Thursday, November 15, 2018

1991 Giants @ Buccaneers

Week 12

The Setup

In the 1991 Giants vs Oilers game review, I wrote a whole outline which in some ways explained that Ray Handley’s failed 2 year tenure at head coach was not all his fault.  Amazingly, in 2017, Ben McAdoo would flame out even more.  McAdoo managed to turn his rookie season as the head man and an 11-5 season with a playoff berth into getting fired before December rolled around by completely embarrassing himself and the franchise.  McAdoo lost control of his team, suspending various players for a variety of transgressions (DRC and Jenkins, as well as eventually Eli Apple).  And while the season and the pressure tightened the grip around his neck (and GM Jerry Reese), McAdoo decided to go after an odd target, Eli Manning.  McAdoo’s play calling was amateurish at best.  Now, it all could have been due to a poor offensive line (blame Reese) which limited running opportunities and forced Eli to throw the ball fast which broke everything down.  But most observers felt that McAdoo essentially gave Eli the same offense to run as if he was Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.  Eli is a 2 time winning Super Bowl MVP.  But he’s a statue in the pocket.  Rodgers is a guy who moves with the ball and throws on the run as well as anyone in NFL history.  Eli is not Rodgers.  In the end, the Giants offense consisted of being in a shotgun pretty much 95% of the time, with 3 WRs, 1 RB and 1 TE.  All handoffs were done on a shotgun draw.  The main offensive production game whenever a defense would go to a single high safety, throw a slant to Odell and let him make the safety miss and run the rest of the way.  That was pretty much it.  After the San Diego game in week 5, the Giants lost their entire WR corps in one game.  That’s not even a joke.  In that game alone, the Giants lost Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris to season ending injuries.  And for fun Sterling Shepard was lost with an ankle injury and forced from the game and missed a few weeks.  So you have a bad offensive line, a defense in full revolt (I was at the Rams game when the Giants lost 51-17 and actually left for the first time ever in the 3rd quarter because I took my son and his friends and to keep them there in that cold misty rain when the Giants stopped caring seemed to be nothing short of child abuse on my part) and McAdoo blames...Eli.  With rookie Davis Webb sitting there, and the season lost with no shot at the post season, McAdoo decides to bench Eli for Geno Smith.  Geno.  Smith.  Ends Eli’s starting streak.  Smith loses in Oakland.  McAdoo and Reese are fired. 

So McAdoo didn’t have a real QB controversy, but he started one on his own and got himself run out of town.  Ray Handley was forced to deal with one as he took over in May of 1991.  Coming into the 1991 season, the Giants have something which was the envy of many franchises.  2 QBs who won Super Bowls.  But the circumstances which got the Giants there were tough to deal with because times were very different in QB development prior to free agency and all the rules changes that made a passing offense much easier to execute in order to open up the game and scoring and thus viewership (which means $$ in the owners’ pockets).  Prior to really the 2000s, finding a young QB to come out the gate and do well was a rarity.  Teams routinely had 5 year rebuilding plans and that included the QB, who would sit behind a starter for a while, struggle as they come in and find their way.  In a salary cap world, that developmental window isn’t there anymore.  The Dan Marinos of the world were very special because they were very rare.  It wasn’t normal.  The old rule of thumb in sports was that a player does not lose his job to injury.  If a guy is hurt, his backup comes in and plays and when the starter is ready, the backup sits back down on the bench.  Everyone has their role.  Now, you always have the Wally Pipp / Lou Gehrig thing, but those examples tend to be few and far between.  After a group of injury filled seasons early in his career, Phil Simms would eventually beat out Scott Brunner and take over as the starting QB of the Giants for good in 1984.  As he took over, that started a lucrative marriage with Bill Parcells that paid off for both sides.  Simms would pass for over 4000 yards and 22 TDs in 1984 and led the Giants to a 9-7 record and made the playoffs (and won the Wild Card game vs. the Rams at LA).  In 1985, Simms would continue to progress.  At the tender age of 30, Simms would pass for over 3800 yards, 22 TDs, win 10 games and host a playoff game (and beat the 49ers in the Wild Card) and would go to the Pro Bowl where he would be named the MVP.  Everything culminated in the 1986 season, winning 14 games, dominating in the playoffs and winning the Super Bowl MVP with a 22-25 day, throwing for 268 yards and 3 TDs.  Simms would be the first to go to Disneyland in the commercials and now at age 31 had “made it”.  Simms would remain the unchallenged starter through the 1990 season.  Under his watch, the Giants would begin the 1990 year at 10-0, and Simms would be the NFC’s top rated passer (at a time when Joe Montana was in his prime, with Jerry Rice, it should be noted).  For Simms however, the Giants would lose in their personal house of horrors (Philly) and then the next week in San Francisco on a Monday Night game 7-3 (and resulted in a Simms vs. Ronnie Lott shouting match after the game).  The Giants would face the Bills in a cold/ rainy game at the Meadowlands (which I was out and the weather was awful) and in that game, Simms would go down on a non contact injury that was initially called a sprained foot, but it actually turned out to be a fracture.  That broken foot ended Simms season and most felt the Giants season as well.  But it opened the door for Jeff Hostetler.

Hoss’ story at this point is also pretty well known.  Drafted out of West Virginia in 1984, Hoss spent his time as the 3rd QB on the depth chart.  In the 1980s, unless you had a bunch of QB injuries, that essentially was nothing more than purgatory or danger of getting carpal tunnel from holding a clipboard.  Hostetler was behind another veteran QB, Jeff Rutledge.  Hoss was desperate to get any game action, so much so that he played on special teams in 1986 (and partially blocked a punt in Philly) and also lined up at WR after all the injuries that hit the roster.  Hoss finally got in some game action in 1988 at New Orleans (read review) and came in again to relieve Simms after an injury in 1989 vs. the Vikings and started and won the next week at Arizona.  Earlier in 1990, Hostetler actually got in some late game action vs. the Cowboys before the game was put away by Parcells just to keep him sharp.  But this time around, after Simms’ injury, he was needed because the generally durable Simms was not going to return.  Hostetler would finish up the Bills game and his comeback would fall short.  But that would be the last game that Hostetler would be involved in that was a loss.  He would beat the Cardinals and Patriots on the road to finish the year at 13-3.  Beat the Bears in the 2nd round, the Niners in the NFC Championship and then the Bills in the Super Bowl.  A backup QB’s dream.

But going into 1991, Hostetler didn’t see himself as a backup anymore.  Like Simms who really saw his career develop after he turned 29, Hostetler came into the 1991 season at age 30.  His 6th year in the league.  Simms was 36, but his foot injury had healed and he was ready to compete.  The last time Bill Parcells was involved in a QB controversy, it was when he picked the journeyman Brunner over Simms in 1983, when he was a rookie head coach.  It was a mistake that he would admit and correct.  When camp started in 1991, it wasn’t Parcells’ job to figure it out anymore. He left the team to join the broadcast group at NBC.  He left this task to Handley.  To Handley’s credit, he said he would treat this as an open competition.  He would watch Simms and Hostetler closely during practices and scrimmages.  Back in 1991, and CBA changes, there was more practice time to evaluate players, with two-a-days and live hitting.  Handley was careful to try to give equal reps to both QBs and made the comment that he would use the pre-season to evaluate his QBs and make his decision on who to start based upon their play.  Which made for a very high stakes pre-season and an interesting way to make a decision because the variables are so different.  Pre-season the past few years since the CBA is very different than it used to be.  Now it’s fairly common to see guys play a series and come out.  Or be held out completely.  Or do what the Patriots do and basically sit the entire starting roster in the final preseason game.  But even back in the 1980s/ 1990s, you would see teams play their starters early, and pull them as the game moved along to play the younger players/ draft picks / free agents.  There wasn’t any game planning.  So how would Handley make a decision between Simms and Hostetler when there were so many factors that were different?  Well, after 3 games in the pre-season, both QBs numbers were underwhelming with Hostetler’s better but not by leaps and bounds considering the small sample size  (Simms completed 52.6% of his passes and 2 TDs and 1 INT.  Meanwhile Hoss completed 75% of his passes and no picks)  After the 3rd preseason game against the Jets, Hostetler hit on on all 9 of his passes but still complained of the QB battle that “It’s not a level playing field”.  He felt he never had a shot at the job vs. Simms under Parcells and the same thing was happening now.

As it turned out, Hoss was wrong.  Following that game, Handley named Hostetler the starting QB, which was considered an upset as most felt he would just go back to a backup.  Handley, a guy who was known as an analytical coach, noted a gut feeling as to why he made the call.  It also helped that he mentioned that in 2 of the 3 games to start the season, Hostetler would face teams he saw last year and beat (the 49ers in the opener and Bears in Chicago in Week 3).  Handley also  noted that Hoss had played better in the pocket and wasn’t relying on scrambling to make plays, which was critical for his offense.  For his part, Simms took the high road.  He said he was disappointed that he lost the battle, but congratulated Hostetler and called it a coaching decision and was there to do his job.  Giants fans were not so happy.  Back in 1991, there was no internet, no Big Blue Interactive, so fans called into WFAN to complain and lit up the Giants switchboard in anger.  But the decision was made and Hostetler was the man.

By the time this game rolled around in Tampa in Week 13, the NFC East was already decided.  The Redskins had roared out to an 11-0 record, similarly dusting the competition as the Giants did in 1990 when they went 10-0.  The Giants for their part were in the Wild Card conversation with a number of other teams, including the Dallas Cowboys who were playing at the same time at RFK (and would actually hand the Skins their first loss).  The Giants meanwhile were 6-5, having just beaten those same Cowboys the week prior.  Hostetler for his part sort of mirrored the Giants record, very “meh”.  Throwing for 2032 yards, 5 TDs and 4 INTs and completing 62.8% of his passes.  He also ran for 273 yards and 2 TDs (with the 273 yards finishing 3rd on the team).  Phil Simms had sat on the bench all year, not complaining and helping out Hostetler where he could.  Simms would only get garbage time duty in a loss at Philly which dropped the Giants to 4-5.  

But going into this game, the Giants were on a mini hot streak.  They won their previous 2 games, vs. the Cardinals and, as mentioned above, the Cowboys.  Meanwhile their opponent was the perennial doormat Bucs.  Another lost season at 2-9 and coming off a 43-7 beating in Atlanta the week before.  For the Giants this was a place of one of their last good memories as Tampa was the host to Super Bowl XXV a few months earlier when Hostetler left the field a Super Bowl Champion in a last second victory over the Buffalo Bills.  Over the course of the next few hours, Hoss would leave the field in a much different way, and a very different QB would be the one to lead the Giants to a last second victory.

 The Game Highlights

In a rare near sellout at Raymond James Stadium, thanks mainly to the bulk of the fans in attendance rooting for the defending Super Bowl champion NY Giants.  The Bucs would kickoff and it was a short bouncing effort at the 11 and was taken by Mark Ingram at the 8 yard line and he would get out to the 24 yard line.  Starting at QB was Jeff Hostetler who started off with a pass and a dump off to Rodney Hampton in the flat at the 18 yard line, and Hampton would only get back to the line of scrimmage, hit down by former Viking and Cowboy LB Jesse Solomon.  2nd and 10, Hoss back again, and with pressure coming up the middle from Rueben Davis and was knocked to the ground but was able to get a pass off in the direction of Howard Cross, but it fell incomplete.  Now 3rd and 10, with Hoss in the gun and Dave Meggett in motion, Hostetler would get pressure from Keith McCants and force a quick pass out to Meggett at the 29 yard line and he would be hit down by Darrell Fullington immediately and a 3 and out would force a punt by Sean Landeta was a good one out to Willie Drewery at the 22 yard line and he would get hit down by Lamar McGriggs at the 27 yard line.

On would trot the former #1 overall pick of the 1987 draft, Vinny Testaverde and the Bucs first play was a run to Reggie Cobb running to his right, where he was met by Greg Jackson and Gary Reasons at the 30 yard line for a 3 yard gain.  2nd and 7, the ball again went to Cobb, this time running to his left, but he would be met in the backfield on the sweep by Everon Walls, who was let free on a horrific block attempt by WR Lawrence Dawsey to hit Cobb for a loss as Lawrence Taylor came in to clean up the play.  3rd and 9, Vinny in the gun and had good time in the pocket to throw a strike to Drewery at the 36 yard line.  Drewery would get away from a tackle attempt by Roger Brown, cut back over the middle where Carl Banks overran the play and slipped down and took the ball out to the 41, where he was finally tripped up by Walls, but good for a first down.  On first down, Vinny met LT

By this time in 1991, LT was on the downward swing of his career.  He had lost juice with Parcells’ retirement and Belichick moving to Cleveland.  But while he couldn’t consistently dominate a game anymore, he could still rachet up a play or two here and there.  In this case, it was a classic LT passrush from the blindside, hitting left tackle Paul Gruber (who actually was a very good offensive lineman) with a bull rush to knock Gruber off his balance, and dip his shoulder into his and start his rush up field and towards the QB.  Vinny held the ball a beat long as Eric Dorsey put a hand up to block his view, allowing LT time to charge in to sack him at the 30 for his 7th sack of the season.  Looking at a 2nd and 20, Vinny would drop back, and with John Washington pushing the pocket back into his face, would heave a pass deep down the left sidelines were Dawsey made a nice one handed catch, but he was well out of bounds and covered by Walls.  3rd and 20, with Vinny in the gun, we’d get a typical Bucs moment

Still back in the early 1990s, until Tony Dungy would change up the Bucs organization, they were a laughing stock.  Essentially the current version of the Browns.  Even with all the high picks they would never gel and have moments of slapstick.  In this case, already in a tough 3rd and 20, Vinny would still be reading the defense when the ball was snapped by Tony Mayberry and bonked him in the facemask.  As it was a live ball, Vinny had to pounce on it at the 24, where he was covered up by Kanavis McGhee and Pepper Johnson.  That would bring on Mark Royals, and the Giants would add further insult to the Bucs ineptitude

Royals kick was one of those which is always a danger, a line drive type right literally down the middle of the field, which is where good punt returners can do some damage.  Meggett was one of the best punt returners in the NFL, so it was no shock to see him field it at the 30, go right up the middle, cut to his right, follow a good seal block by Ed McCaffrey, cut back inside a tackle attempt and then pick up speed as he would head back towards the right sideline and have only one Buccaneer left to beat as the crowd was in full throat.  Meggett broke the final tackle attempt by Marty Carter and fell into the end zone as Verne Lundquist would call out 2 incorrect distances for his TD jaunt (he said 45 yards and then 75 yards, but it was technically 70).  Matt Bahr’s extra point would sail through to make the score 7-0 Giants with 10:10 to go in the first quarter. 

Bahr would come on to kickoff and it would go halfway into the end zone fielded by Drewery for a touchback.  First and 10 at the 20, Vinny would pitch back to Cobb, who again got hit in the backfield by Walls who played off a block from the fullback to slow up the RB and wait for his friends to arrive in the form of Banks, Reasons and LT for no gain.  2nd and 10, with Cobb in motion, Vinny would drop back and start to feel the rush a little from LT and tried to dump the ball off towards TE Ron Hall, however, the ball sailed over his head and incomplete as the boos started to trickle in from the crowd.  3rd and 10, Vinny had time to throw and fired a pass towards Mark Carrier, but it was nearly picked off by a diving Roger Brown and deflected away and a 3 and out from the Bucs offense.  On would come Royals again to punt, and this time Mark Ingram was sent back to receive.  Royals punt was a short one that made Ingram run up and make a tough diving catch at the 46 yard line.  The rule of thumb is never let the ball hit the ground for a return man, and Ingram did just that, but it was dangerous as it could have bounced off him for a live ball.  But the Bucs would simply touch him down at the 47.  

On would come the Giants offense a second time, with great field position, and Hostetler would hand off to Hampton running up the middle and he would power across midfield to the Bucs’ 47 before he was hit down by McCants.  2nd and 4, Hoss back, would sling a quick slant to Ingram at the 40 and he would get out to the 39, hit down by Ricky Reynolds.  First and 10, with Mowatt in motion, Hampton ran around the right end seem to turn the corner, but he got grabbed by Broderick Thomas and Dexter Manley at the 37.  2nd and 8, again Hampton got a sweep running to his left following Mo Carthon, but he would get hit down by Kevin Murphy at the 36, however a hold on Howard Cross set the Giants back to a 2nd and 18.  Hoss would drop pack and fire a pass over the middle towards Odessa Turner at the 33, but he had the ball stripped out by Reynolds for an incompletion.  3rd and 18, with Hoss in the shotgun, the Bucs would rush only 3 and dropped 8 into coverage.  Hoss did have time to throw, but as it ran out, he tried to fire a pass towards McCaffrey at the 40, but it was behind him and fell incomplete.  So a promising drive with good field position fizzled and brought on Landeta to punt.  Landeta tried to put it right at the goal line, but it bounced into the end zone as Turner tried in vain to bat it back on the field.

Bucs started at the 20, Vinny dropped back and threw a pass out in the flat to Hall at the 25 yard line, where he was smacked down by Collins.  However, a penalty on Tampa Bay for a hold on Ian Beckles set them back to the 10 yard line and a 1st and 20.  The Bucs would try a conservative call in a draw to Cobb, but it would actually work, as he cut around Washington, ducked behind Reasons, got a good block on Walls and made it all the way out to the 27 yard line where Walls would trip him from behind.  The Bucs decided to keep it going and gave again to Cobb, this time running right, but he ran smack into Eric Dorsey along with Pepper Johnson for a 1 yard gain.  3rd and a long 1, Vinny in the shotgun, would take a quick drop and fire a pass to Drewery at the 40, and he would fall forward out to the 43 yard line, hit down by Collins and Myron Guyton.  So with a first down, Vinny would have a nice playfake to Cobb, drop back with plenty of time and launch a pass to Dawsey at the Giants’ 49 and hit down by Walls.  2nd and 2, a draw to Cobb over the middle was into a slew of players and hit down by Dorsey after just 1 yard and short of a first down.  3rd and inches, the Bucs would stick to the ground with Cobb powering off right end and was hit down by Reasons, but not before he got 2 yards and a first down.  With a new set of downs, Vinny would drop back, and while faking a hand off would actually trip on Cobb and stumble.  Testaverde would get away from Banks who had a free run at him, get away from Dorsey in pursuit and would finally get run down by Pepper at the 45 for a slight loss, and thus count as a sack for Pepper.  2nd and 10, Vinny back, and he had LT barge in and grab on to him, however Testaverde was a big, strong QB in his own right, and he broke away from the sack, and also pulled away from McGhee who got a hand on him, and took off running all the way out to the 39 where he was drilled by Banks and launched out of bounds for what could have been penalty.  3rd and 4, Vinny in the gun, with a blitz coming, the QB got a quick pass out to Drewery who in the slot ran an out pattern and snagged it at the 37, and took the ball out to the 34, and out of bounds as Greg Jackson was bearing down on him.  First and 10 as the drive continued, Vinny was pack, and again slung out the 2nd TE Jessie Anderson where he caught it at the 31 and would power his way out to the 27 where he was wrestled down by Jackson and Collins on the final play of the first quarter.  At the start of the 2nd quarter the Bucs would cash in

Capping off an impressive drive, the ball was handed off to Cobb, who started his run to the left, saw an opening back over the middle and cut back as Dorsey was buried on a block, and he found a lane, accelerated past a pair of diving tackle attempts by Banks and Jackson and outran Collins to the end zone for a big TD run as the Buccaneers fans made themselves heard among the sea of Giants blue.  Steve Christie’s extra point would knot the game at 7-7 on a 11 play, 80 yard drive that took up 6:24 off the clock.

Christie’s kickoff would go to Hampton at the 3 yard line and he would spin out to the 27 yard line.  Hoss would drop back and lob a deep pass toward Ingram down the left sideline and the WR was wide open because the Tampa defensive back slipped and would have been a long TD catch, but the ball was just thrown over his head as the wind pushed it too far.  2nd and 10, a draw to Hampton was swallowed up by Thomas and McCants for a loss back at the 25.  3rd and 12, Hoss in the gun, with plenty of time and he would fire a pass towards Turner, but just out of his reach and it fell incomplete.  A flag for a hold on Jumbo Elliott was declined and Landeta came back on for his 3rd punt, which was a short effort and nearly hit William Frizzell at the 41, and rolled forward to the 34 yard line.  

Tampa’s offense came back out on the field, and Vinny dropped back, set up a screen to Cobb on the right side and it looked to be set up well, with blockers in front, but LT ran through the block and dumped Cobb after just a 1 yard gain.  2nd and 9, another draw to Cobb up the middle, and he gets past Washington and runs through an arm tackle by LT and Jackson and was spun down at the 43 by Guyton.  3rd and 2, Vinny again went into the gun and on a quick pass hit Carrier on an out pattern at the 46 yard line, knocked out of bounds by Jackson but good for another first down.  Vinny would drop back for one of the worst screens you will see, as he backpeddled with Banks charging in on a blitz, threw a pass behind Cobb, who snagged it at the 42 yard line, just avoided a big hit from Pepper (and nearly picked it off), took a shot from Collins but kept moving and fell forward to the 48 yard line where he was hit down by Dorsey and Reasons.  

2nd and 7, the ball went to Gary Anderson, and the former Pro Bowler in San Diego, picked his way over the middle as Banks banged into LT, and Anderson made his way out to the Giants’ 47 yard line, hit down by Reasons.  During the play, LT went down with a knee injury as Beckles took a somewhat cheapshot crackback on his left knee.  LT would get helped off the field as the crowd would start the wave (usually an indication they are bored).  3rd and 2, Vinny in the gun again, and this time the pocket broke down and as he tried to move up the field, Pepper knocked the ball free a the 46, Vinny chased it down and was caught by Walls and thrown to the ground.  Again the ball seemed to pop free, and Perry Williams snagged it and ran it into the end zone for an apparent TD, but they ruled the ball was down by contact, so no fumble, no TD, but a sack.  On came Royals to punt and Ingram would fair catch it at the 15, however he would fumble the ball and jumped on it at the 18, avoiding what would have been a brutal turnover with 9:46 to go in the half.

The Giants started their next drive with a run to Hampton up the gut and what was a big hole closed quick but he was able to get out to the 22 yard line, hit down by Dexter.  2nd and 5, Hampton again with the carry running to his right and smacked into Dexter again for no gain.  3rd and 5, Hoss in the shotgun had plenty of time and he was able to hit McCaffrey coming over the middle on a crossing pattern and hauled in the pass at the 27 and he was able to beat his man in coverage and get out to the 34, hit down from behind by Darryl Fullington.  First down, again to Hampton, and again Hampton was met near the line of scrimmage by Davis.  2nd and 9, Handley stayed conservative, ran up the gut and was hit by pretty much the entire defensive line for no gain.  3rd and 9, Hoss in the gun with a blitz in his face was able to hit McCaffrey at the 42 yard line and the big WR fell forward to the 46 for a first down.  A late flag first looked to be a late hit on the QB, however, the refs called a hold on Riesenberg to set the Giants back to a 3rd and 19.  Hostetler in the gun, with a 3 man rush and plenty of coverage, forced Hoss to scramble out to his right and he got the ball out to the 39 for a nice 15 yard gain, but needing 19 brought back on the punt unit.  Landeta’s punt would be a line drive to Drewery who caught it at the 16 yard line and was hit immediately by Turner, who looked like Reyna Thompson for a moment. 

With 4:42 to go in the half, the Bucs began with a draw up the middle to Cobb that went out to the 21 yard line, hit down by Pepper.  2nd and 5, Vinny back and on a 3 step drop dumped it to Cobb at the 23 where he was hit right away by Collins and bounced back and wrapped up at the 20, losing forward progress.  3rd and 6, Vinny went and did a wacky thing

Vinny was having an adventure all game, avoiding pass rushers and doing dumb things with the ball.   Here we got to see it all in it’s glory, with Leonard Marshall first charging in to nearly wrap up the QB for a sack.  But Vinny spun away, was chased by McGhee and then by Corey Miller.  As he tried to do a pump fake to no one really, the ball slipped out of his hands for an incompletion, while the smattering of boos came out again from the crowd as the Giants argued for an intentional grounding.  As Verne would note, a year ago, that would have been an in the grasp sack, but the NFL changed the rule to loosen that up (and would help the Giants many years later in Super Bowl 42).  Anyway, Royals punt would go to Meggett, as apparently Handley finally saw enough of the Ingram sideshow the past couple of punts, and the ball would bounce at the 44, and Meggett decided to bail and have the ball roll out to the 33 yard line where they would down it after a 42 yard net.  

First down, Hoss would fake a handoff and rifle a pass towards a diving Ingram at 46 yard line, but the ball would hit the ground.  2nd and 10, Hoss would drop back, with plenty of time tried to throw to Stephen Baker, but the ball was deflected by Solomon and it was nearly picked by Fullington.  On 3rd down, things got worse for the Giants

By this point in the game, it was clear the Giants were in a dogfight.  The Bucs were a bad team, the Giants the defending champs, but you could see the confidence growing in Tampa.  The past few 3rd downs, the Bucs had only rushed 3 men.  This time they came with 4, and Thomas would beat Riesenberg and come crashing down into Hostetler to nail him for a big sack and threw him down hard at the 27 yard line.  Hoss laid on the ground for a moment as he was clearly hurt on the play, but he struggled to his feet.  Landeta back on to punt again sent a short, low line drive caused by the wind out to the 40 where it bounced to Drewery at the 29, and he would take it out to the 36 yard line where he was hit by Steve DeOssie and Bobby Abrams.  

Armed with all 3 timeouts and the 2 minute warning, the Bucs started with a play action fake, but with no one open, Vinny held the ball too long and was smothered by Marshall and Dorsey at the 29 yard line for the Giants 3rd sack of the half at the 2 minute warning.  2nd and 18, Vinny would hit Hall out by the 34 yard line, he would break a tackle attempt by Collins and Banks, spin away and rumble out to the 47 where he was finally taken down by Guyton.  That set up a 3rd and 1, Vinny would drop back, pump fake, and decide to scramble up the middle out to the 50 where he was covered up by Collins but good for a first down and they called their first timeout with 1:20 to go in the half.  First and 10, the Bucs decided to pass, Vinny was under pressure at first by Miller, started to scramble to his right where he was hogtied by Pepper near midfield for a loss and a sack.  A flag for illegal formation was declined. 

2nd and 11, Vinny in the gun, had pressure again, scrambled to his right looking for someone to get open, had Pepper fall at his feet and force him out of the pocket.  With no one open and surrounded by Giants, Vinny would cut inside Marshall, but that left him dead meat for Pepper and Miller to nail him at the 47 for yet another sack.  On the next play, we saw the gambler in Vinny come out

With Testaverde under pressure most of the game, he finally had a moment to throw the ball on 3rd and 12.  With no real pressure, he decided to heave a deep pass down the right sidelines towards Terry Anthony who was well covered by Collins along the sidelines.  Essentially in a jump ball situation, Collins snagged the pass at the 8 yard line and picked off by the corner.  Collins would get hurt holding on to the ball but the interception would stand as Collins was helped off the field by Ronnie Barnes.  

With :39 to go, and at their own 8, Handley did the prudent thing by handing off to Meggett out of the shotgun and he picked his way out to the 12 yard line, hit by McCants.  Both coaches decided leaving the field in a tie was good for both sides and let the clock run out and go back into the locker room.

Coming into the 2nd half, tied at 7 was not what the Giants had in mind, but here they were.  Bahr’s kickoff would be short, fielded at the 9 by Drewery where he was bounced back by Lewis Tillman at the 23 and then thrown backwards by Roger Brown.  A hold on the Bucs would set them further back and start their drive 10.  On first down, Vinny saw the Bucs were in an illegal formation and with the clock running down, called a timeout on their first play, which predictably brought the boos.  So first down (again), and the ball went to Cobb who ran smack into Dorsey for a 1 yard gain.  2nd and 9, Vinny dropped back, with time and it wasn’t clear exactly who he was throwing to as he sort of drilled it right at Banks who was coming on a blitz.  So 3rd and 9, Vinny dropped into his own end zone to draw in the Giants defenders and dunked a screen out to Gary Anderson at the 8 yard line, with blockers in front.  Anderson would get all the way out to the 19, hit down a half yard short as Brown played off a block and made the tackle.  Royals back on again to punt to Meggett and got off a nice punt out to the 33.  Meggett would field and dance, running into Everson Walls and only got out to the 35. 

The Giants offense would trot out and begin with a handoff to Hampton running to his right and was banged down by Murphy after a 2 yard gain.  However yet another hold on the Giants set the them back to a 1st and 20.  A draw to Hampton up the middle was good for 3 yards, stopped by Tim Newton.  

2nd and 17, Hoss back, with a blitz coming was able to get enough time to throw a deep pass to Ingram, who beat his man and haul in a nice catch at the 37 yard line and dove to the ground where he was touched down at the 35 by Alonzo Hampton.  The 37 yard catch was by far the Giants best offensive play of the game, and they would follow that play up with a run by Hampton to his left where he made it down to the 31 yard line, hit down by Carter and Davis.  2nd and 5, a quick hitter to Carthon running to his right was good for a first down out to the 25.  However, a few things happened on this play.  First was a penalty on the Bucs for an offsides which was declined.  However, more significantly Riesenberg was writhing on the ground in pain as Carthon fell on the back of his legs and the starting right tackle had to be helped off the field.  But the next injury was worse.

Unfortunately, the copy I got of the game had missed the actual play, but you can see it on the replay.  Hostetler was in the gun and Broderick Thomas came on a blitz where he wasn’t chipped by Meggett and got a free run at Hoss.  As Hoss dumped the ball off to Meggett, Thomas drilled Hostetler right between the 1-5 and drove him into the ground with his full weight and no way for Hoss to protect himself.  One of the first thoughts is a concussion, since Hoss did hit his head on the turf. The medical staffs from both teams came out and Hostetler was put on a stretcher.  It was a tough day for the Giants, who had lost LT, Collins, Riesenberg and now their starting QB.  Phil Simms, the man who lost his job to Hoss, came over to wish his teammate well, and other Bucs came over to him to check, including Thomas who delivered the blow.  The fans would cheer for Hostetler as he headed to the ambulance.  The first thought was a concussion, but it would turn out that Hoss broke the transverse process in his back on the play, the same injury that more or less ended Tony Romo’s career as it opened the door for Dak Prescott.  Well, what was lost in all that stuff, was Hostetler did complete the pass to Meggett who got down to the 10 yard line for a fresh set of downs and now Simms back under center and he had only thrown 2 passes all year in a blowout to Philly.  Simms would drop back and try to throw a comebacker to Meggett in the end zone but fell short.  2nd and goal, Simms gave to Carthon who was stuffed up the middle, however another offsides on Tampa gave the Giants a free 5 yards to make it 2nd and goal at the 5.  

In a bit closer, the Giants would again give to Hampton on a draw up the middle, but this time he had a bit of a lane and followed a good block by Carthon, saw Oates and Kratch push their men backwards and absorbed a hit at the 2 and rolled on top of Marty Carter at the 1 and into the end zone for a TD as the Giants fans again came alive.  The play would be reviewed and while in 1991 the Instant Replay system was still a nightmare and unwieldy, it didn’t take long for them to realize that Hampton was not down, no part of him other than his hand hit the ground and Carter gave him the buffer to get into the end zone.  One other side effect of Hostetler’s injury, he was the holder on field goals and extra points.  Apparently Simms nor 3rd stringer Matt Cavanaugh were able to take the long snap.  And in the 1980s and 1990s, usually it was the QB who held, and it shifted since to punters to act as the holder (remembering Steve Weatherford in 2011 with the hold in San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, sprinting off the field in excitement and throwing out the “We’re going to the Mother F***ing Super Bowl!!” for all to see).  But back in 1991, apparently the backup holder was Mark Ingram.  He actually got a pretty tough snap from DeOssie and fielded it, put the ball down, and Bahr put the ball through the uprights to give the Giants a 14-7 lead with 8:50 to go in the 3rd.

Bahr’s kickoff would go to Drewery at the goal line, where he took it out to the 22 where he was wrapped up by Adrian White.  Trailing by a touchdown, the Bucs started with a run by Cobb to his left, and looked to have a really nice gain out to the 38, hit down by Reasons and Guyton.  However, the reason for the nice run was a hold on Hall who grabbed Banks wiped it out.  1st and 20 at the 11, Vinny dropped back, set up another screen to Cobb, this time to the right side, but the Giants read it and he was hit down by Reasons at the 14.  2nd and 18, Vinny felt the head again

Pepper Johnson was a man possessed in this game, as the Giants pass rush collapsed the pocket, and Pepper ran over a blocker on a delayed blitz and took down the QB, with some help from Washington at the 5 yard line while Vinny hurt his ankle.  Meanwhile on the same play, Banks got his ankle rolled up from Beckles and he was hurt and had to come out.  On 3rd and 26 deep in their own territory, Richard Williamson made a give up call of a handoff to Alonzo Highsmith up the gut where he was just trying to get room for the punter and he was tackled down by White and friends at the 16.  Again Royals would come on to the field and he would send the ball to Meggett on a short kick at the 47 yard line, and while it looked like Meggett might have a shot for another big return he lost his footing and just went down to cover up the ball at the 49.

Simms with his first full drive, gave to Hampton running up the middle and gained 3, hit down by Solomon.  2nd and 6, Simms dropped back, with time, would hit Cross on an out pattern at the 40 (and Ingram was about 2 yards away, so someone ran the wrong pattern), but regardless, it was a catch and good for a first down out to the 36, tripped up by the Bucs’ Hampton.  First down, a draw to Hampton and he found room up the middle with a huge hole thanks to blocks by Oates and Carthon and powered out to the 26 where he was tracked down by Davis.  So another first down and the Giants seemed to be taking control of the game.  With 2 tight ends, Hampton ran a cutback to his left and was tackled by McCants for no gain.  

2nd and 10, Simms would drop back and not find anyone open and held the ball long enough for the protection to break down and get sacked back at the 30 by his old friend Dexter, who beat Eric Moore, forced to play at right tackle due to the Riesenberg injury.  3rd and 14, Simms in the shotgun, and the patchwork Giants offensive line again broke down, with Moore having trouble with Thomas, who got away from him, chased Simms out of the pocket and dropped him at the 35 for back to back sacks.  The net impact, with the windy conditions in central Florida, Handley did not want to try a 53 yard Bahr field goal and knocked the Giants out of field goal range and brought on Landeta to try to ping the Bucs deep.  The Giants would take the delay of game to give him a better angle to punt, but Tampa declined it (as they should).  So without the good angle it didn’t matter as much with Reyna Thompson

So many times in the past teams would accept the delay of game penalty to give the punter the better angle.  The general rule of thumb however, if you have a team in 4th and long, and you don’t need to worry about an offsides or running into the punter penalty for 5 yards that could give a first down or invite a team to go for it, you decline the penalty.  So the Bucs made the right move.  However, it doesn’t matter as much when the Giants have the best special teams cover man in the NFL in Reyna Thompson, who had the ball bounce near the goal line, lay out for it to bat it back on to the field before the ball (or Thompson) touched the end line, and knock it out of bounds at the 2.  However, a different official would call it a touchback.  Which then brought a replay stoppage where it was finally determined the ball actually hit the line as you see paint fly and the call on the field would stand as a touchback.  So close, but not good enough despite a great effort by one of the best. 

After all that, the Bucs had it on the 20, and pitched to Cobb running to his left and he would get out to the 5, stood up by Guyton.  2nd and 5, Cobb running to his right this time, found day light, spun away from Pepper and Jackson and fell forward to the 33 yard line.  First down Vinny back, and drilled a pass on an in cut to Drewery at the 44, but he had it broken up by Walls.  2nd and 10, Vinny back, with a blitz coming and time to throw, would heave a deep pass that would sail out of bounds, somewhat in the direction of Drewery.  3rd and 10, Vinny tried another deep out to Dawsey, who beat Brown, but the ball went in and out of his hands at the 40.  So the drive fizzled, Royals on for his 7th punt, had the ball bounce at the 30 and rolled forward to the 25 where it was covered up by the Bucs. 

Simms would trot back out on the field and start off with a handoff to Tillman, running to his right and cut back over the middle out near the 29 yard line, hit down by Newton (who got hurt on the play) on the final play of the 3rd quarter.  2nd and 6, again Tillman got a sweep running to the left and he cut back to the middle to the 31, spun down by McCants.  3rd and 4, Simms would set up in the shotgun and was able to throw to McCaffrey, who adjusted a pass behind him, but was able to snag the ball and fall forward to the 36, good for a first down, hit by Frizzell.  Another draw to Tillman where he was hit behind the line by Davis but dove forward to the 38, banged down by Thomas.  2nd and 9, Simms would take a 3 step drop and drill a pass behind Baker and incomplete.  3rd and 9, with Ingram in motion, Simms would set up a pass out in the flat to Meggett at the 32 yard line, but he was pinned in by McCants and tackled by Covington.  For good measure, a hold was called on William Roberts, who was mugging McCants, but was declined because they were no where near the first down marker.  Landeta’s punt would go to Drewery at the 15, and start running to his right, got a nice seal block on Turner but stumbled around the 20 and was tackled at the 22 by Corey Miller with 12:01 to go in the game.

The Bucs offense would begin with a handoff to Cobb over the middle but would only gain one, as Bobby Abrams, playing for LT, came around the end to tackle him.  2nd and 9, Vinny back, and he would sling a pass to Hall out to the 30 yard line.  Meanwhile behind the play it was laundry day as there were 4 flags thrown by officials all for unnecessary roughness on Banks who retaliated for on a late hit by Highsmith by coming back and nailing him to add an extra 15 yards on to the play and a first down at the 45.  

This is one of the reasons why I loved Verne Lundquist as an announcer.  On the play, we can see a draw up the middle to Cobb, which was being run often by the Bucs.  Someone off camera but within earshot of a microphone was heard screaming “Drawwwww!!”  And the Giants did recognize it with big Lorenzo Freeman making the tackle at the 48.  Now, there are times where an announcer will ignore the crowd or other sounds of the game as it’s happening (looking at you Joe Buck), but Verne was never like that.  Verne noted the person screaming it out, got Dan Fouts to joke about it.  And then threw in a great line “I thought it was a guy at the end of the bar ordering another beer”.  Verne was the best.  Now 2nd and 7, a pitch to Cobb to the right would turn the corner and get the ball out to the Giants’ 47, taken down by Walls and Dorsey.  3rd and 2, with the clock winding down, the Bucs had to burn their 2nd time out with 9:28 to go in the game.  3rd and 2, Vinny in the gun, and with plenty of time threw a frozen rope to Carrier at the 44 in between the zone and he took it out to the 37, hit down by White, who actually blew his assignment to let Carrier get as open as he did, because we saw Walls and Guyton yell at him after the play.  First down, a draw to Cobb again on the right side and he popped his way to the 34, hit down by Jackson.  Vinny would feed the ball to Cobb again on the next play, as he took the carry up the middle, but cut back to his left, around a tackle attempt by Marshall and was dragged down by Williams and Guyton at the 23.  The Bucs weren’t done with Cobb, pitching to the right this time, and he would bang down to the 22, hit down by Jackson.  Highsmith got the ball up the gut where he was grabbed by the 350 pound Freeman and dragged back from the 19 yard line.  On the 10th play of the drive, the Bucs would hit paydirt

Vinny would stand back in the shotgun, and with time and the pocket to throw, Vinny would throw a strike to the former Oiler Willie Drewery, who was killing the Giants all game in the back of the end zone, beating Thompson in coverage for a game tying TD as the Tampa fans let loose with cheers.  Vinny could look awful at times.  Make dumb plays.  Have balls hit in him the face and fumble.  But no one questioned his physical skills as he always had a strong arm and he could put a ball in a perfect spot as he did for Drewery.  Christie’s extra point would tie the game at 14-14 with 5:59 to go in the game after a 10 play, 77 yard drive which took 6:02 off the clock.

Christie would come to kickoff and after a delay from the ball blowing off the tee, he would send the pigskin down the field on a low line drive which was short and actually bounce off Ingram’s hands at the 7 yard line and was picked up by Hampton who only got it out to the 16 yard line.  Simms would start off with an inside handoff to Hampton up the gut and only out to the 18, taken down by Dexter.  2nd and 8, Simms dropped back and tried a quick 3 step drop and slant, but it was read by McCants, who jumped up and nearly picked it off for what would have been a TD.  3rd and 8, Simms in the shotgun and had all day to throw and tried to drill a pass in to Baker at the 30, but it was batted away by Reynolds.  The crowd now had life after their defense forced a 3 and out.  Landeta’s punt was taken by Drewery at the 34 yard line and he looked to have some room to run, but it closed on him quickly as he was wrapped up by Turner and McGriggs at the 42.

With 4:40 to go in the game, the Bucs had good field position, but only 1 timeout thanks to burning 2 timeouts earlier.  On first down was a curious call, a quick hitter to the fullback Highsmith right up the middle and he was whacked down by Washington after a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, another delayed handoff to Cobb, who saw a hole to his left and cut up the field, breaking a tackle from Pepper at the 45, and he would surge all the way into Giants territory where he was stopped at the 48 by Walls and Jackson with the clock under 4 minutes and running.  3rd and 1, the Bucs stayed with Cobb, running around right end and dove forward to the 47 yard line, hit down by Reasons and Walls, but good for another first down.  The crowd, anticipating an upset were cheering as the clock continued to run under 3 minutes.  With Carrier in motion, Williamson had yet another strange first down call, a pitch to Anderson running to his left, but it was strung out by the defense, with DeOssie taking away the cutback lane and Anderson lept into the arms of Guyton and was stopped for a short gain.  

The Bucs would compound that bad play with another as they hustled to the line and got a snap off before the 2 minute warning, this time a run by Cobb around right end, but he slipped to the ground and was covered up by Jackson for no gain and the clock stopped at the 2 minute warning and officially with 1:59.  Even Dan Fouts called out that this was poor clock management and as it would turn out later, this mistake would burn the Bucs. 

Now 3rd and 10, Vinny would be in the shotgun, have lots of time as Pepper got nailed on a block, scrambled around back to his left and fired a pass across his body and back over the middle of the field in the direction of Terry Anthony.  Vinny was guilty of these two cardinal sins, and it nearly cost him as the ball almost picked off by Williams at the 39 yard line.  Again, the Hall of Fame former Chargers QB Fouts would admonish Vinny for these mental and physical errors and note he was lucky not to have forced a turnover.  As it was, it stopped the clock at 1:49 and brought on Royals who got off a nice high punt that was fair caught by Meggett at the 10.

So the situation was set.  Phil Simms, who lost his job to Hostetler in a celebrated QB battle in the pre-season, was now in charge of the Giants, desperate for a win and had 1:41 to go and 3 time outs.  Plenty of time to try to get into field goal range, but keeping in mind that Hostetler was not the holder and kicker Matt Bahr had a leg injury.  The Giants would begin with Simms in the shotgun and a pass that was meant for McCaffrey at the 11, but it tipped off his hands and luckily for the Giants, into Ingram’s hands at the 18 where he fell forward to the 19.  In all that excitement, a flag was thrown on the play for a 12 men on the field for the Bucs.  The Giants decided to take the yardage and declined the penalty, and set up a 2nd and 1.  Simms out of the gun, gave to Meggett on a quick draw up the middle and he got out to the 23 yard line, hit down by Davis but good for a first down as the clock ran under 90 seconds to go.  As Fouts would note that Handley was lucky to have Simms as his backup QB to handle this situation, Simms would calmly stand back and dump a pass off to McCaffrey at the 23, and Easy Ed would turn up the field and get out to the 36, hit down by Solomon, but good for yet another first down.  Simms would call a timeout but the officials let the clock bleed down to 1 minute, however they would fix the mistake and stop it officially at 1:08 on the Giants’ first time out (but it still took a little while as the Tampa clock operator tried to put the time at 1:05).  Simms would look in command and and drop back, allowing the rush to come in on him to dump off a screen to Meggett at the 30, with blockers in front and the scatback would pick his way out to the 46 yard line for another first down, hit down by Carter.  The Giants would go without a huddle and the clock running under a minute, and Simms would hit Turner on an out pattern near the sidelines at the Bucs’ 47 yard line, where he was wrapped up by Reynolds and unable to get out of bounds.  Simms would again calmly call a timeout with :36 to go in the game, the Giants 2nd timeout, leaving them with 1 more.  

On 2nd and 4, Simms in the gun, with McCaffery playing out of the backfield waiting for a blitz that would not come.  McCaffrey would be the safety valve and catch it at the 50, make a move to get around Covington at the 45 and then he would take off to the 40 and head to the sidelines and get out of bounds at the 41 with :27 to go, just before Solomon could keep him in bounds.  So much went on in that play.  McCaffrey could have been tackled short of a first and in bounds, which would have run precious time off the clock.  But he made the play and stopped the clock.  Simms in the gun would drill a pass to Baker on a perfect throw on the sidelines to Baker at the 30, where he got both feet in bounds and was pushed out with :22 to go.  In a tie game, the Giants would just need a field goal from Bahr.  Interestingly enough, it would be from 47 yards, literally the same distance and the same direction that months earlier Scott Norwood coined “Wide Right”.  As the Giants lined up for their next snap, the Bucs would call their final timeout to regroup.  Before the game, Matt Bahr told Dan Fouts that with the wind, in one direction, he felt good from 40, but in this direction, he felt he could hit from 50, to he was in range.  However, Phil Simms had other ideas

The safe play was to just gain a few yards and go for a field goal.  Matt Bahr was as clutch a kicker as there was in the NFL by this point in his career, particularly for what he did in the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco in ending a Threepeat.  But Simms was never a QB to just play it safe and he wanted to get the win when he had the chance.  The Bucs would send a blitz and it would be picked up by the offensive line.  Simms had time to stand in and fire a strike towards Baker, who beat Alonzo Hampton and hauled in a perfect throw at the 4 yard line and get into the end zone in crunch time when the Giants needed a win.  Baker would get up and hand the ball to an older Giants fan in a wheelchair (who Verne would note that John Elway got fined $1000 for giving the ball to the crowd, but doubted it would happen here) while the crowd full of Giants fans roared in excitement.  Baker would be mobbed by his teammates on one end, and on the other the players would celebrate with Simms.  With Ingram holding, Bahr would bang through the extra point to cap a 90 yard drive in 8 plays and resulted in a 30 yard TD to Baker and give the Giants a 21-14 lead with :16 to go in the game.  

Bahr would squib the ball down the field and it was taken at the 30 by one of the up men and brought out to the 34, where Brown made the stop with :11 to go.  Vinny would be in the gun and the Giants only rushed 3 and dropped the rest back in coverage, leaving only an underneath throw to Drewery who caught it at the 39 and went out of bounds with :05 to go.    

Everyone knew it was Hail Mary time.  Kanavis McGhee just got off the field, avoiding a 12 men on the field penalty and Vinny set up for his deep throw, coming up in the pocket and heaving it down the left side.  Vinny’s strong arm sailed the ball beyond all his receivers into a sea of blue.  Pepper Johnson, who had been a pass rushing force all game, was cherry picking by the goal line, ran in to snag the ball and get a pick, ripping it away from teammate Roger Brown, and stepped out of bounds as the clock struck :00.  The Giants had lost their starting QB, they lost their defensive but aging superstar in LT, but they found their old QB again in Simms and seemed to save their season with their 3rd win in a row in a dogfight in Tampa. 

Post Mortem/Interesting Tidbits 

  • This was the Giants' first game in Tampa since beating Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV
  • Ed McCaffrey’s 4 catches and 35 yards were season highs for the rookie WR out of Stanford.
  • Baker’s TD was in the same corner that he caught his TD in Super Bowl XXV to pull the Giants to within a 12-10 score at halftime vs. the Bills
  • The Giants lost their previous 3 trips to Tampa, with their last win coming in the 1978 season opener by the score of 19-13.  Interestingly enough, that was played on a Saturday at 8 PM. Also of note, the Giants were a 1 point underdog in Tampa in that game.  They were the underdog to a team that finished their first two seasons (and first two in existence) 0-14 and then 2-12.
  • In all, the Giants are 6-6 in Tampa since 1977 in the regular season.  Meanwhile, they are 7-1 vs. the Bucs at Giants Stadium, with the Giants only loss (so far), coming in 1997 by the score of 20-8.  
  • The Giants and Bucs played in one post season game, the 2007 Wild Card round which was won by the the Giants 24-14, in Tampa.  It was the first win for the Giants team which would go on the road to beat the #1 seed (Dallas) and #2 seed (Packers) and then on to Super Bowl 42 to beat the 18-0 Patriots.
  • This was Phil Simms only win at Tampa in his career.  But the first start in Simms career came in Week 6 of the 1979 season against the Bucs in Giants Stadium against the 5-0 Tampa Bay team.  Simms wouldn’t exactly put up numbers that would eventually rewrite the Giants’ passing record books that would hold until Eli Manning broke all of them.  Simms went 6 for 12, 37 yards, and ran for 1 yard. But the Giants won 17-14 to hand the Bucs (who would go on to a 10-6 season and beat the Eagles in the Wild Card round).  So how did the Giants win? Well, 3 turnovers and 2 short Billy Taylor TDs gave the Giants a 14-0 lead and allowed the Giants to keep the ball on the ground with Taylor rushing for 138 yards on 33 carries and not expose Simms.
  • LT’s sack of Vinny was his final one of his 1991 campaign.  A knee injury ended his day early. At age 32, LT was no longer the same player he was in his dominant years in the mid 1980s.  LT would finish the season with 7 sacks, the first time he didn’t have double digits in sacks since 1983 and technically would be his lowest total of his career when he played a full season.  In 1992, LT would get only 4 sacks, but would only play in 9 games due to the achilles injury. LT didn’t get credit for any sacks in his rookie year of 1981 because the sack wasn’t an official stat until 1982.  And even in the strike shortened 1982, he registered 7.5.
  • On the other end, Pepper Johnson had his career high in sacks, with 4.5.  It would be more than twice his next highest total of 2 sacks in a game, which he did twice.  The first was in his rookie season of 1986 when he sacked the St. Louis Cardinals’ Neil Lomax twice in a game in which the Giants set a then team record of 9 sacks.  The other time he did it was in 1988, when he played the rush outside linebacker in the season opener vs. the Redskins thanks to a 4 game suspension of LT due to failing a drug test.  Pepper would actually register the game clinching sack of Doug Williams after a classic spin move against Joe Jacoby led to a sack and fumble, which NT Jim Burt plucked out of the air and “raced” for a TD to give the Giants a 27-20 win.
  • Pepper would face the Bucs 4 times in his career.  This was the only time he did so with the Giants and also the only game in which he registered a sack vs them.  He played them once with the Browns in 1995 and twice with the Lions in 1996. In all, he was 4-0 vs. Bucs.
  • Dexter Manley would sack Simms in this game, it would be his career sack # 96.5.  He would only register one more in a loss to the Vikings in Week 14, the final of his career.  Dexter would face the Giants 19 times in his career, with the majority of his time with the Redskins, but he had a stop over in Arizona with when Joe Bugel moved over from the Washington staff to take over as the head man and then eventually to finish his career in Tampa in 1991.  Dexter would register 19 sacks vs. the Giants in his career, including 4 in a loss at RFK in 1988.
  • However, it would be a game which Dexter was silent that would get him almost as much press.  In 1986, with the NFC East and homefield on the line, Dexter was neck and neck with Lawrence Taylor as the dominant defensive player in the NFL and sack leader.  And everything would tip the Giants way in that game. The Giants would win 24-14 in a game that wasn’t that close. LT would register 3 sacks and torment Jay Schroeder into 6 interceptions.  Meanwhile, Dexter was shut out by Giants long time tackle Brad Benson. With such focus on Benson from John Madden in the booth, and how he dominated Dexter that day, Benson was the first offensive lineman named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.  Benson would make his first Pro Bowl in what would prove to be his next to last year in the NFL. And he adopted a pit bull and named him Dexter.