TOFN "5 Games'' podcast: Bavaro carries seven 49ers to defeat


On December 1, 1986, New York Giants’ All-Pro tight end Mark Bavaro took the concept of carrying the load about as far as one man can in the NFL. Along the way he also helped carry his team to a run that would lead them to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.

The Giants had won 10 of their last 11 games going into this Monday Night Football confrontation with the 49ers but they all understood that to get to the Super Bowl you had to get by the 49ers at some point. By halftime it didn’t look like this would be the night that happened.

Trailing 17-0 and looking listless, the Giants came out for the second half with a sense of urgency, an urgency that turned into what Phil Simms would call “the signature play of our season.’’ It was Mark Bavaro who would make that play.

It all began as a fairly simple 10-yard completion across the middle to Bavaro, but it soom became quite more than that when he began carrying 49er tackles on his back for yard after yard after yard.

“The 49ers had a reputation for being soft,’’ Bavaro said of his 31-yard catch and run he made that night with future Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott riding on his back and six other San Francisco tacklers lying in his wake or on top of his shoulders as he dragged them along for 21 yards.

“There was a point when I thought ‘why am I still running?’’’ Bavaro recalls. “It was horrible tackling on San Francisco’s part.’’

Bavaro’s teammate, George Martin, explained it as much more than that.

Martine once said of Bavaro, “When he fights for extra yardage, he’s defiant.’’ Bavaro certainly was on that run and it set up the first of what would become 21 unanswered points and a 21-17 victory that fueled the Giants run to Super Bowl XXI.

Yet, at the time, Bavaro didn’t see the play as all that significant.

“At the time I didn’t realize it would have that big an impact,’’ Bavaro tells Talk of Fame Network on today’s “5 Games’’ podcast. “I grew to hate that play. I thought ‘I have a bunch of (other) highlights I’d like to see.’ But not many guys have a play that they still watch 30 years later.’’

To learn the full story of the play that made the Giants’ season and what it’s like to run over seven tacklers while carrying three on your back on Monday Night Football, listen to the podcast at or subscribe to hear it and all our other “5 Games’’ podcasts at iTunes: