The Giants finally broke a scoreless tie in the third quarter on a 20-yard pass from Quarterback Scott Brunner to Tight End Tom Mullady. The P.A. blared Willie Nelson's Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys. In the owners' box, President Wellington Mara groaned, "Don't make them mad!"
The Cowboys went up 10-7 in the fourth quarter. Then, with 2½ minutes to go, Dallas' Drew Pearson caught a 23-yard pass, out to the Cowboys' 45 for a Dallas first down, and after the play was over he held the ball high in the air. Giant Cornerback Terry Jackson knocked it out of his hand.
"An official came over to me and said, 'Don't you ever do that again!' " Jackson said. "Drew was showing us they had the game wrapped up. I was showing him we were still in it." On the next play Tony Dorsett fumbled. The Giants drove and Danelo kicked a 40-yarder into the wind with 25 seconds to play to send the game into overtime. Dorsett fumbled again in the extra period, and the Giants drove again, but Danelo missed a 33-yarder. The Cowboys had one more turnover left in them, though, a Danny White pass that was intercepted by rookie Linebacker Byron Hunt, and this time Danelo's kick was good.
"I was sitting in the stands, and I saw them carrying Joe off the field," said Lovey Young, the wife of the Giants' general manager, George Young. "Then I looked again and I said, 'I don't believe this; that's Ray Perkins carrying him off.' "
In the locker room the Giants were looking ahead. The Jets still had to do it for them. "I just hope their kicker, Pat Leahy, doesn't go through what I went through today," Danelo said. "God love you, Pat. Be strong."
That evening Jackson phoned Jet Halfback Bruce Harper in the Jets' hotel, the Holiday Inn in Westbury on Long Island. "He told me, 'If you can stop [Packer Quarterback] Lynn Dickey from throwing in rhythm, you'll stop their offense,' " Harper said. "I said, 'Tell the other guys. I play offense.' Then I said, 'If we beat them you owe me and my girl a steak dinner.' Or at least I meant to say that."
Sunday broke cold and clear, too; 26°, swirling, 15-mph Shea Stadium winds of the kind that have broken the most talented of NFL passers, a wind chill of -3°. The Packer offense was introduced. John Jefferson ran out and greeted his pass-catching teammate, James Lofton, with an acrobatic high-five. "We were in the tunnel waiting to be introduced," said the Jets' left cornerback, Jesse Johnson, a third-string safetyman who had gotten the starting spot when the first three cornermen went down with injuries. "I heard the crowd yell. I'd seen those Packer high-fives in the films. I was thinking, 'Not today, not here in Shea Stadium. No trophies for you today.' "
The Jet defense was introduced. Marty Lyons, the tackle, tried to high-five it and missed. So did Mark Gastineau, the end. They were falling all over each other. "I was afraid they'd hurt themselves," said Randy Rasmussen, the 15-year guard.
The game was over very quickly. The Jets got all the points they needed in the first 2½ minutes when a Packer punt was botched and the Jets took over on the Green Bay 11 and punched the ball in on three shots. The Packer offensive line, crippled by the loss of Left Guard Derrel Gofourth, lost Left Tackle Mark Koncar after the first series, and Dickey was left to the mercy of the Jets' front four, the feared New York Sack Exchange, which had already broken the club record for sacks. Dickey was dumped nine times and the Jets ended their season with 66 sacks, one under the league record. When Dickey was allowed to throw, he couldn't get his timing down with Jefferson and Lofton. The Jet coverage got on them early, knocked them out of their patterns, and Dickey's throws were nosing and diving in the wind. He threw eight passes to Jefferson, but completed only two, for 39 yards. Eleven went to Lofton; two were completed for 27 yards. Between them Jefferson and Lofton dropped five balls.
In the Lounge at Giants Stadium the atmosphere gradually loosened up as a Jet victory became more certain. "They had a buffet set up for us; the bar stayed open the whole time," Free Safety Beasley Reece said. "Kids were running around all over the place. Everyone was trying to play it loose, pretending to eat and not show too much concern, but I can assure you that all eyes were glued to that TV set. When [Jet Quarterback] Richard Todd got intercepted early you could feel a chill come over the room.