7, which put them a game behind the Bills. If the Giants had lost that game, they would have matched up with Buffalo in 1988, instead of the Jets. As fate would have it, the Giants would finish the 1988 season against the Jets, and Gang Green would end up ruining the Giants season, with Al Toon catching a late TD in a 27-21 win that would knock the Giants out of the playoffs.
- The Giants also had a memorable game against the Lions in 1982, when they played them on Thanksgiving Day. The Giants were 0-3 at this point, and the season was already marred by the strike, were deadlocked in a 6-6 tie in the Silverdome going into the 4th Quarter. With the Lions knocking on the door, and looking to punch it in for the go ahead score, LT stepped in front of a Gary Danielson pass and took off up the sidelines, racing for a 97 yard TD that gave the Giants a 13-6 win, their first of the season.
- This 1997 matchup would be the final time the Giants would play the Lions in the Silverdome. They wouldn't visit Detroit again until 2007, when in Week 11, the Giants would beat the Lions in their first visit to Ford Field, winning by the score of 16-10. It would be the Lions first home loss of that season.
- The Giants and Lions actually played a memorable game in 2000. It wasn't so much the game itself, but what happened after it. The Giants were riding high at 7-2 and were going in to face the 7-2 St. Louis Rams at Giants Stadium, with Trent Green at QB for the injured Kurt Warner. The Giants wanted to establish themselves among the elite, and they ended up getting pounded. They were down 28-7 at halftime and would lose the game convincingly by the score of 38-24, with Green torching the Giants for 272 yards and 4 TDs. Looking to regroup the next week, the Giants would play the 6-4 Lions in the Meadowlands. It would turn out to be another horror show, the Giants would be down 21-0 at the half and were down 28-7 in the 3rd quarter, before some garbage time scores made it a more respectable 31-21 loss. The fans and media were all over Fassel, thinking the inconsistent play by the Giants under this coach was going to see the team completely collapse. Now at 7-4, in a tie with the Eagles and Redskins, not only was a division title in doubt, but if the Giants would even make the playoffs as a Wild Card. In his Wednesday standard press conference, Jim Fassel decided to go all Joe Namath on everyone: ''This is a horse race, and we're coming around the far turn and I see the finish line. ''This is a poker game. I'm shoving my chips to the middle of the table. I'm raising the ante.''''This team is going to the playoffs. This team's going to the playoffs. I'm going to define where we're going. I'm not afraid to say one thing: we're going to the playoffs.'' The media loved this story. Fassel, who looked more like a professor than a football coach, essentially put the target on himself and looked to motivate his team after 2 straight blowout losses. At the time it happened, personally I always thought his proclamation was not as ballsy as it was made out to be. First of all, if the Giants didn't make the playoffs after a 7-2 start, Fassel was probably getting fired anyway. He had regressed since his initial campaign in 1997, going 10-5-1 and winning the NFC East. A brutual collapse against Minnesota in the Wild Card ruined an exciting season. The Giants would regress the next two seasons, going 8-8 and then 7-9. A collapse like this in 2000, and 3 straight non-playoff seasons, he is probably shown the door. Another factor, they were playing the Arizona Cardinals the next week, led by former Giants' QB Dave Brown. The Cards, in last place at 3-8 and coming off 2 straight blowouts themselves, looked like they had packed it in for the year. He wasn't exactly making this statement going up against an elite team. As it would turn out, the Giants would jump ahead of the Cards and would hold a 21-0 lead in the 3rd quarter before winning going away 31-7. To give Fassel some credit, the Giants would not lose another game the rest of the regular season, winning their final 5 games, and finishing at 12-4, clinching home field advantage through the NFC Playoffs. The Giants would beat Philly and Minnesota to reach the Super Bowl. And then I saw Ron Dixon return a kickoff ofr a TD, a BS holding penalty on Keith Hamilton that wiped out a Jesse Armstead pick 6...and I don't remember much else about their matchup with Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV.
- The Giants had another turning point game against the Lions in 2004, and this time, rather than rally the troops, it started a downward spiral. In Coughlin's first season at head coach, the Giants ripped off 4 straight wins after an opening day loss to the Eagles, and stood at 4-1 behind Kurt Warner. After a bye week, the Giants faced the 3-2 Lions at Giants Stadium. Perhaps it was the rust, but the Giants fell to the Lions by the score of 28-13 to snap the win streak. After a win at Minnesota the following week, the wheels would come off the for the 2004 season. Losses to the Bears and Cardinals had the Giants record at 5-4 and the Giants organization decided the Warner had taken them as far as he was going to go, and it was time to turn the season over to their #1 overall pick, Eli Manning. Eli would take over as the starting QB against the Atlanta Falcons and would lose by the score of 14-10 at the Meadowlands. Manning would remain at QB ever since, though he would lose 6 straight games before beating Dallas in his final start of the season, his first pro win, 28-24 when he audibled to a run play to Tiki Barber late in the game for the go ahead score.
- In 2010, the Giants played the Detroit Lions, in the Meadowlands and won by the score of 28-20, a game that had some meaning to me personally as it was the first time I took my older son to a game (that wasn't pre-season). The Giants would play a Week 14 game in Detroit...but against the Vikings. In what was supposed to be a matchup on Sunday, December 12, the Giants were en route to Minneapolis when a heavy blizzard forced them to land in Kansas City. The snow was so bad, it piled up on the inflatable roof of the Metrodome and literally weighed it down to the point that the structure was compromised and dumped tons of snow on the turf. Clearly, the Metrodome was not a safe place to play, so the NFL postponed the game until Monday Night, and sent both teams to Detroit to play. In a surreal setting, the Vikings were playing a home game in Detroit, in front of an announced crowd of 45,900 fans, most of whom were Lions fans who were rooting against the Vikings...with Vikings logos on the field, to play what was a 2nd Monday Night game. The Giants would win a snoozefest, 21-3 to go to 9-4. The game was historic for another reason, Brett Favre would see his consecutive start steak snapped, following a nasty injury the previous week against Buffalo. Unfortunately for the Giants, their season would unravel the next week, in their loss to the Eagles on the DeSean Jackson 65 yard punt return TD.
- That game in 2010 wasn't the first time the Giants played a road game against a team on their schedule when they didn't actually play them on their home field. This happened in 2005 as well. In Week 2 of the NFL Season, the Giants were supposed to play the Saints in their home opener at the Superdome. However, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into Louisiana, thousands of New Orleans residents were were not able to evacuate as the storm approached, had to hunker down in the Superdome, and the damage both outside and inside the Dome made it unplayable. The Saints, who played their season opener on the road in Carolina, actually won the game 23-20, and didn't have a place to go after that. So the NFL, in coordination with the Giants, decided to move their game to Monday Night and actually play the game at Giants Stadium, even though the Saints were the "home team". The Giants and the NFL took the proceeds from the game and appropriated them to relief effort charities for New Orleans. They put a Saints logo in the end zone to try to make it seem more like a home game. However, with a clearly partisan Giants' crowd, made up of 68,031 fans. Back in 2005, before PSLs, it was tough to get to a Giants game as there were never seats available. So many fans, mostly younger ones, jumped at the opportunity to see the Giants play. The Saints wore their home jerseys, but as QB Aaron Brooks would correctly point out after the game "Try not to patronize us the next time, traveling to New York, saying we are playing a home game" The Giants won easily, 27-10 to move to 2-0 in a season they would finish at 11-5 and win the NFC East. The Saints, understandably had their season go down the toilet, finishing at 3-13 and playing games in the Alamo Dome and then at LSU. Come 2006, the Saints would hire Sean Payton as Head Coach, and sign Drew Brees as their QB and turn thier franchise around.