The teams’ defenses stiffened and they exchanged punts, with New York getting the ball at its own 41-yard line with 2:14 left in the game. After making a first down at the Vikings’ 45, though, two incompletions and a sack left the Giants facing a seemingly impossible fourth-and-17 with 1:12 to play. Minnesota was in a three-deep zone with four down linemen, one linebacker, and six defensive backs.
After consulting with Bill Parcells, Simms called “half right 74,” in which the Giants lined up with three receivers spread wide. Phil McConkey went in motion to the right before the snap and broke downfield untouched. To his right, Bobby Johnson ran for the right sideline, while Stacy Robinson ran a crossing pattern on the left. Simms first looked for Robinson and then turned right and floated one for Johnson, as defensive tackle Mike Stensrud crashed into Simms. The pass to Johnson was perfectly
Simms later told reporter Dick Schaap that during the week Parcells had said to him, “You’re a great quarterback, and you got that way by being daring and fearless, so let’s go.” Simms lived up to that billing on this day. placed over the cornerback’s head, and Johnson cradled it at the 30 and stepped out of bounds to stop the clock. The play kept the Giants’ hopes alive.
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The Giants moved the ball to the 15 and ran the clock down to 12 seconds before Raul Allegre came in to kick his fifth field goal of the game for the 22-20 win. Allegre, who wasn’t signed by the team until the
In retrospect, many Giants players pointed to this comeback win over the Vikings as their biggest win the win that showed them they could go all the way. It also established Phil Simms as a big-time quarterback. Bill Parcells told the media, “Anybody who does not think Phil Simms is a great quarterback should be covering another sport.”
It wasn’t always that way. When Simms was drafted number seven overall out of unknown Morehead State in 1979, Giants fans at the NFL Draft booed. Because the television cameras missed the Simms draft announcement, NBC asked Pete Rozelle to make the announcement again, and Simms was booed a second time as Rozelle snickered.
Following that omen, Phil was beset by shoulder separations, a knee injury, and a fractured thumb in his first five years. With Simms’s propensity for interceptions, Parcells did not trust him, and he gave the starting job to Scott Brunner in 1983. Simms demanded a trade, but in 1984, he won the starting job back and threw for more than 4,000 yards, gaining Parcells’s confidence and respect.