The Super Bowl is just 27 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 27 years ago to honor this not-that-significant occasion!
Tampa Bay hosted Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991. The game pitted the NFC champion New York Giants against the Buffalo Bills of the American Football Conference. The United States was at war while this game was being played. President Bush launched an attack on Iraq for invading the small nation of Kuwait. There was an air of patriotism at the stadium for the big game not seen heretofore.
New York Giants 27 Years Ago
The game itself was tremendous and featured two teams with totally different styles. The Giants ran a very simple, yet effective run-first offense. Phil Simms was a good quarterback and a great leader. In 1990, Simms was having his best season until…he was injured in game 15 of the regular season. He was replaced by Jeff Hostetler. The Giants’ rushing attack was powered by veteran Ottis Anderson and youngster Rodney Hampton until…Hampton was injured in the divisional round of the playoffs. Thus, the Giants came into the Super Bowl undermanned on offense.
There simply is no secret to the 1990 Giants’ success. The Head Coach was Bill Parcells and the defensive coordinator was Bill Belichick. Their defense was marvelous. Lawrence Taylor had another great season with 10.5 sacks and linebacker Pepper Johnson was a first team All-pro. They anchored the top-ranked defense in the NFL. The defense paved the way to a 10-0 start to the campaign. After dismantling the Chicago Bears in the playoffs, it was time for the Giants’ defense to match up against the San Francisco offense. Yes, Montana, Rice and the gang were firing on all cylinders heading into the NFC championship game.
But, New York felt confident. They lost to the 49ers during the regular season. However, the final score was 7-3. They got after Montana all night in that Monday road game. That same formula worked against the Niners in the championship game. New York gave up only one big play. Then, they kept chipping away with field goals. Leonard Marshall also walloped Montana knocking him out for the game.
Trailing 13-12 late in the fourth, Erik Howard forced a Roger Craig fumble. Matt Bahr kicked a 41-yard game winner at the buzzer and TV commentator Pat Summerall announced, “There will be no three-peat.”
Buffalo Bills 27 Years Ago
The Bills came into Super Bowl XXV flying high. Marv Levy’s team was decent defensively. They had two superstars on that side of the ball: Bruce Smith and Cornelius Bennett. Smith especially had a superb 1990 campaign.
As the Giants were extraordinary on defense, the Bills were that way on offense. Jim Kelly led the K-gun attack to a team record amount of points. This was not just a no-huddle offense. This was a hurry up offense. And, on days they could not be stopped, Buffalo was able to pour it on.
They had a future Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas that could do everything well. They also played two future Hall of Fame wide receivers, Andre Reed and James Lofton. Lofton was a tremendous deep threat and Reed was one of the best yards-after-catch guys ever to play. Fully loaded, the Bills rampaged through the 1990 regular season. Then, they scored 95 points in their two playoff games. In the AFC championship game, Buffalo annihilated the Raiders 51-3 giving Buffalo its first championship team in 25 years.
Giants Control Ball
After a scintillating rendition of the National Anthem by Whitney Houston, the Giants and Bills’ contrasting styles were put on full display. Buffalo was able to move the ball. But, they were punished physically in the process. Reed, for example, caught eight passes. They went for only 62 yards as Giants’ defensive backs were everywhere hitting everything. Belichick’s scheme was simple: make the Bills run the football. When Buffalo accepted the invitation, Thomas made plays. When they opted to throw the ball, they paid the price.
Nevertheless, Buffalo led 12-3 when Bruce Smith tackled a falling Hostetler in the end zone for a safety. “Hoss” was heroic in leading his team back, however.
The Giants possessed the ball for an obscene 17 minutes on two touchdown scoring drives spanning the second and third quarters. They converted one tough third down after another, putting Bills’ defenders on the brink of exhaustion. Anderson, now in his 12th season, ran like war tank punishing second -level stoppers like Mark Kelso and Darryl Talley in the process.
Heading into the 4th quarter, NY led 17-12. That quarter, the public caught a glimpse of the heart of the team from Buffalo. A heart that would define their legacy in that era. Indeed, on the first play of the final frame, Thomas ran through a large hole, ran over Mark Collins, received a fine block from Reed and was free. The dynamic run gave the Bills a 19-17 lead.
The Giants came back with another time-consuming drive. They finished the night with over 40 minutes of time of possession. Parcells’ strategy to upend the six-point favorites was master class.
The Bills, though, had one final shot and drove to New York’s thirty with eight seconds left. Thomas had two more big runs finishing with 15 carries for 135 yards. Quiet Scott Norwood came on the field to attempt a 47-yard field goal. The kick had the distance, but was wide right. The Giants were World Champions for the second time in five seasons!
The heartbroken Bills limped off the field glazy-eyed. They would be back and back again and back some more. But, in their next three Super Bowl appearances, they would be the clear underdog.
Bill Parcells left the Giants after the 1990 season. Hence, they took a huge step back in 1991. But, as an organization, New York would get back to the Super Bowl. On one such occasion, they would pull off an upset of even grander proportions!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills