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NFC champions keep spotlight on The Big Apple
Posted: Monday January 15, 2001 11:21 AM
After winning the NFC, Jim Fassel and the Giants look to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. AP
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If there's a karma factor to Super Bowl XXXV at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, give the early edge to the NFC champion New York Giants.
Why? Let us count the ways.
It was 10 years ago this month that New York won its last Super Bowl.
That, of course, was Super Bowl XXV, against Buffalo. In Tampa. When the potential game-winning field goal try of Bills kicker Scott Norwood sailed wide right, the Giants held on for a 20-19 victory, spawning the first of many Bill Parcells resignations.
The Giants, lest we forget, know Super Bowls. They're 2-0 in the Big Game, having beaten Denver in 1987 at the Rose Bowl. The Ravens? They hadn't even been to the playoffs before this season.
New York is the seventh top NFC seed to advance to the Super Bowl since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990. The previous six all won the Super Bowl.
| Before every playoff game this season, Baltimore tight end Shannon Sharpe has taken to asking the Ravens' defensive coordinator, Marvin Lewis, how many points Sharpe and the offense need to score to win. With Lewis' defense, it's never many.
| || |
And lastly, for you nostalgia buffs out there, we promise a memorable game. A Baltimore-New York league championship game has twice before produced classics. In the first, the Baltimore Colts outlasted the New York Giants in overtime in the 1958 NFL title game. That was the game that made Alan Ameche a household name. In the second, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath attained that same status, guaranteeing and delivering a victory against the favored Colts in Super Bowl III.
We know that makes the cities 1-1 in league title games, but New York won the most recent. Would that make the Giants the hot team in this series? And when you think about Super Bowl XXXV in the coming hype-filled two weeks, think defense, defense, defense. In a postseason dominated by the guys without the ball, New York has the upper hand.
The Giants are coming off Sunday's 41-0 dismantling of Minnesota. Combined with last week's 20-10 conquest of Philadelphia in the divisional round, the Giants have given up just 13 points this postseason. Baltimore has surrendered 16, albeit in three games.
If these playoffs have taught us anything, it's that the best defense prevails. Can anyone who has watched this postseason rule out the possibility of it coming down to a 6-3 battle of kickers? We can't. And won't.
The Giants have at least one clear advantage heading into the Super Bowl. Unlike their next opponent, they proved they can be explosive when they want to be. Against the Vikings. They scored 34 first-half points, hung up a slew of offensive team records and exhibited a true downfield passing game for the first time since Fran Tarkenton was slinging them with an "ny" on his helmet.
And lest anyone think that the Ravens have the Redemption Bowl angle covered with Trent Dilfer, owner Art Modell and Ray Lewis on hand, we give you Giants quarterback Kerry Collins. Rising from the ashes in New York, the one NFL market you figure would eat his self-destructive story for lunch, Collins has re-made a name for himself with his responsible approach to his job and the game.
The Giants are back, folks. And New York is once again in the national spotlight. In a sports calendar year that already gave us our first Subway Series in 44 years, can there be any better karma than that?