Tiki Barber’s 95-yard run wasn’t the only record-setting play in this game. In the second quarter, Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress teamed up for the longest pass play of either player’s career, 78 yards. On second-and-six from the 22, Manning dropped back to pass and spotted a wide-open Burress streaking across the middle of the field, but he badly underthrew the pass and it fell incomplete.
On the next play, Manning went back to Burress on a shorter crossing route. Burress caught the ball at the 35 between two defenders. Raiders safety Stuart Schweigert dove and missed Burress as Plaxico turned upfield and outraced the rest of the Raiders to the end zone for a 17-7 lead.
Just one week after the last-minute heroics against the Vikings (Play 8), the 1986 Giants were at it again against a tough Broncos squad on a late November day at the Meadowlands. New York was trying to win its fifth straight game for the second time this year, and they relied on the big play for this battle.
In this nail-biter, the Broncos kicked a field goal on their first possession. The Giants answered with their own three-pointer by Raul Allegre on the first play of the second quarter, capping a 16-play,
63-yard drive. Denver got a break late in the period when Stacy Robinson fumbled at the Broncos’ 18-yard line. Denver turned that into another field goal, aided by a 39-yard interference call on Perry Williams. Quarterback John Elway had the Broncos on the move again in the closing seconds of the half until defensive end George Martin altered the course of the game.
On first down from the New York 13, Elway tried to loft a swing pass to Gerald Willhite, but he didn’t factor in the agility of Martin, who had played basketball at the University of Oregon. Martin had gotten by tackle Ken Lanier and jumped to bat the pass back to himself. Grabbing the interception, he turned upfield at the 22. Elway had the angle on Martin at the 35, and George held the ball in his outstretched right hand, hoping to lateral it to Lawrence Taylor. Elway grabbed for Martin high to prevent the lateral, but Martin switched hands and shoved the quarterback down with his right arm at the 50. With Taylor and Harry Carson leading interference, Martin plodded on. At the 20, Mark Collins raced in to knock down the last Broncos player, Sammy Winder. Martin leapfrogged Winder at the 15 and trudged into the end zone as an elated L.T. leaped on his back and tackled him. The 78-yard play took a full 17 seconds, and it gave the Giants the lead.
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In the third quarter, the teams exchanged field goals, and Allegre booted still another field goal five minutes into the final period, making the score 16-9. However, Elway brought the Broncos back with one of his patented fourth-quarter drives. Denver traveled 73 yards in nine plays and scored the tying touchdown on a Winder run with 1:55 to go.
Phil Simms had had a quiet day, so it was time for him to go to work. Quickly, though, he faced a third-and-21 from his own 18. With the dangerous Elway on the
A great play by a great athlete.
They called a double-seam route, in which both wide receivers run straight up the seam of the zone coverage. Just like the previous week on fourth-and-17 against the Vikings, Simms found Bobby Johnson at the crucial time, and Johnson caught the ball for a 24-yard gain to the 42. Two plays later, from their 39, Simms tried the doubleseam again and found Phil McConkey for a
46-yard gain to the Broncos’ 15. With only six seconds left, Allegre came in and kicked the 34-yard game-winning field goal.
The Giants were in the midst of a 12-game winning streak and were starting to believe they were a team of destiny. They would meet the Broncos again in the Super Bowl and complete their mission by winning the franchise’s first NFL title in 30 years.