Joe Morris’s key 17-yard power burst on a fourth-and-two at midfield was typical of his reliability in the clutch. Bill Parcells liked to say of the undersized runner, “He’s not small, he’s short.” Morris was 5’7″ but was solidly built at 195 pounds. He had broken all the rushing records at Syracuse set by notable predecessors Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, and Larry Csonka. The Giants picked him in the second round of the 1982 draft, but Morris found himself lodged behind first-round pick Butch Woolfolk. Morris finally began to earn playing time in 1984 as Woolfolk fell into disfavor, but then the Giants drafted George Adams with the 19th pick in 1985.
By then, though, Morris was ready to break out. He rushed for a team-record 1,336 yards and 21 touchdowns in 1985, and he exceeded 100 yards rushing in six different games as Adams faded from view. Both Parcells and offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt cited Morris’s increased patience and improved ability to read his blocking as the factors that enabled Joe’s great advance. Morris followed that season with 1,516 yards rushing and eight 100-yard games in the 1986 Super Bowl season. That record-setting season included back-to-back 181-yard games against the Redskins and the Cowboys in leading the Giants to the playoffs.
After those two great seasons, though, it was a quick downhill slide. Those two seasons were two of only three in his eight-year career in which he averaged more than four yards per carry. In 1985 and 1986, Morris gained more than half his career rushing yards and scored 70 percent of his touchdowns. In that time, though, he was arguably the best runner in the league and a giant on the field who keyed New York’s ground attack.
Running back Joe Morris led the Giants in rushing during the 1985-1986 seasons.
Giants Shut Out Cleveland 6-0
The Cleveland Browns laid waste to the rest of the All-America Football Conference in the late 1940s, winning four championships in four years and losing only four games total. In their first two games in the NFL after the two leagues merged in 1950, the Browns continued right on, outscoring the Eagles and the Colts 66-10 on the road. The Eagles, who lost 35-10, were the defending NFL champs and had the best defense in the league. For their first home game, however, the Browns would receive a surprising comeuppance from the Giants.
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The Giants were coming off a mediocre 6-6 1949 season, but they had been bolstered by an influx of five talented players from the AAFC’s disbanded New York Yankees. In particular, the Giants’ defense had been remade, now featuring Hall of Fame defensive tackle Arnie Weinmeister and three terrific defensive backs Otto Schnellbacher, Harmon Rowe, and Tom Landry. Those three defensive backs joined with holdover safety Emlen Tunnell to form the key to the new defensive formation that Steve Owen unveiled for this first meeting with the Browns, the 6-1-4, or umbrella defense.
Most defenses at the time consisted of six- or seven-man lines with just three defensive backs. The onset of vibrant passing attacks like Cleveland’s, though, called for a new scheme. Owen’s approach was a six-man line with the two ends dropping back into coverage, backed by a middle linebacker and four defensive backs. It stymied the great Browns offense.
The Giants scored midway through the first quarter on a short run by Eddie Price to conclude a 51-yard drive. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s great quarterback Otto Graham completed none of his 10 passes and threw three interceptions in the first half.
Cleveland improved a bit in the second half by relying on short passes, and Graham completed 12 of 21 for 123 yards. Twice in the fourth quarter, the Browns threatened to score. The first time, they reached the 10-yard line, but on first down Landry
Coach Steve Owen unleashed the umbrella defense on the Browns in 1950 the rest is football history. (Photo courtesy of AP Images)
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