Special Sean Punted Giants to Victory

The 1990 Giants were a special team, thanks in no small part to their special teams. While most people remember this unit largely because of Matt Bahr's five field goals in the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco, there were three others who were voted All-NFL as the best in the entire league at what they did.

One was David Meggett, who was the NFC's kickoff-return champ and finished second in punt-return average. There was Reyna Thompson, called "the best special teams player ever" by John Madden. And there was Sean Landeta, who won the NFC punting title for the second time with a 44.1-yard average.

"This was before free agency, so we were able to have a veteran special-teams group," Landeta remembers, now 15 years after the Giants' second Super Bowl championship season. "Steve DeOssie was a great long-snapper. He could protect and also provided great coverage, which teams don't always get from that position. Reyna Thompson was arguably the greatest special-teams player ever. He had a unique ability to separate himself from his opponent and always be near the ball, even though the other team double-teamed him many times."

Landeta rates 1990 as "one of the five or six best" seasons in a professional punting career that began in 1983 with the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL and may not be over yet. Though he will turn 44 in January, Landeta is working out 3-4 times a week at Manhasset High School and Hofstra University on Long Island in the event a team suddenly needs an experienced right leg.

In a season in which he had the longest punt in the NFC (67 yards vs. the Vikings) and planted 24 punts inside the opponent's 20, his best game came in Week 10 in Anaheim against an L.A. Rams team that had dashed the Giants' Super Bowl dreams in the 1989 playoffs on Flipper Anderson's OT bomb from Jim Everett.

Buoyed by the warm Southern California air, all five of his punts against the Rams were downed or tackled inside the 20, with the last three pinning L.A. on its 3-yard-line.

"Bill Parcells reiterated all week that we'd have to fight for every yard because their offense is capable of exploding," Landeta had told reporters at his locker after the game. "But if you put them inside the 5-yard-line, it's got to demoralize them."

Landeta was one of the more recognizable "celebrities" on the 1990 Giants, who, after Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms, largely were another blue-collar, lunch pail group. He could be found at team fan luncheons and occasionally on the New York Post's Page Six, back when it actually could be found on Page 6. But looking back, Landeta remembers much less about the perks than he does the work it took to be a champion in New York.

"It's interesting that when you're in the midst of something, you don't really look at how big or great it is," Landeta said. "The focus is always on next week, the next game. If you could take a step back, you'd say, ‘Wow. Where we are and who we are at this moment are exceptional.' "

Landeta was one of the many ex-Giants who attended Wellington Mara's funeral mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral last month.

"I have so many memories about how wonderful he was to me, all the great conversations we had," Landeta said. "More impressive was that after I left the Giants and came back as a visiting player, he'd always come over and say hello. And I was just one guy out of thousands of players in his career. There will never be another person who means as much to an organization or a league, in any sport, as he did."

Landeta was a Giant through 1992, then played for the Rams in L.A. and St. Louis, the Bucs, Packers, Eagles and Rams again. He was back with the Eagles this past training camp as insurance for Dirk Johnson, who has stayed healthy. In 279 regular-season games, he punted 1,367 times for a whopping 59,224 yards (that's 33.65 miles), both NFL records.

As he waits for a chance to add to those numbers, Landeta spends his football-watching time at the Pee Wee games of his eight-year-old son, Joey.

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