The New York Guardians head to St. Louis to ring in a new era of football. There’s plenty of NY gridiron memories to take inspiration from.
Since the Rams when California dreaming in 2016, it seemed impossible for New York football to ever make a return trip to the Gateway City of St. Louis. The XFL has remedied that situation, one that will come to fruition on Sunday afternoon.
The New York Guardians will look to get back on track in their inaugural season, headed to the Midwest to take on the St. Louis BattleHawks (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN). Both teams stand at 1-1, trapped behind the undefeated DC Defenders for the top spot in the XFL’s East Division. Notable names on the St. Louis roster include quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, punter Marquette King, and safety Will Hill, a former New York Giants. The teams will meet at The Dome at America’s Center (formerly known as the Edward Jones Dome) to welcome back professional football to the area.
If the Guardians need any good vibes headed into Sunday’s matchup, their metropolitan gridiron brethren have made several Midwestern memories against the St. Louis Cardinals and Rams…
9/7/80: St. Louis Before the Blues
The 1980 New York Giants failed to produce many memories, producing a 4-12 slog. A strong start to the year against the Cardinals perhaps lulled fans into a false sense of security.
Phil Simms’ sophomore year opened by setting a Giants post-merger record with five touchdown passes. Four of those went to Earnest Gray, whose touchdown tally continues to stand as a Giants record. The defense would force three Jim Hart interceptions en route to a 41-35 win, including one from first-round pick Mark Haynes in his NFL debut.
10/14/01: S’aint Happening
Giants’ history is been peppered with Big Blue ending bids at undefeated seasons. Their Super Bowl 42 triumph over the New England Patriots is the most memorable, but they also stopped the 1998 Denver Broncos 13 weeks in.
The Giants failed to do the same to the 2001 Rams in a Week 5 showdown, but they came close to at least forcing The Greatest Show on Turf into an early intermission. Controversial as his 2001 became, Michael Strahan earned a season-high four sacks en route to breaking Mark Gastineau’s record. The Giants gave the Rams all they could handle, even holding a 14-9 lead for a majority of the fourth quarter after Ike Hilliard caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Kerry Collins. However, Kurt Warner antics (a 12-play, 77-yard drive) haunted the Giants, who gave up a one-yard touchdown run to Trung Canidate with 4:16 to go in the game. One more New York opportunity was denied when a Grant Wistrom interception sealed the Rams’ 15-14 win.
St. Louis would go on to top the Jets the week after before their bid of perfection ended against New Orleans at home. They would in the NFC title but fell to New England in Super Bowl 36.
11/18/12: Ram One Out
With St. Louis football situated firmly in the NFC, the Jets made only five trips to the Gateway City. Only one ended in victory, a 27-13 win over the Rams in 2012. In true 2010s Jets fashion, the game was an ugly offensive performance offset by strong defense.
The Jets forced the ball from the Rams three different times, as LaRon Landry forced two fumbles and Eric Smith had an interception. Offensively, the Jets did manage 20 unanswered points to earn control. A dozen of those points came from a pair of touchdown runs from Bilal Powell.
12/21/14: Beyond Jones Dome
Before Josh Norman, there was Alec Ogletree.
In the Giants’ final visit to St. Louis, a rookie Odell Beckham Jr. engaged in both verbal and physical fisticuffs with Ogletree, then a Rams linebacker. Beckham drew the ire of the Rams, refs, and Tom Coughlin for a 15-yard taunting penalty after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter. Unnecessary physicality continued to rise throughout the first half, culminating in Ogletree’s late hit drag down of Beckham out-of-bounds. A brawl thus ensued on the Giants sideline, though no ejections were assessed.
Beckham wound up getting the last laugh. Not only did he set up the Giants’ rookie record in receptions, his 80-yard score in the second half more or less put the game out of reach. Despite continued St. Lous attempts at debauchery, Beckham kept his cool to the tune of 148 yards on eight receptions in a 37-27 Giants win. He and Ogletree would ironically become New York teammates for a single season in 2018.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags