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High and Mighty

In one of the best-played Super Bowls in XXV years, the New York Giants used their power game to wear down the Buffalo Bills, who fought back but fell one point short

Posted: Tuesday September 11, 2007 3:15PM; Updated: Tuesday September 11, 2007 4:33PM
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By Paul Zimmerman

This story was originally published in the Feb. 4, 1991 issue of Sports Illustrated.

WIN ONE SUPER BOWL AND you're a winning Super Bowl coach. Win two and you're a genius, a man with a system -- an approach to the game that must be studied and copied. So it is with Bill Parcells, whose New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in a heart-stopper Super Bowl XXV on Sunday, four years after New York had defeated the Denver Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI.

"Power wins football games," Parcells repeated endlessly amidst the postgame locker room turmoil. "Power wins football games."

That philosophy has permeated his approach to the game: Draft big, powerful people to play on both sides of the ball, grind out a rushing game behind a hog-type line (fortified by three tight ends when necessary), stuff the run on defense and, when the other team passes, make sure the routes are short and the receivers are funneled to the linebackers. Big people attacking little people. It's a rather brutal concept, and on Sunday it resulted in a whopping advantage in possession time -- 40:33 to 19:27 -- that left the Bills' defenders groggy and rubber-legged in the Florida humidity at Tampa Stadium.

The Parcells approach is an answer to the new trends, the blue plate specials of 1990, like the run-and-shoot and Buffalo's three-wideout, no-huddle offense. It's a rather quaint reversion to the days before sock 'em gave way to slick 'em. Someone asked Parcells if Super Bowl XXV had vindicated his system. "It's always been vindicated," he said. "It's the new stuff that had something to prove."

This is not meant to take anything away from the Bills, who played with courage and resiliency but were simply worn down by the Giants' meat-grinder attack. New York drives of 11 and 10 plays in the first half and a pair of 14-play possessions in the second, one of which lasted 9:29, sapped the strength of the Buffalo defense. However, as the game moved on to the two-minute warning, the Bills pulled themselves together and forced the Giants to punt from the Buffalo 48. The Bills took over on their own 10 with 2:16 left, and with eight seconds remaining they were on the New York 30, their Scott Norwood was lining up a 47-yard field goal attempt and prayers were being offered on both sidelines.

The kick never had a chance. It started right, but "it wasn't moving, it wasn't being drawn in," said a disconsolate Norwood afterward. The Giants' one-point lead was preserved, but if the kick had been good, well, we would all be writing about Buffalo's no-huddle offense. It was that kind of a game.

"It came down to the last kick, and the Super Bowl is supposed to be played that way," said Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. "If you want to write a Super Bowl script, this is probably what you have to write. It came down to the last kick."

The last-minute, come-from-behind victories by the Baltimore Colts and San Francisco 49ers in the 1971 and '89 Super Bowls, respectively, were tops for thrills. The New York Jets' defeat of the Colts in Super Bowl III in '69 was historic, and the Pittsburgh Steelers' win over the Los Angeles Rams in the '80 game, with its wild swings of momentum, always has been a personal favorite. This one was a game for purists, for people who aren't seduced by cheap scores, for those who like their football served up in rough slabs.

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