New York outgained Cleveland 211 to 24 on the ground and 317 to 86 in total yards, soundly beating their chief rival of the past decade. It was the first time Paul Brown’s team had been shut out in 106 games; the last time had been when Giants coach Steve Owen opened his umbrella defense on Cleveland in October 1950. The Giants had earned their slot in the NFL title game against the Colts the next week in Yankee Stadium.
Above all, Sam Huff had a sense of timing and drama. He came along at the right time in the right system, and he knew how to make the most of the opportunity. Tom Landry’s 4-3 defense was designed to funnel plays to the middle linebacker, and Huff filled that role to the hilt. His furious battles with great runners like Jim Brown and Green Bay’s Jim Taylor were rugged grudge matches that made all three deservedly famous.
Huff was a third-round draft pick in 1956 as a guard; he was shifted to linebacker in training camp. He won the starting job in his rookie year. Over his eight seasons in New York, Huff became a legend as the leader of the first defense to get the acclaim and cheers normally reserved for the offense. In 1959, he became the first NFL player ever to appear on the cover of Time magazine, and one year later he was the subject of a widely-seen CBS News documentary called “The Violent World of Sam Huff.” The documentary was narrated by Walter Cronkite; it was the first time a player had been wired with a microphone for a game. Huff was a hard and sometimes late tackler who also had the speed to cover passes. He set a record for linebackers with 30 interceptions for his career.
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Huff, along with many Giants fans, cried when he learned that Allie Sherman had traded him to Washington in 1964 as part of a youth movement. Huff got his revenge on Sherman in 1966, when he sent the Redskins’ field-goal unit onto the field without Washington coach Otto Graham’s approval to kick an insulting three-pointer in the closing seconds of a 72-41 pounding of the Giants. The fivetime Pro Bowl player was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982; he has broadcast Redskin games for more than 30 years.
Legendary linebacker Sam Huff was the foundation of Tom Landry’s 4-3 defense.
In a surprising season in which coach Jim Fassel guaranteed the Giants were going to the playoffs, New York stepped up and not only did that, but secured home-field advantage as well by achieving the best record in the NFC in 2000. For their first postseason opponent, the Giants drew their division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, under second-year coach Andy Reid and second-year quarterback Donovan McNabb. The Eagles came into this game fresh off a playoff victory over Tampa Bay, but Philadelphia had lost eight straight games to the Giants over the last four years.
Although the game turned out to be a sloppy defensive battle in which both teams turned the ball over three times, New York was in control and in the lead from the first play of the game. Philadelphia kicked off, and underachieving speedster Ron Dixon caught the kick at the 3-yard line. He traveled straight up the middle of the field, broke right at the 40 to avoid kicker David Akers, and then sailed untouched to the end zone for a 97-yard touchdown and a 7-0 New
York lead 17 seconds into the game.