"We've controlled the pace of every game by doing things the way we wanted. I think back to 1985. God, we were throwing the ball, really stretching it. It was almost hilarious. I threw for 432 yards one week, 513 the next—and you know something, we lost both games.
"This year, when we beat the Vikings on Monday night [Oct. 30], the first thing Coach Parcells said to us after the game was 'Hah—42 runs, 14 passes.' We didn't gain a whole lot of yards, but we ran the ball. The only game in which we threw more than we ran was against Philadelphia [Oct. 8]—our only loss."
All this makes for a neat story—the meat grinder Giants, who bully everyone. Then there's the part about Anderson, whose 31-year-old legs found new life when first-string tailback Joe Morris went down with a foot injury in the final exhibition game. With his 89 yards on Sunday, Anderson ran his season's total to 698, third in the NFC. But there's a downside, too.
A massive, area-blocking offensive line sounds impressive; the Giants average 283 pounds, tackle to tackle. But mobile, quick-footed defensive lines traditionally give that type of unit trouble, and the Vikings, with their stunting and speedy rushers, did just that two weeks ago. They sacked Simms and Hostetler five times, knocked Simms out of action and were agile enough to pick up the run on the go. When the Vikings ran their their end-tackle games, New York's ponderous blockers had trouble picking them up. Someone always came free.
The Giants ran the ball a lot in that game, but their total offensive production was a measly 174 yards. They won 24-14 thanks largely to an interception that was returned for a touchdown and to two Minnesota fumbles on kickoff returns. What happens the next time New York faces a team like that, say the Rams in L.A. this Sunday, the 49ers later in the month, or the Vikings again in the playoffs? What happens if the Giants fall behind and have to play catchup? "First you have to get us in that position," says Simms. "So far, nobody has."
Well, almost nobody. New York had to come back at the end to beat the Washington Redskins in their season opener. Simms, a master of the two-minute offense, took the Giants down the field in the last 44 seconds for the winning field goal. When New York trailed the Detroit Lions 14-3 in the third quarter the next week, they had to open it up a bit to get back in the game.
"You never know what's going through Coach Parcells's mind," says Simms. "When we played at Washington in our Super Bowl year, he told us, 'Let's throw it a little.' He just made the decision that we would have to throw to beat them. It came out of nowhere."
An upside to New York's ball-control offense is that its defense gets lot of breathing time. In 1986 the Giants defense ranked second in the league. It was the Beast of the East, a crushing, stifling monster that buried offenses. Last year, when the Giants finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs, the defense dropped to 11th. Now it's back. Going into the game against Phoenix, in which the Giants gave up only 186 yards, the defense was sixth in the NFL.
"We don't have the stars we had on that Super Bowl team, guys like Harry Carson, Jim Burt and George Martin," says linebacker Lawrence Taylor. "We have a bunch of guys who are just hard workers, guys who want it. It's as simple as that. All you need to have is people who want to get it done."
Taylor has had a renaissance this year. For a while he looked to be wearing down under the constant double-and triple-team pounding. But after getting three sacks against Phoenix, he's back among the leaders in that category, with 12 for the season. Two of Taylor's sacks on Sunday came on straight power rushes, one over tackle Luis Sharpe, who has always given him trouble, and one against Sharpe's replacement, Scott Dill.