1981 was a turning point for the New York Football Giants. They had failed to qualify for the playoffs for the past 17 seasons but things were changing.
They were in the third year of the new regime of general manager George Young and head coach Ray Perkins. The first two seasons did not go well, finishing 6-10 in 1979 and 4-12 in 1980.
1981 promised to be different. The Giants were poised to begin competing. Quarterback Phil Simms was expected to take the next steps in his career and the team was high on their defense after adding North Carolina linebacker Lawrence Taylor in the draft.
Their schedule that year consisted of home and home contests against their four division rivals — Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington and St. Louis plus home and home games against the Green Bay Packers, who would play a prominent part in the Giants’ return to the postseason.
The Packers were in their seventh season under head coach Bart Starr and were coming off back-to-back five-win seasons. In 1981, they would be more competitive but perhaps only because the Giants failed to beat them in their two meetings.
The first game was in Week 5 at Giants Stadium. Green Bay won, 27-24. The second took place five weeks later in Milwaukee with the Packers winning again, this time by the score of 26-24.
By Week 16, the Giants and Packers were fighting for a wildcard spot in the NFC. The Giants closed out the season with three straight wins to finish at 9-7, defeating Dallas in a Saturday afternoon showdown.
They needed help, though, if they were to finally make the playoffs. It would come from an unlikely source.
The Packers were 8-7 heading into their game against the New York Jets the next day at Shea Stadium. A win would seal a wildcard berth and knock the Giants from the playoffs.
The Jets were also in need of a win, however. They had not been to the postseason since 1969 and could seal a playoff berth of their own with a win.
For one day, both Jets and Giants fans rooted together for a defeat of the Packers. The Jets walloped Green Bay, 28-3, and both New York football teams were headed to the playoffs in the same season for the first time ever.
The Packers? They would qualify for the postseason tournament the next year in the strike-shortened season but not make the playoff again until 1993 when Mike Holmgren took over as head coach.