Dr. Lackey last month discovered footsteps on the shore of a lake somewhere, proving, he said, that man walked on two feet a million and a half years ago, give or take a week. What the archeologist kept secret, and now can be told, is that those footsteps moved in directions carefully drawn in the sand: the first off-tackle play, with a caveman end blocking down on a dinosaur to free the village's fastest man for a run to the grocery store.
We know this to be fact because today Ray Perkins, the Giants' coach, used the caveman's game plan against the Redskins. No midnight oil for Perkins. No computers whirring in divine revelation. Perkins stole his game plan from the Stone Age. Run the ball. Straight at 'em. No reverses, no flea-flickers. Full speed ahead and damn the dinosaurs.
The Giants won, 14-6. So strong was Perkins' belief in running with the football that the Giants did not throw a pass the last 21 minutes. They ran the ball 21 straight times, with Billy Taylor, only lately escaped from Perkins' doghouse, carrying it 19 times for 92 yards.
As mothers must love their daughters who are complimented for having good personalities, the Giants and their followers loved this stupefying blind date of a football game. Look, if you will, at Doug Van Horn, the left guard on the Giant offensive line.
Van Horn has the distinctive red gash across his nose that marks all offensive lineman who get their helmets smashed into their eyelashes every Sunday. Blood is trickling down both sides of his nose, as if he were half made up to sing for Kiss. He is ripping tape off his hairy legs (these football players are tough) -- and this 35-year-old relic from Ohio State is nothing but one big smile.
"Woody Hayes would've loved it," Van Horn said, naming a prehistoric creation who once coached him. Van Horn spoke of a New Year drive in the second half that carried 79 yards in 14 plays -- all runs, 13 of them by Billy Taylor -- and moved the Giants into a 14-6 lead.
"It was the best drive we've had since I've been here, since 1972," Van Horn said."We were all coming off the ball great. It wasn't anything too fancy, but it felt good. Now, you guys, I don't want you to accuse us of being boring."
The big guy laughed at that last senctence because he knew today's expedition into paleolithic pigskinnery was made tolerable, to either the Giants or their 70,000-plus fans here today, only by victory.
And any kind of victory is nice for the Giants this season. They lost their first games, including a 27-0 defeat by the Redskins on a Monday night, but now have won six of their last eight -- and four of their last five here at the Meadowlands, losing the fifth only on a last-minute field goal by Dallas.
Sentiment in the New York locker room was not that the Redskins were dreadful today -- they were just blah -- but that the Giants are a much better team than on that Monday night 10 weeks ago.
"The difference today was in the Giants," said center Jim Clack. "We're getting bigger and better. And our game plan was the best thing we could do against Washington: run the ball. It wasn't that we felt Washington is weak against the run -- they're not, they're one of the toughest -- but we just had to run right at 'em."
The last time Clack worked on an offensive line that mounted a drive such as billy Taylor's 13-run deal today, the center was a pittsburgh Steeler blocking for Franco Harris in 1974. "We went 80 yards and Franco carried it every play," Clack said. "But, listen, the feeling today was better."
Clack, who started for two Steeler Super Bowl champions, said today's work was meaningful because he has been impressed by the Redskins this season. w
"We've watched on film the way they've been playing," he said. "They've been intimidating people on defense. They made Dallas go to the pass, and Pittsburgh -- sure, the Steelers won easy -- but they didn't block the Redskins on the run.
"What we did to the Redskins today, you're not supposed to be able to do."
We should call timeout here to remind everyone that these Giants who are talking so bravely scored a grand total of two touchdowns. Six other times this year, the Redskins held the opponents to 14 points or fewer and lost only one time. So if the Giants did move smartly on one long drive, they hardly exposed the Redskins as defensive poseurs.
The Redskin problem was more on offense. There they came up with no big plays. Again, they were not dreadful, just blah, with the Giants, of course, contributing mightily to their blues. The Giants, in the last eight weeks, have given up more than two touchdowns only once.
"Our whole defensive game plan was to keep pressure on Joe Theismann," said linebacker Brad Van Pelt. "He's a great quarterback having a super season. We wanted to hurry him, to make him take a second guess on his receivers. We ran a different linebacker at him on every down. Our backs didn't let anybody open for long and our defensive line pushed their offensive line backwards."
George Young, the Giants' general manager, stopped by to congratulate Brad Benson, who had a big day at left tackle against the Redskin veteran defender Coy Bacon.
"Never heard Bacon's name all day long," Young said.
And Doug Van Horn, the old left guard, said, "We bombed him."
Back to the Stone Age, most likely.