A Date To Remember is an occasional series Big Blue View will be running through the Super Bowl, highlighting the glory of the Giants’ past and celebrating the biggest playoff wins in franchise history.
The Seeds Are Sown
Dec. 23, 1984
NFC Wild Card game
Giants 16, Rams 13
The dynasty was slowly taking shape.
Bill Parcells. Lawrence Taylor. Phil Simms. Harry Carson. Leonard Marshall.
After decades of losing, poor drafts and even ownership infighting, the Giants began their modern era in earnest in 1984. Although the next season is looked upon as the start of the run that produced Super Bowl titles in 1986 and 1990, the turnaround for the rebuilt organization began following a devastating 3-12-1 campaign in 1983.
It had to for Parcells’ sake. As the legend goes, he was already in danger of being fired as his second season commenced.
”I think in ‘83, I was trying to be a head coach. In ‘84, I decided to be Bill Parcells,” he told NFL.com in 2013. “And I kind of made a little promise with myself that I would try to do things my way, and I gave my best effort in that regard. And I really dispensed with the feelings of doing what a head coach was supposed to do.”
Giants co-owner John Mara noticed Parcells’ transformation.
”That experience changed him,” he told NFL.com. “Prior to that, he was a pretty easygoing, gregarious, friendly, personable guy. Starting in 1984, he was much more gruff, much more focused. He showed a little mean streak from time to time. He was a different guy, and it worked for him.”
The Giants, led by a physical, rising defense that included Carson, Jim Burt and a fourth-year pro nicknamed LT, snuck into the playoffs at 9-7. Their reward was traveling to Anaheim Stadium to face the 10-6 Rams.
But as vital as the defense was, it was Parcells’ belated trust in Simms that might have been the biggest step forward taken that season. The coach had benched the former first-round pick in 1983 in favor of Scott Brunner.
“First of all, we resolved the quarterback position,” Parcells said in Giant Steps: The Making of Big Blue’s First Super Bowl Championship, a podcast by The Players’ Tribune about the 1986 Giants. “I had made a mistake. We got that squared away. ...
“We just started to play much better on defense, and we started to be able to run the ball a little bit and stop the run. That’s a good formula to have for starting to have success in football.”
Foreshadowing the style of play that would result in those championships, Simms was deadly accurate against the Rams (completing 22-of-31 passes for 179 yards), and the Giants held the ball for 34:03.
Rob Carpenter scored their only touchdown on a 1-yard run, and Ali Haji-Sheikh drilled field goals of 37, 39 and 36 yards to account for the rest of their scores.
A big-play defense keyed by Marshall, George Martin and Terry Kinard did the rest, keeping the Rams’ Eric Dickerson from taking over (he also had a costly fumble). They also protected a 13-3 third-quarter lead in front of 67,037 spectators.
The Rams drove inside the Giants’ 5-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, but a Marshall tackle for loss forced the Rams to kick a field goal. It cut the lead to 16-13 with 7:02 remaining.
L.A. had one last possession in the final minutes, but Martin’s strip sack of Jeff Kemp sealed the victory.
The eventual champion San Francisco 49ers would beat the Giants, 21-10, the next week in the divisional round. But in 1985, the Giants continued to progress, stopped only when they ran into the juggernaut Chicago Bears and their “46 defense” in the divisional round.
But by 1986, the Giants were the dominant ones, winning the Super Bowl.