Win Over Redskins May Be Start of Big Season for Giants
An air of bravado is as much a part of the New York Giants’ weekly plan as the air is part of the football. The ball, however, does not remember how the Giants came to beat the Washington Redskins in such stirring fashion nor understand what it can mean to the season.
“It’s gone; that was last week,” said wide receiver Odessa Turner. “I don’t live in the past. I don’t want any questions about last week.”
The party line is that beating the Redskins does not mean they do not have to work just as hard to beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday. That is a truism. But their opening game is no more lost in their heads than it is in the Eastern Division standings of the National Football Conference.
The Giants beat the Redskins, one of the tough divison rivals; they came from behind to do it, and they did it in Washington. None of that is meaningless to a team that has been rebuilt out of design and out of expediency.
“We didn’t doubt we were good,” offensive guard William Roberts said, as if to straighten out a warped impression.
The difference is between “I think I can” and “I know I can.” Turner and Roberts start the season essentially as projections.
Turner is an important part of the receiving corps in an offense that is shifting its focus from the run to the pass. He was healthy enough to play four games last season.
Roberts has spent much of five seasons backing up somebody. He was in the Coach Bill Parcells’ doghouse late last season and didn’t start the last three games. In the new bigger-is-better scheme, he has shifted from tackle to guard.
“That game definitely helps, especially a game in that hostile environment,” said linebacker Steve DeOssie, who spent five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and was not convinced silence was all that golden. “It doesn’t mean anything if we go out and lose to Detroit, but if we can win in Washington, we can win anywhere. We knew we could play; this confirms it.”
They won with the poise to withstand the awful heat and humidity, the sound of those fans, the intimidation of opening on Monday night national TV and the pressure of the division rival. They won’t see anything like that again until Philadelphia in the fifth game, and the weather won’t be that hot.
“Several of my young players came to me and said they couldn’t believe what it was like,” Parcells said. “It was completely different from the preseason. They gained a sense of what it’s like. It’s not going to get any more hostile.” A coach who has the continuity Parcells has can make adjustments for the development of Turner and Roberts, and rookies such as Myron Guyton and David Meggett. Parcells will also make them object lessons on how a game can turn on things like special-team plays.
“You can tell a guy, ‘You may be in the game for only one play and it could be your play,”’ Parcells said. “You can give him visual studies.”
To a coach it also serves to tell the players they can stick to his game plan. When things are difficult late in a game they can recall how they were able to turn a game around and win on the last play. “For young players it gives them confidence,” said 31-year-old Ottis Anderson, the running back with ear ring and shaved head and independent thought.
Turner caught 10 passes and scored one touchdown in each of his two previous seasons. In the first quarter of the game he was established as quarterback Phil Simms’ target with a 30-yard pass for the first touchdown of the season. In the last quarter, when Washington had taken the lead and the Giants had first-and-21 on their own 34, Simms threw to Turner for 44 yards. It was longer than anything Turner had caught as a professional.
Roberts and the offensive line did well enough protecting Simms. He was sacked four times, but two were credited to the pass coverage; one he dropped because he could find no receiver. On one Roberts failed to pick up a blitz. And nobody was penalized for holding.
“For us,” Anderson said, speaking for the senior citizens, “it tells us what hard work and dedication can do. We were able to win after we had a major blow to the offense.”
Anderson, who would have shared the running game with Joe Morris, is the running game with Morris hurt. His touchdown put the Giants ahead 21-10 in the fourth quarter. “Sticking to the game plan,” he called it.
The older players are supposed to provide leadership. On this team, leadership comes first from Simms. With 7:21 to play and the Redskins ahead 24-21, Simms’ passes set up the tying field goal. And in the last 44 seconds, Simms got them from their own 29 to the Washington 35, within range of Raul Allegre’s foot. And there were still six seconds on the clock.
“We’re going to get good leadership,” Parcells said with his characteristic nod. “Over time, it’s going to occur. It already has.”
They will remind themselves of how Parcell looked, lifting himself into the air when Allegre’s kick cleared the bar. They will remind themselves of how Simms responded to pressure and how they got a job done.
They may be paying attention to Detroit this week, but remembering Washington can last all season.