WASHINGTON -- After David Meggett's total yardage dipped noticeably last year and he had become almost a missing person in the New York Giants' offense early this season, there were murmurs that the former Towson State star had lost his explosiveness or NFL defenses had caught up with him.
But Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Larry Peccatiello was not fooled.
"I think we'll see a lot of Meggett today. He's still like that proverbial time bomb," Peccatiello said before yesterday's game RFK Stadium.
Peccatiello proved a prophet. Known for kickoff returns and electrifying runs as a third-down specialist in his first four years with the Giants, Meggett found a new way to bedevil the Redskins. His 42-yard pass to wide receiver Mike Sherrard on a halfback option play in the second quarter gave New York a 20-0 cushion, and the Redskins never recovered en route to an embarrassing 41-7 loss.
But the touchdown pass -- Meggett's first since he was a quarterback at Bonds Wilson High in Charleston, S.C. -- had its comic moments as Meggett struggled to get a handle on the ball.
"I could see Sherrard was wide-open and got real excited, but I kept trying to find the seams on the ball," said Meggett.
Said Sherrard: "I was too far downfield to see David. When the play took so long, I figured he had just run with it. But I knew he had the arm. I've seen him throw it 50 yards in practice."
It was a trick play that new Giants coach Dan Reeves, who had completed a similar pass for a touchdown as a Dallas Cowboys halfback against the Green Bay Packers in the 1967 "Ice Bowl," was waiting for the perfect moment to use.
"Everything worked just like we had practiced it 100 times," said Meggett. "On our previous series, I ran the end, and I noticed how quick their corner, Darrell Green, came up to stop it. That set it up perfectly for the pass play."
Reeves was aware of Meggett's passing skills.
"In practice, David completed that same play 15 straight times," Reeves said. "We just needed an opportunity to use it."
Meggett, who had caught only four passes for 43 yards in the first four games, was forced into a more meaningful role after injuries shelved the Giants' two most effective rushers, Rodney Hampton and Jarrod Bunch.
After reserve halfback Lewis Tillman carried the ball 13 times in the first quarter, Reeves gave Meggett the chance to show his versatility. He carried eight times for 36 yards.
Before this season began, Meggett met privately with Reeves, who had replaced Ray Handley after the Giants went 8-8 and 6-10 the previous two seasons. Reeves promised to make better use of the elusive back, but Meggett had heard such talk before.
"A lot of promises to me in the past were made and broken . . . a lot of things said never happened," Meggett said. "But I never felt I was in a position where I had to prove myself. I know I can
compete at this level."
Though he was played lightly by Reeves, Meggett said he had no reason to confront his new boss.
"How could I complain I'm not handling the ball when we won our first three games?" he asked. "This game is still all about winning."
Reminded of the Giants' struggles the past two years, he said: "That wasn't just me. Our whole team was misused. But now things are different . . . a good difference," he said.