In the late 1980s, then-Giants coach Bill Parcells nicknamed former Big Blue defensive back Elvis Patterson “Toast” due to Patterson’s tendency to allow big plays. Patterson has since retired, but his legacy has haunted the team this season at the Meadowlands, where New York lost to the Atlanta Falcons Sunday night, 34-20.
Missing three of their four starters in the secondary due to injury (CB Phillippi Sparks and S Sam Garnes were scratched for the Falcon game and CB Jason Sehorn is out for the year), the Giants allowed Atlanta QB Chris Chandler to throw for 266 yards and two touchdowns, one a 55-yard strike to former Jet Terance Mathis and the other a 36-yard toss to wideout Tony Martin. “We’ve got guys back there who are professionals,” said head coach Jim Fassel, referring to experienced backups Conrad Hamilton, Carlton Gray, and Percy Ellsworth. “[But] they are guys who haven’t gotten the game time. That may be the reason we made some mistakes out there.”
Once again, however, the Giants also made mistakes on offense, where they are seemingly healthy. QB Danny Kanell passed for only 100 yards and coughed up two fumbles (one, deep in Giants territory, resulted in a second-quarter TD for the Falcons). Big Blue’s consistently timid rushing attack, mean while, was led by Charles Way, who gained only 39 yards on 11 carries. Despite the poor play, Fassel bristled when reporters suggested replacing Kanell and/or inserting former number-one draft pick and current benchwarmer Tyrone Wheatley at running back.
“Everybody’s got a suggestion–‘Do this, do that,'” Fassel snapped. “One guy is not going to make us perform better than we are right now. That’s NOT the case.”
If the Giants want to repeat last year’s playoff season, they need to do something. Now 2-4, they have a date with first-place Arizona (tied with Dallas at 4–2) at Giants Stadium Sunday. “We’re in a fucked-up situation right now,” defensive end Keith Hamilton told Jockbeat. “And we’ve got a long road a’ho.”
MSG: Flop House
Why was this Opening Night different from all other Opening Nights? Because for the first time since Rangers GM Neil Smith took control in 1989, ever-optimistic Blueshirt loyalists did not have high expectations for the new edition of their team. The only significant additions to the squad were senior citizens Esa Tikkanen (in his third tour of duty on Broadway), ex-Devil sniper John MacLean, and 18-year-old hopeful Manny Malhotra, who didn’t even dress for the first contest. So it was quite heartening to see the Rangers give a spirited performance last Friday in a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, now featuring old friends John Vanbiesbrouck in goal and Roger Neilson behind the bench. Mike Richter seemed poised for a bounce-back season in goal but, disturbingly, New York went 17 minutes without a shot in the first half of the game. Asked if his team was capable of producing offense, coach John Muckler candidly replied, “We’re going to find that out. I hope we can.” But the next night in Montreal, the Rangers managed only one second-period shot, and then Richter and the team’s defense reverted to last sea son’s bad habits and were crushed by the Canadiens 7-1. By the time the Devils come to the Garden this Friday, we’ll have a pretty good idea of how blue this Broadway season will be.
Chuck’s Es in Glove
Okay, let’s get it out of our systems. That was one dumb-fuck play, Chuck. But don’t throw out the baby with the Johnson’s Baby Wash. Remember the 1991 World Series? In the 10th inning of game seven, Knoblauch, then a rookie, made what is arguably the most important defensive play ever that didn’t result in an out. (Yankee fans like to argue for Lou Pinella’s “I got it all the way, kerplop” playing of Fen way’s sun field in the 1978 playoff game, but we demur.) The throw from the outfield missed Knoblauch, the cutoff man on the play. But ball or no ball, Chuck faked a throw to third, and kept the gullible Lonnie Smith at second. The Braves didn’t score and the Twins ultimately won. You can’t get much smarter than that.
contributors: Brian Dunleavy, Stu Hackel, Allen St. John
sports editor: Katherine Pushkar