For all the fines that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hands out, the fact that no one was penalized for Monday night’s tilt between the Giants and Vikings is shocking. Neither team managed to tally over 300 yards, there were four turnovers between them, and the star of the game was arguably Giants RB Peyton Hillis…remember the guy who was on the cover of Madden 12? In a game so bad that announcer Mike Tirico flat out said during the 3rd quarter “This is a terrible quarter of football”, the Vikings had Josh Freeman, the same Josh Freeman who has completed just 42 percent of his passes this year, throw that ball 53 times, while Adrian Peterson only got 14 carries. I’m sure the fact that Minnesota lost 23-7 had nothing to with that, though.
Statistically, the Giants-Vikings game was the 2nd worst game in the illustrious history of Monday Night Football. According to website Awful Announcing, with a minimum of four games into the season, the two teams had the 2nd lowest combined win percentage of Monday Night opponents coming into the game in the program’s history. With the Vikes at 1-4 and the Giants at 0-6, their combined 1-10 mark yielded an .091 win percentage.
Of course, that begs the question…what was the lowest? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2001 Week 5 tilt between the Washington Redskins and your Dallas Cowboys.
If the Dallas Cowboys season by season records were Robert DeNiro’s filmography, the 2001 season would basically be Little Fockers. Sure Emmitt Smith was still around, but let’s just say when he compared his situation to “a diamond surrounded by trash”, he might’ve had a point. Say what you will about the Dave Campo Cowboys, but at least they were consistent. Campo lasted three years at Valley Ranch and ended each one with an identical 5-11 record. Most, if not all, of the Cowboys faithful knew it was going to be a rebuilding year, but this was just sad. Troy Aikman’s retirement opened the door for the next great Cowboys quarterback, who turned out to be….Quincy Carter. A second round pick out of Georgia, Carter’s first start was a 9-19, 34 yard, 2 INT performance in Dallas’s opening 10-6 loss to Tampa Bay…and things didn’t get better. Carter was actually injured for the Boys first prime time game of the year, and quarterback duties went to…Anthony Wright. Wright was actually coming off a solid performance during the previous week’s 28-21 loss to Oakland (14-22, 126 yards, 2 TD’s), but he eventually became one of the many names between Aikman and Tony Romo. Sandwiched between the Tampa and Oakland losses were embarrassing defeats to San Diego (32-21) and Philadelphia (40-18).
Washington wasn’t much better. To say new coach Marty Schottenheimer did not get off to a good start in DC would be an understatement to say the least. The Redskins, too, started 0-4, but their defeats were even uglier than Dallas’s. Their closest game had been a 23-9 loss to the Giants the week before. Prior to that, San Diego, Green Bay, and Kansas City had blown out the Redskins by a combined score of 112-16. While they had some good players in RB Stephen Davis, TE Stephen Alexander and CB Champ Bailey, all of whom made the Pro Bowl (in contrast, Dallas only sent legendary OL Larry Allen to the Pro Bowl), they were done in by an inconsistent defense and the perpetually mediocre Tony Banks at QB.
Week 5 of the 2001 season was filled with entertaining games. A young quarterback making his 3rd career start named Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a 29-26 overtime win over San Diego. The St Louis Rams, the eventual NFC champion, survived a 15-14 scare from the New York Giants. In that week’s Sunday nighter, Rich Gannon’s Oakland Raiders topped Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 23-18 (yes, the Raiders used to play on Sunday night!). The same could not be said about the Monday night tilt between the two 0-4 teams.
As predicted, the game was awful as projected, if not worse. The Washington offense, in particular, resembled Georgetown football more than they did a an actual NFL franchise, especially a proud one like the Redskins. Washington had 10 drives in the game. Seven of the first eight ended in Bryan Barker punts, and the one outlier in that group was a missed 44 yard field goal by K Brett Conway. Dallas’s offense at least moved the ball, albeit clumsily. The five first half Cowboys possessions included two Micah Knorr punts, a Wright interception to CB Fred Smoot in Washington territory (the Redskins would go three-and-out on the subsequent drive), and a pair of field goal attempts by K Tim Seder, the second of which sailed through the uprights from 28 yards out, giving the Cowboys the halftime advantage in a 3-0 barnburner. The game’s biggest highlight probably occurred during the halftime session, as a Tom Landry statue was unveiled at midfield, one that would stand outside of Texas Stadium until its closing in 2008, and currently stands outside of AT&T Stadium.
While the 3rd quarter consisted of five punts between the two teams, the 4th quarter actually became entertaining. After the quarter began on another Seder miss, this one from 52 yards out, Washington took advantage of the good field position. Starting on their own 42, the Redskins used four consecutive Davis runs, the longest going for 19 yards, to the Dallas 31 where Banks found WR Michael Westbrook to score the game’s first touchdown.
The Cowboys drove back into Washington territory, led by Emmitt’s 24 yard run, but were forced to settle for another field goal attempt, one that Seder actually made to make it 7-6 with 6:45 to go. As the Redskins got the ball back, they seemed destined to run out the clock, with Davis leading the way with several short but time consuming runs. As they drove to the Dallas 43, Davis picked up another first down, but was stripped of the ball by rookie DT John Nix, a 7th round pick out of Southern Miss. The ball was recovered by Greg Ellis at the Dallas 33, and the stage was set for late game heroics. The Cowboys quickly got into Redskins territory, courtesy of two Wright passes to Darrin Chiaverini and Raghib Ismail of 15 and 18 yards, respectively. A few more Smith runs set up Seder for the win, and he nailed the field goal from 26 yards out to mercifully end the game and give the Cowboys a 9-7 victory. Smith and Davis finished the game with 107 and 99 yards, respectively. In the weeks following the debacle, the Redskins, probably furious they were defeated by a Cowboys team as awful as this, won their next five games and 8 of their final 11 overall to finish 8-8, though one of those loses was to the Cowboys at home on December 2.
So, Giants fans, Vikings fans, and any football fan in general who braved Monday night’s dud, just remember that even though you had it bad, you didn’t have it as bad as Cowboys and Redskins fans that fateful October night. Whereas you saw Eli Manning and Josh Freeman struggle, we saw Anthony Wright and Tony Banks do the same. Just as a legend like Emmitt Smith was wasted on the 2001 Cowboys, Adrian Peterson suffers the same fate with the 2013 Vikings. So just remember, as eyeball gouging as that game was…and trust me it was awful…never forget the souls who glued their eyes to this matchup that no one should ever speak of again.
Unless you’re talking about this column. In that case, feel free to discuss it however you’d like.