The New England Patriots’ worst season ended with one of their best drives of the year--and a team-record 14th consecutive loss.
The Patriots looked as if they were on the verge of scoring the go-ahead touchdown or tying field goal Sunday against the New York Giants, but they came up empty as usual and the playoff-bound Giants escaped with a 13-10 victory.
“It was the last game of the year, and I think we had something to prove,” New England nose tackle Tim Goad said. “They’re one of the league’s best, and I think we handled them pretty well.”
Despite their strong performance, the Patriots finished 1-15, scoring only 181 points--the fewest in the NFL since the 16-game schedule was adopted in 1978. Buffalo’s 200 points in 1985 was the previous low.
The Patriots broke the previous team mark for the worst record, set by the 1981 club that was 2-14. For the first time in their 31-year history, the Patriots were winless at home. For the seventh consecutive game, they never held the lead.
The Patriots’ final drive began at the New England five-yard line with 9:31 left and stalled at the Giants’ 24 when John Stephens was stopped by Leonard Marshall for no gain on third and two.
The Patriots’ hopes ended when the usually reliable Jason Staurovsky pulled a 42-yard field-goal attempt wide to the left with 1:30 remaining.
“The wind was blowing right to left,” said Staurovsky, who kicked a 19-yard field goal with 6:02 left in the first half to tie the score, 10-10. “For some reason, I closed my hips. There is no reason to do that. I can make that kick 20 out of 25 times.”
A 27-yard field goal by Matt Bahr with six seconds left in the first half proved to be the difference for the Giants (13-3), the champions of the NFC East who have a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
“It was a struggle,” Giant Coach Bill Parcells said. “New England played very well. We’ve got to be happy. We got out of here with (13) wins.”
Linebacker Lawrence Taylor said the Giants’ difficulty in handling the Patriots was not indicative of the way they will perform in the playoffs.
“We have no reason to believe that when the playoffs come, we can’t be back on line,” Taylor said. “It’s what you do in the playoffs that count.”
Jeff Hostetler, replacing the injured Phil Simms at quarterback, completed 12 of 23 passes for 123 yards and led all rushers with 82 yards in 10 carries. Hostetler is 4-0 as a starter since he joined the Giants in 1984.
“I think we’ve got to pull things together,” Hostetler said. “Everything is not together right now.”
The same might be said for Rod Rust’s future as coach of the Patriots.
Rust is in the first year of a four-year contract, and Sam Jankovich, the Patriots’ new chief executive officer, has said he will decide on Rust’s future soon after the season.
“I would have to wonder a little,” Rust said.
The Patriots nearly avoided a halftime deficit for the first time in five games, but a fumbled snap by quarterback Tommy Hodson gave the Giants the ball at the New England 25 with 16 seconds left in the second quarter.
Hostetler’s 15-yard completion to Mark Ingram set up Bahr’s 27-yard field goal that gave the Giants a 13-10 lead at halftime.
The Giants had built a 10-0 lead on their first two possessions on a 17-yard touchdown pass play from Hostetler to Dave Meggett and a 44-yard field goal by Bahr.
On the possession after Bahr’s field goal, Hodson capped an 81-yard drive by connecting with Irving Fryar on a 40-yard touchdown pass play.
The Patriots tied the score on a 19-yard field goal by Staurovsky with six minutes left in the half.
Hodson completed 12 of 23 passes for 118 yards.
Stephens gained 81 yards in 19 carries for the Patriots.
The Giants, who began the day in second place in the league in yards allowed (358.2 yards a game), held the Patriots to 258.
That performance came one week after Phoenix rolled up 452 yards, the most against the Giants this season.