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Giants Go Extra Yards for Taylor : NFC: Linebacker's halftime harangue is credited after Vikings are beaten, 17-10.

January 10, 1994|BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For three hours in sub-freezing temperatures Sunday, fingers were cracked, muscles were popped and a quarterback was knocked totally numb.

Yet the loudest sound during the New York Giants' 17-10 playoff victory against the Minnesota Vikings was not heard on the field.

Bob Kratch heard it from the bathroom.

Myron Guyton heard it from where his head was buried inside his shoulder pads.

Corey Miller said he will hear it the rest of the season.

It was the sound of Lawrence Taylor stalking the Giants' locker room at halftime, screaming and cursing. It was the sound of an old fighter in probably his final season trying to extract another ounce of glory from a team that trailed by a touchdown.

"I don't like to cuss in public anymore but . . . the young guys have to learn that you have to step it up a bit in this thing called the playoffs," Taylor said. "I think we learned."

They learned they could score two touchdowns in fewer than 10 minutes against the league's top-ranked defense.

They learned that they could hit Viking quarterback Jim McMahon hard enough to knock him out of the game not only once, but twice.

The Vikings, well, they learned that sometimes your worst fears can come true.

"They were as tough as we thought," said Viking quarterback Sean Salisbury, who replaced McMahon for a couple of series. "They line up, they hit you in the mouth, then they line up and hit you in the mouth again."

And again. And again. In the Vikings' last three possessions, even with a stiff wind at their backs, they gained nine yards.

Keith Hamilton ended the game by sacking McMahon at midfield, sending these old-time Giants to a second-round game Saturday in San Francisco against the 49ers.

It will be those teams' sixth postseason meeting in 13 years. The Giants have won the last three, most recently by 15-13 in the 1990 NFC championship game.

If the condition of Jim McMahon Sunday is any indication, the 49ers' Steve Young had better dig up a flak jacket.

McMahon's left shoulder was so badly bruised that he could barely dress afterward. His head was spinning from a concussion.

"I didn't have nothing at the end," McMahon said.

Throwing with gloves in 23-degree temperatures, he was doing fine late in the first half, when the Vikings stunned the Giants and 75,089 mostly booing fans with 10 points in two minutes.

McMahon eluded Taylor and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass with two minutes to play.

After the Giants' Mike Horan punted into teammate Greg Jackson's back, the Vikings added a 52-yard, wind-aided field goal by Fuad Reveiz with eight seconds remaining for a 10-3 lead.

Soon it was Taylor's turn to blister the team, which did not catch anybody by surprise.

"I was in the bathroom and I heard all this screaming and cussing and I just said, 'Oh, that's Lawrence,' " Kratch said. "One hour and 45 minutes before the Dallas game last week, he was doing the same thing. That's a long time before a game to be that fired up."

Explained Miller, a linebacker in his third season: "He said the young guys didn't know the emotion it took to win a playoff game."

Only one play into the second half, it was known that Taylor had been heard. Young linemen Keith Hamilton and Mike Fox collided upon McMahon in the backfield and knocked all the feeling out of him. "My whole body went numb, I didn't know what was wrong," said McMahon, who lay on the turf for several minutes before the feeling returned.

Five plays later, the Giants tied the score on Rodney Hampton's season-high 51-yard touchdown run through a hole on the left side. Hampton tied a Giant postseason record with 161 yards rushing.

McMahon returned on the Vikings' next series, but did little, leading to a shanked punt by Harry Newsome. Eight plays later, the Giants took the lead on Hampton's two-yard run.

At that point, the Giants had run nine consecutive running plays for 77 yards and two touchdowns.

"The Viking were talking a bunch of trash in the first half, but we finally knew we had gotten to them on that series," Kratch said. "All of a sudden, it got real quiet."

McMahon again tried to bring the Vikings back, but this time he lasted only five plays before Fox pounded him into the turf once more. And once more, he lay there for a few minutes before being helped off the field.

"I kind of felt bad for McMahon . . . they were knocking the mess out of him," Taylor said.

Salisbury, a potential free agent who was playing perhaps his last game in a Viking uniform, gave the Vikings their last hope by connecting with Cris Carter on a 30-yard pass play early in the fourth quarter. But Guyton knocked the ball loose and Greg Jackson recovered at the Giant 15.

The only thing crazier was the scene on the sideline before the Vikings' final series, which started at their 42.

McMahon, who had returned to the game after sitting out only two full series, appeared woozy, but wanted to play. Salisbury had looked more sound, but didn't want to complain.

So, while the world waited, the Viking coaches argued about whom to send into the game.

"It was like a game of duck, duck, goose," Salisbury said.

Once they decided on McMahon, who completed one of five passes in the Vikings' final possession, the name of the game was the same as it had been all afternoon.

Duck, duck.

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