Historic rivalry gives NFL a classic birthday gift, down to last Friesz pass Meggett, Giants throw back Redskins, 31-23

September 19, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It was a fitting game for the NFL's throwback weekend.

It was the Washington Redskins vs. the New York Giants, a rivalry that goes back more than half a century to the days when the late George Preston Marshall had the Redskins band march LTC up Broadway, a rivalry that Bill Parcells used to call "the best the NFL has to offer."

It was that once again yesterday as the NFL celebrated its 75th birthday with both teams wearing uniforms from their storied past.

They played a game that came down to the final play when John Booty intercepted John Friesz's pass in the end zone to preserve the Giants' 31-23 victory before 77,298 fans at Giants Stadium.

There were 44 first downs, 70 passes and 793 yards of total offense in the thriller as the Giants, playing without workhorse running back Rodney Hampton, rallied from 13-10 and 20-17 deficits to boost their record to 3-0.

They did it because Dave Brown, starting only his third NFL game, passed for 221 yards and a touchdown and wasn't intercepted.

They did it because David Meggett, the former Towson State running back, is a throwback to the days of triple-threat players -- minus the kicking, of course.

Subbing for Hampton, he ran 26 times for 82 yards, caught four passes for 52 yards and threw a touchdown pass against the Redskins for the third straight game.

"Everyone talks about how small he is," Redskins coach Norv Turner said of the 5-foot-7, 195-pound Meggett. "He's a lot stronger than people realize. He's got a heart as big as any guy out there."

Even the halfback pass was a throwback for Giants coach Dan Reeves, who did it as a player and has always had it in his playbook as a head coach.

When it was over, both coaches agreed the game was a classic.

"It was a great game from a fans' standpoint, but it was a miserable game from a coaches' standpoint," Reeves said.

Turner added: "I think you got to see a helluva football game."

Turner, though, couldn't savor it. He didn't want to hear that the ++ Redskins gave a valiant effort before falling to 1-2. The more he talked about it, the more annoyed he got.

As he talked about how the Giants coaches came up to him after the game and told him, "You've got it going in the right direction," Turner became more agitated.

"But that isn't it," and he banged the podium and uttered a profanity. "That's not what you want to do. You want to win games. We were good enough to win this game, but we didn't."

How bad did Turner feel about it?

"I don't feel good about anything," he said. "I feel sick to my stomach to be honest with you."

He also got annoyed at several of the questions.

When it was noted the Giants intercepted the Redskins' first and last passes, Turner was quick to note the Redskins were just taking a shot at the end zone from the Giants' 25 with six seconds left at the end.

"The last one, hey, you're throwing up a prayer. Please. What do you want to do, throw it underneath and get the guy tackled on the 8 so we feel good about not throwing an interception? I'm not going to lose any sleep about throwing an interception when you're tying to win a game," he said.

After it was pointed out that Friesz, who passed for 381 yards, has clearly beaten out rookie Heath Shuler for the starting quarterback job, he said, "Our quarterback situation is very clear to me, so I don't know if that clears it up for you guys or not."

Mostly, though, Turner was angry that the Redskins were called for 10 penalties and got themselves in a first-and-31 situation in -- the fourth quarter when they were trying to rally.

There aren't any calls in the playbook for first-and-31 and the Redskins were forced to punt for the first time with 3:48 left in the game. They got the ball back on their 20 with 1:52 left -- ## needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to force an overtime -- and got to the Giants' 25 when Friesz had to throw it up for grabs in the end zone.

"You can't be having penalties," said Turner, who said the problem was a lack of discipline.

"First-and-31? Who's kidding who? With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, you can't get first-and-31. I don't care what happens. You can't get first-and-31," he said.

Even the Redskins who played well took no consolation in the loss.

Friesz said: "It hurts just as bad when you lose [regardless of how well you play]. That's the bottom line. There might be some people who play professional football for the paychecks or to be famous in their own way, [but] there's not a lot of guys in our locker room who feel that way. Everybody in here wants to win."

Henry Ellard, who caught 10 passes for 197 yards to become the 10th player in NFL history to pass the 10,000 mark in receiving yardage, said, "It's a loss. That [10,000 yards] is something I don't give any consideration to. That's something I'll appreciate once I retire."

If there were two plays the Redskins couldn't get out of their minds, it was a pair involving Meggett.

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