A?hmad Bradshaw isn’t Frank Gifford -- yet. And Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t Andy Robustelli -- yet.
But Gifford and Robustelli’s two mentors, Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, would have been proud of them after Sunday’s 27-24 win over Buffalo. Both legends, who started as Jim Lee Howell’s genius assistants from 1954-59, believed in generating the big play through persistence with the gameplan.
Until his 30-yard run that set up the game-winning field goal with 1:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, Bradshaw had had a tough go in his 104-yard, three-touchdown day, carrying 21 previous times for 68 yards. But at just the right moment, a misdirection play that had twice gone for minimal yardage went for a huge gain deep into Bills territory.
Bradshaw joined Rodney Hampton and Tiki Barber as only the third Giant since Joe Morris in 1985 to run for 100 yards and three touchdowns.
Gifford used to make runs like that with the Power Sweep that Lombardi brought to the NFL long before Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor made it famous in Green Bay. A bunch might go for no gain, but then Rosie Brown or Jack Stroud would open some daylight for one of several big-yardage plays Gifford ran in the 1956 championship game win over the Bears.
The defense, still using a base 4-3 alignment Landry developed around middle linebacker Sam Huff, also had its moments with two Corey Webster interceptions and Pierre-Paul’s batted fourth-down pass that sealed the win.
But it was the survival of two early big plays for touchdowns that brought back the memories. The Giants wouldn’t have played in the 1958 overtime championship game against the Colts at all had they not overcome Jim Brown’s 65-yard touchdown run in the regular-season finale to enter an Eastern Conference playoff against those same Browns.
One might even have imagined a more animated defensive coordinator Perry Fewell gathering his troops and imparting the same words Landry nonchalantly offered his shaken gang: “Men, don’t worry about it.”
Pierre-Paul didn’t. He just kept working until something good happened.
Lombardi and Landry would have smiled.
Ernie Palladino is the author of “Lombardi and Landry: How Two of Pro Football’s Greatest Coaches Launched Their Legends and Changed the Game Forever,” released last month by Skyhorse Publishing.