Tied with the Redskins for first place in their division, the Giants rolled into San Francisco on a five-game winning streak for a Monday Night Football battle with the resurgent 49ers. This demanding and vital game would prove just how resilient and resourceful the 1986 Giants were on the road to the Super Bowl. However, it would take an extra-effort play by their sturdy tight end to spark them in the second half.
This Monday night showdown was Joe Montana’s fourth game after returning from early-season back surgery that could have ended his career. But there was no rustiness evident in the first half. The 49ers dominated offensively and were up by 17-0 at the half on two touchdowns by Jerry Rice. Meanwhile, the ground attack of the ball-control Giants was being shut down by the stingy 49ers defense. For the game, the Giants would gain a paltry 13 yards rushing.
It was up to Phil Simms to shake things up with his arm. Ten minutes and 15 plays in the third quarter would prove crucial; the first play was the most decisive of all. The Giants first got the ball on the 49ers’ 49-yard line, and Simms promptly hit tight end Mark Bavaro with a nine-yard pass over the middle. Two
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49ers linebackers immediately tried to bring down Bavaro with arm tackles, but they slid right off him. Then Ronnie Lott jumped on Bavaro’s back, but the tight end carried the fierce 49ers safety for a rough 17-yard ride as four other San Francisco defenders came in and hit Bavaro from the side, finally bringing him down at the 18.
Bavaros astounding 31-yard reception got New York unstuck. Even though he later modestly attributed the gain to poor tackling, the dynamic catch-and-carry fired up the team. Three plays later, Simms slipped a short pass to Joe Morris, who went into the end zone from the 17 for the first Giants touchdown.
The next time the Giants got the ball, they started at their own 29. Four plays later, they faced a fourth-and-two at their own 49. Aggressively, New York went for it on fourth down; as Bill Parcells forcefully explained later, “I was trying to win the game.” Simms handed the ball to Morris, who had thus far carried nine times for zero yards, and he ran around the weak-side end for a 17-yard pickup and a first down. On the next play, Simms hit Stacy Robinson for a 34-yard touchdown pass that Robinson let roll down to his legs before he secured the ball, and the
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