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A Date To Remember: LT’s swan song

Giants Stadium serenades Lawrence Taylor in his final home game after he lights a fire under his teammates

Indianapolis Colts vs New York Giants - September 10, 2006
Lawrence Taylor was not leaving Giants Stadium for the final time as a loser. And he didn’t.
Photo by Tom Berg/NFLPhotoLibrary

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.

A Fitting Serenade

Jan. 9, 1994

NFC Wild Card game

Giants 17, Vikings 10

The chant began as the final seconds ticked down.

“L-T! L-T! L-T!”

The last Giants Stadium salute to Lawrence Taylor came from a crowd of 75,089. They knew they might be watching Taylor for the final time in East Rutherford. So they serenaded the Hall of Famer in his concluding moments at home.

The most dominant linebacker of his era and maybe of all-time would go out a winner on a day he got quite vocal himself.

”If it was [my last game here], that’s the way I would like to go out: In a game with everything on the line and the crowd chanting your name,” Taylor told reporters after the Giants’ 17-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in a 1993 NFC Wild Card matchup.

It was the end of an era.

It was Taylor’s final home game. It was also Phil Simms’ last game in the Meadowlands.

Taylor made sure he would make his presence felt beyond his three tackles and one pass defensed.

The Giants were booed off the field at halftime, trailing, 10-3. Then they heard it from Taylor in the locker room.

He screamed. He cursed. He wasn’t going out this way.

“I was in the bathroom and I heard all this screaming and cussing and I just said, ‘Oh, that’s Lawrence,’ “ guard Bob Kratch said.

”He was yelling: ‘Don’t just be happy to be in the playoffs. If you’re happy, we’ll be sitting home next week,’ “ linebacker Corey Miller said. “He was yelling, ‘No more scoring.’ “

There would be no more scoring, not for Minnesota.

The Giants did not allow the Vikings to run a single play inside their 20-yard-line. And they knocked quarterback Jim McMahon out of the game not once, but twice.

It didn’t hurt that a howling wind and temperatures in the low-20s limited an aerial attack, especially for a team accustomed to playing in the Metrodome.

Taylor declined to discuss exactly what he said at halftime, explaining, “I don’t like to cuss in public anymore.”

“The young guys have to learn that you have to step it up a bit in this thing called the playoffs,” he said. “I think we learned.”

Minnesota’s only touchdown came in the second quarter on a 40-yard pass from McMahon to Cris Carter.

In the second half, the Giants heeded Taylor’s colorful declaration. The defense and Rodney Hampton took over the game.

By the 1993 playoffs, Hampton was the focal point of the offense and had produced three of his five 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

The two-time Pro Bowler rushed for 161 yards — tying a Giants postseason record — and two third-quarter touchdowns on 33 carries against the league’s top-ranked defense.

Dan Reeves’ first season as coach in some ways felt like a return to the Parcells era, applying the formula of a staunch defense and a physical running game to smother opponents.

The Giants rode Joe Morris and their impressive defense to a Super Bowl title in 1986. In 1990, they bludgeoned opponents with veteran Ottis Anderson and the defense.

In 1993, it was Hampton’s turn.

His first touchdown — a 51-yard run — tied the game, 10-10. His second, a 2-yard run, proved to be the game-winner.

The Giants (11-5 in the regular season) held the ball for 35:23 to give McMahon and backup Sean Salisbury as little chance to compile points as possible. Meanwhile, Simms completed 17-of-26 attempts in the final victory of his career, but for only 94 yards in the difficult conditions.

The careers of Taylor and Simms would end a week later in San Francisco.

But Taylor had one final say before he retired with 132.5 sacks and two Super Bowl rings.