Key Pick Leads to Overtime Win
The Giants went into their 1981 season finale against the 12-3 Dallas Cowboys with an 8-7 record. It was the third season for general manager George Young and head coach Ray Perkins, and it was time for the team to produce. A win over the vaunted Cowboys would not only mean just the third winning season in the past 18 for the Giants, but it would also keep their hopes alive for ending an 18-year playoff drought. Although it may not have been clear at the time, 1981 was a turning-point season for New York it was Lawrence Taylor’s rookie year, and it marked the return of Bill Parcells to the Giants as defensive coordinator. That pairing would bring a renaissance to the franchise in the coming decade.
The fired-up Giants came out smoking on this clear, 25-degree Saturday with the wind gusting to 23 miles an hour, and they held Dallas to just 41 yards of total offense in the first half. However, two potential Giants scoring drives ended in missed field goals into the wind by the usually reliable Joe Danelo: a 21-yarder was wide left and a 27-yarder was wide right. Danelo also plunked one off the upright, but that was erased by a penalty.
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Finally, with five minutes to go in the third quarter, a 20-yard touchdown pass from Scott Brunner to Tom Mullady capped a six-play, 62-yard drive and gave New York the first lead. Dallas then took the ensuing kickoff and drove 80 yards in 11 plays to tie the game on a three-yard lob to Doug Cosbie. On the Giants’ next possession, Brunner was intercepted by Michael Downs, and Dallas kicked a field goal to take a 10-7 lead with nine minutes to play.
As has often been the case in Giants history, it was the defense to the rescue, forcing turnovers on the Cowboys’ last three possessions of the game. With 2:08 left, rookie linebacker Byron Hunt knocked loose a pitchout to Tony Dorsett and defensive end George Martin recovered it on the
Joe Danelo’s overtime field goal gave the Giants a 13-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Giants Stadium in 1981.