Tuesday, June 25, 2019

1986 Giants vs Saints

Week 4

The Game Setup

The 1986 season was fascinating on so many levels for the Giants.  It was the culmination of a dream that had started building with Jersey’s own Bill Parcells as the head coach and led by Phil Simms on offense and Lawrence Taylor on defense.  They followed the trend that we saw in the 1980s, as an NFC team would methodically rise to power from one season until the next, and then ultimately turn into a juggernaut that would dominate their AFC opponent in a one sided Super Bowl.  The Giants started to turn the corner in 1984.  Got better in 1985 as they faced and lost to the Bears in the 2nd round of the playoffs.  They knocked on the door in 1985 and kicked it open in 1986.  

There were so many stories that season in the Giants first championship since 1956, as the ghosts of horrible seasons in the 1960s and 1970s were washed away.  People remember 4th and 17 vs. the Vikings to win.  They remember beating Washington on a night when the Mets won a World Series and then went down to DC to pretty much salt away the division and home field.  They remember George Martin running back a John Elway pass for a TD.  They remember coming back from down 17-0 in San Francisco and Mark Bavaro dragging Ronnie Lott.  They remember destroying the Niners and Redskins at Giants Stadium in January and then beating the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI.

But there was a game early in the season which actually had so much significance on many other levels which got lost, and it was easy to do so considering all those other highlights.  And that was the week 4 match up vs. the Saints at Giants Stadium.  The Giants had recovered from their Week 1 loss at Dallas and knocked off 2 AFC West teams back to back, in the Chargers and Raiders.  The Saints, under new head coach Jim Mora, who was fresh off winning championships in the USFL.  They had started 1-2, but had just come off a hard fought loss at San Francisco where they were only down by 3 points entering the 4th quarter.  So they were an up and coming team, but still not quite there.

For the Giants, this was a trap game.  The Saints not only lost the game vs. the Niners, they lost their starting QB, Bobby Hebert due to injury, so they started backup Dave Wilson.  And the Giants had shown a troubling habit in their rise as a playoff team in 1984 to lose games which they were the better the team to an inferior opponent.  In 1984 it was a loss to the 3-7 Buccaneers in Tampa.  In 1985 it was a loss at Cincinnati to a 1-4 Bengals team (the game in which Simms would throw for 513 yards).  So the Giants were expected to dominate the Saints and it became clear early that wasn’t the case.  As I mentioned above, people point to the Giants coming back from being down 17-0 to the Niners, but this also happened to another NFC West team, and it was in this game to the Saints.  We started to see signs of the comeback capabilities of a future champion.

And we will get more into it later, but we saw Bavaro’s legendary toughness come out in this game, as he had to come back from a broken jaw and had teeth knocked out to help lead the team to victory, and along the way, saw the real return of Zeke Mowatt after he lost the entire 1985 season due to a torn ACL.

But this game also had significant roster implications go forward.  The Giants brought in Raul Allegre to kick, having already gone through 2 kickers in 3 games (Bob Thomas and Joe Cooper).  We saw the start of a kicker who would become a significant contributor to the Giants success going forward, and particularly throughout the 1986 season.

And the Giants would make 2 trades in the coming weeks, really as a direct result of this game.  George Adams, the Giants first round pick in 1985 and an up and coming running back, hurt his hip in the preseason and was lost for the 1986 season (and really was never the same again).  So that left Joe Morris as the lead back after a training camp holdout.  Morris would miss this game due to blood disorder that forced him on blood thinners and gave 2nd year running back Lee Rouson his first start.  By the time the game was over, the Giants realized they needed more help if Morris was to go down, and would lead them to call the St. Louis Cardinals and ask about trading for Ottis Anderson.

Additionally, after this game, the Giants had a punt returner and WR problem.  Lionel Manuel would get knocked out of this game with a knee injury which would put him on IR and actually shelve him until the NFC Championship game, where he would score a TD.  Rookie CB Mark Collins would end up with a nasty shot to his head and a concussion on a punt return.  So the Giants lost their starting WR and both punt returners in this game.  They would have to call the Packers to see if they could trade for a small Navy helicopter pilot and bring back Phil McConkey.  

Again, there will be more discussion at the end, but this game had it all.  Giants breaking free of the knock as a team that loses to teams they should have beaten.  Overcoming a big early deficit.  Watching Mark Bavaro turn into the best TE in the NFL.  And seeing their defense dominate after a slow start in a game which Lawrence Taylor provided a highlight that was forever shown in any career retrospective package of his Hall of Fame career.

 The Game Highlights

On a nice weather day in East Rutherford, a 62 degree and a little overcast Sunday afternoon but the Giants had a problem even before the game began.  Their Pro Bowl running back, Joe Morris, didn’t even make the trip from his home to Giants Stadium as he was told to stay there with complications from a broken nose in which the medicine ended up giving him a low platelet count and the doctors ruled him out.  Since this was just Week 4 of the season, Ottis Anderson wasn’t yet acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals, that would come a few weeks later, so 2nd year running back Lee Rouson got the start.  

The Giants won the toss, and back in the mid 1980s, teams usually wanted the ball first, unlike now where everyone defers.  So Pro Bowler Morten Andersen came on to kick off for the Saints and sent the ball near the back of the end zone, where rookie Mark Collins just walked it out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.  Phil Simms brought the offense out to the 20, and began with a draw to fullback Maurice Carthon up the gut and he had a decent hole to run through, and got out to the 23, where he was hit by Alvin Toles.  2nd and 7, Simms would drop back and roll to his right as the Giants set up an extremely slow developing screen to the right.  He would dump back to Carthon at the 15, but future Hall of Famer Ricky Jackson read the play and was right in Mo’s lane, and forced the play away from his blockers.  Carthon only got out to the 22 and a loss, where he was dragged down by Jackson and got blasted by Sam Mills.  3rd and 8, Simms in the gun with Tony Galbreath next to him in the scatback slot that Dave Meggett would perfect a few years later for Bill Parcells.  Simms would drop back with time initially until he was hit as he threw a deep pass towards Solomon Miller but it sailed way out of bounds thanks to the hit by James Haynes on the blitz.  So on came Sean Landeta to punt and he got off a short line drive kick that bounced at the 50 and rolled towards returner Kelvin Edwards.  Edwards had the ball actually hit off his hands at the 37 and become a live ball for a moment, until he scooped it up at the 32 and got the ball back out to the 39 where he was swarmed by Gary Reasons and about 6 other Giants.  

The Saints offense would be led by Dave Wilson at QB, as Bobby Hebert was out with an injury.  On first down it didn’t look so good for the Saints, Wilson dropped the snap and had to cover up at the 37.  2nd and 12, Dalton Hilliard got the ball running up the middle, but he was hit by Carl Banks and Reasons for no gain.  3rd and 12 came a shocker.

A few things about this play.  The Saints had just looked incompetent on their first couple of plays and with the Giants pass rush at home, you’d think this was an easy play for them to make.  The Saints offensive line however picked up the rush and gave Wilson a pocket even though Leonard Marshall came free late on his stunt with Lawrence Taylor.  Wilson was able to heave a pass deep to the right for Eric Martin at the 40, who had just beaten Terry Kinard, who was a very good safety in his time, but not in a matchup like this against a guy like Martin who would eventually set several Saints receiving records until they were all long shattered when the Drew Brees era began.  Martin beat Kinard, which was expected, but the play should have been stopped at the 30 or so.  However, coming over late and taking a horrible angle was safety Kenny Hill.  Hill, a Yalie, should really know his angles, but what he ended up doing was misreading it, getting out of position, and actually knock down Kinard at the 25, giving Martin a free run the rest of the way for a 63 yard TD.  Hill would make a similar bad play in 1988, also at home, going the same way, against an NFC West team, only that time was against the San Francisco 49ers.  On that play, Hill would take a bad angle on late deep shot by Joe Montana to Jerry Rice, he’d range over and knock down Mark Collins, in almost an exact similar way, and Rice ran it in for a game winning TD.  Luckily for the Giants this was only the start of the game.  One other note, and I’ve written about it on other reviews.  Dick Stockton might have been a veteran sportscaster across several sports (most notably the NBA in the 1980s), but he just was terrible on calling big plays.  You have a shocking play here with Martin getting a long TD to stun the Giants and their crowd.  And he calls it like he’s reading a bedtime story.  Only a slight inflection, but ho-hum.  Andersen would add the extra point to make the score 7-0 with 12:00 to go in the first quarter as the crowd booed the early showing.

The Saints would kickoff again, and Collins would take it from 2 yards deep and get out to the 15 yard line where he was destroyed by Vaughn Johnson (who himself would turn into a perennial Pro Bowl LB in a few years).  Giants offense would start with a sweep to Rouson running to his right, but he was caught from behind by Mills for a loss back to the 14.  2nd and 11, Simms dropped back and with some pressure coming right at his face, threw over the top to Mark Bavaro who hauled it in at the 20, turned up the field and dragged a couple of Saints out to the 26, as Johnnie Poe finally got him down, but it was good for a first down.  First and 10, Rouson got the carry trying to run to his left, but was caught by Bruce Clark for no gain.  On 2nd and 10 would come a play that would start to fit within the Bavaro lore

Mark Bavaro was known for a number of things as Giant player.  He was the best TE in the NFL for a stretch until injuries derailed him.  He was impossible to bring down.  And he was tough.  This game would be known as one that Bavaro overcame a big injury that would have shut down many other players.  On this play, Simms dropped back, hit Bavaro at the 30, where he spun off one tackle attempt by Frank Wattlett, and make his way up the field where he was taken down low at the 35 and he’d fall forward 39.  As he was going down, he was drilled right on the jaw that sent him sideways by safety Antonio Gibson.  Bavaro would stay down briefly and then get up and go to the sidelines.  We would find out later he actually broke his jaw on this play and lost 2 teeth.  So a new set of downs, Simms would give on a delay to Rouson running to his right, but again Clark was there to grab him and take him down for no gain.  2nd and 10, Simms dropped back, with time and he would roll to his right, and wait for Zeke Mowatt to come uncovered deep.  He would take a shot for him at the 35 but it sailed over his head.  3rd and 10, Simms in the gun, and things got worse for the Giants QB

As Stockton was saying, the crowd was out of this game.  The Giants were not playing well and looked flat.  On 3rd and long, Simms had a blitz coming up the middle from Jackson and forced him to throw the ball early.  On what was clearly a busted route by Stacy Robinson, who ran the wrong route against the blitz, left an easy pick for Dave Waymer to make at the 38 yard line, and he would regroup and make it back to the Giants’ 48 yard line, where he slipped down in front of Bart Oates as the crowd started booing a little louder with 8:12 to go in the first quarter.

With great field position, the Saints would start off with a fake to Buford Jordan, and Wilson had plenty of time to look at the field and dump off to Jordan at the 45, who was wide open, and he would get out to the 39, tackled by Harry Carson.  2nd and 2, Hilliard got the carry running to his right, got around Banks who was taken out by guard Brad Edelman pulling, and he would juke his way out to the 31 hit down by Kinard and another first down.  1st and 10, Bill Belichick decided it was time to after the Saints

When things aren’t going your way, and you need a spark, sometimes you need to make it happen on defense.  So defensive coordinator Belichick called for a blitz from the corner and Collins, who came free and drilled Wilson at the 40, knocking the ball free as he tried to throw.  Burt would seem get the ball in the pile.  A flag was thrown on the play, meanwhile the Saints last remaining QB, 3rd stringer Babe Lauffenberg started to warm up as Wilson looked a little shook up.  While they were figuring things out, we saw the early stages of instant replay.  In this case there was a signal from the video official down to the field via walkie talkie and they were looking to see if that was a pass or a fumble and if Wilson’s arm was moving forward.  The replay official called it a fumble, but it turned out that the Saints actually got the ball, not Burt.  The flag was for a hold on the Saints’ left tackle Bill Contz, just signed this week from the Browns and there to block LT (good luck), as Parcells would shout what everyone was thinking “What!?”  Anyway, after all that mess, it was 1st and 20 at the 41.  Hilliard got the carry running to his left, and got to the 38 yard line where he was hit down by Marshall.  Meanwhile, just after the play, Carson threw Edelman to the ground after the whistle as things started to get chippy.  2nd and 17, Wilson dropped back and hit Hilliard in the left flat at the 36, as Carson rumbled over, Hilliard was too quick and got around the bigger linebacker and and made it to the 34, where Reasons came over to hit him, along with Carson.  3rd and 13, with 4 WRs, it would seem the Giants had the advantage

The Giants would come after Wilson on the play, with LT coming free up the middle to drill him as he threw.  The ball would float towards Martin at the 10, where he was contacted by Kinard, but the ball seemed over his head.  A flag would come flying in for pass interference as Hill joined the conference of refs to complain.  But the call stood and a first down out was given at the 10 yard line while the crowd continued to get more angry.  The Saints could technically get a first down without a TD, with the marker a few inches before the goal line.  


On first down, the pitch went to Hilliard running to his right where he was tracked down by LT and nailed at the 8.  As Dan Dierdorf would say, “there has never been a LB who can come down the line of scrimmage and make a play from behind.”  Here LT did it to Hilliard, a very fleet running back.  Keep this in mind for later in the game.  On 2nd and 8, Wilson dropped back, again LT came barging in up the middle to nail him as he threw, but he did get the ball off to TE Hoby Brenner at the 4, and he would dive out toward the end zone, but was knocked out of bounds by Collins at the 1.  On 3rd and 1, the Saints would try a play action fake and a rollout by Wilson to his left.  He would get chased by Marshall and just as he was getting hit he would throw it to the end zone towards John Tice but fell incomplete, as he had a chance to run it in for a moment but decided to throw.  In this mess, apparently another flag was on the field and a conference of officials.  Harry Carson would come over to plead his case to Bob Frederick the official as the crowd booed louder during the delay.  In the end, they called a defensive hold on the Giants to make it first and goal.  Parcells was getting mad, the crowd was getting mad.  On first and goal, Hilliard got the carry on a quick dive but was met in the hole by Carson for no gain as Banks came out with the ball (to no avail).  2nd and goal at the 1 came a little JOP

There were many ways to score by the goal line.  Some guys like to pound it in.  Others like to stretch it out.  Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen used to do what he called “JOP”, which meant “jump over pile”.  Hilliard decided to do the same, and leapt over the pile for a TD as the boos cascaded down in East Rutherford.  Andersen’s extra point was true and made the score 14-0 with 3:37 go to in the first quarter.  

Andersen again on to kickoff, and the ball would go to Collins halfway in the end zone where he would take it for a touchback.  With news coming that Bavaro was getting xrays on his jaw, Simms dropped back and with plenty of time to throw, he would hit Mowatt coming across the field at the 25 and he would get the ball to the 27, taken down by Jackson for a 7 yard gain.  2nd and 3, Rouson got the carry, tried to cut back, but was hit down after a 2 yard gain by Jim Wilks.  3rd and 1, Rouson again got the carry, running to his right following Billy Ard, and turned the corner and looked like he might break a long run, but was tripped up by Mills at the 34, but good for a first down.  First and 10, Simms dropped back as the Saints again came on a blitz and with Jackson hanging off of him, dumped the ball over to Rouson at the 36, and he was hit immediately by Mills.  2nd and 8, Simms would fire a pass to Robinson at the 45, but the ball was thrown too high.  3rd and 8, Simms in the gun, would make a bad pass.

What a nightmare first quarter for the Giants.  They start the game with Joe Morris at home.  Bavaro gets injured and is getting xrays.  The Giants defense blows a few plays and several penalties go against the Giants.  They are down 2 TDs at home.  Simms first pick was probably on Robinson.  This one was on Phil.  He tried to force a pass into Miller over middle.  But he didn’t see the safety, Van Jakes, the former USFLer,  standing at midfield to snatch the pass, where he was taken down at the Giants’ 49 as the crowd really was getting mad and the boos were starting to come down angrier and angrier.  

With 0:51 to go in the first quarter, the Saints again had great field position.  Wilson would drop back and with time hit Rueben Mayes at the 42, and he would take on Hill and would step out bounds at the 40, just short of a first down.  On 2nd and 1, LT again would show what he could do.  

As he did earlier against Hilliard, this time LT charged across the line of scrimmage and chased down Jordan from behind right around the 39 yard line and get him from behind.  The Saints didn’t learn anything as they let him get a free run down the line.  Jordan was able to just get the first down as the chains came out, but that was the 2nd time LT did this.  Keep that in mind (again).  On first down, a draw came to Mayes, who just avoided Reasons in the backfield, but he couldn’t get away from LT, who hit him at the 40 and took him right down on the final play of the first quarter.  To start the 2nd quarter, it was 2nd and 11, and Mayes came in motion out of the backfield.  Jordan got the carry on a quick hitter to the right side and was taken down by Burt at the 35.  3rd and 6, Wilson dropped back on a designed rollout to his right and away from LT, who was charging after him.  He was able to set up and throw to Mike Jones at the 25, beating Kinard in trailing coverage, and he turned up the field and stepped out at the 17 as he was hit by Hill and fumbled (the fumble didn’t count) but good for another first down.  First down, Wilson threw in the flat to Brenner at the 12 yard line, hit down immediately by Collins.  2nd and 5, Mayes tried to run to his right, but Banks took out the pulling guard, created a pile and forced him back inside where Reasons and Marshall were waiting to take him down at the 10.  Now a huge 3rd and 3 for the Saints with a chance to maybe put the game away

Mark Collins was a rookie who was starting in this game for Elvis Patterson.  Parcells was never really a big fan of Toast, and he loved Collins.  In this case, the Giants were looking at maybe a hill too big to climb if the Saints got a TD.  Wilson dropped back, and had time to throw and fired a pass towards Eric Martin in the end zone looking for the knockout.  But it was tipped away by Collins who came over and saved a TD (and could have picked it actually).  It was Wilson’s first missed pass on the day and brought on Andersen for a chipshot 27 yarder and he put it through to make the score 17-0, but at least it wasn’t 21-0.  This would play a big factor by the end of the day.

Andersen’s 4th kickoff would go to Collins at the 1, who would bobble it initially, pick it up and get the ball out to the 19 yard line, hit down by Pat Swilling.  So the crowd was still in a state of shock, being down by 17 as Brett Maxie was helped off the field with an injury.  So here come the Giants, with Morris out.  Bavaro in the locker room.  And with turnovers and penalties and a flat team against an upstart Saints group.  On first down, Simms gave to Rouson running to his right, and he faked a reverse to Lionel Manuel and kept the ball and made it all the way out to the 28 yard line, hit down by Waymer and Mills.  2nd and 2, Carthon was given the carry up the gut and he powered out to the 34 for a first down, hit down by Wilks as the Bronx Cheer broke out in the Meadowlands.  First down, Simms back, with time, dumped to Mowatt at the 35 wide open underneath and the TE took the ball out to the 41, hit down by Mills.  2nd and 3, the ball was given to Rouson running to his left, and he looked to have a good gain, but lost his footing and slipped down on the wet field from rain the night before.  He got back up and made it to the 41, hit down by Jackson and Haynes.  If he didn’t slip, he’d have had a first down so they were left with a 3rd and 2.  This time Rouson carried to his right, found a lane and leaped over the pile and got out to the 47, hit down by Tony Elliott.  First down, Simms back, threw to Rouson on a screen to the left, caught at the 43 and he followed Chris Godfrey and Billy Ard out to the Saints 48 yard line, hit down by Haynes.  2nd and 6, Parcells would stay on the ground, again giving to Rouson who ran to his right, following the pulling Ard and a nice block by Mowatt on Jackson, and he turned the corner, took on the hit from Wattlett at the 45, and powered forward until Mills cleaned up at the 42, but good for another first down.  So the Giants are now starting to get some control, and they weren’t done hearing from Mowatt

Coming off the 1984 season, Zeke Mowatt was a rising star TE in the NFL.  The Giants drafted Mark Bavaro out of Notre Dame in the 1985 draft to groom a young TE since Parcells liked to play 3 TE alignments.  As it would turn out, Mowatt would blow his ACL in the 1985 pre-season, which gave Bavaro his opportunity to shine.  On this day, with Bavaro now hurt, Mowatt got his chance again after missing all of 1985.  On this play, Simms had over 5 seconds to throw after a play fake to Rouson (since the Saints now had to respect the run since it was working), and he threw a nice pass over the middle to a wide open Mowatt at the 28, who beat Jackson in coverage, and the tight end rumbled out to the 12 yard line, hit down finally by Gibson and a 30 yard gain.  

First down and the crowd into it, Simms would drop back, with all day to throw and he would drill a pass in the back of the end zone to Manuel and the ball was incomplete.  On the play, Manuel would get nailed as he dove for the pass by Gibson and he would remain on the ground.  While he lay there seemingly forever for a Giants trainer to come out, the crowd would start cheering for some reason.  The reason was Bavaro came out of the locker room with his helmet on and ready to play.  Gibson, the man who hurt Bavaro but didn’t stop time, had though been able to knock out Manuel, who would go on IR after this hit with a knee injury as the cart took him off the field.  As the replay would show, this should have been a foul for a very dirty low hit on Manuel, as to Dan Dierdorf’s credit, he called out Gibson for the cheap shot.  That would leave the Giants with only on 3 healthy WRs on the roster (which would also become a theme for the Giants to the point that Jeff Hostetler would eventually take snaps at WR later in the season and why the Giants tried to trade for Roy Green as part of the OJ Anderson deal with the Cardinals).  Anyway, after all that it was 2nd and 10, and this time the Saints would blitz Vaughn Johnson after seeing how long he had to pass the previous few times, so Simms would throw a quick pass to Mowatt in the flat but it went over his head.  3rd and 10 now and Simms was forced to call a timeout as the clock was winding down and the crowd booed with 7:19 to go in the first half.  After chatting with Parcells, Simms came back out in the gun, and with the pocket breaking down and no one open, Simms scrambled up just threw it out of the back of the end zone.  So now came a little history.  

As Stockton and Dierdorf would joke about the Giants revolving door at kicker, Raul Allegre was Parcells’ 6th kicker in 21 games.  The Giants had just signed him after he was available following his release from the Indianapolis Colts.  So he came on for a 29 yard field goal and he barely got it in as the crowd gave another Bronx Cheer to make the score 17-3 while CBS showed a little film about the various Giants’ kickers from the Sheikh to Allegre.  As Dierdorf would also say after a conversation with Parcells when he was asked about kickers “if they make them, I like them”.  It would turn out that Parcells would end up liking Allegre.

Allegre’s kickoff would we a bad looking line drive towards the dangerous Mel Gray, who returned a kickoff 101 yards for a TD the week before at the 49ers.  As the crowd groaned, it actually would bounce at the 8 yard line, over Gray’s head and into the end zone where he was forced to take a knee for a touchback.  So Allegre’s first 2 kicks were an adventure, but in the end very effective.  With 7:01 to go in the half, the Saints started at their own 20, which was their worst field position all game.  Wilson started with a quick pass to Brenner over the middle and wide open at the 37 as Banks blew a coverage and Brenner got the ball all the way down to the 38, hit down by Kinard as boos came down again, meanwhile Brenner got hurt on the play.  First down, Wilson dropped back and felt the pressure from LT and threw a panicked pass towards Tice, who had the ball fall incomplete in front of him.  On 2nd and 10 came one of the signature plays that is shown on all highlights of Lawrence Taylor

There are a few things to note on this play.  First of all, the Giants were trying to climb out of their 17-0 hole and had stabilized with the 17-3 score.  Secondly, the Giants defense was clearly mad after the dirty hit on Manuel and they were aggressive early on.  Lastly, LT had already twice chased down Saints running backs on sweeps away from him and Jim Mora never tried to block him.  Any highlight video of LT shows this very play.  LT chasing down Reuben Mayes, who you have to remember, would end up winning the 1986 Rookie of the Year.  LT would sprint down the line, and grab Mayes from behind on the complete other side of the field to take him down for a loss.  This is not a normal play.  Not in any way.  Just for fun, there was a hold on the play on Jordan, which was declined.  The Giants were clearly getting into the game now and the crowd was as well.  Wilson would drop back and the Giants would only rush 3.  Even with just 3 men, Marshall got some pressure on him and forced a dump off to Jordan in the flat at the 31 yard line.  Jordan would get out to the 40, hit down by Collins and Banks.  That would force a punt from Brian Hanson, his first of the game, and Collins would call for a fair catch on a very high punt at the 24 yard line as he fell to the ground catching it with 4:50 to go in the half.

As the Giants came out on the field, the fans saw #89 on the field, Mark Bavaro.  On first down, Simms would roll to his left, and hit Robinson by the sidelines at the 36 yard line and stepped out of bounds for an easy first down.  Simms would dump over the middle to Carthon at the 42, where he would catch it and get out to the 45, hit down by Toles.  2nd and 2, as the Giants handed off to Carthon, a false start was called on Brad Benson to send the Giants back to a 2nd and 7.  Simms back, with pressure coming in from Warren and Wilks, the threw a pass towards Miller who dove for it but just missed it on a difficult if catchable ball.  

3rd and 7, Simms would throw to Galbreath right by the sticks, but he was hit right away by Jackson.  After an initial bad spot, the refs just simply moved it a foot forward and after an initial call of a first down, the chains came out to confirm it at the 47.  As Dierdorf would say, I don’t remember seeing something happen quite like that.  Well, the Giants got one there.  So a new set of downs, we see how tough Bavaro is

Remember this here.  Bavaro has had his jaw broken.  He had 2 teeth knocked out.  His jaw is wired shut and he actually hurt his ankle a few plays before on the Benson false start when his teammate fell on his ankle while blocking.  And here Simms drops back as the Saints blitz.  With time to throw, he finds Bavaro coming free over the middle at the 50.  Rather than just lay down and avoid contact, Bavaro makes a move to get around Mills, takes off up the field where he gets a great block on Gibson (who hurt him and Manuel earlier) on a wipeout block from Carthon, and would get dragged down by Wattlett at the 30 as the crowd cheered the effort.  A big first down and the Giants would now go with the reverse they faked before, with Rouson handing off to Miller running to his left.  Simms would throw a block on the play on Jakes as Jumpy Geathers took him down at the 27 at the 2 minute warning.  2nd and 7, Simms would give to Rouson up the gut where he was met by Clark at the 24, but on a hard count, he got the Saints’ Wilks to jump.  The ball was moved out to the 22 and a 2nd and 2.  Simms would drop back and take a shot towards the end zone and Miller, but the ball was out of bounds as a flag was thrown.  The refs would call illegal contact on Waymer for 5 yards and an automatic first down.  Now the ball was placed at the 17, and Simms would drop back and actually hit Rouson between the 2’s of his #22 jersey and he dropped what would have been an easy TD.  2nd and 10, that play was near a disaster for the Giants on the next play

Rouson blew a TD.  On the next play, Simms would drop back, with time initially but no one open, he would scramble up the field.  He would get sacked by Warren at the 20 and the ball would pop free for a fumble that bounced at the 15 as Miller went for it.  In a huge pile it seemed like the Saints got it but somehow the Giants got it back.  3rd and 12 at the 19 with the clock running under 1:30, we would see why this was a huge play.

Amazing.  That’s all you can say about Bavaro.  Simms would be in the gun, with the Saints blitzing and pressure coming up the middle.  Simms would stand in there and fire a pass in the tightest area at the goal line in the seam to Bavaro, who beat Gibson and Waymer.  He would snare the ball, absorb a hit, hold it and score a TD, on a very demonstrative and un-Bavaro like spike when he usually would just flip to the official.  Bavaro earned his standing O from the crowd as the replays would show he was actually held by Gibson and still scored.  Allegre’s extra point would make the score now 17-10 with 1:20 to go in the half.  

Allegre would kickoff would be a short one to Gray at the 12 yard line, and the returner would pick his way out to the 30, where he was hit down by Pepper Johnson and Andy Headen.  The ball came free for a moment and got some excitement as it was recovered by Greg Lasker, but Gray was ruled down as the fans yelled for replay.  The Saints had 1:13 to go and 3 timeouts.  The Saints would start with a draw up the middle to Mayes, who got around a tackle attempt by Carson and made it to the 40 where he was hit by Kinard and LT.  With the clock running and 3 time outs, Wilson dumped it over the middle on a crossing route to Martin at the 42 and he would get out to the 43, where he was blasted by LT and Mora called his first timeout with :41 to go in the half.  Wilson under center, and the Giants only with a 3 man rush and players dropping deep, allowed a dump over the middle to Jordan, who caught it at the 46, and he would get out to the Giants’ 43, where he was tripped up by LT again.  However, illegal use of the hands on Contz, his 2nd penalty, took away a good gain and killed time on the clock.  With now :34 to go, Wilson dropped back, felt some pressure from Marshall, and dumped to Mayes at the 35, and he was hit as soon as he caught it by Carson and down at the 36.  The Saints called their 2nd time out with :23 to go and 1 timeout left.  2nd and 18, Wilson with just a 3 man rush, got pressure again from Marshall who hit him as soon as he threw it and it went off the hands of Jones and incomplete.  So now on 3rd and 18, a give up call to Mayes on a draw up the middle nearly worked, as he found a lane and got the ball out to the 48, where he was tripped up by Jerome Sally.  The Giants would call a timeout with :11 to go in the half.  Hanson would come on to punt as the Giants didn’t actually attempt a punt block, and let the punt go and had Collins stay away from it where it bounced out of bounds at the 21 with :02 left on the clock.  However, a penalty on the Saints for a player not reporting properly was first accepted, and then declined.  Giants just took a knee and decided to go in at the half only down 7 points.

The 2nd half would begin with a kickoff by Allegre that was near disaster

The Giants wanted to kick away from the explosive Mel Gray, so they instead sent it to Mayes who took it just short of the goal line.  Mayes would avoid a tackle attempt by Greg Lasker at the 20, cut back up the field, and out run the angle that Pepper Johnson, Perry Williams and Allegre had at the 40 and then it was a race down the sidelines.  Williams missed on the final dive attempt to keep him out of the end zone for what would have been a devastating TD to start the 3rd quarter.  However….a flag on the play for an illegal block in the back on Sam Mills who took out Robbie Jones brought the whole thing back.  So instead of a 24-10 lead, they had the ball at their own 10 yard line up by a touchdown.  On first down, the ball went to Hilliard, who ran to his left, and got to the 13, hit down by Marshall and Williams.  Going to a no huddle on 2nd and 7, a pitch to Hilliard running to his right only got to the 16, hit down by Carson and Banks.  On 3rd and 4, the pass rush got involved  The Saints wanted to try to keep the Giants off balance with a no huddle.  So the Giants responded with a blitz on 3rd down.  Sending linebackers Headen and LT.  Headen coming up the middle barged in up the middle as Edelman missed his assignment, giving him a free run to Wilson, who he sacked back at the 6 yard line as LT came in to clean up as well.   What came next really enraged the Giants on the punt.

The game had started to get chippy after the Giants fell down by 17.  Bavaro was hurt on a shot to the head by Gibson.  Manuel ended up out of the game for a dirty shot to his knee in the end zone by Gibson.  And on this punt, with Hanson in the end zone, he got off a punt to Collins who fielded it at his own 42 yard line.  Collins would get hit by Jakes up high.  As he did, he started to go for his helmet, which came loose and Collins simply took it off and kept running.  Now, you don’t often see this where a guy is running with the ball and without a helmet, for good reason.  This is a major safety problem.  In college, if that happens, you need to get off the field and if you stay on, you sit the next play.  In the NFL, there is no such rule, even with CTE concerns.  In 1986, there really was no rules for this stuff.  So Collins starts running back the punt, without his helmet at about the 45, where he bumps into Reasons and keeps going.  Now, he’s in a bit of a pile and not going anywhere at about the 49 yard line.  And this is where it gets dirty.  The play was pretty much over as a pile of Saints had him stopped but upright.  But the Saints Jack Del Rio and Glen Redd came flying in helmet first and drilled Collins right on his skull.  Since this was 1986, Dierdorf starts talking about how courageous Collins was and why Parcells loves him.  There was no thought that this was an extremely unsafe play and an extremely dirty play by the Saints to take that shot at Collins.  It wasn’t until Dierdorf saw that he was on the ground and getting up that did they put 2+2 together that taking a hit to the head without a helmet is a dangerous thing.  A young Ronnie Barnes and Dr. Warren helped a clearly woozy Collins off the field on a play that after the game, the Giants, and Harry Carson in particular, thought was done on purpose.  

The Giants would get their first possession at the 49, and start off with a playfake to Rouson, and he would sit back in the pocket with plenty of time to rifle a pass over the middle to Robinson who sat down in the zone at the 34 yard line and he would get out to the 27 yard line, hit down by Gibson and Wattlett and a 23 yard gain.  First down, a draw to Rouson running to his left, as he got around Clark, and was taken down by Mills at the 23.  However, a hold on Benson brought it back to the 35.  Simms back, with a good pocket and then late pressure from Toles, was able to drill another strike down field, this time to Miller at the 18, and he was able to squirm out to the 16, hit down by Waymer and the refs gave him a first down.  Simms hard count would actually get Bart Oates to twitch and a false start brought the ball back to the 21.  First and 15, Simms back with time but had the ball batted down by Warren.  2nd and 15, an interior draw to Rouson didn’t work at all as Geathers almost took the handoff and he was knocked down for a loss.  3rd and 16, Simms in the gun, and the refs got involved.

You have to be thinking on 3rd and 16, get a field goal and make it 17-13.  Simms went aggressive and tried to go after Waymer again.  This time with Robinson near the goal line.  Waymer was beaten on an out pattern.  Instead of interference, they called illegal contact and a 5 yard penalty, but still a first down.  So now the ball is on the 17, Simms dumped off to Bavaro in the flat against the blitz at the 13, and he would drag Wattlett out to the 10.  On 2nd and 3, Rouson would take the carry up the middle, follow a Carthon block and power down to the 4 yard line, hit by Jackson.  This set up a first and goal, and the Giants brought in reserve guard Damian Johnson at fullback to pair with Carthon.  Simms gave the ball to Carthon, who normally blocked and he followed Johnson and got down to the 1, hit down by Mills.  2nd and goal at the 1, Johnson in the game at fullback and William Roberts, the other backup tackle in at TE, they tried again to let Carthon power it in.  But he got stacked up Toles for no gain.  So now 3rd and goal, still with the jumbo set of Johnson and Roberts in and the Giants thought they had it

Parcells wasn’t going to mess around here, he again gave it to Carthon, who this time the former USFL 1000 yard rusher with the NJ Generals did power his way into the end zone and apparently be in position to tie the game.  However, a hold was called on Karl Nelson and erased the TD.  A tough call.  So now on 3rd and 11, Simms was back and got pressure immediately from Clark at his feet and forced a dump off to no one.  So that brought Allegre back on the field, and he easily banged through a 28 yard chip shot to make the score 17-13 with 7:19 to go in the 3rd quarter.

Allegre’s kickoff would go to Mayes at the 5 yard line and he would only get to the 16 where he was banged down by Miller.  First and 10, Wilson dropped back, with LT coming in on him, he dumped the ball off to Jordan, who was hit by Reasons and knocked it loose.  2nd and 10, a draw to Hilliard up the middle only got about 3 yards, hit down by Burt and Marshall.  3rd and 7, the Giants would only send their 3 down lineman, so they didn’t get much pressure, allowing Wilson time to throw a pass over the middle to an open Eugene Goodlow at the 35, but the ball was a little high and off the WRs hands and fell incomplete.  So a quick 3 and out for the Saints brought Hanson back on the field to punt.  Hansen’s punt would go back to Galbreath, forced into action with both Collins and Manuel out of the game.  With Jeff Hostetler actually getting a punt rush on, the kick got off and was fielded with a fair catch by Galbreath at the 38 yard line, where it was pretty clear Parcells just told him to catch it.

With 6:06 to go in the 3rd quarter, the Giants were back on offense.  On first down, Simms dropped back to throw and he had Bavaro come free over the middle for what would have been a nice gain, but the pass was batted down at the line by Elliott.  2nd and 10, the ball went to Rouson on a very slow developing run to the right, which almost looked like he was going to throw a pass as he waited for blocking to develop and he finally started running up the field and got out to the 44, hit down by Wattlett and Swilling.  3rd and 3, Simms was back in the gun, and the Saints sent an all out blitz at the Giants.  Simms read it and looked for Galbreath, who beat Jackson in coverage, but the ball was a little high and behind him and fell incomplete as Simms was hit by Maxie on the safety blitz.  That brought on Landeta to punt and as he sent it away, a flag was thrown which for a moment looked like it might be on New Orleans, thus giving the Giants a first down.  But the refs called the Giants for a false start and sent them back 5 yards.  Landeta would get of a beauty that was near disaster for the Saints

Sean Landeta, who was Jim Mora’s punter in the USFL for the Stars, was one of the best in the NFL, just as he was one of the best in the USFL.  Landeta would launch a punt towards Edwards, who for some reason decided to field the booming line drive at the 5 yard line.  Now, there is a reason why they ask returners not to touch the ball inside the 5 yard line (some say 10 as well).  And this one, if Edwards left it alone, was going to go into the end zone based on the speed and trajectory.  But Edwards tried to catch it and it bounced off his hands with Lasker right in front of him.  That would set off a frenzy as the crowd roared and Edwards scrambled back to get the ball right by the goal line.  It was a dangerous situation that the Giants could have recovered for a first and goal or even a TD.  Fun fact however, because it was a muff, if it went into the end zone and was recovered, it would have been a touchback, not a safety.  In any event, it wasn’t any of those things.  The Saints got the ball at the 1 (which they nearly didn’t) and in horrible field position thanks to a 54 yard punt.  

So the Giants defense was now feeling dominant and the Saints were inside their own 1.  No sweat.  On first down, with Wilson looking panicked, the ball went to Hilliard up the gut, where LT grabbed him and took him down after a 2 yard gain.  2nd and 8, another quick handoff to Hilliard, this time running to his right, but was hit down after 1 yard by Hill.  3rd and 7, Wilson would drop back and do a semi rollout to his right to get away from LT.  But LT still was coming in after him, as was Burt, who hit Wilson as he threw it towards Martin, but the ball was too high and off his hands, as he was well covered by Elvis Patterson, now in the game due to the Collins injury.  That meant Hanson had to come back to punt out of his end zone right at his own end line.  Hanson’s kick was high and short, forcing Galbreath to race up to catch it.  He would actually muff it at the 42 and recover at the 43 where he was covered up by Jackson.  It was the type of kick a veteran returner could have done damage with, but with an emergency returner like Galbreath, the Giants were lucky to keep it in Saints’ territory.

With 3:25 to go in the 3rd quarter, Simms started by dropping back, with time to throw in the pocket and Bavaro came wide open underneath at the 35 and had room to run to his right.  But Bavaro turned his head and looked up field and dropped the ball as the crowd groaned on a rare mistake from the All Pro as Bavaro hung his head in disgust.  2nd and 10, Simms back again, with time to throw and hit Bobby Johnson over the middle, at the 34, and he got the ball out to the 31 yard line, hit down by Poe, but good enough for a first down.  The Giants gave the ball to Rouson running to his right, but he was met in the backfield for a 2 yard loss by Clark as the Saints blew up the entire blocking pattern.  2nd and 12, Simms back, the Saints came on a blitz and he threw it over the middle to Johnson again, at the 29, and he was ridden down by Waymer and Wattlett at the 28.  3rd and 7, Simms again back, again the Saints came on a blitz, but this time Jackson got around the block by Carthon and sacked Simms back at the 40.  That forced the Giants to bring in Landeta to punt.  Landeta would take a delay of game for a better angle and for some reason Martin didn’t call a fair catch and took it in at the 8 yard line, where he was hit immediately by Lasker, but he bounced off the hit and made his way out to the 21, where he was tripped up by Jones.  A flag on the play on the Saints for illegal use of hands sent the ball back to the 4.  So, again buried deep in their own end, the Saints started with a quick handoff up the gut to Jordan, where he was tracked down by LT on the final play of the 3rd quarter after just a 1 yard gain.  2nd and 9, the ball went to Mayes running to his right, where he came inside a blitzing Banks and got out the 8 yard line, hit down by Reasons.  So that left a 3rd and 6, a blitz up the middle by LT forced a quick pass by Wilson out to Jones, who caught it at the 12 and he was drilled immediately by Herb Welch and bounced back, shy of the first down by a yard.  That brought on Hanson who sent the ball to Galbreath at the 35, and he was hit down for no gain by Jakes and Maxie at the 35, a really nice 51 yard effort.  

If nothing else, the Saints were able to change the field position battle, the Giants would start off with a play action pass, and throw an out to Robinson at the sidelines as the ball just went pass the outstretched arms of Haynes in coverage as a linebacker and dropped into Robinson at the 48, where he got 2 feet in and went out of bounds.  First down, a sprint out to Rouson running to his right, only got out to the 50 where he was hit down by Clark.  On 2nd and 8, Simms would make a mistake

Phil Simms had a very strong arm and there were times where it would get him in trouble because he’d try to squeeze passes into tight spots that he really shouldn’t.  And this was one very case.  He had Bavaro open, and in a very tight spot between Gibson and Jackson he tried to drill it in there.  As Bavaro kind of came off his pattern, Gibson dove in, tipped the ball towards Jackson, who then batted it in the air at the 40, and it was snagged by Poe at the 35 on what would be considered a real life occurrence of a tip drill.  Poe took it out to the 45, where he was caught by Robinson and tackled, but the Saints had gotten the ball in great field position, particularly where you consider they had the ball all the 2nd half.

With 12:38 left to go in the game, the Saints started off with a decent run by Mayes running to his right, where he got around Banks and was hit out of bounds by Carson at the Giants’ 48.  A flag on the play for a personal foul, late hit out of bounds was given to Elvis Patterson, who was brought into the game due to the Collins injury, but to be fair to Toast, it wasn’t really a big hit as he sort of turned away from Mayes and made contact.  Weak call that put the ball all the way out to the Giants’ 35.  After the Saints first first down of the half, the play was stopped for a flag, that first appeared to be a false start, but instead the Giants’ Headen was flagged for encroachment on the hard count as he was prepping for a blitz.  That now made it 1st and 5 as the crowd booed in anger.  Mayes got the carry running to his left, avoided Marshall in the backfield and got out to the 28, hit down by Burt and Headen.  2nd and 3, Mayes running to his right on a sweep, and Banks took out the pulling guards, with Hill coming up to force the run.  Hill had Mayes for what looked for a moment like a loss, but Mayes cut inside him to get to the 26.  That would set up a key 3rd and 1 and the Saints would go back to their not so glowing past

When Jim Mora came in, he really had the challenge of changing an entire culture.  The Saints had never had a winning record.  They had never been to the playoffs.  Fans wore bags on their heads and they called their team “the ‘Aints”.  Well, he began to transform the team with his disciplined style, and a group of talented USFL castoffs.  But on this play, they looked like the old bad joke team.  On a crucial 3rd and 1, all they had to do was try to power in a dive play and see if they could get the first down, and if not, send out their Pro Bowl kicker to make it a 7 point game.  What they got was what should be a basic play in high school turn into a blunder.  Wilson dropped back to hand off to Mayes, and they ended up colliding with each other back at the 30.  Wilson kind of held on to the ball and fell forward as Mayes pushed him.  As they both were going down, the ball was jarred free and in the pile, Marshall ripped the ball away for a recovery.  For a moment it might look like Williams, who took the ball from big Leonard, would race back for a huge TD, but the play was blown dead, which was the correct call because Mayes was in contact with Marshall on the ground.  The good news for the Saints was they had flipped field position.  The bad news was they had a chance to perhaps get a knockout blow and didn’t get it done as the ball went back to the Giants and they scored no points with 11:00 to go in the game.

So the Giants, still down 4 points, got the ball back and needed to get a drive together.  On first down, Simms dropped back in the pocket and with no pass rush, and a huge lane in front of him, he took off running.  Simms was never a scrambler, but in his younger days, he could take off with the ball.  At this point in his career, Simms took the opportunity when it was there.  And the opportunity was there so he ran up the middle and all the way out to the 46, where he didn’t so much as slide but kind of crumple to the ground in front of Gibson and Poe, but still a good 18 yard gain and a first down.  Simms again dropped back and on the same play that Bavaro dropped a pass earlier, he caught it running over the middle at the 50, and showed off the speed that the young, pre- ACL injury Bavaro had, chugging up the sidelines and away from an attempt by Haynes at the 36 and blasted into Wattlett, who took out his legs at the 29 yard line, for a 26 yard gain and would put him over 100 yards receiving on the day.  The Giants stayed to the air, and Simms threw to Bavaro on an out pattern at the 23, and looked to get some early contact by Wattlett, but no flag was thrown, as the ball sailed a little out of the TE’s reach, thanks mainly to pressure put on Simms by Jackson, who hit him after he threw the ball.  2nd and 10, Simms gave to Rouson on a sweep to the right side, but it was slow developing and Clark forced him deeper as he ran his sprint, and he was taken down by Jackson at the 31 for a loss.  3rd and 12, Simms in the gun, with time to throw and he hit a diving Robinson at the 14 for a huge first down, covered up by Waymer, who continued to be targeted by the Giants.  On first down, Rouson finally got some room and took the carry up the middle, lept over Ard on the ground at the 11 and his momentum took him down to the 4, where he was hit by Wattlett and after bringing out the chains, was short by inches.  On 2nd and very short, the Giants went to one of my favorite plays

I have long been a proponent that inside the 5, run a play action fake to a running back and look for a TE coming open out of the pile.  In this case, a 2nd and inches more or less was the same as a goal line play.  The Giants brought in the extra beef, with William Roberts reporting in as an extra tight end.  Carthon would come out of the backfield and line up as a 4th TE, and interestingly, got away with a false start after he took his stance and set that likely would have been called today.   But the refs didnt’ call it, Carthon got back up and in motion to his right.  Simms faked the handoff to Rouson as the Saints sold out on the run, and Jackson actually started to come free.  Simms started to roll towards Jackson, held up and just gave him a slight move and got away from the Pro Bowl linebacker.  As Jackson lunged back at him, Simms was able to stand in and throw a pass to a wide open Mowatt, who got away from the Saints defense for an easy TD.  Allegre would come on to add the extra point and make the score 20-17 with 8:03 to go in the game.

Playing with a lead for the first time all game, Allegre would kick off Mayes, who took it about 4 yards deep and took a knee for a touchback.  Meanwhile, in the crowd “the wave” broke out, which I always hated and continue to hate.  First down at the 20, Wilson dropped back and LT and Marshall ran one of their patented stunts, with LT looping inside and hitting Wilson just as he threw.  This caused the ball to go off course in the direction of Jordan in the flat, but it was behind him and Banks dropped what would have been a walk in Pick 6.  2nd and 10, Wilson dropped back as Headen came on a blitz up the middle, and forced a throw before the QB was ready, in the direction of Tice, but it was knocked away by LT, and also very nearly picked off.  On 3rd and 10, the defense would again make a play

Bill Belichick was getting creative with his blitz packages.  On this play, he brought in Byron Hunt and lined him up over the nose.  He also sent LT and Headen on the blitz as the Saints line scrambled to pick up their blocking assignments.  Well, no one picked up big Leonard, who charged in right up the middle and grabbed Wilson before he could even get to his 2nd step in his drop and sacked him back at the 14.  Dan Dierdorf correctly called out that the offensive line completely blew the play and gave their QB no chance.  On would come Hanson to punt again, and he first got off a poor effort that bounced at the 47 and came on a hop to Galbreath at the 37.  Of course, Galbreath was not used to fielding punts and had it actually hit him and scoot behind him.  This is panic time, because this is a live ball.  Galbreath hurriedly tries to fall on it at the 31, but he doesn’t cover it.  For a moment it was right there for Tice to recover, but he blew it too.  Now, in the 2007 NFC Championship game, one of the unsung plays was Dominik Hixon recovering a fumbled punt by RW McQuarters as he was the only one around a bunch of Packers.  The Super Bowl was on the line that day.  The stakes were not so high, but the game was still in the balance.  There were actually 5 Saints players around the ball.  And just Solomon Miller for the Giants.  Miller recovered the ball at the 27 to keep possession for the Giants as the Saints special teams coaches were jumping around.  Needless to say, it was easy to see here why George Young called the Packers after this game to ask about Phil McConkey.

So the Giants had averted disaster by turning the ball over well within Morten Andersen’s field goal range, or if not even worse, and on first down, Simms gave to Rouson, running to his left, and cut back over the middle where he found a lane until he was upended by Waymer at the 33, and if not for that tackle, Rouson would have had a long run.  Waymer got hurt on the play and had to be helped off.  2nd and 5, Simms would drop back and dump it off to Bavaro, who caught it over the middle at the 37, and he would take it up to the 38, where he was hit by no less than 5 Saints and stood there with them hanging off him until he was finally pulled down, but he still was able to get a first down, finally dragged down by Mills.  But behind the play, a holding call on Brad Benson who was blocking Haynes and the car salesman just pulled him to the ground.  2nd and 15, Simms got the Saints on a hard count to jump and handed off to Rouson, who was tackled by Swilling for not gain, but Simms got the rookie out of Georgia Tech in Swilling to jump.  That made it a better 2nd and 10, And Simms dropped back, hit Rouson in the flat at the 33 and he was able to get out to the 35, hit down by Maxie and Poe, just short of a first down. 

 3rd and 2, the ball was given to Rouson, who cut back over the middle and was hit down by Jackson right by the marker.  In a fit of awful officiating, the head official Bob Fredericks called it a 4th down.  Which prompted Parcells to start yelling for a measurement.  You can actually see linesman Dale Hamer, who would eventually become an NFL head referee in 1989, pointing with seeming annoyance at Fredericks to measure it.  And as they decide to measure, you hear Simms on the hot mic yelling “you are going to call it a 4th down without measuring, Jesus Christ!” (Dick Stockton thought it was Parcells, but that was clearly Simms voice and he was corrected by Dierdorf).  As the chains came out, it was a first down by half the ball, and Stockton got the call correct when he said “that’s an embarrassment, pure and simple”.  The fans booed their disgust at the refs for nearly screwing them.  But it made it a first and 10, Rouson took a sweep running to his right, and got out to the 40, hit down by Clark and Toles.  2nd and 8, Simms dropped back, hit Bavaro over the middle at the 41, and wide open.  Bavaro would juke around Jackson and then cut inside Gibson, eventually getting taken down at the 49, but good for a first down as the clock continued to wind down.  First and 10, Rouson took the carry up the gut and only got 1 where he was swallowed up by Gaithers, and the Saints took a time out with 2:39 left in the game.  On 2nd and 9, Simms gave a little preview of a trick in the post season

In the NFC Championship Game vs. Washington, Simms would run a naked bootleg as the Redskins thought they were giving the ball to Joe Morris by the goal line and Simms nearly scored.  In the Super Bowl, Simms did the same thing again, ran a naked bootleg to his left and got near the goal line.  In this case, at mid field, Simms fake the handoff to Rouson up the middle, and drew in the Saints defense, including contain man Haynes, who slipped down trying to recover.  That left Simms completely open to run around to the left in wide open field, get around Wattlett at the 41 on a nice little cut, and made it down to the 37, hit down by Toles, but got a huge first down on a 14 yard gain.  Mora would call his 2nd time out with 2:30 to go.  First and 10, Rouson started running to his left, saw everything blocked up.  Stopped his feet and ran back to the right as the Saints ran over in pursuit, eventually getting out to the 32, with Jackson and Gibson making the tackle.  Mora took his final timeout with 2:18 to go.  Rouson would take the next carry up the middle, cut back to his right, where he was met by Clark and Elliott and spun back at the 29, which brought the clock down to the 2 minute warning.  3rd and 2, game on the line, Simms actually hit the Saints with a hard count and got them to jump, but no flag, and Rouson took the ball over the middle, leapt over the pile and got down to the 26, hit by Mills and Wattlett, but the refs gave him a first down.  With no timeouts, Parcells started shaking hands on the sidelines as Simms lined up in victory formation and Simms would take a couple of crumpled up knees, but on one play the Saints actually fired into the line to force a fumble (shades of Shiano years earlier).  

As there was a pile, a flag was thrown on the Saints for an “illegal procedure”, whatever that really was.  Wrapping up a banner day, Frederick said “because it’s under 30 seconds, the game is over.”  Well...no.  There is technically a 10 second run off that would come into play later in a situation like this by rule.  But what he really was saying was it reset the 30 second clock, so the Giants didn’t have to run a play (they could if they wanted to, which they didn’t.)  Lost in all this confusion...Parcells never got his gatorade bath because Carson didn’t have time to get him as the game was sloppy right to the very end.  But it ended with a much needed Giants win.

Interesting tidbits/ Post mortem 

  • Raul Allegre kicked in his first game for the Giants.  The Giants had a revolving door at kicker for many years.  The Giants started the 1986 season with Bob Thomas as kicker, the former long time Bear and kicked for the Chargers in 1985.  Thomas lasted all of 1 game with the Giants, missing a 36 yard chip shot in what would turn out to be a 31-28 loss at Dallas in the seasons opener.  Parcells saw enough and brought in Joe Cooper the next week to kick vs. the Chargers.  Cooper had last kicked for the Houston Oilers in 1984.  Cooper’s stint would last longer than Thomas’, but just bearly.  Cooper would miss 2 of 4 field goals, one each in wins vs. the Chargers and at the Raiders.  So again, Parcells had enough and the Giants signed Allegre.  Allegre had kicked for the Colts from 1983-1985 until he was beaten out in the pre-season by Dean Biasucci.  Biasucci would actually split time with Allegre in 1984, miss the 1985 season and would take over the kicking duties for the Colts until 1994, making the Pro Bowl in 1987.  He would finish his career with the Rams in 1995.
  • Allegre would go on to become a huge factor for the Giants, making several clutch kicks in the 1986 season, including game winners at Minnesota and vs. the Broncos. 
  • During the game, CBS pulled up a stat that showed how the Giants had 6 kickers in their last 21 games as Allegre got into this game.  Well, if Parcells was a hater of kickers, the reality is that he settled down once Allegre got there.  In fact (if you ignore the 3 strike games, which really shouldn’t have counted), from this point in the season in 1986 through Parcells’ final game as Giants’ coach in Super Bowl XXV, the Giants played in 80 games (including the playoffs).  In that time, Parcells only had 4 kickers.  Allegre didn’t lose his job due to ineffectiveness, but rather due to injuries.  In 1988, a strained groin cost him the final 10 games of the year where he was replaced by the barefooted former Eagle kicker Paul McFadden.  In 1989, a leg injury cost Allegre 6 games where he was replaced by Bjorn Nittmo.  And finally in 1990, another groin injury set Allegre on the shelf, this time he was replaced by former Cleveland Brown kicker Matt Bahr.  Bahr would not give up the job.
  • Just for fun, if you want to consider Ray Handley, for better or worse, an extension of Parcells, the kicker situation in 1991 and 1992, the Giants had 3 kickers in those 32 games.  Ironically enough, Bahr strained a muscle and was replaced by Allegre in 1991 for 3 games in which Allegre converted all his attempts (2 field goals and 5 extra points).  In 1992, Bahr was the kicker, until a knee injury forced him on IR for the last 6 games, where he was replaced by the former Cowboy kicker, Ken Willis. 
  • Allegre would score the final point in the history of the Baltimore Colts franchise in 1983.  On December 18, 1983, TE Pat Beach would haul in a 12 yard TD from QB Mike Pagel in a 20-10 win over the Houston Oilers at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.  Allegre would add the final extra point.  The Colts would finish 7-9 and rumors swirled that they would be leaving.  Owner Robert Irsay would swear up and down the that Colts were not moving (which was the main motivation as to why John Elway would refuse to go there after he was drafted #1 out of Stanford).  A few months later, in a snowstorm, a bunch of Mayflower moving trucks showed up at Colts’ HQ and loaded their things and drove up to Indianapolis.  Baltimore would not get a team again until 1996, when the Cleveland Browns under Art Modell would do something similar and also leave and rename their team the Baltimore Ravens.  Meanwhile there would be no football in Cleveland until 1999, when the NFL held an expansion draft to bring the Browns back (and they kept all their historical data).
  • Phil Simms went over 15000 career passing yards in this game, only Charlie Conerly had done it before.
  • This game became known as one of the game in which Mark Bavaro showed his toughness.  He had 2 teeth knocked out on a hit and broke his jaw which was wired shut.  He would go back in the game and catch 7 passes for 110 yards.  The 110 yards was his 2nd highest total on the year, bested just bearly by his 111 yards in the Giants win at RFK Stadium later in the year which clinched the NFC East (essentially). 
  • Bavaro’s 7 catches also tied a season high, which he also accomplished at Dallas and at San Francisco.
  • Bavaro’s TD was his first on the season in 1986.  Amazingly, for as great of a season as Bavaro had in 1986, becoming the first and only Giants TE to top 1000 yards (1001 yards to be exact), Bavaro only scored 4 TDs all season and he didn’t get his 2nd one until the 2nd Redskins game at RFK.
  • The “other” TE, Zeke Mowatt caught his first TD of 1986 to win the game.  Mowatt was an up and coming TE star after a strong 1984 season in which he caught 48 passes for 698 yards and 6 TDs.  But a torn ACL in the 1985 pre-season ended his year and the Giants turned to then rookie Mark Bavaro to take over and he never looked back.  It was Mowatt’s first TD since he caught an 18 yarder from Phil Simms in 1984 in the Giants 31-21 loss at St. Louis.
  • Mowatt would catch 1 more TD in 1986, a 22 yarder which helped the Giants start to pull away from the Packers in the final game of the 1986 season.  In that game, the Giants would go ahead 24-0 and see the Packers come back to make the score 24-17 at halftime.  The Giants would come back after and score again on a 4 yard TD to Bavaro to make the score 31-17.  But the Packers came right back on a Kenneth Davis TD catch to make it 31-24.  Mowatt’s TD would swell the lead back up by 2 TDs, and the Giants would continue to pile on with 2 Lee Rouson TDs and an Allegre field goal to make the score 55-24.
  • Mowatt would catch 1 more TD in 1986, a 22 yarder which helped the Giants start to pull away from the Packers in the final game of the 1986 season.  In that game, the Giants would go ahead 24-0 and see the Packers come back to make the score 24-17 at halftime.  The Giants would come back after and score again on a 4 yard TD to Bavaro to make the score 31-17.  But the Packers came right back on a Kenneth Davis TD catch to make it 31-24.  Mowatt’s TD would swell the lead back up by 2 TDs, and the Giants would continue to pile on with 2 Lee Rouson TDs and an Allegre field goal to make the score 55-24.
  • Leonard Marshall’s sack was his first official full sack of the 1986 season, as he was credited with half a sack in the Dallas opener.  This game would spring board a pass rush bonanza from Big Leonard as he would register 5.5 sacks in his next 3 games.  In all Marshall would pick up 12 sacks in 1986 and earn his 2nd and final Pro Bowl nomination.  Marshall’s career high sacks came in 1985 with 15.5.  He would only have one more season of double digit sacks, registering 11 in 1991.  In all Marshall would collect 79.5 sacks in 10 years with the Giants and 83.5 in his career, picking up 2 sacks with the Jets in 1993 and 2 sacks in Washington in 1994.
  • Joe Morris was out in this game due to a blood disorder as a result of medication from his broken nose, one week after rushing for 110 yards in a win over the Raiders.  That left the starting job for Lee Rouson, in his first career NFL start.  Rouson would rush 24 times for 71 yards, both career highs.  His next best output in a single game 12 rushes and 61 yards in an OT win over the Eagles in Philly in 1987.  In 92 career games, Rouson only had double digits in carries twice as he settled in as a special teamer.  Rouson would play for the Giants for 6 seasons, winning 2 Super Bowl championships.  Rouson would finish his career in 1991 after joining Bill Belichick in Cleveland as a Plan B Free Agent and retire at the age of 29.
  • Rouson would only score 2 TDs in his career, both coming in the Giants last win of the 1986 Regular Season vs. Green Bay.
  • Rookie WR Solomon Miller had his first and only carry of his NFL career, for 3 yards.  Miller would catch 9 passes for 144 yards and 2 TDs in 1986 before being lost for the season due to injury (and forced the Giants to actually play Jeff Hostetler at WR).  Miller would win a ring, but he would be released the following season as the Giants focused on improving their WR depth and drafted 3 WRs, Mark Ingram, Odessa Turner, and Stephen “the Touchdown Maker” Baker going with the George Young cluster drafting theory.  Miller would latch on with Tampa Bay in 1987 and catch 5 passes for 97 yards.  Miller would be out of the NFL after the 1987 season.
  • The Giants held the Saints to 196 total yards and just 65 on the ground.  For the 1986 season, the Giants were the toughest team to run against statistically.  In the 1986 regular season they held 3 teams under 200 total yards, the Saints, the Eagles, and the Cardinals.  In the playoffs, they held the high powered 49ers to 184 total yards and the Redskins to 190 yards.
  • In 1986, in the 19 games the Giants played in total, including the playoffs, 14 times teams failed to rush for over 100 yards, including the 65 here for the Saints.  The highest the Giants allowed was 119 in the regular season finale vs. the Packers.  In the playoffs, teams didn’t even bother trying to run on the Giants.  The 49ers rushed for 29 yards, the Redskins rushed for 40 (in 40 mph wind gusts when you couldn’t throw against the wind), and the Broncos did the best with a paltry 52 yards rushing (led by John Elway with 27 yards on scrambles). 
  • The Giants allowed only 10 first downs all game to the Saints.  But they actually allowed less than that twice.  They allowed only 9 first downs in the first win over the Eagles and again only 9 first downs in the 49-3 destruction of the 49ers in the playoffs.
  • The Giants were penalized 11 times in this game for 94 yards.  While the 94 yards in penalties was a season high, they did have one other game when they were penalized more, that was in the 35-3 blowout vs. the Eagles, when the Giants were hit with 13 penalties. 
  • The Saints 65 yards rushing was their 2nd worst output of the year, only “bested” by their 61 yard performance at the Jets.  So Giants Stadium wasn’t a good place for them.
  • Sam Mills got his first career start in this game as he’d replace Glen Redd.  Mills was not your typical NFL linebacker.  He was way undersized, standing only 5’9” and weighing 230 pounds.  As a result of his size, Mills wasn’t recruited well, playing at Montclair State University in NJ.  Mills, unsurprisingly, was passed over in the NFL.  When you consider the Giants had the template for linebackers in the 1980s, with each guy around 6’3”, 250 pounds, it makes sense.  So Mills went to the USFL where he played under Mora with Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars.  Mills would be part of the Stars’ dynasty team, winning 2 championships and making 3 All USFL teams (the equivalent of All Pro).  Mills would not give up his starting spot again and remain the starter in New Orleans the next 9 seasons, through 1994, leading the team in tackles 5 times and made 4 Pro Bowls.  At age 36, Mills joined the expansion Carolina Panthers and he scored a TD on an interception return in the franchise’s first win vs the Jets.  Mills would actually earn 1st team All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 1996, at age 37 as the Panthers made it to the NFC Title game.  Mills would retire at age 38 after the 1997 season and become a coach on the Panthers team up until his death at age 45 in 2005 from cancer.
  • As mentioned, the famous highlight of Lawrence Taylor chasing a Saints RB down behind the line, across the whole field and tackling him with a celebration/taunt came in this game.  That RB he tackled was Rueben Mayes who had an outstanding rookie season.  Mayes, a Canadian citizen, was a 3rd round pick out of Washington State.  He got off to a slow start as a rookie, rushing for only 120 yards in his first 4 games.  But he would catch fire after the Giants games, rushing for 80 yards vs. the Redskins, 108 at the Colts and 172 vs. Tampa Bay.  Mayes would finish with 1353 yards in 1986, earn a Pro Bowl spot as a rookie, good for 4th best in the NFL in 1986.  Mayes would follow that up in 1987 during a strike shortened season with 917 yards despite missing 4 games (he would have been on pace for a 1200+ yard season) and was the 5th best total that year and earn his 2nd straight Pro Bowl.  Mayes’ however would never reach the same heights again as he would tear a knee ligament in the Saints first ever playoff game, a blowout loss to Minnesota.  Mayes would hold out in training camp for a better contract, noting he was the 4th highest paid RB on his own team and considering his production was wrong, but Saints GM Jim Finks wanted to see if his knee was sound first.  But his injuries piled up and nagged him.  Mayes’ production would drop to 628 yards rushing in 1988 and was eclipsed by Dalton Hilliard as the starter.  Mayes would miss the entire 1989 season and come back in 1990 where he had a decent year, with 510 yards, but he was a far cry from the explosive back he was when he first came in the league.  Mayes would miss the 1991 season with injuries and finish his career back closer to home with the Seahawks before retiring at age 30 after the 1993 season.
  • Ricky Jackson’s sack was his first on the season.  He would finish with 9 sacks and his 4th Pro Bowl trip
  • Dalton Hilliard was a rookie and scored his 3rd TD in his first 4 games.  He would score twice more in a game against the Buccaneers in Week 7 and would not score again.
  • As a rookie Hilliard wore #40 his first season.  He would change his number to #21 as he would eventually turn into a Pro Bowler in the 1989 season when he rushed for 1262 yards, his only 1000 yard season in an 8 year career
  • This was the Giants first game against the Saints new head coach Jim Mora.  Mora took over from the Phillips family in 1985.  Bum Phillips started the year as the head coach and turn the reins over to his son, Wade Phillips to finish up the season.  Bum Phillips was the colorful former head man in Houston, where he coached the Oilers for 6 years and had an impressive run in the 1970s posting a 55-35 record, reaching the AFC Championship twice in a row in 1978 and 1979, but losing both to Pittsburgh.  Phillips would leave the Oilers after the 1980 season and an 11-5 record which ended in a Wild Card loss at Oakland to the eventual Super Bowl Champions.  Phillips would land with the Saints, the lovable losers in the bijou.  Phillips would start to build the Saints back to some competitiveness if not respectability, going from 4-12 in 1981 and getting to 8-8 in 1983, just the 2nd .500 season in their history (they had never finished above .500).  After a 7-9 season in 1984, the Saints struggled in 1985, Bum would step down after a 4-8 start to the season and Wade was the interim coach for the last 4 games, going 1-3 in a 5-11 season.
  • The 1986 Saints would start their turn around as a franchise.  After Bum Phillips left as not only the head coach, but GM as well, the Saints named Jim Finks to the GM spot.  Finks was the architect of the Bears and built them into a monster in the Ditka years in the 1980s.  Finks would hire Mora, who came from the USFL after winning 2 championships with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars team.  Mora would immediately change the culture of the team as a disciplinarian.  His first year the Saints went 7-9 after the 1-4 start following the losses to the Giants and Redskins.  By 1987, Mora had the Saints first winning season, and it was an impressive 12-3 campaign, but not good enough to get ahead of the 49ers.  The Saints would also make their first playoff game and host it in the Superdome.  However, their dreams came crashing down in a 44-10 blowout loss to the Vikings.  Mora would remain head coach of the Saints into the 1996 season and led them to 3 straight playoff appearances from 1990-1992, including a 12 win season in 1992, but in each case they were bounced in the Wild Card round.  Mora would be fired in the middle of the 1996 season after a 2-6 start. 
  • Mora would sit out the 1997 season and reappear in Indianapolis in the 1998 season with rookie Peyton Manning.  Mora would go 3-13 in his first year, but the next year flipped it to a 13-3 season and a playoff berth.  Mora would last until the 2001 season where he was fired after a 6-10 season.  But the core of his team was taken over by Tony Dungy (who was pushed out of Tampa Bay) and led to their eventual Super Bowl title after the 2006 season.