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Early in the game, however, Tomczak, a six-year pro who came into the NFL as a pure free agent, did better than expected. He shocked the Giants with a neat 37-yard pass to wideout Wendell Davis on the game's second play. The Bears would have been in field-goal range three plays later had Anderson not dropped a pass. Dennis Gentry mishandled Tomczak's next throw, and cornerback Mark Collins picked it off and returned it 11 yards to set up a Giants field goal.
So how much did this matter, really, this orgy of strategy? "Look, we've seen plenty of four-man lines," Anderson said afterward. "We've got a veteran line that knows how to block it. It's not so much the formation, it's the athletes they put in those positions."
New York's offensive philosophy was to throw early to take the edge off the Bears defensive linemen and then come back and pound them with the run. The Giants' first TD drive featured the pass, the second was on the ground. O.J. Anderson, showing an amazingly fresh pair of legs for a 33-year-old back with 12 NFL seasons behind him, did most of the work.
The joker in the deck was Hostetler, who had done well in subbing for Phil Simms during the regular season but was an unknown commodity in the pressure-filled playoffs. It was his running, not his throwing, that gave Chicago headaches. He converted two fourth-down plays on bootlegs, scored a TD on another keeper and ended with 43 yards on six carries. He gives New York another element, something the 49ers didn't have to worry about when they beat the Giants and Simms 7-3 last month.
Against the Bears, the big advantage New York had was an extra week to prepare for the game, a result of the new playoff formula that awards byes to the two division champions in each conference with the best records while the third division champion—in this case, Chicago—and the three wild cards are knocking themselves out. Only one of the four playoff games last weekend, the AFC matchup won by the L.A. Raiders 20-10 over the Cincinnati Bengals, was close until the end—and in all four cases the well-rested home team won. By adding two teams to the playoff mix—in order to put two more games on TV—the NFL had created that most dreaded of conditions: competitive imbalance.
Now the Giants and 49ers, the NFC's two best teams, will meet again to determine the conference's representative in the Super Bowl. New York doesn't have to worry about making exotic defensive changes to stop San Francisco's running game, because the Niners don't have one. Joe Montana is enough to worry about.
"I'm sure Montana's eyes had to light up at the way we were throwing the ball," said Tomczak, who ended up 17 of 36 for 205 yards and was not sacked. "They could play a 10-9 game against the Giants, or it could be 30-3, either way. It's NFL championship football."
Where you dance with whoever's around.