Tuesday, June 23, 2015

1984 Giants @ Rams

Wild Card Playoff Round

The Setup

I had previously written about the significance of the 1984 season in the Giants vs Chiefs review, but this game in particular went a long way to validating that Bill Parcells was the right man to lead the Giants.  This game not only made it clear that Parcells had the Giants on the right path, but served as a cautionary tale about what happens when a team underestimates/comes out flat against a quality opponent, which is exactly what the Rams did in this game.

Now, there were several factors as to why the Rams didn't take the Giants seriously until it was too late.  Among them:

- The Giants "backed" into the playoffs.  The Giants were involved in a convoluted 4 way mess at the top of the NFC East.  Going into the final weekend, the Redskins were 10-5 and in the lead.  Meanwhile the Cardinals, Giants, and Cowboys were all 9-6.  And here is where things got dicey:

  • The Redskins played the Cardinals at RFK.  The Cards had beaten Washington earlier in the season.  If the Cardinals win, they go 10-6 and have the tie breaker over the Redskins and win the NFC East (but Washington had already clinched a playoff spot).  A loss, and they are out of the playoffs.
  • The Cowboys were at Miami on a Monday Night.  A Cowboy win, and Cardinal loss, and they make the playoffs.  A loss, and they are out.
  • The Giants played the Saints in a game in which the Giants win or loss had no bearing on their playoff fate, as they were in a poor tie breaker scenario against either the Cardinals or Dallas.
As it would turn out, the Cardinals and Redskins would have a back and forth game, with the Cardinals driving down the field trailing 29-27 and set up for a Neil O'Donoghue 50 yard field goal with no time outs.  His rushed kick sailed wide right.  The Cardinals would lose and essentially never be heard from again in the playoff chase until 1998.  That led to a celebration by the Giants and Cowboys, as they both were still alive.

Meanwhile on Monday Night, the Cowboys and Dolphins were tied at 21-21 in the 4th quarter, until Dan Marino threw his 4th TD pass of the game, a 63 yarder to Mark Clayton to give Miami a 28-21 win, drop the Cowboys to 9-7 and put the Giants in the playoffs.

- So, how did the Giants do?  Well, let's say they didn't finish the season on a high note.  In Week 15 at St. Louis, they entered the 4th quarter tied 21-21.  However, Neil Lomax's 300 yard, 3 TD performance was too much, as a late Ottis Anderson TD from 12 yards out and an O'Donoghue field goal sealed a 31-21 win (which set up the Cards for their NFC East showdown game).  And while the Giants had nothing to play for technically in the Saints game, they looked horrible.  Taking on a 6-9 Saints team at Giants Stadium, the Giants were lifeless.  They lost 10-3, gained only 189 total yards, got sacked 7 times, and threw 2 INTs.  Hardly the performance from a team you would think is ready for the post-season.

Meanwhile the Rams came in at 10-6, and they had one of the two best offensive players in the NFL in 1984, Eric Dickerson (the other was Dan Marino).  Dickerson was a monster.  Very tall for a running back, with speed and power, he set the single season rushing record of 2105 yards and scored 14 TDs playing behind a massive offensive line.  They had an aggressive defense led by Pro Bowl linebackers like Jim Collins and veteran Jack Youngblood.  But all the signs were there for a let down.
  • The Rams were coming off an emotional battle against their main rival at the time, the 49ers.  In the mid 1980s, the Rams and 49ers had a traditional Friday Night game to end the season.  And in this case it was the 10-5 Rams against the 14-1 Niners.  At Candlestick Park, the Rams fell behind 17-3, before roaring back to make the score 17-16 until a late safety sealed the win 19-16 for San Francisco.
  • As noted above, the Giants had a bad ending to the season.  When the teams met in person, back in Week 5, after the Rams gifted a TD to the Giants on the opening kickoff by misinterpreting the touchback rules and letting the ball bounce into the end zone and left it, where it was recovered by Phil McConkey for a TD, it was a nightmare for the Giants.  Ali Haji-Sheikh missed the extra point and the Giants' special teams imploded.  McConkey fumbled a kickoff which set up a field goal.  Dave Jennings had 2 punts blocked for safeties. Henry Ellard returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown.  And the Shiekh topped it off by missing another extra point and a field goal.   To top it all off, Simms was sacked by Youngblood in the end zone for a 3rd safety in the game, an NFL record which still stands today.  And Dickerson churned out a ho-hum 120 yard effort.  In all, it was a 33-12 horror show.
  • The Giants lack of recent success (just their 2nd playoff game in 21 years) in comparison to the Rams (10th playoff in 12 years) took more luster off the game for the home team.  So much so, that even though the game would eventually have a record 67,000 people in attendance, most in Anaheim Stadium history, the game was not sold out in time prior to the game to prevent the blackout rules from applying.  So yes, a playoff game was blacked out in the Los Angeles market because the home fans didn't bother to sell it out.  And you wonder why LA hasn't had a team since 1994.  
So you had a Giants team, with little track record, who backed into the playoffs, led by a 2nd year coach in his first playoff game as the head man and had to take his team across the country.  Against a veteran team, with the best running back in football, playing at home and well rested.  The Giants should be just happy to be there and look to build on this for next year.  The Rams were already looking ahead to a match up in Washington, because before the playoff format was updated, you couldn't have teams from the same division play in divisional (2nd) round and match them up with the 49ers.  And that...is why they play the game.

The Game Highlights

 The Giants would kickoff, with Ali-Haji Sheikh booting it deep to Barry Redden at the 15 and he was taken down by Lawrence Taylor at the 30.  Yes...Lawrence Taylor, the best defender in the NFL, was covering the opening kickoff of this playoff game.  A hold on the Rams’ set them back 10 yards to the 20.  Kemp went behind center and pitched to Eric Dickerson running to his right, but Carl Banks got off his block and swallowed him up for a 4 yard loss all the way back to the 16.  2nd and 14, Kemp would drop back and tried to sling a deep pass to Drew Hill, but the ball was low and defended by Perry Williams.  3rd and 14, John Robinson decided he didn’t want to expose Kemp in his own end, so he pitched back to Dickerson running to the left for a gain of 2, taken down by Jim Burt and LT.  John Misko came on to punt and waiting deep was Lionel Manual, and it was a beauty, taken by Manuel at the 31 with a fair catch.  A 49 yarder with no return.  However, a penalty on LA for an illegal formation would invalidate the good punt and the Giants would force them to do it again, this time from his own end zone.  The Giants took their chances for better field position.

Misko’s kick was not as good on the second time around, taken by Manuel at the 44 yard line.  He would dance his way to the 47 where he was hit and looked to fumble the ball.  As the teams piled up to grab for it, an official said that Manuel was down and no fumble, so the Giants kept possession.  Replays looked close, but back in 1984, there was no replay booth, no red flags.  The Giants got the ball at the 47, so they would net 15 extra yards thanks to the decision to re-kick.  

Phil Simms led his team out and started by dropping back and hit Rob Carpenter out of the backfield and over the middle at the Rams’ 47 yard line and he burrowed his way to the 45, stopped by Carl Eckern but a good 8 yard gain.  2nd and 2, a quick handoff to Carpenter running to his left went for no gain, stopped by Greg Meisner and Mel Owens.  3rd and 2, Simms would fake to Carpenter, spin around and sling a pass to Manuel at the 38 yard line for a first down, stopped by Gary Green.  First down, Simms back again, with time, drilled one into Earnest Gray for an 11 yard gain, hit down by Jim Collins.  At the 27 yard line, Simms gave the ball to Joe Morris, for just one yard gain, tackled by Mike Wilcher.  2nd and a long 9, Simms back to throw and had some pressure in his face and he got off a pass towards Bobby Johnson in the end zone, who had beaten LeRoy Irvin, but Simms got hit as he threw, so the ball sailed incomplete.  However, on the play an illegal contact penalty on Collins gave the Giants an automatic first down.  Now at the 21, a quick inside handoff to Carpenter up the gut and he bulled his way to the 15 yard line, taken down by Vince Newsome.  2nd and 4 and another near disaster

That’s a great way to screw up a good drive.  Normally when the QB/Center exchange screws up, the QB drops the ball.  In this case, center Kevin Belcher dropped the ball as it was going back to Simms and it went on the ground.  Luckily for the Giants, Belcher was able to fall right back on it for no gain.  The Giants would shoot themselves in the foot again, as Karl Nelson came out of his stance way early for an easy false start as he tried to set up to block Jack Youngblood.  3rd and 9, Simms in the gun, and the Rams faked a blitz, but didn’t come.  Simms threw an out pattern towards Gray at the 8 yard line. Simms ran over thinking that interference should have been called on Green, but no flag came.  The Sheikh, who was terrible in 1984, banged through a 37 yarder to make the score 3-0 with 8:28 to go in the first quarter.

 The Sheikh kicked off to Redden, who took it at the goal line and followed his wedge (it wasn’t outlawed then), but was nailed by Larry Flowers at the 20 yard line.  Kemp would drop back throw with some time and went to his safety valve in Dickerson who was all alone in the right flat.  But he dropped the ball as he heard the footsteps of LT, who came flying at him and nailed him in the gut.  2nd and 10, Dickerson got the ball and ran off the right side for a 5 yard gain, but TE Mike Barber jumped offsides to wipe out the gain.  2nd and 15, Dickerson got a running start into the line, but didn’t go far, hit down after a 1 yard gain by Leonard Marshall and Jim Burt.  3rd and 14, and again John Robinson took the ball out of Kemp’s hands by pitching back to Dickerson on a sprint to the right side, and he got good yardage, out to the 24, hit down by Terry Kinard and Harry Carson, but short of a first down.  Misko came out and had a short kick that bounced at the 46 and was grabbed by Manuel at the 40, where he was dropped at the 43 by Ivory Sulley with 6:57 to go in the first quarter. 

The Giants offense would begin with a pass over the middle to Zeke Mowatt at the 48 yard line, tackled by Collins.  2nd and 4, the ball was given to Carpenter right up the gut, and was met by Collins after a 2 yard gain.  3rd and 2, Simms in the gun, the Rams called an all out blitz, which overwhelmed the Giants offensive line, as well as Mowatt who just watched Eckern come through to sack Simms back at the 40 yard line.  Dave Jennings came on to punt away to the NFC’s leading punt returner, Henry Ellard.  Jennings would shank the ball off the side of his foot and it bounced at the 37 yard line, but luckily for the Giants, it would roll all the way to the Rams’ 19 yard line, for a 41 yard punt and no return.

After the Giants got lucky with the bounce on the punt, the ball continued to bounce their way

Eric Dickerson was one of the best running backs of all time, and in 1984 he put up one of the best seasons in NFL history.  But his achillies heel was always that he suffered from acute fumbleitis, and this game was made worse by a cut on his left hand.  In this instance, Dickerson took the handoff up the middle and cut back towards his right.  As he did so, he was hit by DE Curtis McGriff and LT at the 20 and the ball popped up in the air where it initially hit Gary Reasons in the face and then was batted around and in the pile up of humanity, it was finally secured by safety Bill Courrier at the 23 yard line.

So the Giants were in a golden spot and began with a play action fake to Carpenter, but it didn’t fool the Rams, who came on a blitz and Simms was drilled by Eckern as the ball floated over Zeke Mowatt’s head.  2nd and 10, Simms again dropped back and threw a dart over the middle to Mowatt at the 15 yard line, where he was stood up by Collins and thrown to the ground.  3rd and 2, Simms back again to throw and with no one open, Simms took off up the middle and scrambled down to the 12 for a first down, hit by Newsome.  On first and 10, with the sun in his eyes, Simms would hand off to Morris on a delayed sweep to the right, following a pulling Benson, he cut up the field and got down to the 7 yard line, stopped by Johnny Johnson.  2nd and 5 at the 7 yard line, Simms would drop straight back and with time throw a seed towards a leaping Carpenter at the goal line, who had it in his hands, but he was bent back awkwardly on a hit by Collins and Eckern and dropped it.  3rd and 5, Simms dropped back and threw a tough out pass to Bobby Johnson by the right sidelines, putting the ball just over the shoulder of Green on defense.  Johnson snagged it and dove forward and out of bounds at the 1 yard line.  On first and goal, the Giants brought a TE in motion to try to throw a wham block on the nose and Carpenter tried to power it in, but he was sent back by Reggie Doss.  On 2nd down, with George Martin playing TE, the Giants tried Carpenter again, and this time he tried to leap over the pile, but he was met in the air by Eckern and stopped short of the goal line.  On 3rd and goal at the 1, Parcells decided that the was no point in being imaginative

Again, with Martin in at a blocking TE, the Giants decided that they were going to keep pounding at the Rams defense.  So they gave the ball to Carpenter, following Tony Gallbreath, lept into the line and was able to turn his body a little sideways and was able to get enough of a crease from right tackle Karl Nelson on Youngblood, to make his way into the end zone for the TD.  Ali Haji-Sheikh hit it right down the middle to make the score 10-0 with 1:10 to go in the first quarter.  

The Shiekh’s kickoff was a line drive, taken by Redden on a bounce at the 4 yard line and he found a seam behind his wedge and accelerated to the 32 yard line where he was tackled by Robbie Jones and LT (yes...LT again, covering kicks).  Kemp would fake a pitch to Dickerson to the right and would throw back to the left on a WR screen to Ron Brown, the former Olympian, at 28 yard line.  Brown followed his blocks and cut back around some missed tackles to take the ball to the 42 yard line, hit hard by Reasons, but the sticks showed it was good enough for a first down.  Kemp would fake to Dickerson which held up the rush initially, but the Giants defense began to bring pressure just as the ball was thrown deep to Ellard who made a great leaping catch at the 38 yard line, despite a decleating hit by Kenny Daniels.  However, behind the play, a hold was called on Bill Bain who hooked McGriff.  Ellard was shook up on the play and had to come out after having the wind knocked out of him.  1st and 20, another deep pitch to Dickerson running to the left, however he was met by Leonard Marshall at the 33 and taken down after a 1 yard gain on the final play of the first quarter.  2nd and 19, Dickerson would run to his right, but this time LT came firing in past the pulling guards to hit Dickerson down at the 37, and lost his helmet in the process.  3rd and 15, the Giants would come on a blitz, with LT crashing in from the right side.  Kemp felt the heat and immediately took off up the field and got to the 45 yard line where he was tripped up by Reasons and Carson, well short of a first down.  Another hold on Bain, who tackled Martin, was for some reason accepted (I guess to make it a tougher punt) and put the Rams back to the 27 yard line on 3rd and 25.  Kemp would drop back to throw and try a sprint rollout to his left, which wasn’t all that smart, as he headed in the direction of an onrushing Taylor and Marshall.  He somehow avoided a sack from LT, but wasn’t lucky enough to get past Martin, who took him down at the 24 yard line.  Misko came back on to punt and he got off a nice, high kick to Manuel at the 35.  Manuel would dance around a bit to get past the first wall of defenders and then make his way up the field and out to the Rams’ 48 yard line, chased out by James McDonald for a 17 yard return with 13:42 remaining in the half.

Simms would began with a handoff to Morris running to the right, and followed another devastating block by Nelson and then Benson on Youngblood and cut up the field to the 42 yard line, stopped by Newsome.  2nd and 4, Carpenter took the handoff and charged right up the gut to the 37 for a first down.  Parcells would keep pounding at the old warhorse Youngblood, running right at him again with Morris, who took it to the 35 yard line, stopped by Collins.  2nd and 8, the Rams would blitz, and the Giants would pick it up, but there was no one open down the field.  Simms would dump the ball off over the middle to no one in particular for an incomplete pass and somehow avoided an intentional grounding.  3rd and 8, Simms in the shotgun, had all day to throw and looked at Gray on a corner pattern, but his legs got tangled up with Green and they both fell down.  With the ball too far outside the Sheikh’s range, Jennings came on to try a coffin corner and he booted it out of bounds at the 15, so not his best effort.

The Rams would give the ball to Dickerson, running to his right and tried to cut back over the middle, but was taken down by Daniels and Burt at the 18.  2nd and 7, another pitch to Dickerson, this time running to his left, but he was strung out by the Giants defense, with Banks and Reasons hammering him down at the 22.  3rd and 3, Kemp would fake to Dickerson and then rifle a pass into Ellard who dove and made the catch at the 43 yard line, hit down by Daniel.  First down, the Rams tried to cross the Giants up with a handoff to Dwayne Crutchfield, the fullback, but he was engulfed by McGriff as soon as he got the ball and took him down after a 1 yard gain.  On 2nd down, Dickerson would finally find some room running to the right, breaking a tackle attempt by Daniel and powering down to the Giants’ 45 yard line, hit by Terry Kinard.  However, the reason why he had room was because of another hold on the Rams, this time on Dennis Harrah.  So now 2nd and 19, Kemp back, with a rush in his face, and dumped a pass off to Mike Barber, who was dragged down with one arm by Reasons at the 43, for a 10 yard gain.  3rd and 9, Kemp on a 3 step drop, again tried to drill a pass into Ellard on the same play he called earlier, but the ball sailed over everyone’s head.  Misko came on to punt again, and this time his high hanger was fair caught by Manuel at the 25 with 7:43 go to in the half.

The Giants started with a pass in the direction of Galbreath, but the ball went over his head on a bad throw by Simms.  2nd and 10, Simms would drop back and hit Mowatt at the 31 and Zeke would cut back up the field to the 34, stopped by Eckern a yard short of the first.  3rd and 1, Morris took the handoff and just powered his way over right end to the 37, stopped by Collins but well past the sticks.  Carpenter would take the next handoff, but he was met by Charles DeJernett for a loss.  2nd and 11, Simms was back to throw and had an all out blitz coming after him.  He retreated and then dumped off to Carpenter, who made the grab at the 30 yard line and he took it to the 36, caught from behind by Mel Owens, who made a big tackle because Carpenter had no one ahead of him.  3rd and 11, Simms in the gun and had some time initially, but with no one open, DeJernett got past his man and sacked Simms back at the 25 yard line, and luckily didn’t fumble.  Jennings on to punt, got off a nice kick to Ellard at the 27, and the Pro Bowl returner slipped and danced his way to the 41 yard line, stopped by Jones after a 14 yard return.

The Rams took over with 4:22 to go in the half, and Dickerson would follow his pulling guards to the right and cut up field, knocked down by Carson at the Giants’ 48 yard line and a first down.  Kemp would drop back and with Banks being picked up on a blitz, threw an out to Brown at the 38 yard line, he would spin away from LT, and then spin away from Reasons, and got the ball all the way to the 29 yard line where Marshall came roaring back from his DE position to take him down.  Dickerson would take the pitch running to this right, and had momentum, powering to the 22 yard line, hit down by Courrier.  2nd and 3, another pitch to Dickerson, this time to his right, but Marshall read it perfectly and smothered him for a big loss back to the 28 yard line which brought the clock to the 2 minute warning.  3rd and 8, Kemp back again, and he threw to David Hill at the 25, who had a chance to get the first down, but he slipped at the 22, and right into the prone body of Perry Williams, who also slipped down.  John Robinson decided to take the points and brought on Mike Lansford for a 41 yard FG, and the barefoot kicker just barely got in through to make the score 10-3 with 1:00 remaining.

On the ensuing kickoff, near disaster

The Giants would dodge a major bullet, as Kenny Hill took the kickoff at the 5 yard line and brought it to the 20 where he was met by several Rams.  As he was spinning off the tackles, he got popped right on the ball and he fumbled.  Joe Morris was alert enough to jump on the loose ball to save the day with :52 to go.  Going conservative, Parcells gave the ball to Carpenter, who spun off a hit in the backfield and lunged forward for a 1 yard gain.  The clock was winding down, and again gave the ball to Carpenter, who plowed up the gut, hit by Eckern at the 22.  The Rams called a time out with :04 to go before the half, which was strange since it was their first one and they should have done it after the first play.  3rd and 9, Simms dropped back, retreated a bit to waste enough time, and then dumped it to Carpenter at the 20 and he took it to the 21, shoved out by Owens, but the clock struck at :00 and the Giants would go in up 10-3 at the half.

Lansford would kickoff to start the 2nd half and the ball went to Frank Cephus at the 10 and he took it down to the 30, spun down by Ivory Sulley.  Simms dropped back and hit Mowatt over the middle for a 7 yard gain, taken down by Eckern at the 37.  2nd down, the handoff went to Morris, sprinting to his right and Morris lunged towards the 40 yard line, despite what would have been a horse collar call on Vince Newsome, and the refs gave him the first down.  Simms dropped straight back and with a blitz coming, hit Gray at the 49 yard line, stopped by Johnson.  2nd and 1, Carpenter ran pretty much a dive up the gut and plowed into Greg Meisner for no gain.  3rd and about a foot, Simms called a hard count that got Youngblood to jump and the Giants handed off to Morris running to his right got about 3 yards, but the offsides call gave them a first to the Rams’ 45.  

On first down, the Giants continued to go to Zeke Mowatt.  Simms would roll out to his right with the Rams blitzing and hit Mowatt right in the seam at the 38 yard line, and he would accelerate up the field, past a diving Owens and out to the 23 yard line, cut down by Johnson.  You forget how good Mowatt was as a TE before his torn ACL in 1985 and what he could have been.  However, a guy named Bavaro who would arrive in 1985 would also make fans forget Zeke.  The Giants were driving, and on first down the ball went to Morris running to his left and looked to have room, but Doss got in the backfield and took Morris down for a loss.  2nd and 11, Simms back, with another blitz coming, Simms took a shot at the end zone to Gray, but the ball was broken up by Johnson, who had great coverage on the play.  3rd and 11, Simms in the gun, had another Rams blitz come and flipped the ball out to the right flat to Galbreath at the 33.  Galbreath was able to get around Collins in the open field and navigate his way to the 21 yard line, stopped by Meisner.  The Sheikh came back on the field to hook in a 39 yard field goal inside the right upright to make the score 13-3.  

The kickoff was a bouncer to Redden at the 10, and he was swallowed up by Elvis Patterson and friends at the 22, and on the play Redden would hurt his knee.  Kemp bean with a pitch to Dickerson to the left, and he was hit down by Banks at the 26.  2nd and 6, Dickerson tried to cut back over the middle, but was met by McGriff at the 26 for no gain.  On 3rd and 6, the Rams got lucky

The Rams passing offense was pretty much non-existent and on this play Kemp had time to throw and uncorked a deep shot towards Drew Hill at the 25, where he was jostling for position with Kinard.  The ball would fall just short of both men, however the ref threw a flag on a huge pass interference on Kinard.  Even John Madden knew it was a BS call, if anything, Hill was grabbing Kinard’s arm.  The refs put the ball at the Giants’ 29 yard line, a 45 yard penalty in all.  Dickerson would take the handoff and try to run to his right and was hammered down by Daniel for a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, Kemp back and was smashed by LT who came inside on a stunt, but he got the ball out to McDonald at the 25 near the sidelines, and he would turn up the field to the 16 yard line, dragged down by Williams.  First and 10, Kemp back to throw again, and he had time early, but Burt put pressure on him up the middle, so he scrambled to his right and tried to run, but was caught by Banks at the 14 yard line for a 2 yard gain.  On 2nd and 8, the Giants defense finally got burned by the best running back in the NFL

Dickerson, running to his left, got around a kickout block on Reasons from McDonald, and with the inside sealed thanks to Harrah on LT, Dickerson easily beat Carson, Banks and Kinard to the edge and sprinted into the end zone for a 14 yard TD.  Lansford’s extra point would make the score 13-10 with 6:25 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Lansford’s kickoff went to Hill at the 15, and he got a great run back to the 42 yard line, but a hold on the Giants sent them back to 20.  Simms started with a pass again to Mowatt, who caught it at the 24 yard line and Zeke turned it up the field and took Johnson for a ride out to the 32 yard line, where Collins had to help get him on the ground.  Simms back again to throw and checked down to Carpenter at the line of scrimmage and he took it to the 33 yard line, cut down by Wilcher.  2nd and 9, Simms handed off to Morris running to his right, but he was met in the backfield by DeJernett and spun off him, but he would get downed by Wilcher at the 30 for a loss.  3rd and 12, Simms would make a big play

Simms was always an underrated passer with a strong arm and could display good touch.  With Simms in the gun and a pocket to throw in, he threw a perfect pass on a deep out to Manuel at the Rams’ 45 yard line, between 2 defenders and the diving catch was good for a huge first down to the 44.  The Giants again went to Morris sprinting to his right behind the pulling Benson, but little Joe saw something and cut back up the middle and took it to the 40, hit down by Collins.  2nd and 6, Simms back again, with a blitz that was picked up by Carpenter, he had Gray open deep who had beaten his men by a few yards and should have been a walk in TD, but the ball was over thrown.  3rd and 6, Simms in the gun, and again the Rams blitzed, again the Giants picked it up, but Simms got decked late.  However, he got the ball off and hit Manuel at the 29 yard line.  The Giants’ WR would deke and juke around and got the ball down to the 20.  On the play Simms would get decked by Doss and had to regroup, but Karl Nelson got hurt in the pileup as everyone hit him on the ribs.  Conrad Goode would take over at right tackle as the Giants gave the ball to Morris running to his right, and again was met by DeJernett in the backfield for a loss of 1.  2nd and 11, Simms back, with time, dumped it off to Carpenter in the right flat at the 24, and he took the ball up to the 15 yard line, smashed by Collins.  

3rd and 4, Simms faked the ball to Morris on a sweep to the right and rolled out to his left on what was probably a bootleg, but he did so right into a blitzing Collins, who mugged Simms down at the 20 for a sack.  Simms would actually pull this play off 2 years later in the NFC Championship game against the Redskins and nearly scored.  The Sheikh continued to kick well, putting through a 36 yarder with little concern to make the score 16-10 with :40 to go in the 3rd quarter.  

The Shiekh’s kickoff would go to Redden at the 10 yard line and he would sprint up the field until he was met by McGloughlin and Cephus and dropped hard at the 18 yard line.  First down, Kemp back again, and hit Barber over the middle at the 23 yard line, where he was dragged down by Reasons and Taylor on the final play of the 3rd quarter in which the Giants held the ball for 10:55 to the Rams’ 4:05.  2nd and 5, Dickerson tried to run to his right and was stacked up by McGriff for a 2 yard gain.  3rd and 3, Kemp back to throw and he had time to hit Barber coming across the middle at the 32 yard line, who beat Banks in coverage because he was too busy looking in the backfield and Barber was able to chug up the field to the 41 yard line, running over Kinard for a 16 yard gain.  First down, a fake to Dickerson and Kemp was forced to roll back and to his right, running for his life from Burt and Marshall.  Before he got hit, he threw across his body up the field to Dickerson, who was run into by Carson for an easy pass interference and a first down at the Giants’ 49.  The Rams would run a reverse to Ellard who accelerated all the way out to the 35 where he was grabbed and driven back by Kinard.  However, on the play there were 2 flags thrown.  The first was on Bain for an illegal motion and the second was a pass interference on the offense.  Either way, the Rams marched back 10 yards.  On first and 20 came a game saving play

Dickerson was that typical great back, who you might bottle up for the first 10 carries or 15 or even 20, but he’s going to break one.  In this case, Dickerson was running to his right, jumped over McGriff, broke away from Reasons, LT and Burt, got around Daniel and then took off up the right sidelines.  The last guy with a good shot at him was Kinard, who blew the contain initially, but had enough recovery speed to catch up with him and dove at his feet to make a touchdown saving tackle at the 35 before the big back could get up to full speed.  The Rams were able to get a first down, but it could have been much more.  Kemp back after a fake handoff to Dickerson and had some time before LT crashed in on him and he got the ball out to McDonald at the 30, and he lost his footing and was downed by Banks at the 27.  2nd and 3, another pitch to Dickerson running to his right, again he had room to run and again Kinard came up to hit him before he got up to full speed at the 19 yard line, but good for another first down.  The Giants defense looked to have tired legs as they substituted new linebackers in and the Rams called a timeout.  Dickerson would run around the corner on the left side, got past Marshall and Williams until he was met by Kinard and LT at the 11 yard line.  2nd and 2, Dickerson again to the right, again jumped over McGriff and was tripped up by Banks at the 7 yard line for a first and goal.  On the play, Courrier went down trying to make the tackle and held up the game (which was good for the Giants).  The Rams were driving and the Giants looked like they were in trouble.  The pitch was to Dickerson running to the left again, and this time he cut back up the middle and was met by Banks at the 4 yard line.  On 2nd down, came one of the most curious calls you will see.

The Giants defense was wobbly at this point.  Dickerson, the best back in the NFL was getting hot.  And John Robinson calls for an inside handoff to his fullback, Crutchfield and he was immediately nailed for a loss by Marshall.  This is a case of a coach getting far too cute.  Before the play, Madden was noting how no one else should get the ball.  So it was such a bad call that Madden had to basically call his good friend, Robinson, pretty much an idiot for this play call.  So now 3rd and goal at the 7, with the ball really too far out to give to Dickerson due to the horrible decision on 2nd down, and the life was let out of the Rams.  Kemp dropped back, and pressure coming up the middle from McGriff, threw an out to Ellard at the 5 yard line, and he was wrapped up by Williams and thrown back to the 11 yard line.  The Rams had to bring out Lansford as the fans booed the poor play calling that cost them a TD.  Lansford’s 22 yarder was good, making the score 16-13, but it felt like the Rams might have let the game get away from them.

Lansford’s kick went to Hill at the 5 yard line and he was taken down at the 24 yard line with 6:53 to go in the game and the Giants clinging to a 3 point lead.  Parcells wouldn’t sit on it and Simms dropped back to throw and dumped it off to Morris in the left flat, and Little Joe took it up the field to the 26 yard line.  2nd and 8, again Simms would drop back, and again a check down safe pass to Carpenter at the 25 and the fullback powered his way to the 32 yard line, hit by Eckern and Collins.  3rd and 1, Simms would surprise the Rams by dropping back to throw, but again went for the dump off to Carpenter at the 31 yard line, and he pushed his way 36 yard line, stopped by Collins and LeRoy Irvin, but good enough for another first down and kept the clock moving.  On the next play, the Giants fans thought they had the game won

With the Giants in clock kill mode, Simms gave off to Morris on a quick inside handoff up the middle.  Morris accelerated up and cut to his right, breaking a tackle attempt from Eckern and then exploding up the field and until he was grabbed down via a legal horsecollar tackle by Newsome at the 3 yard line.  However, a flag for a hold called on the Giants ruined a 61 yard gain as Belcher was nailed for grabbing Meisner’s left arm, and he didn’t need to do it because Morris was already gone.  So the ball went back to the 26 yard line, on first and 20, and Simms would throw the ball over the middle to Mowatt at the 32, where he was taken down by Eckern.  2nd and 14, Simms again dropped back, with some time to throw but no one open, he scrambled to his left and tried to set up to pass, but was tracked down and drilled by Wilcher at the 30 for a sack.  Now 3rd and 16, Simms in the gun, and came a questionable play.  Rather than play it safe and handoff or go short, the Giants went for the first down, threw a deep out to Gray, but the ball sailed and stopped the clock with 2:59 to go.  Jennings came on to punt to the dangerous Ellard, and Jennings’ kick was short, but a weird problem with the clock operator not starting the 30 second play clock negated it.  So Jennings was given a second chance and this time got off a good one to Ellard at the 20 and was dropped by Cephus at the 26.  

The Rams had 2 timeouts to go and the 2 minute warning.  They started with a pass out to Brown on a WR screen to the right, he caught it at the 21 and made his way up to the 29, taken down by Carson and out of bounds with 2:42.  2nd and 6, the ball went back to Dickerson running to his left, but he was surrounded and was taken down by Andy Headen and Reasons at the 30.  The Rams would huddle up on 3rd and 5, Kemp went back to throw and wanted to go to Dickerson, but George Martin stopped his rush to cover him, so Kemp was forced to go to his secondary receiver David Hill over the middle at the 40, but the ball was a little off target and dropped.  4th and 6, the Rams took a timeout with 2:02 to figure out what to do.  Well, the Giants knew what to do

As he always seemed to do, LT showed up in the big spot of the big games.  On 4th and 6, LT did his usual pass rush around the blind side, threw off Irv Pankey, and drilled Kemp in the back as he tried to throw, with an assist from Martin and Merrill along the way.  The ball floated forward and was recovered by Headen at the 34.  On the play, Bain was injured and had to be helped off with 1:58 to go.  

The Giants would give the ball to Carpenter and he would power his way off right end and keep his legs moving, all the way down to the 25 where the Rams took their final time out with 1:49 to go.  The Giants again gave it to Carpenter, and he was smashed in the backfield by Meisner for a loss.  They let the clock keep running on 3rd and 3, and Simms would have the Rams made a final fatal mental mistake

With no time outs, the Rams were desparite.  The Giants gave the ball to Carpenter, who was stopped short of the first by Doss at the 20, but Meisner tried to jump in quickly, and he came offsides, so with the 5 yard gain, that gave the Giants a first down and put the game away.  On the bench, the Giants celebrated as Parcells chatted with Mickey Corchoran, his high school basketball coach, the same one I went to, River Dell.  Simms would take a couple of kneel downs as the team celebrated on the bench, knowing they were moving on to a week stay in California and a date with the 49ers in Candlestick in the next round of the playoffs.  

Interesting Tidbits/ Post Mortem

  • The Giants run would end one week later, against the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers in San Francisco. The Giants gave the Niners their toughest game, with all the scoring happening in the first half and would lose 21-10.
  • This would be Parcells' first playoff win in his career.
  • LT game winning sack of Jeff Kemp was his first “official” post-season sack.  Sacks were not kept as a stat prior to 1982, so his run in 1981 didn’t count, when he unofficially registered a sack in both the Eagles Wild Card game and the 2nd round in San Francisco.  He would go on to register 5.5 more sacks in 12 more post-season games.
  • Like LT, George Martin registered his first official sack in the playoffs in this game.  He did get one against the Eagles in the Giants win at Philly in 1981.  Martin’s final post season sack occurred late in the 2nd quarter of Super Bowl XXI, when he wrapped up John Elway for a safety that made the score 10-9 and set the Giants up for a big turnaround in the 3rd quarter on the way to a route.
  • Lionel Manuel was the punt returner because Phil McConkey was hurt and unable to play
  • Earnest Gray caught 2 passes for 20 yards.  It was the last time Gray would make a reception in the post season.  His best playoff game came in 1981 at San Francisco, when he snagged 3 catches for 118 yards and a TD, including a 72 yard TD catch from Scott Brunner.
  • The Giants started rookie first rounder William Roberts at left tackle in this game and shifted usual left tackle Brad Benson to left guard as the normal starter, Billy Ard, was out injured.  Roberts was a player who was very talented but never was able to settle in at tackle.  He was a backup throughout 1985 and 1986.  When Karl Nelson went down with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1987, Roberts stepped in at right tackle and played ok, but not great.  In 1988, Roberts shifted over to left tackle as Brad Benson retired, and he struggled there as well.  Parcells would eventually shift Jumbo Elliott to left tackle and kicked Roberts inside to left guard.  Once at guard, Roberts added weight and settled in as the starter and played well enough to earn a Pro Bowl selection in 1990.  Roberts would remain as the starter at guard through the 1994 season.  He would rejoin Parcells in New England and would play for the Patriots in the 1996 Super Bowl against Green Bay.  Roberts would play one more season, with the Jets in 1997, again following the Tuna there before he retired.
  • It was not a banner offensive showing by the Giants, totaling only 40 yards on the ground and 192 yards in total.  It was the second worst output by the Parcells’ Giants.  The worst, not surprisingly, came in 1985 at the eventual World Champion Bears, when the Giants were shut out 21-0.  Against one of the best defenses of all time, in freezing Soldier Field, the Giants rushed for 32 yards and gained 181 total yards.
  • The win at LA was also Parcells’ first road playoff win.  He only won one other road playoff game as the Giants head coach, the NFC Championship game in San Francisco in 1990, putting his road record at 2-2.
  • The best road coach in the playoffs for the Giants?  Easy, Tom Coughlin.  Coughlin is an amazing 5-1 on the road in the playoffs.  His only loss coming at Philly in the Wild Card round in 2006, and even that was a close game that took a last second David Akers field goal to beat the Giants.  Of course, his home record of 1-2 is less than stellar.
  • Parcells first and last wins in the post season both had to do with time of possession.  In the case of the 1984 Rams, they were a team who wore teams out behind a huge offensive line (back in a time when offensive linemen were around 275 pounds, they had 300 pounders) and kept pounding Dickerson at teams.  After a few quarters of this, Dickerson would eventually break big runs as teams couldn’t keep up.  And in Super Bowl XXV, the Bills ran their no-huddle offense and put pressure on defenses and points up quickly.  In the AFC Championship game, they dismantled the LA Raiders by the score of 51-3.  So what did Parcells and the Giants do?  In the Wild Card the Giants kept the ball for 34:03 to the Rams 25:57.  That disparity helped the Giants control the game and find a way to win.  In the Super Bowl, they played it to perfection, 40:33 to 19:27.
  • Rob Carpenter’s TD was the only one he scored over the course of 10 playoff games in his career.
  • While the Sheikh had a return to form in the playoffs, going 3-3 in field goals in LA, Ali Haji-Sheikh was terrible in 1984.  He went 17-33, for a high schoolish 51.1% conversion rate.  And he also managed to miss 3 extra points as well.  This was a far cry from 1983, when he burst on to the scene as a rookie and made 35 of 42 attempts (the 35 conversions led the NFL), scored 127 points and earned both Pro Bowl and All Pro Honors.  On a team that would go 3-12-1, the Sheikh was one of the few offensive bright spots.  Come 1985, it wasn’t clear which direction his career was going to go.  He had injury problems with his hamstring and he kicked in the first two games of the year until he re-injured his leg and was placed on IR.  The Giants signed Jess Atkinson to kick and he would kick the next 6 games, until he was waived.  The Giants had hoped the Sheikh was ready to go, but his leg wasn’t sound enough.  So the Giants signed Eric Schubert to kick the remainder of the year.  by 1986, Parcells had enough of the Sheikh and released him and went with Joe Cooper and Bob Thomas until they signed Raul Allegre, who was released from the Colts.  Meanwhile, the Sheikh would end up kicking in Atlanta for 6 games in 1986.  In 1987, Jess Atkinson and the Sheikh’s paths crossed again.  Atkinson kicked for Redskins in their home opening win vs Philadelphia.  He would be replaced by the Sheikh for the remainder of the season (minus the scab games).  The Sheikh would kick for them through the post season and converted on all 6 extra points in the Super Bowl XXII win over Denver.  He would retire from football after that game with a championship ring.
  • It was not a banner offensive showing by the Giants, totaling only 40 yards on the ground and 192 yards in total.  It was the second worst output by the Parcells’ Giants.  The worst, not surprisingly, came in 1985 at the eventual World Champion Bears, when the Giants were shut out 21-0.  Against one of the best defenses of all time, in freezing Soldier Field, the Giants rushed for 32 yards and gained 181 total yards.
  • As noted earlier, the Giants lost to the Rams in the regular season, 33-12. Since 1981, the Giants have faced a team in the playoffs who they also played in the regular season 20 times:
    • 1981: Regular Season: Eagles- 1-1, 49ers- 0-1
    • 1981: Playoffs- Eagles- 1-0, 49ers- 0-1
    • 1984: Regular Season: Rams- 0-1, 49ers - 0-1
    • 1984: Playoffs- Rams 1-0, 49ers- 0-1
    • 1986: Regular Season: Redskins- 2-0, 49ers- 1-0,  Broncos- 1-0
    • 1986: Playoffs: Redskins- 1-0., 49ers- 1-0, Broncos- 1-0
    • 1989: Regular Season- Rams- 0-1
    • 1989: Playoffs- Rams 0-1
    • 1990: Regular Season- 49ers- 0-1, Bills- 0-1
    • 1990 Playoffs- 49ers- 1-0, Bills 1-0
    • 2000: Regular Season- Eagles- 2-0
    • 2000: Playoffs- Eagles 1-0
    • 2002: Regular Season- 49ers- 0-1
    • 2002 Regular Season- 49ers- 0-1
    • 2006: Regular Season- Eagles- 1-1
    • 2006: Playoffs- Eagles -0-1
    • 2007: Regular Season- Cowboys- 0-2, Packers- 0-1, Patriots- 0-1
    • 2007: Playoffs- Cowboys 1-0, Packers- 1-0, Patriots- 1-0
    • 2008: Regular Season- Eagles- 1-1
    • 2008: Playoffs- Eagles- 0-1
    • 2011: Regular Season- Packers- 0-1, 49ers- 0-1, Patriots- 1-0
    • 2011: Playoffs- Packers 1-0, 49ers- 1-0, Patriots- 1-0
  • In 1984, Eric Dickerson rushed for a (still) NFL Record 2105 yards.  The Giants would “hold” him to 107 yards and 1 TD on the day.  It was better than his earlier game when he ran for 120 yards against the Giants.  Dickerson, as you would expect, posted eye popping numbers in 1984.  He rushed for over 100 yards in a game 12 times, and on 7 of those games he topped 145 yards.
  • Dickerson continued to be dominant runner in the post seaon, rushing for 248 yards in a 20-0 win over the Cowboys in 1985, and 158 yards in a Wild Card loss at Washington in 1986.
  • Dickerson was one of the most prolific running backs in history.  He finished with 13,259 yards rushing and 90 TDs (rushing).  He would rush for over 1000 yards his first 7 years in the NFL.  At 6’3”, 220 pounds, he was very big for a running back at the time and had the power to run over defenders and the speed to run past them.  But Dickerson, for a tall running back, also ran very upright, or as they say, very North/South.  When you are a tall running back with that running style, you provide the defense with a big target to hit and a long center of gravity.  In contrast, Joe Morris, at 5’7” and very stocky, had a low center of gravity and it was tougher to get a hit on him.  The weakness of being a tall RB...fumbles.  Dickerson had a crucial fumble in the Giants playoff game.  In his career, Dickerson fumbled an amazing 78 times.  Perhaps the game that summed up Dickerson best was the 1986 Wild Card game against the Redskins.  He did rush for 158 yards in the game, including a 65 yard burst that left him short of a TD only because he was caught from behind by Darrell Green.  But he also had three critical fumbles and the Rams would lose 19-7.
  • Dickerson looked to be a Ram for life, but as things often happen in the world of professional football, money seemed to get in the way.  Dickerson clashed with the Rams over his contract and things came to a head in the 1987 strike season.  It became clear that Dickerson was not going to find the money he wanted in LA, even though he sat out 2 games in 1985 as a holdout.  Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts, led by then 28 year old GM Jim Irsay (now the current owner and controversy lightning rod) decided that the Colts needed a jump start.  The Colts were a story of negativity.  John Elway refused to play there and forced a trade to the Broncos.  The Colts and their owner, Bob Irsay, were steadfast that they were not moving from Baltimore...until they did so in a snowstorm in the middle of the night in March of 1984, the Mayflower moving trucks showed up and brought the Colts operations to Indianapolis.  What followed was a laughing stock of records- 4-12 in 1984, 5-11 in 1985, and 3-13 in 1986 (with a 0-13 start).  By 1987, the Ron Meyer Colts were playing pretty well, sporting a 3-3 record coming out of the strike and in the thick of the AFC East race.  With this backdrop, Irsay decided it was time to make a splash and went after Dickerson.  What followed was a 10 player blockbuster that was agreed to on Halloween day in 1987.  Dickerson was traded to the Colts and promptly got a $5.6 million deal over 4 years, a huge sum at the time.  It was a convoluted deal that involved 3 teams and it broke down this way
    • Colts got Dickerson
    • Rams got: Greg Bell, RB (and promptly rushed for 1200+ yards and 16 TDs in 1988), Owen Gill, RB.  Billls’ 1988 first rounder (Gaston Green, RB), Colts 1988 first rounder (Aaron Cox, WR), Colts 1988 second rounder (Fred Strickland, LB), Bills 1989 first rounder (Cleveland Gary, RB), Colts 1989 second rounder (Frank Stams, LB), Bills 1989 second rounder (Darryl Henley, DB)
    • Bills got: Cornelius Bennett
  • Dickerson would look like a man reborn with the Colts, rushing for 1011 yards in just 9 games, to lead them to a 9-6 record and win the AFC East, and earn a playoff spot for the first time since leaving Baltimore.  They would lose their second round game at Cleveland by the score of 38-21.  But that would end up being the height of the Dickerson deal.  Dickerson would rush for over 1000 yards in 1988 and 1989, but the Colts did not make the playoffs either season.  Irsay would again mortgage the future in 1990, trading up to #1 for QB Jeff George.  Meanwhile, Dickerson, at age 30, finally hit the wall with all the tread.  He would last only 2 more years with the Colts, before bouncing to the Raiders and Falcons before retiring.
  • If the story of the Colts giving up too much for a running back sounds familiar, it should, because they did it back in 2013.  Trent Richardson was the Browns #1 pick out of Alabama in 2012 (#3 overall). Richardson seemed to put up decent numbers as a rookie, 950 yards rushing, 11 TDs, and add in 51 catches.  But a guy who knows a thing or two about running back, former Brown All time great Jim Brown called Richardson “ordinary”.  Two games into the 2013 season, the Browns traded Richardson to the Colts, who were reborn under new QB Andrew Luck.  Fans accused the Browns of tanking the season.  But the Browns got a first round pick for Richardson.  And what happened?  Richardson could never find his rhythm with the Colts.  He rushed for 458 yards in 13 games, and could never unseat Ahmad Bradshaw (an injury did that) or Donald Brown.  In 2014, people thought that Richardson would click, but again, he didn’t.  Though he led the Colts in rushing, with only 519 yards and 3 TDs, it took another Bradshaw injury and then he was replaced by Dan Herron.  Richardson would be de-activated for the AFC Championship game at New England and has since signed with the Raiders as a replacement for Darren McFadden.  The man who engineered this deal?  Owner Jim Irsay.  Now, not all was roses for the Browns.  They got the Colts first round pick, #26 overall.  That pick was packaged to move up to #22 in the 2014 draft...which they took, Johnny Football.  Johnny Manzeil has been a complete bust.  He only started 2 games, lost 30-0 in his first start against the Bengals, and got hurt in his second one.  In the offseason he ended up in rehab and the Browns are apparently listening to offers for him.  
  • The Rams QB was Jeff Kemp, son of former Pro Bowl Bills QB and Republican Congressman Jack Kemp.  Jeff Kemp would start his career with the Rams and would get his first starting opportunity in 1984, getting the nod 13 times and leading the Rams to a 9-4 record.  Kemp would eventually lose his job to the immortal Dieter Brock in 1985, and by 1986 would find himself on the 49ers as the starter when Joe Montana went out with back surgery.  Kemp would only get on the field in 2 post season games in his career.  This Wild Card loss, and then he was forced to take over for Montana in 1986 when the Hall of Fame QB was knocked unconscious by Jim Burt late in the 2nd quarter on a play that resulted in LT returning a pick for a TD to make the score 28-3.  Predictably, Kemp got slaughtered, going 7-22 for 64 yards and a pick in the 49-3 destruction.
  • The Rams offensive system was built around Dickerson, as it should be, but they had 2 WRs who ended up having great careers, but were mainly considered to be return men in LA.  Henry Ellard was a Pro Bowler as a punt returner, but put up kind of pedestrian numbers as a WR (34 catches for 622 yards and 6 TDs).  But by 1988, at age 27, he broke out with 86 catches for 1414 yards (leading the NFL) and 10 TDs.  What followed was over 1000 yards in 6 of the next 8 years and he would finish with 814 catches, 13,777 yards, and 65 TDs.  On the other side was Drew Hill.  Hill was under utilized in 1984, 14 catches for 390 yards and 4 TDs at age 28.  The Rams decided to move on from him and traded him to the Houston Oilers for 2 draft picks.  Teamed up with Warren Moon, Hill would immediately pay dividends, 64 catches, 1169 yards and 9 TDs in 1985.  He would prove that it was not a fluke, and with the Oilers going to a run and shoot offense, he would go over 1000 yards 4 of the next 6 years (and the two times he didn’t get it, he was over 900 yards).  Hill would finish his career in Atlanta and sadly passed away in 2011 at the young age of 53 due to series of strokes.
  • This would be the final game for Hall of Famer Jack Youngbood.  At age 34, Youngblood was still productive in his 14th season, coming off 9.5 sacks.  But in this game, Youngblood was not close to his full effectiveness.  An injury to his sciatic nerve essentially took away any of his burst and he was playing on one leg.  The Giants knew this and went after him, to the point that the Rams had to put him on the bench.  It was a sad end for a proud player who made the Pro Bowl for 7 straight years.  And a guy who to this day is always cited when they talk about someone who toughs it out and plays hurt.  Some guys might pull a muscle or strain a ligament, and get themselves back on the field.  In 1979, Youngblood broke his left fibula and yet would play in every post season game, including the Super Bowl….and the Pro Bowl!  That’s right, the freaking Pro Bowl on a broken leg.
  • One thing you might notice that was strange about Youngblood, his jersey number.  Youngblood wore #85, which you would expect to see on a WR or a TE, not a defensive lineman.  After the 1973 season, the NFL instituted a new rule for jersey numbers that could be given out by position.  This was done for a variety of reasons, but particularly to help enforce eligible receiver questions on the offensive line, a tactic that Bill Belichick used to mess with in order to take an eligible receiver (now a Giants in Shane Vereen) and have him report as an ineligible number and confuse the Baltimore Raven defense in the 2014 playoffs.  The NFL has since outlawed that.  But after 1973, defensive lineman had to wear 60-79 and 90-99.  Youngblood was grandfathered in so he could continue to wear #85.  And as it would turn out, no offensive player will get a chance to wear that number, it was retired by the Rams.
  • The Giants had their own similar situation as well.  When people think #10 on the Giants, you immediately think of Eli Manning.  As a two time Super Bowl MVP and eventual owner of all Giants passing records, odds are no one will wear it again as it will be retired once his playing days are done.  To a lesser extent, you also think of Kent Graham, in his two separate stints with the Giants and the man who stopped the Broncos 1998 march for perfection.  But the Giants also had a linebacker by the name of Brad Van Pelt wear #10 from 1973 - 1983.  And he wasn’t some scrub.  As the Giants were struggling in the mid 1970s, they started to build up a core of defensive players who helped turn things around.  Guys like Harry Carson, Brian Kelley, and George Martin came on the scene before Lawrence Taylor arrived.  And Van Pelt was no scrub on these poor teams.  He made 5 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1976-1980.  Unfortunately for Van Pelt, he would leave the Giants after the 1983 season, as Parcells looked to bring in younger linebackers like Carl Banks and Gary Reasons.  Van Pelt would land with the Raiders, and lose his #10, having lost his grandfathered in status with the Giants and wore #91 in 1984 and 1985.  Van Pelt would last one more season, in Cleveland in 1986 (wearing #50) and was spared a strange situation of facing the Giants in Super Bowl XXI as John Elway’s 98 yard drive and an OT field goal by Rich Karlis beat the Browns in the AFC Championship and ended his career.
  • However, even today there are exceptions to the rule.  This happened to the Giants in 2005 with a linebacker named Kevin Lewis.  Lewis was on the roster from 2000 - 2004 and wore #59.  He was released before the start of the 2005 season and pretty much sat at home.  However, by late in the season, the injury bug pretty much stripped the Giants of all their linebackers, they had to sign him to start for the injured Antonio Pierce at middle linebacker.  However, there was an issue.  The Giants ran out of all eligible linebacker numbers.
      • 50: (Retired- Ken Strong)
      • 51: Carlos Emmons
      • 52: Barrett Green
      • 53: Reggie Torbor
      • 54: Nick Greisen
      • 55: Roman Phifer
      • 56: (Retired- Lawrence Taylor)
      • 57: Chase Blackburn (he would change to #93 in 2011)
      • 58: Antonio Pierce
      • 59: Alonzo Jackson
      • 90: Ryan Keuhl
      • 91: Justin Tuck
      • 92: Michael Strahan
      • 93: Eric Moore
      • 94: William Joseph
      • 95: Adrian Awasom
      • 96: Jay Foreman
      • 97: Kenderick Allen
      • 98: Fred Robbins
      • 99: Damane Duckett
  • So what were the Giant options?  Not much other than stick him with #44 playing at linebacker.  And that number wouldn’t be given out again, until in 2007 it went to a rookie running back taken in the 7th round named Ahmad Bradshaw.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2002 Giants vs Eagles

Week 17

The Setup

I had previously written about the 2002 Giants and their prospects heading into the last weekend of the regular season as part of the Giants @ Colts game review, so I won't bother rehashing all that here.  Basically, the Giants got lucky in the dual collapses of the Falcons and Saints, which opened the door for them to play what turned out to be a "win and in" game against the Eagles.

In this game, you had the Giants controlling their own destiny, with everything to gain.  If they win, they go to the playoffs.  If they lose or tie, they are out.  Their opponent was the Eagles, a team that was 12-3 entering this game.  What was at stake for them was home field advantage throughout the playoffs and a team record 13 wins.  However, ultimately, that prize was limited by the fact that they were playing a young QB named AJ Feeley, who was in his second season.  By 2002, the Eagles had taken control of the NFC East.  They won the division title in 2001, their first since 1988.  In 2002, they ran away with the division, jumping out to a 7-3 start after beating the Cardinals 38-14.  On the 3rd play of the game, McNabb was nailed on a blitz by safety Adrian Wilson and awkwardly bent his ankle and the team assumed it was sprained.  McNabb would throw for 20-25, 255 yards and 4 TDs.  After the game he would go for x-rays which would reveal a broken bone and he would be lost for the regular season.  The Eagles would play in San Francisco the next week behind Koy Detmer, but he too would get hurt, which put Feeley in off the bench in a big win.  Feeley would go on and rip off wins in the next 4 games as a starter, but this was his first real game against a tough opponent, on the road and in the cold.  Eagles coach Andy Reid, unsure if he would have McNabb for the playoffs or not, didn't want to expose his young QB too much against the Giants.  So the carrot of home field advantage didn't out weigh the risks of hurting Feeley, either physically or confidence wise.

While the primary aspect of this game was about the Giants looking to win and make the playoffs against a rival.  There was a subplot that was involved here.  Overcoming mistakes and frustration to prevail.  And while this applied to the Giants team at large, thanks to several missed opportunities to win this game almost in a runaway, you can mostly put this at the feet of one guy.  Tiki Barber.

Fans today don't have very fond thoughts about Tiki, and much of that stems from his post-playing career.  While he was a bit of a locker room lawyer in his time with the Giants, particularly in clashing with Tom Coughlin, the main venom comes from his time at NBC.  Tiki decided that part of his deal in joining the media was to try to stir the pot and be a little controversial.  So he went after the biggest lightning rod there was, Eli Manning.  But Barber took it a little too far in the minds of Giants fans.  In questioning Eli's leadership ability, he stepped into the realm of mocking him.  That would end up being a rallying point for Eli, who would go on to win the Super Bowl and beat the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

However, in his playing days for the Giants, one can argue that Tiki Barber was the best Giants offensive player in the past 40 years.  Tiki retired as the Giants all time leading rusher, with 10,449 yards, over 3500 yards more than Rodney Hampton.  He rushed for over 1000 yards in 6 of his final 7 seasons.  And his 6 years over 1000 yards was the best of any Giants back (Hampton was 2nd with 5).  Tiki also was a great receiver, hauling in 586 passes over his career, catching over 50 in a season 8 times, and got over 70 catches twice.  He gained over 2000 total yards from scrimmage in each of his 3 final seasons, and led the entire NFL in 2004 and 2005.  Tiki scored over 10 TDs in a season twice, including a career high 13 in 2004.  And to boot, before he became a feature back, Tiki was a punt returner, including returning one for a TD against the Cowboys in 1999 to win the game.

Tiki Barber was a legit all time great NY Giant, there is no question about it.  However, he did have one big problem, he was a fumbler.  He had 53 fumbles in his career and it became one of Coughlin's main points of emphasis that he changed Tiki's running style to the "high and tight" in order to protect the ball better.  And at times, like a home run hitter in baseball, Tiki's fumbles would come in bunches.  In this game in particular, with everything on the line to make the playoffs, the Giants needed Tiki.  And as Giants fans, we got both the best and worst of Tiki Barber all in one game.  And if not for some very late lucky breaks, Tiki Barber might have worn some large goat horns in 2002 and Giants fans would never have thought about the value of a long snapper in the post season.

The Game Highlights

The Giants kicked off with the fans waving their towels and Holmes would kick a shorter pop up that went only to the 19, taken by Damien Douglas and he avoided one tackle before he was tackled at the 32 by Wesley Mallard.  AJ Feeley was under center for the injured Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid would go conservative to start with a draw to Duce Staley, who was met by Michael Strahan and Brandon Short for a 3 yard loss.  2nd and 13, Feeley would try a play action fake, but a whistle blew in the middle of the play and a flag was thrown for a false start on Josh Welbourne that made it now 2nd and 18.  However, the Eagles had a great play call as they set up an underneath screen over the middle to Jeff Tominson who caught it wide open at the 24 yard line, and took off up the field with no one near him as they all came on the zone blitz.  Strahan was left to chase him down at the 45 for a first down as Feeley cheered on behind the play.  First down, it was another short pass, this time a 3 step drop and quick dunk to Staley, who caught it at the 50, Omar Stoutamire missed the tackle and he had to be pushed out at the 21 yard line by Will Allen, as a combination of Giants fans booing and Eagles fans saying “Duce” took over the stadium.  On first down, it would get worse

To quote the famous clip of Vince Lombardi as he stood on the sidelines “what the hell is going on out there?!”  The Eagles would execute a double reverse, first to Freddie Mitchell, running to his right and then he handed off to James Thrash going back to his left, with blockers in front.  The former Redskin would go right by a horrible missed tackle by Shaun Williams and he took it into the end zone for a 21 yard TD run that left the formerly raucus Giants crowd stunned and put Philly up 7-0 with 12:36 to go in the first quarter on a 4 play, 67 yard drive in 2:24.

David Aikers kick was also short, going to Delvin Joyce at the 14, and he took it up the middle to the 30 yard line, but a flag was thrown on the Eagles for being offsides on the kickoff and they chose to re-kick.  Aikers this time would kick from his 25 and it would go to Joyce at the 13, he cut inside his blocks at the 30 and accelerated to the 48 yard line, stopped by Aikers who dove in to take him down and hurt his shoulder in the process.  So all in all, the decision to re-kick was a smart one.  Kerry Collins, coming off his domination of the Colts the week before, took the Giants offense out and dropped back and threw an out pass towards Jeremy Shockey, who had the ball deflected, but he stayed with it, caught it and took off up the field breaking a few tackles and rumbled to the 31 yard line where he was finally tackled.  On first down, Collins would go back to throw again, but this time he got some pressure from Hugh Douglas and Corey Simon and he flipped the ball out of bounds, towards Tiki Barber.  2nd and 10, the handoff would go to Tiki and he followed Rich Seubert around right end, broke through the line, slipped out of the tackle attempt by Levon Kirkland, and he took off up the sidelines and knocked out of bounds at the 9 by Brian Dawkins.  First and goal at the 9, the Giants would give the ball to Tiki on a pitch running to his right and he dove over the pile to the 6 yard line, stopped by Simon.  However, as it looked like the Giants were in position to answer the Eagles opening TD, things got dicey.

Collins dropped back and had too much faith in his strong arm as he attempted to drill the ball in to Shockey who was double covered.  The ball was a little high and Carlos Emmons batted it in the air with his right hand, it was tipped by Shockey, and it was hit again by Dawkins and then into the arms of Michael Lewis for an interception in the end zone for a touchback that not only killed a potential TD, but also took an easy field goal off the board as well.  

The Eagles would pitch back to Staley running to his right, and after he got some yardage around right end, breaking a tackle by Michael Barrow but was shoved back by Allen after a 4 yard gain.  2nd and 6, play action fake and with time Feeley tried to drill a pass in to Mitchell on a comeback route, but the ball was broken up by Allen.  3rd and 6, with Dorsey Levens in motion, Feeley on a 3 step drop slung a pass in to Thrash, who has beaten Jason Sehorn on an inside route, but the ball was just over thrown and Thrash couldn’t make the one handed catch.  So Philly went three and out and brought on Lee Johnson to kick to Joyce, who took it at the 37 yard line and he was surrounded by 4 Eagles and went out of bounds at the 38.

Collins began with a pass over the middle to Tiki at the 41 and was slung down by Shawn Barber.  2nd and 6, a handoff to Tiki running again to his right, powered to the 45, knocked down by Emmons.  3rd and 3, Collins on a short drop, had no one open and he was forced to check down to Tiki over the middle and into traffic, where Kirkland and the referee helped deflect the pass.  Matt Allen came on to punt after the Giants’ 3 and out and boomed it to Brian Mitchell, who let it go over his head and it bounced at the 2 and crawled into the end zone for a touchback.

Philly at the 20, Feeley back with time to throw, and he was able to fit the ball in to TE Chad Lewis who had sat down in the zone at the 30, caught it and rumbled to the 35 taken down by Stoutamire but a 15 yard gain and a first down.  The ball went to Staley, and he was met by Kenny Holmes and Stoutamire for no gain over the middle.  2nd and 10, Feeley back with a good pocket, threw a strike in the gut of Antonio Freeman, who heard some footsteps and dropped the ball.  3rd and 10, Reid didn’t want to expose his young QB, so he handed the ball off to Levens on a draw and the former Packer got a good gain out to the 42 yard line but was stopped short of the first by Stoutamire.  On came Johnson for his 2nd punt, and it was taken by Joyce at the 12, he juked past a few tackles all the way to the 35 yard line, however a flag on Charles Stackhouse for an illegal block put the ball back to the 15 yard line with 5:36 to go in the first quarter.

First down, the Giants started with a handoff to Tiki, again running to his right, and he got 3 yards to the 18 yard line, chased down by Douglas.  2nd and 7, Collins back, with plenty of time to throw and hit Toomer on a deep pass out at the 40 yard line, and he dragged Dawkins to the 50 for a big gain and a first down.  Another run to Tiki, again to the right side, but this time the Eagles were ready as they strung him out and he was taken down by Douglas and Emmons for a one yard loss, as the bad Giants Stadium field of painted mud had guys slipping all over.  2nd and 11, Collins back, and tried to set up a screen to Tiki, however he was surrounded and forced Collins to just scramble for as much as he could get and he ran out of bounds at the Eagles’ 49.  Back to a 3rd and long 10, Collins in the shotgun, and he botched the snap back to him and just fell on the ball for a loss at the 47 yard line.  On came Allen, and his punt went to Mitchell was let go and it was downed by the Giants at the 15 yard line.  

The Eagles would fake a handoff to Staley and then end up throwing back to him in the flat for a 4 yard gain, tackled immediately by Dhani Jones.  2nd and 6, the ball was carried by Levens up the middle, met by Strahan for just a 1 yard gain.  3rd and 5, Feeley on a quick 3 step drop tried to throw an out pass to Thrash, but the ball was knocked away by Allen.  Another 3 and out by the Eagles, and on came the 41 year old punter Johnson to boot it to the 28 yard line, taken by a backpeddling Joyce, who regained his balance and tried to make his way up the field, but was tackled by Sheldon Brown at the 30 with 1:03 to go in the first quarter.

The Giants offense needed to get something going, and tried a run to Tiki up the middle, but he was only able to gain 3 yards, met by Douglas.  2nd and 7, Collins back, threw to Stackhouse at the 35 yard line and he was wrestled out of bounds by Emmons at the 36 for the final play of the first quarter.  The second quarter would begin with a 3rd and 3 by the Giants who would fake the ball to Tiki, and throw the ball right back to him over the middle, where he beat ND Kalu on an option route and took it to the 47 yard line, for a 10 yard gain and a first down.  Tiki would take the pitch on first down that was supposed to go to his left, however, the Eagles stacked it up and Tiki reversed field and came all the way back around to his right and made it to the Eagles 46 yard line, stopped by Lewis.  On 2nd and 4, Collins would drill a slant in to Shockey, who caught it at the 43 yard line, got nailed by Kirkland and fumbled but he was able to fall on the ball to keep possession and made it 3rd and 1.  Tiki tried to run a sweep around the left and he was chased down by Barber from behind and tackled for a loss.  On came Allen again who had a horrible effort trying to pooch the ball deep and it bounced and went out of bounds at the 23 yard line and the fans let him know it with a chorus of boos.

The Eagles offense came back out, and started with a handoff to Staley up the gut for a 3 yard gain, knocked down by Jones.  2nd and 7, Feeley back, again with time, and directed traffic to throw the ball into Fred Ex at the 39, tackled by Stoutamire, but good for a first down.  On first and 10, the Eagles tried razzle dazzle

The Eagles attempt to run the same play the Giants did the week before for an 82 yard TD to Toomer.  This time it was a pitch to Staley running to his right, and Feeley was waiting back at the left for what looked to be a deep shot down field.  But Feeley dropped the pitch back as he was getting read to throw and had to eat it at the 32 yard line, hit by Jones.  For some reason, Donovan McNabb was yelling and laughing at him on the sidelines (well, actually, knowing McNabb, it was easy to see why).  So 2nd and 17, Feeley dropped back and tried to get the ball to Staley, who dropped it when he was wide open over the middle.  On 3rd and 17, and another give up a call, a draw to Levens, who was taken down at the 37 yard line, tackled by Barrow and Williams.  Johnson again on to punt, and he would get it to Joyce at the 18, where he evaded one Eagle and got it back to the 28 yard line, met by several tacklers with 9:17 to go in the 2nd.

The Giants started with a pass over the middle towards Dan Campbell who was double covered and the ball was knocked down and on the play Shawn Barber got hurt and had to be helped off the field.  2nd and 10, the ball went to Tiki, this time running to his left and he was tackled by Emmons after a 4 yard gain.  3rd and 6, Collins back with time, hit Tiki coming out of the backfield at the 37, he ran past the tackle attempt by Bobby Taylor to push him out of bounds and Tiki tip toed up the sidelines and just stepped out at the Giants’ 46.  The ball went back to Tiki, running to his left, gained 3 yards, met by Emmons.  2nd and 7, Collins tried to throw a quick pass to Toomer, but it was covered, so he checked back to Tiki on an outlet however the ball was overthrown.  3rd and 7, Collins in the gun again, this time he held the ball, had time against the blitz and drilled a deep pass to Toomer who came back to jump and catch it at the 35, broke away from Lewis and he was shoved out of bounds by Dawkins at the 29 yard line for a big first down.  Collins would drop back again, but this time Douglas beat Luke Pettitgout and nailed the QB for a big sack back to the 36 yard line for an 8 yard loss.  The Giants would call their first timeout to regroup and come back with Collins in the gun.  Collins gave a hard count and drew the Eagles offsides and they thought they’d have a free play, but contact was made by Simon for an encroachment penalty that gave the Giants 5 yards back.  So now 2nd and 13, Collins faked to Tiki and hit Shockey on a diving catch at the 6 yard line, beating Troy Vincent in coverage, it was his 67th on the year, breaking Mark Bavaro’s record for a TE set in 1986.  A flag on the play was on the Eagles’ for a hold that was declined.  First and goal at the 6, the handoff went to Tiki, smashed down by Whitting after just a yard gain.  

2nd and goal at the 5, Collins would hit Stackhouse in the flat for a would be TD as he dove across the goal line, but a hold on Mike Rosenthal killed the TD, though it was a questionable call as the Eagles DE pretty much lost his footing and Rosenthal would help throw him to the ground.  Anyway, 2nd and goal at the 16, Collins would dump the ball off to Tiki over the middle and he would make his way towards the sidelines, tackled at the 10 yard line.  However, a flag thrown on the Eagles for illegal contact on Emmons, who was matched up with Shockey and he was knocked down after five yards and yelled for the flag and got it.  So the Giants get their first down back at the 11, Collins would go to the little used Daryl Jones over the middle at the 10, evaded Emmons and cut back up where he was tackled at the 3.  2nd and 2 at the 3 yard line, disaster would strike again deep in the red zone

Tiki initially slipped on the bad turf to take the handoff, and was met in the backfield by Kirkland, who bounced off Tiki, but was able to jar the ball free and into a mass of humanity.  In one of the longest unpiles in history, the refs had to dig into that mess to find out who had the ball.  They finally gave the ball to the Eagles, though we never figured out who actually got the ball.

The Eagles avoided disaster again, and had the ball at the 4.  They started with a handoff to Staley who ran to his right and cut back to the 6 yard line, hit down by Lance Legree and Cornelius Griffin.  2nd and 8, Staley again got the ball, running to his left and into a sea of blue, led by Holmes for just a 1 yard gain.  The Giants called a time out with 2:51 to go in the half.  On 3rd and 7, the Eagles tried a quick slant towards Mitchell, but the ball was thrown behind him and was nearly picked by Will Peterson.  The clock stopped at 2:47 with Johnson punting from his own end zone and the veteran had a pretty weak effort, taken by Joyce at the 44 yard line, and he was stopped for no return but only a 33 yard punt.  

The Giants offense would come back out, and Collins would throw a reverse screen to Shockey, which one week before worked for a big gain as Shockey trucked a Colts’ defender.  But this time, the Eagles were ready and Emmons nailed him for a loss back to the 50 which brought the game to the 2 minute warning as Collins couldn’t get the next snap off.  2nd and 16, with Jones in motion, Collins back, had time, and hit Shockey on a crossing route at the 45, but he lost his footing and went down.  3rd and 11, Collins in the shotgun and facing a blitz, did his own variation of Eli breaking out of the sack in the Super Bowl, as he was hit and spun around, but he powered away from Bobby Taylor.  However, instead of setting to throw, the slow footed Collins took off running and got it to the 37, drilled down by Emmons.  The Giants called their final timeout with :55 to go in the half.  4th and 3, Fassel thought it over, and decided to go conservative and punt the ball away.  Allen came on and his pooch attempt bounced at the 15 and was downed at the 12.  The fans booed the Giants coaches for not going for it in that situation, as they should.

With no time outs remaining, all it needed was a kneel down by Feeley and the Eagles went in the locker room up 7-0.  

To start the 2nd half, Aikers came on to kick off and he sent the ball to Joyce at the 2, and he got a nice return out to the 42, however, another flag on the Giants, this time an illegal block on Kevin Lewis sent the Giants back all the way to the 9 yard line.  First and 10, Collins put Shockey in motion and handed off to Tiki who slammed it up the gut to the 11 yard line for a gain of 2, stopped by Kirkland.  2nd and 8, Collins dropped back on a 3 step drop and tried to hit Toomer on a slant, but the Eagles covered it, and he was given enough time to check down to Tiki over the middle and he was able to stretch forward to the 19 yard line, tackled by Reese, about a half yard short of a first down.  3rd and short, Ron Dayne stayed on the bench as the ball went to Tiki, who ran to his left, and was hit in the backfield by Emmons, however he was able to power just far enough ahead across the 20 for a first down.  Collins would drop the snap on the next play and fell on it for a 1 yard loss.  2nd and 11, Collins back, with time, was able to connect with Shockey at the 30 yard line, beating Kirkland in coverage and good for a first down.  1st and 10, Tiki ran to his right and past the safety blitz from Lewis and cut up the field all the way to the 41, stopped by Kirkland.  Just as the Giants felt good about their drive, another disaster

This one kind of caught everyone by surprise, Tiki ran to his left and again got good yardage and as he was being dragged down at the 48 yard line, Lewis came up and stripped the ball out, recovered by Kirkland at the 50.  The Giants and the crowd seemed to think that Tiki was down, and it was very close as he was about to hit the ground, but Lewis stripped it out of there.  Fassel would challenge the call but lose, and he also lost a timeout.  It was the Giants’ 3rd turnover on the day.

So the Eagles got great field position with 11:08 to go in the 3rd and on first down, Feeley tried to throw a deep pass down the sidelines to Thrash, who was well covered by Peterson and the ball fell incomplete, though it was very nearly caught by Thrash.  2nd and 10, Feeley back again, threw a comeback route to Thrash, who caught it at the 42 yard line and was touched down by Peterson.  3rd and 2, Feeley with a play action fake, hit Freddie Mitchell over the middle at the 35, tackled by Barrow.  With Thrash in motion, Feeley rolled out to his right and took a deep shot towards Thrash up the sidelines, however the ball was just out of his reach.  2nd and 10, Feeley threw a quick out to Mitchell at the line of scrimmage and he was tackled after a 3 yard gain by Peterson.  3rd and 7, Feeley hit Thrash over the middle and he was wide open at the 25 yard line and he took it up the middle to the 12 yard line, stopped by Sehorn, but a pass interference call on the Eagles for an illegal pick on Antonio Freeman had set the whole play up.  3rd and 17 at the 42, Feeley would fake the handoff, step up to avoid the rush from Strahan and got drilled by Griffin as he heaved a shot down field that fell incomplete, somewhere in the neighborhood of Thrash and if Stoudamire had not slipped on the bad field, would have had an easy pick.  The Eagles would punt however, with Johnson pooching the ball towards Joyce and it hit at the 9 yard line and bounced backwards where it was downed by the Eagles at the 12.  So the Giants defense did their job.

Undeterred by the fumble, Tiki got the ball again, and he ran to his right, cut inside a block by Chris Bober and he got the ball to the 17 for a 5 yard gain, stopped by Simon.  2nd and 5, Collins play action fake to Tiki and was able to hit Shockey over the middle at the 26 yard line, for a first down stopped by Barber.  First down, a draw to Tiki looked to be set up for a huge gain, as he got behind Bober shoved his way forward to the 31, but a great open field tackle by Dawkins kept it from going for much more.  2nd and 3, Collins back, threw to Tiki in the flat, and rather than go down the sidelines, he cut back up the middle and took the ball to the 40 yard line, stopped by Emmons.  Collins on the next play would get drilled by Kalu and the ball would float up in the air and deep down the middle, with 3 Eagles waiting for a pick, but Toomer shifted to defense and knocked it away.  The Giants would go back to Tiki, who running to his left, had a huge hole, cut inside a block on Emmons and broke a tackle attempt by Lewis at the 49 and darted up the sidelines, all the way to the 21, forced out by Barber, putting Tiki over 100 yards for the day.  The Giants would get nailed with a delay of game on the next play, setting them back 5 yards.  1st and 15, Collins would drop back and have a wide open Daryl Jones in the end zone, who beat Taylor by 5 yards but Jones mistimed his jump, and dropped a game tying TD.  Tiki would take the draw running to his right, broke a tackle attempt by Reese, and made it to the 18 where he was shoved out by Taylor.  3rd and 7, Collins would try to throw a quick inside slant to Shockey as he had pressure put on him on the inside from Simon, but the ball hit Sean Barber in the back.  So on came rookie kicker Matt Bryant for a would be gimme from 36 yards out

Unreal, the Giants continued to blow scoring chance after scoring chance.  This time Bryant’s field goal would sail wide to the right, keeping the score at 7-0 with 3:42 to go in the 3rd quarter.

The Giants had doubled the yardage that the Eagles had gained, but still were losing.  Feeley came out at the 26 yard line and handed to Staley, who powered over the right side, taken to the 35, stopped by Dhani Jones.  2nd and 1, the handoff went to Staley running to his right, but this time the Giants stacked him up for no gain.  3rd and 1, Feeley back, with a rush in his face, and he dumped the ball off to Cecil Martin at the 39 and he plowed his way to the  46 yard line, stopped by Short and Barrow for a huge first down.  First down, Feeley back, set up a screen but the rush from Strahan in face happened too quickly, so he hurried a pass towards a wide open Dorsey Levens, who bobbled it and dropped what would have been a huge gain.  2nd and 10, the Eagles would go back to Levens, this time a run around right end, past Strahan and all the way to the Giants’ 49, stopped by Stoutmire.  3rd and 4, the Giants would come on a delayed blitz and Feeley would hit Freeman at the 45 yard line on a comeback route, stopped immediately by Sehorn.  It would have been a great route, but he broke if off a yard too short, a bad play by a veteran WR.  So 4th and 1 at the 45, Reid would send out the punting unit and Johnson’s boot would go over Joyce’s head and into the end zone for a touchback.

The Giants offense began with a pass to Campbell, who was lined up as an H-back, and he snagged it in the flat at the 21 and was driven out of bounds at the 24 by Emmons to end the 3rd quarter.  On 2nd down, Collins dropped back, and slung a sidearm pass to Barber, who was coming across the middle and cut out to the flat at the 25 and he took it up to the 28 yard line, stopped by Kirkland.  3rd and 2, Collins took a quick 3 step drop and hit Shockey on an out pattern at the 30 and was knocked out of bounds by Emmons at the 32, good for a first down.  And then came a play that I have never seen before or since

Well that was interesting.  Fassel went deep into the playbook to try a reverse to a TE (Shockey) and he would set up and would try a pretty deep pass to Toomer at the 45, but the ball was overthrown.  In fairness to Shockey, it was a nice spiral.  However, a penalty on the Giants, a personal foul for a clip on Rosenthal cost them 15 yards and would have wiped out the gain even if it was complete.  So 1st and 25, Collins faked to Barber and stood in and threw a dart to Shockey deep over the middle at the 38.  Shockey hauled it in and took a huge shot from Lewis, but held on to the ball and celebrated just a bit for good measure and a big 20 yard gain to set up 2nd and 5.  Barber took a draw up the middle to the 39 yard line, where he was spun down, however the Eagles got nailed for an illegal hands to the face on Douglas, good for an automatic first down.  Giants ball at the 45, Collins threw out in the flat to Campbell who hauled it in at the 49 and was hogtied out of bounds by Reese.  2nd and 5, Barber would take the handoff, cross into Philly territory at the 48 yard line, and slid under the hit from Lewis.  3rd and 3, Collins would hit Shockey in the flat, just short of a first down, however the hard count brought the Eagles’ Brandon Whitting offsides and gave the Giants another big conversion.  The Giants were at the 43 and moving on the Eagles defense.  And then a heart breaker

Collins took the snap and had time to set up and heave a beautiful deep pass to Toomer, who had gotten behind Dawkins to haul it in for an apparent game tying TD.  But, keeping with the frustration of the game, a flag was thrown and a hold on Rich Seubert for taking down Darwin Walker was called, however upon a closer look at the replay, it should have been a no call and took a second TD away from NY.  So first and 20, Collins back, under heat, threw a middle screen to Dayne at the 45 and he bulled his way the Eagles 44, taken down by Kirkland, who was shaken up making the tackle.  2nd and 12, with Toomer in motion, Collins dropped back, hit Tiki out in the flat where he caught it at the 45, got around Taylor and took off up the field and out of bounds at the 26 yard line by Dawkins.  With a flag on the ground, the crowd groaned, until the call went against Philly for a hands to the face on Simon.  A huge first down for the Giants, and the ball went to Tiki, followed a pulling Seubert who made a block on the edge and he bounced it all the way to the 20 yard line, pushed out of bounds.  2nd and 3, Tiki took a draw up the middle, made a quick cut to his left and burrowed his way to the 9 yard line, stopped by Lewis and Taylor.  First and goal, with Dayne in the backfield, and he thundered into a pile and went down at the 7.  On 2nd and goal came one of Shockey’s signature plays

Collins would face a blitz by the Eagles and would throw the ball up to Shockey in a jump ball situation against Dawkins.  Both went up for hit, both got their hands on it, but only Shockey ripped it away and fell down in the end zone for a TD.  Shockey would give it a little bit of mustard on the hot dog by shaking his head and a bit of jawing at Dawkins (though he still helped him up after the play).  Shockey would throw the ball in the stands in celebration as the crowd was going nuts.  Bryant would make the extra point interesting as he doinked it off the upright and tied the game at 7-7 with 8:08 to go in the game capping a massive 13 play, 80 yard drive in 6:59.

Bryant would get to kickoff and squibbed a line drive to the 25 by Selecta and he popped his way to the 37, stopped by Mallard.  Reid would keep it conservative, handing off to Staley running to his right, and he would be hit at the 37 by Legree and would keep his legs moving all the way to the 42.  2nd and 6, Feeley back and he would rifle a pass to Tominson at the 47, narrowly avoiding an interception by Brandon Short, and the TE would pull away with the ball to the 42 yard line, knocked forward by Barrow.  A hold on the Giants’ Short was declined.  First down, Feeley would put the ball in Staley’s gut but he was hit in the backfield by Strahan and Holmes for a 1 yard loss.  2nd and 11, Feeley would try a play action fake and then a screen back to Staley with blockers in front.  However, Dhani Jones read the play and came in low to take down Staley at the 43 for no gain.  3rd and 11, Feeley again back and tried to fire a pass over the middle to Freeman, but Cornelius Griffin, the DT, had dropped into coverage in a zone blitz and tipped the pass and it fell incomplete.  On came Johnson to punt and he did a masterful job, hitting it at the 3 and it bounced back to the 7 where it was downed with 5:17 to go.

Deep in their own end, Collins dropped back in his end zone, dumped the ball off to Barber over the middle at the 10, and Tiki took it to the 13, knocked down by Kirkland.  On 2nd and 3, disaster.

Tiki took the handoff running to his left and followed Whittle in the hole.  As he accelerated around the block and past a first down, Tiki was tripped by Emmons and fell forward.  As he was going down, Dawkins jumped on him and pulled the ball free, which bounced forward to the 26 yard line where Adams fell on it just before the Giants offensive line could get there.  The crowd was stunned and Barber was inconsolable.  Replays showed that Tiki lost control just before his knee hit the ground.  Fassel decided on a desperation challenge, that he would lose and cost the Giants a time out, leaving them with just 1 more, and no more replays.

The Eagles got the ball with 4:34 to go on the 26 yard line.  Staley took the handoff around right end, followed a good edge block by Martin on Barrow and got the ball all the way out to the 20 yard line, stopped by Stoutmire making sure he didn’t go out of bounds.  2nd and 3, with the clock running, Staley plowed up the gut and into the heart of the Giants defense, stopped by Barrow at the 18.  On a huge 3rd and 1, Staley ran around left end, and ducked forward just shy of the 15 but clearly a first down.  First down and the Eagles kept conservative, a hand off to Staley, stacked up at the line of scrimmage for no gain.  Fassel would call the Giants final time out with 2:23 to go.  2nd and 10, the Eagles faked an end around to Thrash and gave it to Staley running to his right, but he was tripped up in the backfield by Barrow for no gain as the clock wound down to the 2 minute warning.  3rd and 10, Reid continued to not want to expose Feeley, gave it on a delay to Staley, who was met for a 2 yard loss by Legree and Barrow.  The Eagles let the clock run down all the way to 1:16 to go in the game when they called a time out.  Standing ready to come into the game was the Pro Bowl kicker David Aikers, a man who was 23 of 24 on field goals inside 40 yards, and this one was 35 yards out.  Barber looked like the goat, almost in tears on the sidelines despite a career high 158 yards because of 3 fumbles.  And then...a miracle.

The crowd was pretty silent, trying to muster up cheers out of defiance and hope.  Aikers, lined up on the right hash, with no pressure in front of him, just simply hooked the field goal, having it go wide to the right as the crowd roared as if the Giants had scored themselves.  The Giants were reinvigorated.  The Eagles looked shocked.  

So the Giants, with 1:12 to go and new life, began with a draw to Tiki up the middle, who jumped over the pile and out to the 32 yard line.  2nd and 3, with the clock running, the Giants brought on 4 WRs, and Collins in the gun tried to hit Shockey on a corner pattern, but the ball sailed on him and out of bounds.  3rd and 3, with :41 to go, Collins again in the gun, gave it to Barber on a draw, and Tiki ran to the right, and nearly had the ball pulled out by Kalu at the 42 yard line, but Tiki went down without coughing it up.  While good for a first down, the Giants had no time outs and the clock running, Collins fired the ball in the ground to stop the clock.  However, a flag on the Giants’ Luke Pettitgout for not being set as the ball was snapped, would cost the Giants 5 yards and a 10 second run off.  The clock began as soon as the ref set the ball and Collins in the gun took a deep shot to Derek Dorris, but out of bounds.  :08 to go in the game, Fassel decided to quit screwing around, had Collins take a knee and get ready for OT.

The Eagles called heads at midfield and the coin came up heads.  Philly got the ball to start OT.  The Giants needed a win, a tie would put Atlanta in the playoffs.  A tie was as good as a loss.  Bryant on to kickoff, slipped as he booted it and it went to Mitchell at the 12, and he took off up the left sideline and got the ball all the way out to 45 yard line, stopped by Marcellus Rivers, but put the Eagles in great field position.  Philly began with a drop back and tried to go deep, but with no one open, held the ball too long and Holmes grabbed him by the back of the jersey (might have been a horse collar if it happened today) and slung him down for a huge sack back at the 36.  2nd and 16, with 4 WRs, he threw an out to Freddie Mitchell at the 46, and Fred Ex got the ball to the 50, stopped by Allen.  On 3rd and 5, Feeley would finally make a mistake.

Feeley dropped back, with plenty of time to throw in the pocket, and threw one in the direction of Chad Lewis, who was well covered by Short.  The ball was defected as the TE and LB got tangled and bounced into the arms of Shaun Williams at the 37 yard line.  Feeley thought that pass interference should have been called, but no flag came.  Perhaps the refs felt that they kept the Eagles in the game long enough and it was time to let this go.  

So the Giants got the ball with a chance to win it.  Barber took the handoff running to his right and stutter stepped his way towards the sidelines, taken down by Adams at the 42 yard line.  However, behind the play, Daryl Jones got shoved by Troy Vincent on the sidelines and gave the Giants a huge 15 yard penalty that moved the ball all the way to the Eagles 41.  Tiki took the handoff up the middle, to the 36, and Tiki had both hands on the football and into a pile for a  5 yard gain.  At the 35, Collins again gave the ball to Tiki on a draw, who made a cut up the middle and all the way down to the 26, stopped by Dawkins for another big first down.  Tiki got it again, was hit in the backfield by Simon, broke free of him and again put his head down and ran it up the middle to the 21 yard line.  On 2nd and 4, a moment the Giants' heart was in their throats.

The crowd said it all, a scream of horror as Barber dropped the handoff from Collins and the ball sat there for a moment at the 23 yard line all alone.  Tiki fell down on it before Dawkins got there to save the day, and himself.  Incidentally, the ref should have called a spear on Dawkins, who remains one of the dirtiest players that I have seen.  I hated that guy.  3rd and 7, Barber took a toss, running to his right, got the ball back to the 21, stopped by Emmons.  At this point, it was Bryant coming back out to win the game from 39 yards out.  The Eagles apparently tried to challenge something, but were reminded that only the replay booth can do that in OT.  So either Reid forgot the rules or it was gamesmanship to ice Bryant without taking a time out.  Whatever the walrus tried to do, it didn’t work.

Bryant would come on the field, and bury the field goal right down the middle.  The Giants celebrated as Jim Fassel was hugged by his son John.  The players came out on the field to congratulate each other and the Giants had made the playoffs for the first time since 2000.  Tiki was vindicated, rushing for over 200 yards in a must win game, and surviving a bunch of near killer fumbles.  But there was something else that happened here that would get lost a bit.  The snap back to the holder Matt Allen was low and towards him, right by his hip.  He did a good job to grab it and put it down for Bryant.  The long snapper was Chris Bober, who struggled throughout the season with this duty.  The Giants decided that his poor snaps were a risk and they needed to go and find a professional long snapper for a playoff run.  So after this game, the Giants reached out to a retired veteran of 19 NFL seasons who was a long snapping specialist.  A player who never won a championship ring in his career.  A guy who decided that the Giants were worth coming out of retirement to try to get that one missing piece that every player wants.  Trey Junkin would sign with the Giants to fill this long snapping need and get ready for a Wild Card game in San Francisco the next week.  Most Giants fans never heard of him before, and that would end up changing forever just one week later.

Interesting Tidbits/ Post Mortem

  • Tiki had those 3 critical turnovers, but also had a huge day.  He would rush 32 times for 203 yards, and catch 8 balls for 73 more yards.  He personally outgained the entire Eagles offense, who put up only 209 yards.
  • It would be Tiki’s first 200 yard rushing game, but he would go on to do the same trick 4 other times in his career
    • 28 carries for 203 yards in their season finale and division clinching win vs. the Raiders in 2005
    • 26 carries for 206 yards in their 36-0 win over the Redskins in 2005, the first game after the death of Giants owner Wellington Mara
    • 29 carries for 220 yards in a 27-17 win over a KC team that would finish 10-6
    • 23 carries for 234 yards and 3 TDs in the season finale at Washington in 2006, a game the Giants won 34-28 to finish the season at 8-8 and make the playoffs and saved Tom Coughlin’s job.
  • Of course, when you have a guy as talented and productive as Barber, you want to find a way to solve the fumbling issue and get the most out of him. Coughlin's change to make Barber alter the style that he held the ball, but not sap any of his elusiveness or speed was to hold it "high and tight". Here were the numbers from 1997-2003, under Fassel
    • 1997 (136 carries/511 yards and 34 catches/299 yards)- 170 touches and 3 fumbles
    • 1998 (52 carries/166 yards and 42 catches/348 yards)- 94 touches and 1 fumble
    • 1999 (62 carries/258 yards and 66 catches/609 yards)- 128 touches and 5 fumbles
    • 2000 (213 carries/1006 yards and 70 catches/719 yards)- 283 touches and 9 fumbles
    • 2001 (166 carries/865 yards and 72 catches/577 yards)- 238 touches and 8 fumbles
    • 2002 (304 carries/1387 yards and 69 catches/597 yards)- 373 touches and 9 fumbles
    • 2003 (278 carries/1216 yards and 69 catches/461 yards)- 347 touches and 9 fumbles.
  • Coughlin, from the Parcells' coaching tree, and like Bill Belichick, will not play guys who fumble. Before David Wilson was lost due to injury, he was doomed to the doghouse for 2 fumbles at Dallas in the 2013 season opener. So he had to do something to make this work. And the results were staggering in looking at Tiki's productivity in 3 seasons under Coughlin
    • 2004 (322 carries/1518 yards and 52 catches/578 yards)- 374 touches and 5 fumbles (his first Pro Bowl)
    • 2005 (357 carries/1860 yards and 54 catches/530 yards)- 411 touches and 1 fumble (his 2nd Pro Bowl)
    • 2006 (327 carries/1662 yards and 58 catches/465 yards)- 385 touches and 3 fumbles (his 3rd and final Pro Bowl)
  • If Tiki was the lead dog, Shockey was not too far behind.  He did catch the game tying TD over Pro Bowl Safety Brian Dawkins.  In all he caught 10 passes for 98 yards.  But that was not his best output as a TE in his rookie year.  His best numbers in 2002 came against the Redskins in the 19-17 win, catching 11 passes for 111 yards.
  • Shockey's career best catches in 1 game?  2007 in a loss to the Cowboys, netting 12 catches for 129 yards and a TD as he made it a point to pretty much own Dallas safety/Pro Bowl regular Roy Williams.  In all, Shockey would register 10 or more catches 6 times in his career with the Giants.  How did that match up with the Giants previous starting tight ends?
    • Zeke Mowatt- 0 times (best game- 7 catches for 126 yards vs. Chiefs in 1984)
    • Mark Bavaro- 2 times (best game- 12 catches for 176 yards in a loss at Cincinnati in his rookie season of 1985)
    • Howard Cross- 0 times (best game- 6 catches for 77 yards in a loss vs Dallas in 1992)
    • Derek Brown- 0 times (best game- 2 catches, 14 yards in a win at Washington in 1992.  Man, he was terrible)
    • Aaron Pierce- 0 times (best game- 5 catches, 49 yards in a loss vs Detroit in 1994)
    • Pete Mitchell- 0 times (best game- 9 catches for 62 yards in a loss to the Colts in 1999)
    • Dan Campbell- 0 times (best game- 4 catches for 35 yards in a win at Minnesota in 2002)
    • Kevin Boss- 0 times (best game- 7 catches for 70 yards in a loss to the Eagles in 2009)
    • Jake Ballard- 0 times (best game- 5 catches for 81 yards in a win over the Bills in 2011)
    • Martellus Bennett- 0 times (best game- 6 catches for 73 yards in a win at Carolina in 2012)
    • Brandon Myers- 0 times (best game- 7 catches for 66 yards in the season opening loss at Dallas in 2013)
    • Larry Donnell- 0 times (best game- 7 catches for 54 yards and 3 TDs in a Thursday Night game at Washington in 2014.  He also had 7 catches in losses to the Cardinals and Cowboys, including a critical fumble against Dallas)
  • Collins would end up with 4,073 yards, breaking the Giants single season record held by Phil Simms, with 4,044 in 1984.
  • Collins would hold the record until 2011, when Eli broke it with 4,933 yards.
  • Eli also holds the 2nd most yardage in a season, 4,410 in 2014 as Odell Beckham Jr. exploded on the scene. There are high hopes for 2015 that might see Eli top 5,000 yards if he and his receivers stay healthy.
  • The Giants learned from both this game with Chris Bober as long snapper, and then the whole Trey Junkin affair, that they better take care of the long snapper situation. So in the 2003 offseason, they signed a specialist, Ryan Kuehl, a defensive lineman by trade, but basically purely a long snapper, from the Cleveland Browns to the hefty sum of a 5 year, $3.6 million deal. Kuehl would hold the job down from 2003 to 2005. In 2006, an elbow injury would shelve him for the year as the Giants went with Carson Dach as their long snapper. Kuehl would be re-signed in 2007, but would lose his job to a draft pick named Zak DeOssie, who has held the job ever since.
  • The Giants win over the Eagles was their first since the 2000 Divisional Playoffs
  • The Giants woudn't beat the Eagles again until 2005, when they won 27-17 at Giants Stadium. The Giants were clinging to a 20-17 lead against former Rutgers QB Mike McMahon, but were able to put it away on a late 61 yard TD pass from Eli to Plaxico Burress.
  • James Thrash's rushing TD was not his first one of the season. He had a 4 yard TD run against the Cardinals earlier in the season, in the game in which McNabb got hurt
  • Aikers' missed field goal near the end of regulation wasn't the only one had against the Giants in his career. In 2007, Aikers missed a 57 yard field goal attempt to tie the game at 16-16, when the ball clunked off the goal post.
  • One of the most annoying aspects about the McNabb injury, and then Koy Detmer injury, was that little used 3rd QB AJ Feeley got more playing time. Playing with a very talented team, the Eagles were able to pretty much mask what Feeley's talent level was. So Feeley, a 5th round pick in 2001 out of Oregon, who would only top out as a backup to McNabb, was able to increase his trade value. Teams, as they always are, were looking for QB help. After a season of sitting on the bench in 2003, the Eagles decided to pull the trigger. In 2004, Feeley was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a 2nd round pick in 2005. The Eagles would use that pick on Reggie Brown, a WR out of Georgia who turned into a decent #2/ #3 receiver from 2005- 2009.
  • The Eagles offense had a heavy Green Bay Packer look to it, which makes sense considering that is where Andy Reid came from. Though past their prime, the Eagles had Dorsey Levens and Antonio Freeman playing big roles. Jeff Tominson was a backup TE for them via the Packers as well. Dorsey Levens would actually have a cup of coffee with the Giants in 2003.