The 1986 NFL season produced one of the league’s great champions in the New York Giants. A dominating defense led by Lawrence Taylor keyed the Giants’ sweep through the postseason. In the articles below, you’ll read the game-by-game narratives of not only the Giants, but 12 other consequential teams this season…
*The Denver Broncos got the first Super Bowl in the John Elway era, with one of the most memorable drives in league history doing it.
*The Washington Redskins said goodbye to quarterback Joe Theismann and running back John Riggins, said hello to Jay Schroeder and George Rogers and returned to the postseason after a one-year absence.
*The Chicago Bears were hoping to start a dynasty after the way they stomped the entire league en route to a Super Bowl title in 1985. The Bears were awfully good again, especially on defense. But quarterback problems did them in.
*The Cleveland Browns had their best season under the emerging combo of head coach Marty Schottenheimer and quarterback Bernie Kosar. Only Elway’s heroics in the postseason kept the Browns from the Super Bowl.
*The San Francisco 49ers went through a rough stretch of the season when Joe Montana was injured. But they somehow hung in the race and grabbed an NFC West title at the wire.
*The New England Patriots built off their Super Bowl run of a year ago and came back with an AFC East title run this time around. Tony Eason stepped up and carried a running game that lost much of its punch.
*Did anyone have a wilder ride in NFL history than the New York Jets did in 1986? They started 10-1, lost five straight, won a playoff game and were ready to win another before a dramatic collapse in Cleveland.
*The Los Angeles Rams led the NFC West much of the way behind the great running of Eric Dickerson before their own quarterback problems cost them the division. The Rams still made the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
*The 10th team to make the postseason was the Kansas City Chiefs, a surprise year amidst a long stretch of franchise futility.
An interesting season saw three consequential seasons that didn’t end up in the playoffs…
*After a strong start, the Cowboys collapsed, suffered their first losing season in over twenty years and it spelled the end of the Tom Landry era.
*The Minnesota Vikings had a new coach in Jerry Burns, the contended for a playoff berth and set the stage for the three good years that followed.
*The Cincinnati Bengals used a potent running game to get into the mix and stay in the hunt all the way to the final Monday Night game of the year. This Bengals team laid the groundwork for the one that would reach the Super Bowl two years later.
The articles below game-by-game narratives of all these teams exist as individual articles on TheSportsNotebook. Taken as a whole, they tell the story of the 1986 NFL season through the eyes of its most significant teams.