Best Defensive Player In The Nfl

Tiki Barber’s lateral to Ron Dixon on the 86 Lambuth Special wasn’t enough to save the Giants against the Eagles in the 2001 regular-season finale.

With all the Eagles defenders out of position, Dixon took off down the sideline with the end zone in his sights. As Dixon got closer to the sideline, he slowed down a bit, looking for a cutback lane, and was caught at the 6-yard line by the only Eagles player with a shot at him, safety Damon Moore. As Dixon was knocked out of bounds, the Giants looked up at the clock to see the sad sight of 0:00. The game and the season were over. General manager Ernie Accorsi summed it up by saying, “For what it meant and how we lost it, it was heartbreaking.”

The Giants’ 86 Lambuth Special is designed so that Ike Hilliard (88) lines up on the left and catches a pass over the middle heading right. He then laterals to a trailing Tiki Barber (21). Meanwhile, Ron Dixon (86) lines up on the right and heads left, where he crosses behind Barber and takes a second lateral headed in the opposite direction, away from the defensive pursuit, with blockers Joe Jurevicius (84) and Amani Toomer (81) in front of him. Since Hilliard was held up at the line, Kerry Collins (5) threw the ball to Barber, who lateraled to Dixon, who traveled all the way to the 6-yard line before being knocked out of bounds by safety Damon Moore (43) on this 74-yard play.

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Linebacker Jesse Armstead was a team leader and one of coach Jim Fassel’s favorite players during his years with the Giants.

Jesse Armstead manfully and correctly stated after the game, “I had no idea where [Dixon] was because I was still so pissed off. If something happened, if he scored a touchdown, great. But I was still so mad at how we came up short, I didn’t really care. If I had an extra leg, I’d be kicking myself.”

Armstead was so mad because not only had the Giants given up 17 fourth-quarter points, but 10 of them came in the last 1:49. The defense let the game slip away.

Armstead was one of three linebackers who came out of the University of Miami in 1993 and became quality NFL starters; his Miami teammates Darrin Smith and Michael Barrow were drafted in the second round by Dallas and Houston, respectively. Armstead was only an eighth-round draft pick of New York, though, because he weighed just 220 pounds. In New York, he bulked up to 240 pounds as he advanced from special-teams demon to Pro Bowl linebacker. Armstead was a playmaker known for his intelligence, speed, and ball-hawking instincts during his nine years as a Giant.

Armstead was also a team leader who did not hesitate to publicly criticize the team’s inept offense in 1999, before Kerry Collins took over at quarterback. In a public tiff during a contentious season, Fassel told him to mind his own business. In the off-season, Armstead met with Fassel and cleared the air. The Giants went to the Super Bowl that year with Fassel calling Armstead one of his favorite players.

This loss to the Eagles, though, would be Armstead’s next-to-last game in blue. The aging veteran who correctly diagnosed the defense’s weakness left for Washington as a free agent. After two years, Armstead re-signed with New York and immediately retired, a Giant forever.

This is our [the defense’s] loss. We like to say it when we’re good, but we didn’t make a stand to win the game when we could have. That’s on us.

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