New York safety Beasley Reece was so perturbed yesterday by the "illegality" of the winning touchdown pass that he took the time to diagram the play in detail and explain why the score should have been nullified.
"It was an illegal pick play and the officials should have called it, but they've let it go a lot lately," said Reece, the Giant in the best position to see the Redskins take a 16-13 lead on Joe Theismann's six-yard pass to Bobby Hammond.
"It's a play that is designed to create traffic in a certain area, then exploit those defenders trapped in the confusion. The whole thing is illegal," Reece said.
By the time the officials were sought for clarification, they had left the stadium.
The play in question would never have happened if not for Clarence Harmon's heroic nine-yard run on third down, giving the Redskins fist and goal from the Giant seven.
The Redskins sent Ricky Thompson and Art Monk wide right, Thompson on the outside. Halfback Hammond, who started the second half in place of fumble-weary Wilbur Jackson, lined up slot right.
The Giants were playing man-to-man defense the entire game. Linebacker Brad Van Pelt was assigned to cover the lead back, in this case Hammond; Reece to cover tight end Don Warren, with cornerback Eric Felton on Thompson. The play about to be run was designed to provide Theismann the option of passing into the right corner of the end zone or running the ball himself.
"Thompson goes in motion, and Brad runs to cover Hammond," Reece elaborated, all the while sitting at his locker diagramming the play in the notebook. "But Thompson intentionally runs Felton into Brad, creating a jam in the middle which allows Hammond to spring free into the end zone.
"Thompson was assigned to pick Brad just like a set pick play in basketball. It's illegal. Ask anybody. I recognized what was happening, and I left my tight-end assignment to try to cut off Hammond. But, by the time I got there, all I could do was hit him after he caught the ball.
"I'm not trying to discredit the Redskins or Bobby Hammond, he's a good friend of mine. But the officials blew the call. They'd rather look for guys wearing their socks too low or their jerseys outside their pants than to make a gutsy call with a few seconds left that really affects the outcome of a game. I'm ticked off."
Hammond, who started the 1979 season with the Giants, said, "The play wasn't designed to be a pick. Van Pelt just got lost in the shuffle. Both our receivers were lined up to the right, and I just ran on Thompson's back when he cut upfield. It's a normal formation. The opposition can't tell if we're going to run that play or not.Everybody'll be looking for it next week, though."
Van Pelt said he had to look around the 6-foot-5 Warren before he could see that the Redskins weren't running the ball.
"Hammond is faster than me," Van Pelt confessed. "But there seemed to be an awful lot of traffic. Reece was in better position than I was to see the play. But if he (Thompson) did pick me intentionally, it's an illegal play. I'd need to see the whole thing on film, though, before I'd positively say whether their touchdown should have been called back."
It was Van Pelt and linebacker Kerven Wyatt whose weak tackling allowed the pesky Harmon to squirt forward for the key first down, after the two Giant defenders seemingly had him pinned short of the necessary yardage.
Ralph Hawkins, New York defensive coordinator and a former Redskin assistant, had not heard Reece's contention when he said, "One of our linebackers fell down on the touchdown pass, but I'd rather not say which one."
It was Van Pelt who was on the ground while Hammond positioned himself on the goal line to catch the pass, then fall into the end zone to nail the Redskins' second straight home victory.
"Hammond played well the second half," Hawkins said. "He's a little quicker than Jackson, but we decided to stay with our same coverage. I signed Bobby as a free agent, and nobody could ever tell me Bobby Hammond isn't one very good football palyer."