Friday, January 9, 2015

1988 Giants @ Falcons

Week 8

The Setup

The definition of an ugly win depends on who you ask.  Pretty much most fans and media will apply some level of aesthetic value to the way that a team will play or win a game.  It helps play into these mythical "power rankings" that try to give a sense of how strong a team looks that goes beyond the Wins/Losses column.  To be fair, there actually is some basis in the NFL tie breaking system.  Though further down the list, points scored and points allowed could be used to help determine making the playoffs or not.  Generally speaking, it almost never comes into play.

I can say, from my perspective, what I don't consider an ugly win, and that would be when you have two bad teams playing each other that, unless the Football Gods want to punish us with a tie, someone simply has to win the game.  These are games which are characterised by bad, booring, sloppy, penalty and/or turnover filled football.  Off the top of my head, I can think of the 1996 Giants vs. Jets game, which featured the 0-3 Giants playing against the 0-3 Jets.  The Giants would eventually win the game 13-6 in a rain storm.  The Giants would finish that year at 6-10, and the Rich Kotite Jets would come in at 1-15. There was also the 2013 Giants vs. Vikings Monday Night game, with the Giants at 0-6 and Minnesota at 1-5.  The Vikings would start Josh Freeman, who was signed earlier in the week and had no grasp of the playbook.  The Giants would win this contest 23-7, the Vikings lone score coming on a punt return, and it was so bad that even Mike Tirico in the ESPN booth, who's job it is to call the game and keep people watching, admitted that the game was horrible.

So to me, an ugly win is when you have what should be a clearly superior team, coming out flat or the dreaded "playing down to the level of competition" and end up in an unpleasant street fight with a lesser opponent that when the game ends, you don't feel as much excitement in a victory, but rather relief that they somehow got out of there with a win.  It's the type of game where you would hear from the head coach and players when they are doing their post-game interviews that they "feel lucky to get the W".  It's the kind of win that for the most part you will take, but you don't like.  Of course, Al Davis' mantra "Just win, Baby" would discount the ugly win, however based on the way the Raiders have played since the mid 2000s, they should be thrilled with any win.

For the 1988 Giants, they would start the season very inconsistently.  They would start 3-3, though they managed to sweep the defending World Champion Redskins, they had some head scratching other games.  They would beat the Cowboys in Dallas 12-10, thanks mainly to an incorrect call on a kickoff return when the Cowboys' Daryl Clack muffed a kick into the end zone and tried to run it out and was tackled for a safety by Mark Collins. The call should have been a touchback.  Meanwhile, the Giants would blow a late 17-13 lead over the 49ers, thanks to Joe Montana hitting Jerry Rice for a 78 yard TD, aided by Kenny Hill missing a tackle and taking down Collins, allowing Rice to trot the rest of the way.  The Giants would round out with a blowout loss at home to the Rams and a Monday Night loss at Philly, when there was the infamous play of Banks hitting Randall Cunningham by his knees, Cunningham keeping his balance, and just as Harry Carson came on to sack him, getting off a pass to Jimmie Giles for a TD.  Randall would put the game away with an 80 yard TD to Cris Carter.

The Giants would hit what many felt was the "soft spot" in their schedule.  Since they finished in last place in the strike shortened 1987, they were handed a midseason gift of games at home against the Lions, and then on the road in Atlanta and then back at Detriot.  Entering this stretch, the Lions and Falcons combined for a 2-10 record (and Detroit's win was against Atlanta).  Obviously, all Giants fans and media figured that they would roll through these 3 games and be right there in the hunt for the NFC East lead.

In their first meeting against Detroit, the Giants would struggle, trailing 10-7 at halftime and get booed off the field.  The Giants would right the ship, and score 23 unanswered points, to win going away 30-10.

That set them up against Atlanta, who came into this game at 1-6.  Most people figured that it wouldn't be much of a matchup.  The Falcons had come in losing 4 straight games, they had given up 30 or more points 3 straight games and were blown out by the scores of 31-20, 33-0, and 30-14.  However, in this game, they had their young QB, Chris Miller coming back off an ankle injury.  So while that was a positive step for the young Falcons team, generally speaking most felt that the Giants would pick up where they left off from their second half domination of the Lions and roll through Atlanta.  The problem was, the Falcons didn't go along with that script.

The Game Highlights

Greg Davis would kick off and Mark Collins would field the ball at the 14 yard line, would slip as he made the catch, and was able to get it out to the 24 yard line where he was stopped by Elbert Shelley.  Phil Simms would bring his team out against a defense that was filled with former first round picks.  The Giants would begin with a sweep around right end with Joe Morris, but he was strung out and caught from behind by Rick Bryan after a 1 yard gain.  On 2nd and 9, Simms dropped back with time to throw in the pocket, and he got the ball to Maurice Carthon over the middle on an in cut at the 31 and he was able to chug forward all the way to the 46 yard line for a 21 yard gain, finally tackled by Brett Clark.  Morris would take a draw up the middle for a 2 yard gain, stopped by Mike Reid.  On 2nd and 8, Simms would hand off again on a draw to Morris up the gut, and this time he was able to find a hole and gain 13 yards, stopped by Reid at the 39.  The Giants were moving the ball on the ground against the worst rush defense statistically in the NFL (at this juncture of the season), so for reasons unknown, the Giants would go to the air.

The Giants wanted to go for the home run and Simms, with time to throw, looked for a deep end zone shot to Stephen Baker, who was one on one with cornerback Scott Case.  Case, recognized more as a corner because he was white (Sehorn syndrome), was more or less stride for stride with the Touchdown Maker, and the pass was a tad underthrown, allowing for the bigger Case to make a play on the ball and pick it off, giving the Falcons a touchback.

Atlanta would get their shot on offense and began with a handoff to John Settle for a one yard gain, stopped by Eric Dorsey.  On 2nd and 9, a playaction fake to Settle, set up a throw back screen for Settle who had blocking in front.  Settle would accelerate all the way to the 33, where he slipped and fell down, or else he would have gotten even more yardage.  On 1st and 10, Chris Miller would fake a draw play and with time to throw was able to drill a pass in to a diving Stacey Bailey for a first down at the 47, where he was downed by Pepper Johnson.  The Falcons would run a third straight playaction fake to Settle, but this time the Giants defense wasn't falling for it, and Miller was under pressure almost immediately and scrambled out of bounds for a 6 yard sack, given to Carl Banks.  On 2nd and 16, a draw inside to fullback James Primus got the ball to the 45 yard line, where he was smashed down by Pepper.  Now 3rd and 12, Miller was in the shotgun and the Giants brought a blitz with Kenny Hill coming unblocked and forced Miller to throw it too early in the direction of Bailey, who was ahead of Perry Williams, but the ball would fall incomplete.  Forced to punt, Rick Donnelly was able to get off a good kick to Phil McConkey, who fielded it at the 15, and he was able to get the ball up to the 22 yard line where he took it out of bounds.

The Giants would start their next series with a pitch to Morris running to his left, but he was taken down after a short gain by Tony Cassilas, however it was still good enough for Morris become the Giants all time leading rusher, passing "Big Red" Alex Webster.  On 2nd and 9, a playaction fake to Morris gave Simms enough time to hit Baker on a comeback route at the 33 and turned back up the field to the 42 yard line for a first down, stopped by John Rade.  Another playaction fake again gave Simms time to throw, and he took a deep shot in the direction of Lionel Manuel, who was double covered and the ball sailed over his head by a good 10 yards.  On 2nd and 10, a draw up the middle to Morris was good for 5 yards, stopped by Bryan.  On 3rd and 5, with Simms in the shotgun, he would take a shot at his knees from Mike Gann, which caused an errant throw to McConkey, who was coming free over the middle.  As McConkey reached back for the ball, he was blasted in the ribs by Tim Gordon and got a reaction from the crowd.  Maury Buford came on to punt and he shanked a horrible kick, a 10 yard punt that went out of bounds at the Falcons' 43 yard line.

Atlanta would start with a pitch to Settle, who was able to get around Lawrence Taylor, turn the corner, and took off up the sidelines for a 12 yard gain, stopped by Perry Williams.  With the ball at the Giants' 46, Miller would playaction fake to Settle, and tried a deep shot towards Gene Lang, a former Bronco, but he was covered well by Williams in man to man, and the ball fell incomplete, with Williams just barely avoiding a pass interference penalty.  On 2nd and 10, a draw to Lang up the middle was blown up by the Giants defense and Pepper Johnson dropped him for a loss.  Now 3rd and 11, Miller was in the shotgun with 4 WRs, and Bill Belichick brought a blitz, which forced Miller to scramble, chased by Sheldon White and Erik Howard.  Miller tried to pump fake and the ball came loose, and he was lucky for it to be ruled an incomplete pass instead of a fumble.  Donnelly was back to punt again, and this time the high booming kick was fair caught by McConkey at the 11 yard line.

OJ Anderson took over at running back and Simms began with a playaction fake to OJ, and would throw an out pattern towards Manuel that was nearly intercepted.  A hold on William Roberts on the play was declined and set up 2nd and 10 (since it would have only have been a 5 yard penalty and would have kept the Giants at first down).  On 2nd down, a draw to OJ went nowhere as Bryan stuffed him for no gain.  On 3rd and 10, with Simms in the gun, Bart Oates had to actually turn around to gesture to him to move over since he lined up behind the guard, and once Simms sorted that out, he dumped the ball off to George Adams out of the backfield.  Adams would make the catch at the 17 and would be stopped in his tracks by Charles Dimry and Joel Williams.  On 4th and 4, Buford came on to punt again and this time would easily better his previous 10 yard effort, but still not a good kick.  This one was a line drive taken by Barnes at the 48 yard line and he would take off up the field and was pushed out at the Giants' 35 yard line by Gary Reasons.  The Falcons looked to be in business.

The Falcons would start off with yet another playaction fake to Settle, which held the Giants pass rush at bay and gave Miller time to hit TE Ken Wisenhunt in the left flat at the 33, and he made a few Giants miss and fell forward to the 23 yard line, tripped by Terry Kinard but good for a first down.  The next play was a pitch to Settle running to his left, and he just avoided Williams on a run blitz, but was chased out of bounds by LT for a 2 yard loss.  On 2nd and 12, with LT moving over to the right side of the field and coming on a blitz would get picked up and leave Settle open in the flat, where he would turn up the field and accelerate up the sidelines where he was thrown out of bounds by Banks and Reasons at the 15 yard line after a 9 yard gain.  On 3rd and a long 2, Miller would try to get off a quick pass to Stacy Bailey, but the ball would be deflected at the line by John Washington and fell to the ground.  Greg Davis would easy bang through the 32 yard field goal and gave Atlanta a 3-0 lead with 3:07 to go in the first quarter.

Davis' kickoff was fielded by Mark Collins at the 8 yard line and he would return it to the 25, however, an offsides on the Falcons Charles Dimry would be accepted and the Falcons had to re-kick.  The second kick was be taken at the goal line by Neal Guggemos and he would sprint up the middle of the field and dive forward to the 27 yard line, so the Giants netted a +2 yards on the penalty.  First and 10, Simms would audible and hand off to OJ on a counter tray to the left, and Bobby Butler would have to give him some cab fare for the ride he got up to the 34 yard line, until Case came over to pop him and force him out of bounds.  On 2nd and 2, a quick handoff to Carthon up the gut was good for 3 yards and a first down.  Simms would hand off to Morris and he would sprint to the right for good yardage out past the 45 yard line.  On the play, Rick Bryan would get up slowly near a penalty flag that was thrown, however it was picked up by referee Jerry Markbreit because the clip happened in the "legal clipping zone", which back in 1988 was considered to be between the tackles.  In today's NFL, that's a penalty (and rightfully so).  Anyway, 2nd and 2, again in short yardage, a quick handoff to Carthon again went up the middle and this time he was smacked by an angry Bryan, still smarting from the clip, but Mo got the first down.  On first down at midfield, Simms would have time to throw and tried to connect with Morris over the middle, but Joe stopped his route and Simms' pass sailed into no man's land.  On 2nd and 10, Simms again dropped back to throw, and again had plenty of time, and he would drill a pass into Baker, who would snag it on a comeback route, get both feet in bounds at the 37 yard line and give the Giants another first down.  The Giants would again run a counter tray to the left, this time with Morris, and he would cut back behind his pulling guards and take it to the 31 yard line, stopped by Rade and Bryan to end the first quarter.  The 2nd quarter would begin with 2nd and 5, and a draw to Morris up the middle for another good gain, all the way out to near the 20 yard line, stopped by Bruce but not after another first.  The Giants would stay on the ground, this time a quick inside handoff to Carthon, and had a big hole to run through and got 6 yards, stopped by Robert Moore at the 15.  On 2nd and 4, the Giants would run the same play to Carthon, right up the gut for 3 more yards, stopped a half yard short of the first by Moore.  On 3rd and short, the Giants would bring in the beef, going with 3 TEs, with Doug Reisenberg reporting as an eligible number and hammer it to the 9 yard line with OJ, getting stopped by Butler but good for a first down.  On first and goal, Morris would run the counter tray to the left again, and again cut it up the field and got the ball to the 4 yard line, stopped by Williams.  The Falcons were sucking air, and on 2nd down, a quick handoff to Anderson didn't work, as Gann got in his way in the backfield and stopped him for a loss at the 5.  On 3rd down, a very curious call

Madden pretty much spelled it out and unlike many former coaches in the booth, he wasn't afraid to criticize bad calls.  In his estimation, the Anderson run on 2nd down and this run to Carthon were 2 dumb calls in a row.  This one was especially dumb.  At the 5 yard line, why are you running a sprint to the right with your blocking fullback Carthon, who would predictably be strung out and tackled after a 1 yard gain by Williams.  Why not use Morris if you had to run it?  Better yet, why not throw it?  Parcells was pissed after the play, but that was on him.  McFadden would come on to hit a 21 yarder, even though for a moment it looked like it might not be good, and tie the game at 3-3, to cap a 15 play drive that left 10:26 to go in the first half.

McFadden's kickoff was taken by Evan Cooper at the 4 yard line, and he would get upended by Collins at the 23 yard line, and he was fortunate not to get badly hurt because he landed on his head.  On first down, Settle took a draw to the right side and got his legs cut out by Burt after a 2 yard gain.  On 2nd and 8, against a 3 man rush, Miller would dump it off to Settle, who would juke away from Reasons, and then make his way up the field, stopped by Carson at the 33 but good enough for a first down.  Miller would drop back to throw, and this time LT would beat Mike Kenn with an inside move, and forced a hurried pass towards Lang, which sailed and fell incomplete.  On 2nd and 10, the Giants would again blitz, and again LT would chase Miller, who rolled to his right and fired to Bailey for a 15 yard gain, knocked down by Kinard at the 49.  Miller would throw again, this time a play action fake, and he rolled to his right, which happened to be where LT shifted over to, and Taylor would drill him as he let go of a deep pass and the ball would sail incomplete.  The ball would actually fall into Kinard's arms, but it looked like he lost it in the sun and the Falcons were lucky to avoid a pick.  On 2nd and 10, a pitch to Lang running to his right went for about a 1 yard gain, stopped by Carson.  On 3rd and 9, Miller was in the shotgun and he would dump off a pass to Settle on a quick screen.  Settle would run manage to out run LT to the corner, and sprint up the field, delivering a shot to Adrian White as he was forced out of bounds at the 36 yard line, good for another first down.  The next play was a handoff to Settle, he would squeeze past Burt, and into the secondary where he was stopped by Hill at the 30.  On 2nd and 4, a draw to Lang up the middle didn't work as well, gaining 2 yards as he was stopped by Burt and LT.  On 3rd and 2 at the 28, the Giants came on an out all blitz, but Miller would read it and hit Jessie Hester in the flat at the 21 yard line and he would step out of bounds, but again good for a first down.  The Falcons would stay in the air, with Miller back and facing yet another blitz from Collins on the corner, which forced a quick pass to Settle, who was taken down by Burt and Reasons at the 23 yard line for a 2 yard loss.  On 2nd and 12, a draw up the middle to Lang worked perfectly, as he followed a big hole up the gut and he sprinted to the 13 yard line, setting up a 3rd and 2.  Atlanta would bring in 5 WRs and Lang in the backfield.  Miller would roll to his left and what was essentially an option play, would pitch it back to Lang, who sprinted around left end and barrelled to the 1 yard line, stopped by Hill, Reasons, and Williams at the 1 yard line.  With the Giants on their heels, the Falcons would keep coming at them.

With Jamie Dukes, a guard in at fullback, he would charge forward, and clip LT's dive over the pile attempt and flip him, allowing Settle to burrow into the line for a TD.  Davis' extra point would make the score 10-3 with 2:49 to go in the 2nd quarter.

Davis' kickoff would go to Guggemos down to the 1 and he was only able to return it back to the 14 yard line as he was drilled by Ken Gordon on a helmet to helmet shot (no flags back then).  Simms started off with a pass and would swing what looked to be a near lateral pass to OJ, who rumbled up to the 20 yard line for a 6 yard gain, stopped by Williams.  On 2nd and 4, Simms had some time to throw initally, but as he scrambled up the field, he was trapped by Gann for a sack at the 17 yard line and the clock was stopped at 1:58 officially for the two minute warning.  On 3rd and 6, Simms was in the shotgun and he threw a seam pass towards Mowatt deep over the middle that was just behind him and fell incomplete, however a defensive hold on Butler, who was covering Lionel Manuel, gave the Giants a first down.  Now at the 23, Simms again had time to throw, and would side arm a bullet to Baker at the 38, and he would snatch it and turn up the field, taking the ball to the 47 yard line, stopped by Dimry from behind, but not after ripping off a 23 yard gain.  The Giants would go no huddle, Simms in the shotgun would handoff inside to Adams up the middle, and was taken down by Rick Bryan at the 47 yard line, forcing the Giants to call their first time out with 1:22 to go.  Meanwhile, over on the sidelines, LT was being led into the locker room with cramps.  On 2nd and 3, Simms would throw to Adams in the flat, who was stopped for no gain by Williams.  However, Williams got a 5 yard incidental facemask penalty, and that yardage was tacked on to the end of the run and gave the Giants a first down at the 43.  Just when as a Giants fan you feel like they were going to get some points and hold off an upset bid by Atlanta, they made a mistake

In the shotgun, and with late pressure coming in on Simms, Manuel and Mowatt end up running into each other, so someone blew the pass pattern.  That left Butler all alone for an easy INT at the 25, and he was able to run it back to the 47, stopped by Riesenberg.  Yet another missed opportunity for the Giants.

Looking to keep up their momentum, Miller was in the shotgun, however he was under heavy pressure in his face from George Martin and Johnie Cooks coming from his blind side.  Miller would float a ball over the head of Settle for an incompletion.  On 2nd and 10, a draw to Settle, again up the middle, was good for 6 yards to the Giants' 46 yard line, stopped by Cooks and Atlanta would call a time out.  On 3rd and 4, Miller would roll out to his right, and with a moving pocket, hit Floyd Dixon at the 41, and he would get the ball out to the 39, taken down from behind by Martin, however the yardage was good for another first, and the Falcons would call their 2nd time out with :45 to go in the half.  Atlanta would try for a home run and Miller took a deep shot over the middle to Dixon, who was open, but the ball sailed and fell incomplete.  On 2nd and 10, the Falcons looked to set up a screen, but turned into a deep shot towards Bailey, who was well covered by Williams and Adrian White and the ball was deflected away.  On 3rd and 10 with :36 to go, Miller would scramble up the field and threw on the run to an open Michael Haynes, but the ball again sailed on him and went out of bounds.  The Giants were able to clearly benefit from the rust Miller showed from his time off due to injury, and rather than go for it or try a 56 yard field goal, the Falcons brought on Donnelly to punt, who just avoided a block and on the other end, Falcons' special teams demon Elbert Shelley made a miraculous play to actually catch the punt on a dive at the 2 yard line with :23 to go.

Even with the little breathing room, Simms had enough space to take a knee and run out the clock and both teams would head to the locker room with the Falcons holding a 10-3 lead.

McFadden would kick off to start the 2nd half, and on a short, line drive kick was grabbed by guard Jamie Dukes at the 18, and he plowed ahead to the 29 yard line, tackled by half the Giants' coverage unit.  While Miller came on the field, LT did not, and he was replaced by Ricky Shaw.  Miller began with a playaction fake and plenty of time to throw, however, continuing to show the effects of weeks of inactivity from the injury, missed a wide open Bailey on a deep out pattern that would have been good for a huge gain, if not a 70+ yard TD as Perry Williams blew the coverage.  On 2nd and 10, Settle started in motion out of the backfield and Miller threw in his direction, but again the ball sailed off target.  On 3rd and 10, with Miller in the shotgun, the Giants defense would finally clamp down

Miller had far too much time early in the game, and this time, with Cooks playing at DE and Marshall shifting over the guard, Miller was flushed towards Martin and into the waiting arms of Marshall for a sack.  Donnelly came on to punt after the 6 yard loss and his short kick was fair caught by McConkey, who dove down to make the catch and maintain field position at the Giants' 46 yard line.

The offense would start with a handoff up the middle to Morris, but Reid was right in his path and stopped him after a 1 yard gain.  On 2nd and 9, Simms dropped back with time to throw and hit Manuel on a deep in pattern for a first down to the 37 yard line, tackled by Butler.  On 1st and 10, Morris took another handoff running to his left, but the Falcons got penetration and Bryan took him down at the line of scrimmage.  On 2nd and 10, Simms would dump the ball off over the middle to Carthon, who was able to chug his way up the field for a 15 yard gain and a first down at the 22 yard line.  Another sweep to Morris, this time running to his right, looked good initially, but as Morris cut up the field, Bryan was waiting and took him down after only 2 yards.  On 2nd and 8, the Giants had Anderson and Rouson in the game, Simms would drop back, avoid a rush at his feet by Bryan, and then took a deep shot in the end zone towards Baker, but the ball fluttered out of bounds.  On 3rd and 8 at the 20, Atlanta came on a delayed blitz that was picked up well, however Simms' pass was batted down by Gann.  Trailing 10-3 and a 37 yard field goal, you would figure that the Giants would take the point

Parcells liked his trick plays, this one was a bust.  With Harry Carson coming out to block, it looked like a straight run by Hostetler, who was the holder.  But as Hoss tried to cut up the field, he lost his footing.  Hoss would fall to the ground, tackled by Ried, but he wouldn't have been close to a first down anyway.  His only other play would have been to option the ball back to McFadden, not only a kicker, but a barefoot kicker.  Curious call.

LT would come back on to the field after re-hydrating in the locker room.  The Falcons got the ball at the 20, and Settle took a handoff from the fullback spot and found a hole up the middle, and gained 11 yards, stopped by Carson at the 31.  Settle would get the ball on the next play as well, and he got away from Eric Dorsey running to his right, broke a few tackles, and took the ball out past the 40, stopped by Pepper Johnson, just a yard short of a first down.  On 2nd and 1, Miller dropped back and Carson just missed an INT, but the ball made it to Lang for an 8 yard gain and a first down, stopped by LT at the 47.  Atlanta would go back to Settle again, who was playing at fullback this time, and gained 4 yards up the middle, stopped by Pepper and Hill.  On 2nd and 6, Miller dropped back, just avoided an onrushing LT, and scrambled up the field for a 3 yard gain and was taken down by Marshall, who grabbed him around the head and would have gotten flagged for it today.  On 3rd and 3, Miller would give to Settle on a draw, and yet again, he showed a burst up the middle, followed Pro Bowler Bill Fralic, and got a first down to the 43 yard line, stopped by Pepper.  On 1st and 10, a pitch to the right to Primus looked like it was going to be for a loss, but he turned the corner and gained 3 yards, getting knocked out of bounds by Kinard at the 39.  Atlanta would go to their bag of tricks, this time a reverse to Dixon, who ran to the left side, followed his blocks and got the ball all the way to the 28 yard line, stopped by Williams but again, got another first down. Settle was given the ball again, cut back over towards the middle and the Giants would collapse on him with LT, Carson, and Howard hitting him after a 3 yard gain.  On 2nd and 7, another pitch to Settle running to his left this time, was able to get past Marshall and was knocked out of bounds by Carson after a 6 yard gain, setting up a 3rd and 1 at the 18. But this time, the Giants defense rose up

With the Giants loading up along the line of scrimmage, the handoff to Settle was going to the right, but the Hall of Famer Carson would shoot the gap and hit him for a loss at the 20.  That would bring on Davis for a 37 yarder, and unlike the Giants, Atlanta would take the points and Davis boomed through the kick to extend the Falcons lead to 13-3 with 4:13 to play in the 3rd quarter, capping a 12 play, 60 yard drive.

Davis' kickoff was taken at the 4 by Collins, and he was able to take it back to the 21 yard line, stopped by Cooper, however a hold on Tom Flynn brought the ball back to near the 10 yard line.  Simms would begin with a playaction fake to Morris and threw another comeback route to Baker, who was tackled by Butler after a 14 yard gain to the 24 yard line.  The Giants would go right back to that same combination, with Simms hooking up with Baker again, and again was stopped by Butler after a 13 yard gain.  The Giants would keep going to the hot hand, this time a stop and go to Baker, who went deep and Simms just overthrew him, but only because Butler, beaten on the play, grabbed Baker and drew a 5 yard penalty and an automatic first down.  With the ball on the 44, the Giants would again play action fake to Morris, and this time Simms would go to Manuel on a deep out, taking his turn to beat Butler, and a first down to the 37 yard line, with the game taking a brief pause as the replay booth was reviewing to see if he got both feet in bounds.  Back in 1988, this was a time when Instant Replay was still not really well used and learnings from the delays in it's early years led to the use of coach's flags today (to be fair, the USFL did it first in the mid 1980s).  Anyway, the booth confirmed it was a catch and a first down.  The Giants would stay in the air, and Simms went to Mowatt on a deep pass, who was covered by Williams, but Zeke snagged the ball at the 10 yard line and set up a first and goal.  On first down, Morris nearly broke a draw up the middle for a TD, but taken down by Moore at the 5.  On 2nd down, a pitch to Morris running to his right was only able to gain 2 yards, again stopped by Moore.  On 3rd down, the Giants frustrations would mount

The first overall pick in the draft, Aundrey Bruce would get around Mowatt on a classic "look out!" block and buried Simms at the 10 yard line.  Atlanta's defense bent but did not break, bringing on McFadden to convert a 27 yarder right down the middle to make the score 13-6 with :52 to go in the 3rd quarter.

McFadden's kickoff was angled to the right side and was taken by Devin Cooper at the 2 yard line, and he would push his way up the field and get dragged down by Adrian White at the 27.  Atlanta would begin their next drive with Miller back to throw, and plenty of time early on, but was forced to scramble and he hit Lang, who was a mismatch in coverage with Carson, and was able to sprint away from the veteran and take the ball all the way to the 50, pushed out by Collins.  Lang would plow up the middle for a good 5 yard gain, stopped by Carson for the final play of the quarter.  At the Giants' 46 yard line, Settle again got good yardage running to the right side, cutting inside LT and Washington, and was taken down by Hill at the 35 yard line after a 10 yard gain.  An inside handoff to Primus, running again behind Fralic was good for 3 yards, stopped by Carson and Burt.  On 2nd and 7, Miller threw a screen pass to Lang who got behind LT, and Lang was able to burst up the field, away from LT and was grabbed by Carson and smashed hard by Hill at the 21 yard line, with Lang getting up very slowly, looking very much like a concussion, but he did get the first down.  Atlanta would go back to Primus, running to the right side, but this time the Giants strung the ball out and he was taken down by Kinard for a 2 yard loss.  On 2nd and 12, Miller was back and under heavy pressure from Washington and he was able to fling the ball away with his left hand to avoid the sack, and somehow intentional grounding as well.  3rd and 12, Miller in the shotgun got a low snap from center, was able to corral it and throw in the direction of Haynes.  However, Williams jumped on his back before the pass got there and the pass interference gave the Falcons a first down at the 15 yard line.  On first down, Miller rolled out and took a shot in the end zone towards Haynes, and again Miller showed some rust, throwing the ball nearly into the stands and missing an open Haynes.  On 2nd and 10 at the 15, Settle took the ball up the middle, but this time the Giants defense stood him up and he only gained 2 yards, stopped by Dorsey.  3rd and 8, Miller was back to throw and he would hit Dixon in the hands, thrown a tad high, but Dixon was open for a TD, getting behind the Giants' defense.  That would bring out Davis to convert a 31 yarder and he got it right down the middle.  With 11:15 to go in the game, the Falcons took a 16-6 lead.

Davis was back to kickoff again, and this time Guggemos caught it at the goal line and was able to get it out to the 20 where he was taken down on a hard by the Falcons' coverage unit.  Simms would begin with a screen pass to Morris, who caught it at the 14 yard line, waiting for his blockers to get out in front and followed them to the 26 yard line, where he was tackled by Williams.  On 2nd and 4, Simms would throw over the middle to Carthon, who batted the ball up the in the air and it was snagged by Mowatt a few more yards up the field at the 40.  The play was so surreal that the replay booth got involved and after a brief stoppage, the catch was confirmed.  However, the Giants wouldn't be able to keep up their lucky streak

Simms had all day to throw the ball and decided to uncork a deep shot towards Baker, who was double covered.  The safety, Brett Clark, came over to pick off the overthrown ball at the 15, and with Case knocking off Baker, he was able to make his way up the field to the 34 yard line, and would have gone farther if he hadn't hurt his ankle or hamstring during his return.  However, in blocking Baker, Case was given a penalty for a block in the back and that put the ball all the way to back to the Falcons' 5 yard line.

In essence, the interception was a great punt, and the Giants defense took to the field with Atlanta pinned deep in their own end.  Lang started with a handoff up the middle, but he was stacked up by Carson and Burt after just a 1 yard gain.  On 2nd and 9, a sweep to Settle, who ran right at LT, was able to gain 3 yards until he was brought down by LT and Reasons.  Now 3rd and 5, Miller took the snap, backed up in the pocket and awkwardly made his way up the field and dove headfirst for the first down at the 16 yard line.  With a new set of downs, Settle would run to the right side, and get slammed down by Banks and Reasons for no gain.  On 2nd and 10, a swing pass to Settle was a little behind him and while he caught the ball, he fell down in doing so and lost 3 yards in the process. 3rd and 13 would become 3rd and 18 as Houston Hoover was called for a false start.  Looking at a 3rd and long, Miller would drop back into his own end zone and had time to throw, but once some pressure started to come close, he would scramble up the field and gained 5 yards, stopped by Reasons, but obviously well short of a first down.  Donnelly came on to punt and the ball was very nearly blocked, and was caught by McConkey at the Giants' 47 and he took it back 3 yards before going to the ground at the 44 yard line, however the Giants at least had very good field position to work with.

Simms would begin in the shotgun and throw a deep out to Manuel, but Butler would cut in front of the pass and knock it down.  On 2nd and 10, Simms would go back to Manuel again, this time on an in cut, and he would catch it and take the ball to the 28 yard line, stopped by Moore.  And then the Falcons' defense would rise up

The Giants, down by 10 and in a no huddle, allowed back to back sacks of Simms, first by Marcus Cotton and then by Tim Green, which gave the Falcons 4 sacks on the day and pushed the Giants all the way back to the 44 yard line and the Green sack forced the Giants to call their first time out with 4:02 to go in the game.  On 3rd and 28, what calls do you have in the playbook to convert?  Well, Simms in the shotgun, would go ahead and scramble up the middle and was able to actually gain 17 yards to the 28 yard line.  Trying to preserve clock, the Giants hustled McFadden on to the field and they would convert a 45 yarder, getting the snap off before the playclock ran down and made the score 16-9 with 3:25 to go in the game.
The Giants thought about maybe going for an onside kick, but decided to boot it deep, and it was taken by Cooper at the 5 yard line, and he ran straight ahead and very upright, and got blasted by Adrian White at the 16, and the hit jarred the ball loose and it went backwards and out of bounds at the 10 yard line.  Unfortunately, the whole thing was thrown off by Kenny Hill being offsides and the Giants had to re-kick.  This time, McFadden would boot the ball to the 7, Cooper would find more room this time and got the ball to the 25 yard line, stopped by Flynn with 3:07 to go in the game.  Atlanta, nursing a 7 point lead, only needed to eat more clock.  Lang began with a run to the right side, and was tackled by Banks after a 2 yard gain and the Giants took their 2nd time out with 3:01 to go.  On 2nd and 8, a draw went to Settle, who cut back over the middle, but was hit by Banks and Dorsey and fell forward for another 4 yard gain, out to the 25.  The Giants would take their final timeout with 2:54 to go in the game.  From this point on, the Falcons showed how and why they were a team that manages to pull defeat from the jaws of victory

Rather than run the ball again, or try a quick pass, the Falcons dropped Miller back.  The Giants would come on an all out blitz, with Banks coming free and unblocked to drill Miller just as he tried to throw the ball.  It fluttered in the air and was snagged by Carson at the 32 yard line, where he was buried by a group of Falcons.  Miller came off the field shaking his throwing hand in pain.

The Giants knew their chance was now, and with no time outs, they needed to get that tying touchdown.  Simms began with a draw to Morris up the middle, and he took it to the 24 yard line, stopped by Gann.  Simms hurried back to the line and took the snap and rolled out to his right, and was able to hit Baker, again on a comeback route, and Baker snatched the ball at the 7 yard line, slipped away from Butler and turned up the sidelines and got the ball to the 3 yard line, stopped by Clark.  On the play, Butler was flagged for a hold, but the Giants declined.  With first and goal to to on the 3 yard line, Morris took the pitch running to his right and bashed into a group of Falcons at the 1 yard line, however he was held out of the end zone, and the clock ticked down to the 2 minute warning.  The Giants would come out of the time out and brought their goal line back in for the next play.

OJ had become more of a TD vulture here, as Morris did the work to get the ball to the 1.  This time OJ would follow a big Carthon block and vault over the middle and fall backwards right on his back in the end zone for a TD.  While McFadden converted the extra point, Madden and Summerall were talking that this game was going to overtime as a heavy contingent of Giants fans cheered on in the deep South.  And obviously, most people thought this TD signaled OT as well.

with 1:57 to go in the game, the Giants would kickoff.  McFadden's kick would go to Cooper at the 5, and he took it up to the 20, where he was again buried on a huge shot by Adrian White.  Hugh Miller would take over at QB, as the shot by Banks on Miller took him out of the game, officially with an elbow injury.  Miller's first play was a non-play, a false start on Fralic to make it 1st and 15.  The Falcons would hand off to Settle up the middle, good for 3 yards where he was stopped by Howard and Dorsey.  With 2 time outs, and deep in their own end, you wondered what the Falcons were going to do.  Do they just play for OT (the smart/safe play)?  Do they try to score?  They went in between and it cost them.

Talk about a stunner.  Millen dropped back to throw and a stunt by LT brought him bringing pressure right towards Millen's face.  Millen would flip a lazy pass towards Settle in the flat, who was open all day, and tried to lead him.  However, Banks read the play and intercepted it at the 15, kept his balance, and ran it in untouched for a dramatic, back breaking, incredible pick 6.  the Giants entire team would come out to celebrate the TD as Parcells frantically waived them all back so as to not get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Madden correctly pointed out the stupidity of what the Falcons just did.  You had a backup QB, coming in to the final stretch of the game cold off the bench, deep in his own end, and in a no huddle.  Why force anything?  McFadden would put through the extra point and the Giants grabbed a shocking 23-16 led despite being completely outplayed.

McFadden would come on again to kickoff, and this time it was taken by Cooper at the 5, and he got smacked out of bounds by Stacy Robinson at the 18, with 1:21 to go.  The Falcons had 2 time outs and 82 yards ahead of them.  Millen started out with time to throw and the ball went in the direction of Dixon over the middle near the 40, but the ball sailed and fell near no one.  Millen again tried a deep out to Dixon, and Collins jumped the route to try to pick it off, but he and Dixon both went out of bounds, so the pass was incomplete.  On 3rd and 10, Millen dropped back, again with time, and was able to get the ball to Dixon on a sliding catch at the 40, and he took a shot from Flynn for his efforts.  The Falcons would call their 2nd time out with :59 to go.  On first down, Millen again went back, and he was able to sling a pass over the middle to Hester, and this time Hester broke a tackle attempt by Kinard and raced up the middle, all the way to the 20, where he was stopped by Collins, but for a brief moment it looked like he was going to break it for a TD, but instead they got a 39 yard gain.  Millen would hurry to the line and throw a quick out to Dixon, who caught it and was popped by Collins and fumbled the ball, which was knocked out of bounds by Sheldon White, who blew a chance to clinch the game.  The ball was placed at the 26 with :27 to go.  In today's NFL, the pass would likely have been ruled incomplete as Dixon didn't make a "football move".  So now 2nd and 16, Millen threw a pass over the middle to Haynes, who had the ball in his hands but was hammered by Reasons, knocking the ball loose and Haynes was injured on the play.  More bad news for Atlanta, they were flagged for an illegal formation and put them further back with :23 to go.  Facing 2nd and 21, Millen was rushed and hit at his knees by LT, which caused his deep pass to float down the field.  Perry Williams was in position for the interception, but Kinard ran over to bat the ball away, which was nearly snagged by a diving Hester, but Kinard was able to get a second deflection to keep it away from him too.  With :16 to go and on 3rd down, Millen would dump the ball off to Settle, and he would chug up the field for a 10 yard gain, out to the 21, making it 4th and 11 with :09 remaining.  The Falcons still had 1 time out in their pocket.  So do they go for the first down or go to the end zone?

Millen dropped back and avoided the rush by Martin on the outside and stepped up and rolled to his right.  Dorsey would chase him down and hit him at his legs just as he threw the ball, which again floated near the goal line.  As a number of players converged, Flynn mistimed his jump to knock it away and Haynes would come behind him and grab the ball and come down at the one yard line.  Kinard with latch on to Haynes for dear life and pull him back, away from the goal line, and held him up just long enough for Williams, Reasons, Collins, and Sheldon White to grab on to the pile and push him away from the end zone.  The Falcons tried to call one last time out but the clock had expired.  Jerry Markbreit would waive the referees off the field and the game would be officially be over as the Giants escaped what would be a devestating loss and left Atlanta with a crazy 23-16 win.

Post Mortem/Interesting Tidbits

  • This game in and of itself underscored why the Falcons were such a bad team in the 1980s.  Finding ways to lose.  Imploding at the worst time.  And the Giants were lucky to hang around and take advantage of a window when it presented itself.  But more on the Falcons' futility later.
  • Carl Banks' pick 6 was the only one of his career.  Banks would only make 3 INTs over the course of his 12 year career.  Though he did score one more TD, which came off a fake field goal, when Jeff Hostetler would connect with him on a 22 yard pass in Philly in 1989
  • Paul McFadden would kick 3 field goals in this game for the Giants, a high for the season for him, which he would equal 2 weeks later against the Cowboys.  McFadden would eventually move on to kick for the Falcons in 1989 and would hold the job for 9 weeks, until he was replaced by Greg Davis.  McFadden would retire after the 1989 season.
  • Harry Carson would intercept a pass in this game, his second on the season and the final one of his Hall of Fame career.  In all, Carson would pick off 11 passes in 13 seasons.
  • OJ Anderson's TD was his second on the season, and they were in Week 8 at the time.  He would hit his stride for the second half of the season, scoring 6 TDs, including 3 vs. his former team in a 44-7 blowout of the Cardinals.
  • Simms had an awful day.  He was sacked 4 times and threw 3 INTs with no TDs.  The 3 picks were a season high for him in 1988, however it was not a career high.  He threw 4 INTs in a game 3 times.
    • 1979- vs the Colts in a 31-7 loss
    • 1986- at Seattle in a 17-12 loss
    • 1987- vs the Cowboys in a 16-14 loss
  • Stephen Baker had 104 yards on 6 catches.  It was his 2nd 100 yard game of his career, the first came in his rookie year in 1987 in a 23-14 loss at New Orleans when he caught 4 passes for 100 yards.  Baker would put up over 100 yards again a few weeks later in New Orleans, a total of 134 yards on 3 catches, including an 85 yard TD.
  • One stat that stuck out in this game.  The Giants averaged 8.8 yards to go on 3rd down at this stage of the season.  The worst in the NFL, where the average was 7.4 yards.  Much of that could be blamed on what was a revamped offensive line as they transitioned from the suburbanities and got more playing time for William Roberts (at left tackle, where he was ill suited) and rookies Eric Moore and JUmbo Elliott.  Additionally, the Giants offense featured young guys like Baker and Mark Ingram (who was lost due to a broken collarbone making a diving catch vs. the Rams) and Mark Bavaro was sluggish coming off his holdout.  All contributed to the Giants offense sputtering.
  • Though the Giants were not rivals with the Falcons, unlike their other NFC West compatriots like the 49ers and Rams, the Giants would have some strange intertwines with them over the years even though they didn't meet that often.
  • Bill Parcells' first NFL head coaching victory was at Atlanta in Week 2 of the 1983 season.  The Giants would take a 13-6 lead in the 4th quarter until Steve Bartkowski hit Alfred Jackson for an 11 yard TD to send the game to OT.  The Shiek would come on and kick a 30 yarder to win the game.
  • In 1984, the Giants would again win at Fulton County Stadium, this time 19-7.  Parcells never played the Falcons as the Giants head coach at the Meadowlands.
  • Parcells daliances with Atlanta continued behind the scenes as well.  He was linked to them after the 1986 Super Bowl victory.  Parcells was looking for more money, and a better contract.  Ultimately, he would stay on with the Giants until he retired after the 1991 Draft due to health concerns.  But as we would see later on, Parcells always had his hand in some cookie jar.  He danced with Hugh Culverhouse in Tampa Bay and the Bucs owner pretty much gave him everything he wanted, and Parcells turned him down at the last second.  He would go to the Patriots and rebuild their franchise, but was flirting with the Jets, apparently at his hotel in the Super Bowl.  After a few seasons with the Jets, he would resurface in Dallas and help rebuild them and found their new QB, Tony Romo.  He went to the front office in Miami where it didn't work out as well, and was linked to the Saints job when his former assistant, Sean Payton was suspended for a year due to the bounties that he allowed with Gregg Robinson.  Parcells was also linked back to the Giants before Coughlin was hired.  So Bill liked to get around.
  • The Giants would not face the Falcons at Giants Stadium until 1998.  By that time, the Falcons were led by Dan Reeves, coming back to play the Giants for the first time since he was fired after 1996.  Playing on a Sunday Night game, a close halftime score (Falcons up 14-13) would end up going the other way quickly, as they would take a 34-13 lead, until Kent Graham came off the bench in place of Danny Kanell to add a window dressng TD.  Reeves would lead Atlanta to their only Super Bowl appearance that year.
  • The Giants also had some interesting firsts at the Meadowlands with the Falcons.  Eli Manning's first professional start in 2004 was against Atlanta.  Despite having a 5-4 record, the Giants lost games to the Bears and then at Arizona, where starter Kurt Warner was sacked 6 times and the Giants would blow a 14-3 lead and lose 17-14.  Coughlin decided to pull the plug on Warner and hand the team over to Eli.  Eli's numbers were not bad, but not great, going 17-37 for 162 yards and 1 TD (a 6 yarder to Jeremy Shockey) and 2 INTs in a 14-10 loss to a Falcon team that would finish 11-5.
  • The first playoff game at the New Meadowlands Stadium (before it was known as MetLife Stadium), was the Wild Card round in 2011 with the Giants taking on the Falcons.  After falling behind 2-0 on a safety thanks to an intentional grounding call on Eli in the end zone, the Giants would kick into gear, thanks to a huge game by Hakeem Nicks (6 catches, 115 yards, and 2 TDs) and the Giants defense making 2 stands on 4th down, and essentially pitching a shutout in winning the game 24-2.
  • Chris Miller was forced from the game due to injury and was replaced by Hugh Millen.  Miller was one of the first cautionairy tales for concussions before the severity was widely known, suffering up to 10 over the course of his career.  Miller was a talented passer, a first round pick out of Oregon, Miller would never play a full season, but when he was healthy, he was one of the better QBs in the NFL.  In the Falcons' playoff season in 1991, Miller would play in 15 games, throw 26 TDs for 3101 yards and earn his only Pro Bowl selection.  Miller would leave the Falcons after the 1993 season and would play with the Rams in 1994 and 1995, and would miss the next 3 seasons with injury and concussion problems and come back to play in 3 games with the Broncos in 1999 before retiring.
  • John Settle would rush for 85 yards on 19 carries and 1 TD, and would also snag 7 passes for 50 more yards.  Settle, and undrafted free agent, would make the Pro Bowl in 1988, rushing for 1024 yards and catching 68 passes for an additional 570 yards and 8 total TDs.  He was the first UDFA to rush for over 1000 yards in a season.  In 1989, Settle would rush for 689 yards and catch another 39 passes for 316 yards and score 5 TDs.  By 1990, he only played in 6 games, rushed for 16 yards as he lost his job to former Oiler Mike Rozier and first round pick Steve Broussard.  Settle would be out of the NFL by 1991.
  • Scott Case would pick off a pass on the first drive of the game.  He would finish the season with an amazing 10 INTs and make the Pro Bowl.  Of course, the old saying is that if a corner has a lot of interceptions, that generally means he's being targeted by opposing offenses to the point that he has an opportunity to make so many picks, yet they keep throwing at him, so they think there are plays to be made on his side.  Case would remain at corner in 1989, paired across from a rookie named Deion Sanders, and only intercept 2 passes.  The Falcons would move him to free safety in 1990, where he remained until 1994.  He would sign with the Cowboys as an extra defensive back and win a ring in 1995.
  • Case's 10 INTs were the most since Lester Hayes picked off 13 passes in 1980.  Since that time, a number of players have had 10 INTs.
    • Ty Law (Jets)- 2005
    • Deltha O'Neal (Bengals)- 2005
    • Ronde Barber (Bucs)- 2001
    • Anthony Henry (Browns)- 2001
    • Mark Carrier (Bears)- 1990
    • Asante Samuel (Patriots)- 2006
    • Champ Bailey (Broncos)- 2006
    • Antonio Cromartie (Chargers)- 2007
  • The Giants single season record for INTs?  11 done twice
    • Otto Schnellbacher in 1951
    • Jimmy Patton in 1958
  • Some other notable Giants interception records
    • Emlen Tunnell had 10 INTs in 1949
    • Dick Lynch had 9 INTs in 1963 and was later known for his time spent as a Giants game broadcaster/game day analyst/cheerleader in the booth
    • Tom Landry had 8 INTs in 1952 and 1954.  Landry, a former Giants defensive coordinator while Vince Lombardi was the offensive coordintor, he would go on to become a Hall of Fame head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
  • The Giants most INTs since 1981?  Stevie Brown with 8 in 2012.  Brown looked like a Pro Bowler that season and looked like a bright young star.  However, a torn ACL in the preseason on an interception return against the Jets would cost him the 2013 season and come 2014, he didn't regain his starting job and there is a question if he will ever return to form.
  • So how does a team stay so bad for so long, with such high draft picks?  When they screw up the draft picks.  Just look at where they picked and who they left on the board since 1983:
    • 1983- Picked at #16- Mike Pitts, DT from Alabama.  Played 4 years with Falcons and finished career with Eagles and Patriots.
    • 1983- Passed: Joey Browner (6 time Pro Bowler with the Vikings), Gary Anderson (Pro Bowl with Chargers), Jim Jeffcoat (15 year NFL career and won 2 Super Bowls), Gil Byrd (2 time Pro Bowler with Chargers), Ken O'Brien (2 time Pro Bowler with Jets), Dan Marino (Hall of Famer QB with Dolphins), Don Mosebar (11 year career with Raiders), Darrell Green (Hall of Fame CB with Redskins)
    •  1984- Picked at #9- Rick Bryan, DE from Oklahoma (played 9 years with Falcons, no Pro Bowls)
    • 1984 Passed: Wilbur Marshall (3 time Pro Bowl LB), Keith Millard (DT with Vikings, 2 time Pro Bowler and 1989 Defensive Player of the Year), Ron Solt (13 year career at guard and 1 Pro Bowl), John Alt (13 year left tackle with 2 Pro Bowls with Chiefs), Greg Bell (Pro Bowl running back), Louis Lipps (2 time Pro Bowler with Steelers and owner of a great name), William Roberts (played 14 years, won 2 Super Bowls, made 1 Pro Bowl)
    • 1985- Picked at #2- Bill Fralic- Guard from Pitt.  No real complaints here, Fralic was a very good player, made 4 Pro Bowls in a 9 year career.  
    • 1985- Passed.  Since Fralic was such a good player, you can't complain.  Except that they passed on Chris Doleman, who would go on to the Hall of Fame as a DE.  And another guy named Jerry Rice who was pretty good.
    •  1986- Picked at #2- Tony Casillas- DT Oklahoma.  Played a 12 year career but only 5 in Atlanta and made his name in Dallas.
    •  1986- Passed- Jim Everett (12 year career and 1 Pro Bowl as a QB), Leslie O'Neal (6 Time Pro Bowl DE), Keith Byars (13 year career at RB and 1 Pro Bowl), Will Wolford (13 year career at left tackle and 3 Pro Bowls), Neal Anderson (4 time Pro Bowl running back with Bears).
    • 1987- Picked at #13- Chris Miller QB from Oregon (made 1 Pro Bowl)
    • 1987- Passed- Haywood Jeffries (3 time Pro Bowl WR), Harris Barton (12 year career at right tackle and 1 Pro Bowl), Bruce Armstrong (6 time Pro Bowl as a left tackle for New England), Jim Harbaugh (15 year career and 1 Pro Bowl)
    • 1988- Picked at #1- Aundray Bruce, LB from Auburn.  "The next LT".  Played 4 years at Atlanta before going to the Raiders.  0 Pro Bowls.
    • 1988- Passed: Neal Smith (6 time Pro Bowl DE), Bennie Blades (10 year career at safety for Lions and Seahawks and made 1 Pro Bowl), Paul Gruber (12 year career at tackle and 2 Pro Bowls), Tim Brown (Hiesman Trophy winner and 9 time Pro Bowl WR/returner), Sterling Sharpe (5 time Pro Bowl WR), Terry McDaniel (5 time Pro Bowl corner), Michael Irvin (Hall of Fame WR), Ken Harvey (4 time Pro Bowl LB), Keith Jackson (6 tiem Pro Bowl TE), Anthony Miller (5 Time Pro Bowl WR), Randall McDaniel (Hall of Fame guard)
    • 1989- Picked #5- Deion Sanders- CB- Florida State.  Sanders would go to the Hall of Fame was one of the best corners in NFL History.  No complaints there.  Amazingly, the 1989 draft, of the first 5 players, 4 would go to the Hall of Fame (Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion).  The only one who didn't go?  Tony Mandarich, offensive tackle with the Packers and steriod fraud.
    • 1990- Falcons were picking #1, but traded the pick who would turn out to be QB Jeff George to the Colts.  This would turn out to be a smart move by Atlanta.  They gave up the #1 pick (George) and a fourth rounder in 1990, and got back Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Hinton (known as one of the guys traded for John Elway) and WR Andre Rison.  They also got a 5th in 1990 (Reggie Redding, OT), and a first rounder in 1991 (Mike Pritchard- WR with the 13th pick).
  • Though the Falcons would finish 1988 at 5-11, they had some impressive ones in that group.  They would beat the 49ers in San Francisco in Week 3, handing the Niners their first defeat of a season which would end with a Super Bowl victory.  They would also go into Philly and beat the Eagles, a team that won 10 games and the NFC East.  Not only that, they would go into LA and beat a hot Raiders team, snapping their 3 game winning streak.  And they very nearly added the Giants to their list.
  • Atlanta would go 3-13 in 1989 and 5-11 in 1990.  It wasn't until 1991, under Jerry Glanville and the Deion Sanders/Andre Rison trash talking team did they finally finish with a winning record, at 10-6 and they won a Wild Card game at New Orleans, 27-20.  They would lose the next week, 24-7 against the eventual champion Redskins.
  • One thing stuck out in watching the highlights though...why was Madden and Summerall there?  CBS at the time broadcast the NFC games and interconference games when the AFC team was at home.  Madden and Summerall were the clear #1 team, so why broadcast the Giants vs Falcons?  Well, the marquee NFC game that week was the 49ers at Chicago, a game that would prove to be a preview of the NFC Championship, but that was a Monday Night game on ABC.  The other broadcast games on their slate:
    • Dallas @ Eagles
    • Redskins @ Packers
    • Lions @ Chiefs
    • Vikings @ Bucs
You would think you have a rivalry game with Philly/Dallas and two of the older franchises in Packers and Redskins at Lambeau.  But I guess, when in doubt, put them in the biggest market with the Giants.