On January 5, 1986, the New York Giants headed to Chicago to face the powerful Chicago Bears in the NFC Divisional Playoff round. The winner would head to the NFC Championship Game.
As most Giant fans know, the game was a disastrous one. The wind chill at Soldier Field was 3 degrees and the Bears’ defense was having a legendary season. The Giants were nine-point underdogs and they did not disappoint.
They were shut out by Chicago, 21-0, highlighted by a whiffed punt attempt by Giants punter Sean Landeta in the first quarter that the Bears cashed in for a touchdown. The game was over right there.
But a few things got glossed over heading into that game. One of those things was that the Giants had not played the Bears in regular season or postseason game since 1977.
Eight years is a long time for two conference rivals to not face one another. With today’s schedule rotation, teams meet at least every three years.
The 1977 game on December 18 was at The Meadowlands. It was the final year the NFL played a 14-game schedule and this was Week 14. The Giants were 5-8 and naturally out of the postseason. They had not qualified for the postseason since 1963, when they lost to the Bears in the NFL Championship Game.
That, coincidently, was the last time Chicago appeared in the postseason as well. They came into this contest at 8-5 and were on a five-game winning streak. They needed to beat the Giants to break their playoff schneid.
The weather was nasty that day. It was just above freezing and most of the game was played in ran, and eventually, sleet and snow. It was an ugly game that saw the Giants’ offense slog again. Running back Larry Csonka ran for 100 yards, the best game he would have in a Giants’ uniform, and teammate Doug Kotar ran for 95 but it would be enough to won on this day.
Regulation ended in a 9-9 tie. The Giants got three field goals from the reliable Joe Danelo, while Chicago got a field goal from Bob Thomas and a rushing touchdown from Robin Earl. Giants defensive end George Martin blocked the point after.
In overtime, Thomas hit a 28-yard field goal to win the game for Chicago and send them to the playoffs. They would lose to Dallas, 37-7 in the first round.
The game had some significance because Walter Payton, the Bears’ great running back, needed 199 yards to break Jim Brown’s single-season rushing record of 1,863 yards. The Giants held him to just 47 yards.
The conditions also were tough on the kickers. Both Danelo and Thomas missed kicks and had their kicking operations disrupted by the weather.
No one knew this would be their last game until January of 1986. The two teams had been bitter rivals for most of the first 50 years of the NFL. The loss was the Giants’ sixth in their last seven games against Chicago.