Johnson Scores Twice to Top Dallas
After losing the first three games of the 1970 season, the Giants got on a roll and won the next four to post a winning record for the first half of the year. One of the losses was to the Cowboys, a perennial power who came into Yankee Stadium on November 8 bearing a 5-2 record, tied for first with the Cardinals.
The first half of the game went pretty much as expected, with the Cowboys taking a 17-6 lead on two bombs from Craig Morton to Bob Hayes, one for 38 yards and the other for 80. All the Giants could manage were two Pete Gogolak field goals, and Gogolak missed a 55-yard try shortly before halftime. However, New York got a lift at the end of the half when they moved to the Dallas 47-yard line with 16 seconds left. This time, Gogolak was true, making a 54-yard kick to draw the Giants three points closer.
Dallas extended its lead to 20-9 with a field goal in the third quarter, but the Giants responded with a 71-yard drive on which star runner Ron Johnson carried the ball on seven of the 10 plays for 54 yards, including the last four for the score. The Giants recovered the ensuing surprise onside kick, and Johnson carried the ball five more times to get them into field-goal range. But Gogolak missed the 29-yard chip shot.
The Giants were still trailing 20-16 when they got the ball in the final minutes of the game. Fran Tarkenton completed passes to Johnson and Clifton McNeil who was playing with a broken nose to move the ball to the 17. A scramble got four yards and left New York facing a third-and-six.
The thrilling fourth-quarter comeback in this game encompassed why the Giants acquired Fran Tarkenton: to provide excitement, star power, and wins to an ailing franchise being challenged for fan interest by the crosstown New York Jets (led by Broadway Joe Namath). Tarkenton was the son of a minister and could not compete with Namath’s charisma, but he was confident and feisty and gave life to the struggling Giants. This comeback was one of 15 he would lead in his five seasons in New York.
Tarkenton was drafted in the third round in 1961 by Minnesota. With the Vikings, he was a dynamic leader who ultimately had a falling-out with abrasive coach Norm Van Brocklin. New York gave up too much to obtain Tarkenton in 1967 (two first-round picks and two second-round picks), but he brought electricity, professionalism, and steadiness to a lousy team.
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In his first year as a Giant, Fran threw for 29 touchdowns and 3,000 yards. He had a weak arm, but he was a clever quarterback and was able to compensate with an effective short passing offense that took him to four Pro Bowls for New York. Simply stated, he made the Giants better. While the team’s record was an unimpos-ing 33-37 in his five years in New York, it was
10-29-3 in the three years before he arrived and 12-29-1 in the three years after he left.
In 1971, Tarkenton got into a contract dispute with the Giants because he wanted a business loan from the team. Things turned so sour that he was pointlessly kept out of the season finale the first game he had missed in his 11 years as a professional. New York traded him back to Minnesota for a first- and a second-round draft pick and three nondescript players; Fran led the Vikings to three Super Bowls in his second tour as a Vikings player.
In retirement, he remained visible as a broadcaster on Monday Night Football and That’s Incredible. Additionally, he was an infomercial pitchman in his second career as an entrepreneur.
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