The 15 Worst Giants Losses I Can Remember

Friday, April 4, 2008 |

Nearly nine weeks have passed now since the Giants' stunning win in Super Bowl XLII. They’ve had their ticker-tape parade, their Letterman appearances, and books are forthcoming. They’ve even designed and been fitted for their "ten table" championship rings. And now, with the draft looming in just a few short weeks, they're back to work.

And while I am still very much basking in the radiant glow of this unlikeliest of championships, I have to admit that it's a bewildering feeling. Having gone seventeen years between titles, I'm much more used to being in the position of the loser in this scenario, the fan of the team that wasn't quite good enough to win it all. It's something I've gotten used to.

While the Giants' seven NFL championships rank them third all-time behind Green Bay (12) and Chicago (9) in league annals, it is still a franchise oddly defined more by its historic defeats than by its historic victories. After defeating Green Bay in the 1938 championship game behind two blocked punts and a pair of touchdown passes by quarterback Ed Danowski (a classmate of Wellington Mara's at Fordham), the Giants went on to lose four of the next eight championship games by a combined score of 102-30. Then, after finally recapturing the title in 1956 with a dramatic forty point victory over the rival Bears at Yankee Stadium, the men in blue proceeded to lose five of the next seven championship games including three in a row from 1961-1963. And those were the Giants' last postseason appearances until 1981.

Perhaps it's a good thing that I can't remember any truly horrible Giants losses before 1985, when the outcomes of these games first started to register with me. I wasn't born yet when Alan Ameche plunged across the goalline to win the 1958 NFL championship in what has since been referred to as "The Greatest Game Ever Played." And I was only four years old when Joe Pisarcik fumbled a sure Giants victory away into the eager, opportunistic hands of Herman Edwards. But there have been fifteen signature losses suffered by the Giants over the past twenty plus years that I've been carrying with me ever since, losses I don't think I'll ever be able to shake. And here they are, in no particular order: 

 1) 2002 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Giants @ 49ers (i.e. the Trey Junkin bad snap/no pass interference called game). It's been five years, and I still get angry whenever I think about this game. I'm angry right now as I type this. First, the Giants blow a 24 point second half lead. Then, a non-call so horrible that after a videotape review the next day, NFL Supervisor of Officials Mike Pereira publicly admitted that the game officials blew the call on the wild play that ended the Giants season. Niners' defensive end Chike Okeafor clearly tackled and dragged Rich Seubert, an eligible receiver, to the ground as he flailed helplessly at Matt Allen's desperation pass in the final seconds. Because a football game can’t end on a defensive penalty, the Giants would have had one untimed down from the spot of the foul (which was somewhere around the Niners' five yard line) had pass interference been called. The league office released an official statement and Pereira actually called and apologized to Wellington Mara, but he couldn’t overturn the call. 39-38.

1989 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Rams @ Giants (i.e. the Flipper Anderson game-winning touchdown game). After Anderson caught the ball down the right sideline and outran the entire Giants secondary, he kept running straight into the tunnel with the football, the 1989 Giants season, and the last remaining remnants of my childhood. He never came back out. That's the quietest I've ever heard Giants stadium in my life, and I was once there when it was virtually empty. 19-13 OT.

1997 NFC Wild Card Game - Vikings @ Giants (i.e. the Chris Calloway fumble/Jake Reed game-winning touchdown game). The Giants had a nine-point lead with less than two minutes remaining. The next thing you know, the usually sure-handed Chris Calloway muffs an onside kick, Jake Reed gets open in the back of the endzone, and Rodney Hampton's career is over. Eleven years later, my old man still blames my friend Dave Schwartz for this loss. Jinx. Better him than me. 23-22.

1993 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Giants @ 49ers (i.e. the Giants get blown out in L.T.'s last game ever game). This one hurt because it was a bloodbath. The Giants were never in it at any point, and that's definitely not the way you want the greatest player in franchise history to go out. The Niners ran all over the Giants' defense that day, as Ricky Watters set a playoff record with five rushing touchdowns. 44-3. Ouch.

1985 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Giants @ Bears (i.e. the Sean Landeta whiffs on a punt game). Take nothing away from the 85 Bears.The Super Bowl Shufflers were a great team, and it was windy and miserably cold in Chicago that day. But anytime you get shut-out in a playoff game, it's gonna sting. The missed punt was embarassing, but not any more so than the Giants' 41 total rushing yards. A beatdown. 21-0.

1989 Regular Season Game - Eagles @ Giants (i.e. the Randall Cunningham 91-yard punt game). The Giants had the lead and had Philly backed up to their own 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Then, on third down, Cunningham surprised the Giants with the punt, which, according to Dave Anderson's report in the Times the next day, soared 59 yards in the air (more like 65 counting from where he punted in the end zone), landed at the Giants' 38 and bounced to the 7 before Dave Meggett, who had let the ball bounce past him, returned it to the 16. But two plays later, Phil Simms fumbled, Michael Pitts recovered at the Giants' 7 and three plays after that, Keith Byars (a Giant killer) scored the decisive touchdown. 24-17.

1988 Regular Season Monday Night Football Game - Giants @ Eagles (i.e. the Carl Banks can't tackle Randall Cunningham game). Just watch the video if you don't remember this one. 24-13.

2005 Regular Season Game - Giants @ Seahawks (i.e. the Jay Feely misses 3 game-winning field goals game). I watched this one in a sports bar in Chicago and hurt my foot after kicking a barstool so hard after Feely's 2nd miss that I could barely walk back to my in-laws house afterwards. 24-21 OT.

2003 Regular Season Monday Night Football Game - Cowboys @ Giants (i.e. the Matt Bryant kickoff out of bounds game). The game was all but over. All the Giants had to do was kick the ball in bounds and cover the kick. But instead, Coach Fassel advised a squib kick shaded left, which Bryant proceeded to put out of bounds at the Cowboys' 1-yard line. This gave Dallas 11 seconds and good field position at their own 40, which they quickly turned into the game-tying field goal. Cowboys placekicker Billy Cundiff later connected for his 7th field goal of the game to win it in overtime. 35-32 OT.

1988 Regular Season Game - Eagles @ Giants (i.e. the Giants block a potential game-winning field goal in overtime only to have the ball bounce right to Clyde Simmons, who runs it in for a game-winning touchdown game). I wish I could find video of this one, because I don't think I've ever seen a play like that since. Brutal. 23-17 OT.

1988 Regular Season Game - Giants @ Jets (i.e. the Al Toon and the Jets end the Giants playoff hopes with a last second, game-winning touchdown game). This was actually a Jets home game, but my old man was able to get tickets from his then partner. We should have stayed home. Losing to the Jets is bad enough, but when the loss keeps you out of the playoffs, and you have to contend with a stadium and parking lot and middle school full of insufferable Jet fan douchebags, well that's enough to make even a 13-year-old's blood boil. 27-21.

2006 Regular Season Game - Giants @ Titans (i.e. the Vince Young escapes Kiwanuka's grasp and Giants blow 21 point 2nd half lead game). I watched this game at that same sports bar in Chicago where I witnessed the debacle in Seattle. I guess I should have known better, but they serve some really top notch hot wings in that joint. 24-21.

1997 Regular Season Game - Ravens @ Giants (i.e. the Brad Daluiso misses two short field goals and has an extra point blocked and the Giants lose by one point game). If you happen to run into my buddy Mosty on the street sometime, please ask him about this game and his opinion of Daluiso. 24-23.

Super Bowl XXXV. (i.e. the Ravens maul Giants after phantom defensive holding call on Keith Hamilton negates tide-turning interception for touchdown by Jessie Armstead late in the first half game). The final score was 34-7. The Giants only gained 152 yards of total offense. Kerry Collins was atrocious, setting a Super Bowl with four interceptions. Something like 150 million people watched the game. Need I say anything more?

1992 Regular Season Game - Eagles @ Giants (i.e. the Vai Sikahema boxes the goalpost game). This was worse than when Joe Horn pulled that cellphone nonsense, because he did it on our home field. After a kickoff return for a touchdown. And I was there. *Sigh*. 47-34.

If anything, compiling this list has made me appreciate the magic of this past season even more. I still can't explain what happened, and I don't really want to. I'm still waiting for Eli Manning to turn back into a pumpkin. All I need to know was that when all was said and done and there was only one team left standing, that team was the New York Giants. And for one night, they were better than perfect. 17-14.

Editor's Note (4/7/08): Much respect to the folks over at the BBI Corner Forum for pointing out a few horrible losses which I successfully managed to block from my memory:

1) The 2003 Brian Westbrook game-winning punt return game
2) The 1993 Emmitt Smith shoulder game
3) The 35-0 Monday Night Football shutout (at home) vs. Dallas in 1996
4) The 23-0 playoff shutout (at home) vs. Carolina in 2003
5) The 1988 Jerry Rice game-winning touchdown game
6) The 1991 loss to 1-11 Cincinnati


Anonymous said...

Amazing list. I'm right up there with you for all of them.

When you look back at all of these losses, the obvious thing that sticks out is how brutally painful they were.

But what gets lost in the shuffle is how many painful losses there have been for Giants fans every season. Every loss hurts. But losing to Atlanta's backup QB's at home 2 years in a row, having a punt get snapped in the back of the end zone in a 2-point loss against the Texans or losing to bad teams at home are things the Giants will always do.

J. Mark English said...

Dude, I love the blog, but your wrong about some of the stuff in regards to Rodney Hampton.

His last playoff game was not in was in 1998 (1997 season)...against Minnesota in that embarrassing 23-22 loss.

Also, the Giants would have hired Bellicheck as a coach...and even probably a guy like Coughlin...had Bill Parcells retired in February...and not MAY!!!

By the time he shocked the Giants by stepping down in May, the only guy around that could take up the coaching mantle was Handley. The aforementioned already left for Cleveland and Boston College respectively.

Also, want to exchange links?

mine is:

lawyerdude666 said...

Guess you can add todays disgraceful debacle to the list. How can one team bring so much shame to their own house on the day the last game ever is played there? 12/27/09, annihilated by the 6-8 Panthers, 41-9 (would have been 10, but for a MISSED PAT!). Just sickening.

Roger B said...

AWESOME LIST! you can just consider all of the ray Handley years a huge Giant loss also! You can add todays game against the vikings to the list now.. so disappointing!

Anonymous said...

Clearly there are two categories of losses: the train wrecks (eg, Super Bowl XXXV) and the ripped-out heart variety (fall-from-ahead playoff losses to 49ers and Vikings). I would submit that the 2nd variety is far worse, and not sure these belong on the same list. I suppose there might also be a third category that combines the two, where the Giants do everything in their power to lose, give fans a glimmer of hope, then seal the deal late (I'm thinking of '89 loss to Eagles).

Anonymous said...

The Giants and the Niners game for sure……..

I remember turning to my daughter mid way through the 3rd quarter and telling her the Giants are going to loose this game – and she replied Dad your nuts they’re 21 points up no way – my reply was – “I have seen complacency in a Giants uniform, I know when its arrived, and it’s arrived…..”

I was around for the immaculate reception………back in the day!!!

I remember in 1970 we called the drunk game where Frantic Francis Tarkenton scrambled 20 yards backwards to gain 9 yards forward when we needed 10 towards the end of the Philadelphia game on Monday Night in Philly. Giants won 6 in a row going into that game. Norm Snead beat us that night, ultimately costing us the playoffs (9 and 5). Called the drunk game because one of the announcers doing the game was slurring his words at half time and did not return for the second half or if he did was MIA commentary wise.

The Herman Edwards Game in 1978 which put Philly in the playoffs was a dandy too. Paterson Plank Joe Pisarchik just had to take a knee and instead he fumbles it off of Csonka – Edwards picks it up and the rest was history – GIANTS LOOSE AGAIN….

We used to call it ‘Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’.

That’s why I had to pinch myself when we finally won a Championship in 1986 the most physical playoff game I ever saw when the Giants pounded Art Monk and the Redskins into the ground for 60 minutes….it was a beauty……defensive masterpiece…..

Anonymous said...

Great site,
Is it me, or is it just the Giants have the innate ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Well we just added another loss to the list. Eagles 38 Giants 31. 28 unanswered points in 7 mins, classic Giants

Anonymous said...

#11 (loss to Jets) could also be called McConkey muffs the punt game (in his final game with the Giants, not a coincidence), which I believe set up Toon's TD catch.

Also, I have trouble viewing the Bears loss as one of the Worst losses. Only because the Bears were the best team that year by a longshot, so there wasn't much of a chance of winning that one anyway.

Sidenote #1: I was also at that game, and waited at the playoff entrance. All I wanted was McConkey's signature (he was my favorite player). He drives out of the stadium in his motorcycle where the fans are waiting, I hold out his book for him to sign, he takes one look at me (with a tear in his eye) and drives off.

Sidenote #2: I'm same age as you, so it was interesting to see your perspective on losses.

Bill said...

Great article. I happened upon your site while compiling my own list of worst Giants seasons (google image searching for the Flipper Anderson play, believe it or not). Sadly for us Giant fans, if you wanted to update your list post-2008 you'd have plenty more candidates.

Anonymous said...

The 49er game in 1988 was the worst. Montana to Rice , 78 yards , with about 40 seconds to go not only cost us the playoffs, but the division and a #2 seed. Also , SF who went on to win the Super Bowl with a 10-6 record ( like the Giants)would not have made the playoffs if everthing played out

Anonymous said...

That playoff shutout loss to Carolina was in 2005, not 2003 ;-)

Anonymous said...

Let’s get some vengeance on those bum ass Cowboys down in Dallas come November 12, 2023 here! 💪🏿🔥✅💯