Giants top Jets, 13-6, to capture Ugly Bowl 19,000 don't show up to see battle of losers

September 23, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In a game meant for the swamps of New Jersey, the New York Giants yesterday won a reprieve from their season of misery.

The New York Jets, on the other hand, will get another week in Big Apple purgatory.

Forget about bragging rights. The Giants' 13-6 victory over the Jets in the Battle of New York, New York was about survival, nothing more.

"It was tough already," linebacker Corey Miller said after the Giants escaped the ranks of the winless. "To lose to the Jets and be the worst team in New York it would have been really ugly."

Ugly was the right word for what unfolded yesterday. The Meadowlands matchup of woebegone teams fittingly was played in a downpour that helped keep more than 19,000 ticket holders away, and it quickly deteriorated into a comedy of errors.

The 1-3 Giants won even though they couldn't run and wouldn't pass.

The 0-4 Jets lost because their $80 million offense wasn't worth a plugged nickel.

The loss held ominous overtones for the Jets, who proved once again that money doesn't always buy a winner in the NFL.

"I firmly believe when a team doesn't play consistently, and certainly we didn't -- we failed terribly on offense -- you're looking at the guy the buck stops with," Jets coach Rich Kotite said in a terse post-game discourse.

Kotite sounded as if he were ready to take the fall after his 17th loss in 20 games as Jets coach, and the 24th loss in his past 27 games in a streak that goes back to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994.

"It's the head coach's job to get a team ready and to execute, and we're not executing," he said. "When you don't execute in a ballgame, it's something that's inexcusable. We have to find answers and we've got to fix things quick because we took a step back today."

The Jets' offense grew worse with each series. By the end, quarterback Neil O'Donnell was throwing up unanswered prayers from near his goal line. The former Maryland star completed 22 of 38 for 149 yards. He threw his sixth interception of the season -- compared to seven all last year for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also absorbed four sacks, making it 17 for the season.

He had no answers, either, for why he missed wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, the No. 1 pick in the draft last April, three times on a simple out pattern.

"It wasn't the sweetest possibility for throwing the football," O'Donnell said.

Then, mulling the errant throws to Johnson, he added, "I've made that pass a million times."

Johnson finished with one reception for 14 yards, wondering aloud about his role in the revamped but ineffective offense.

"We're not sure what it is we want to do, if we want to run the ball or if we want to throw the ball," he said. "At times when I was open, I didn't get the ball. When I wasn't open, I didn't get the ball. [But] I'm not asking any questions on why I'm not getting the ball."

While the Jets abandoned the running game early, the Giants never did. Coach Dan Reeves was careful to protect maligned quarterback Dave Brown by running the ball 38 times and passing it only 13. The Giants are 1-10 when Brown, a three-year starter, has thrown the ball 30 or more times in a game.

Brown had four of his nine completions in the only meaningful offense of the game, an 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. He hit Chris Calloway with a 17-yard scoring pass to give the Giants a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

The Giants, averaging 2.4 yards per rush, had chances to put the game away in the fourth quarter, but couldn't. They had four running plays inside the Jets' 4-yard line -- and never gained an inch. They settled for 20-yard field goals by Brad Daluiso.

Even when the Jets did something right, they found a way to mess it up. Brian Hanson punted to the Giants' 2 in the fourth quarter, but Alex Van Dyke, a rookie, dived on the ball and carried it into the end zone for a touchback.

Out of sheer frustration, the Jets committed back-to-back personal-foul penalties in the fourth quarter, a perfect ending to a rotten day.

"I'm doing the best I can," said Jets defensive tackle Matt Brock. "I can at least look at myself in the mirror. I don't think a lot of guys on this team can do that."

Pub Date: 9/23/96

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