While the 1980s are considered a great stretch of football in Giants history, the decade didn’t start out that way. The Giants were in just their second season of the George Young Era, and were not yet out of the “Wilderness Years”, but on this day in 1980, the Giants did not look like one of the NFL’s Worst. In a year where the Giants would finish 4-12, and the Cowboys would be playing in the NFC Championship, the Giants upset the Cowboys as 10-point underdogs, 38-35.
Everything about this game seems out of place. The Giants were wearing white at home which rarely happens, the two teams combined for 73 points in a 1980 football game, and the Giants were playing with the eventual NFC Runner Up’s! A big reason for the Giants upset in this one was their quarterback: a second year player out of Morehead State named Phil Simms. Simms would throw for 351 yards, 3 touchdowns, and just 1 interception. It would be a few years before Simms truly broke out, but his performance in this one was a huge catalyst in the upset. His best play of the day came in the third quarter. Simms took the snap and immediately was under pressure. Simms would scramble to his right, and then come back to his left, and heave a ball deep down the right sideline that would be complete to Running Back Larry Heater (all time football name), for a 70-yard gain (18:45 in highlight video). Simms performance wouldn’t have come about without Wide Receiver Earnest Gray, who was responsible for 137 of those 351 yards Simms threw for, and would grab 1 of Simms 3 touchdown passes. The Giants offense was able to put up points, but their defense came up big in this one as well.
The Giants would force Dallas QB Danny White to throw 5 interceptions. Two of those interceptions went to Giants Crunch Bunch member Brad Van Pelt. Another two went to Defensive Back Gary Woolford, and the last one went to D-back Mike Dennis. Despite the 5 interceptions, the Cowboys were able to stay in this game largely off of the back of Hall of Fame Running Back Tony Dorsett. Dorsett would run for 183 yards and two touchdowns. His backup Robert Newhouse would add another 53 on the ground, and another two touchdowns. The Giants defense would become their driving force in the 1980s, but it wasn’t quite what would it eventually become here. Despite the D’s struggles with stopping the run, they came up big when it mattered. They were able to stop Dallas on a 4th and short run, which eventually led to the Giants game winning field goal (22:50 in highlight video). An interception by Gary Woolford would seal the deal (25:15 in highlight video), and the Giants upset was complete.
These blogs have had a common theme in that this season I am often trying to find games where the Giants pull of big upsets. This one is a bit different though. This game was right in the midst of the Giants breaking out of their worst era of football in the franchise’s history at the time. Some have argued the current era of Giants football that we are in is worse than it was in the “Wilderness Years”. In an era of losing that we are currently living in, It’s important to remember how it feels to win. It’s important to remind fans exactly why they sit down every Sunday and watch this team despite the constant struggles. Many Giants fans may be hoping for a loss to help draft position on Sunday, well listen to the fans back in 1980. Winning matters, and it helps to be reminded of how good winning feels. Sunday, the Giants are once again 10 point underdogs in their own home stadium. 41 years ago, the Giants showed it was possible to pull off this very upset, so why not do it again?
Let’s Party Like it’s 1980.
Highlights to this Classic:
(Photo: Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)