George Martin is the New York Giants' defensive, end who left handprints on Joe Theismann. Martin is about 8 1/2 feet tall. For Halloween, he dressed up as a Mack truck. When last seen Sunday, Martin was saying the Redskin offense is terrible and people were saying. "Oh, yes, indeedy. Mr. Martin, the Redskins are bad, you are so right. Mr. Martin, sir." People don't want tire prints on their foreheads.
It was Martin's thesis that the Redskins have less talent in their offensive unit than any other team in the National Football League. Only spirit and determination, he suggested, have carried the Redskins this far. As Martin spoke, there grew an image of the Redskins moving downfield on crutches and in wheelchairs, the lame leading the blind on a misbegotten gridiron pilgrimage.
Bull, you will pardon the expression, feathers.
The Giants have played eight different teams this seasons. Of those, only Dallas has scored more points than the Redskins in the 11 games so far. The Cowboys have 242 points, the Redskins 219. It is true the Redskins scored only one touchdown in two games with New York, but that is not grounds to dismiss the offense as the worst in the NFL.
As it happens, the Giants' defensive strength is on the line of scrimmage, where the Redskins are the weakest. Four of the Redskins' five interior Finemen are new to their positions this season. Such on-the-job training is invariably costly to an offensive, especially when it is complicated by a lack of size and quickness. Holding calls multiply.
So it was small surprise Sunday when the Redskins were not able to run the ball. Safe in the broadcasting booth above the RFK field, that old runner, Jim Brown, has been merciless in his naging at John Riggins, the Redskins' best runner. Brown thinks Riggins is a pale shadow of what a running back ought to be. No Jim Brown, in short. Brown's knock on Riggins is as unfair as George Martin's on the offense.
Without consistent blocking, no one - not Jim Brown, not Riggins, not Bronko Nagurski's ghost - is going to run past an angry George Martin. At one embarrassing point Sunday, the offensive line moved the Redskins backward 26 yards in seven plays. First somebody was caught holding. Then someone made a false start. Somebody else let Martin, rolling at 65 miles per hour, run over Theismann.
If the Giants' defensive strength is on the line with its quick front four and linebackers, the team's weakness is in the secondary. In the first game against the Redskins, that certified weakness was hardly apparent for Theismann that day was wild high. He completed only 15 of 38 passes for 169 yards. He threw three interceptions. At game's end, he was a disheartening picture of desperation, forcing passes into holes that, if not there, he hoped would be there. That's no way to win.
As desperate as Theismann was that day, so was he in command Sunday. It was nice to see. Because of the running game's failure, his excellent passing came to small reward for three quarters, producing a 6-6 tie. And early in the fourth quarter, when the Giants went ahead, 13-6, one Redskin series seemed a melancholy summation of the whole day.
A reporter amde notes of that series.
"Fans booing offense . . . Theis to Thomas 22 sacked by Archer - 10 to own 46 . . . Theis pass over Archer inc . . . 3rd-and-20 Theis pass deep dropped by McDaniel . . . (Theis slumps shoulders . . . gets dirt in left had . . . drops it walking to bench . . . Beaten)"
When the Giants kept the ball for nearly four minutes, the Redskins in fact seemed beaten, for how could a somnambulatory offense break into a sprint with only two minutes left?
The notes show how . . .
"Thomas mid - 2 to own 45 . . . Theis to Buggs 9 to NY 46 . . . Theis to Fuget 18 to 23, catch on knees rolling . . . Theis to McDaniel 11, catch on knees . . . Theis, looking looking, over middle! to Harmon 9 to 3 penalty to 1 . . . Thomas RT 1 yd TD . . . Theis celebrates throws right-hand punch . . . Winner."
That was not precise. The victory came later, in overtime, but Theismann in that game-tying drive played flawlessly. He has been knocked for looking at one receiver only, for his failure to deceive defensive backs with his eyes. On this drive, he was perfect, at least twice keeping it alive with his improvisations.
And in the overtime, facing third and five at the New York 32, Theismann lofted a little pass to Mike Thomas, flaring right. Thomas did not see the ball in flight. But as he turned to look, the ball hit him on the hip, perfectly thrown. It was a four-yard gain, and from there Mark Moseley kicked a 45-yard field goal to win.
Theismann completed his last eight passes for 89 yards. And in the last nine minutes of play, when it counted most, the Redskins' offense produced 128 yards to the Giants' eight. Someone should please inform Mr. Martin.