From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, February 4, 1991
WIN ONE SUPER BOWL AND YOU'RE A WINNING SUPER BOWL COACH. WIN TWO and you're a genius. So it is with Bill Parcells, whose Giants beat the Bills 20--19 in a heart-stopping Super Bowl XXV, four years after New York won Super Bowl XXI. "Power wins football games," Parcells repeated endlessly amid 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, 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.
Despite the vicious hitting, Super Bowl XXV was cleanly played, with few penalties (66 yards all told) and no turnovers. It was also gripping, with the outcome in the balance right up until the Bills, eight-point favorites, mounted a final drive and put fate on the foot of their kicker.
The game highlighted two power runners, New York's O.J. Anderson, who was voted MVP for his 102 yards on 21 carries, and Buffalo's Thurman Thomas, who should have won the award on the strength of his 135 yards on 15 carries, plus five catches for 55 more yards. Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly's numbers were presentable—18 completions in 30 attempts for 212 yards—and he showed great tenacity in bringing the Bills back in the waning moments. But if there had been an MVP award for courage, it would have gone to the Giants' QB, Jeff Hostetler, who was whacked unmercifully by Buffalo pass rushers in the first half yet finished 20 of 32 for 222 yards. He was hit especially hard in the early going, and he later admitted that much of the first half was "kind of a blur."
Parcells, though, couldn't have designed his offense any better. The grinding attack ate up the clock, and if it didn't exactly keep the Bills' no-huddle offense off the field, it at least delayed its entry and gave it a sense of urgency, a feeling that it had to score right away.
On Buffalo's fifth offensive play, with the Giants leading 3--0, Kelly threw a 61-yarder deep down the left side to James Lofton that cornerback Perry Williams tipped and Lofton caught. It set up a field goal that tied the score.
Kelly worked receiver Andre Reed to death, aiming 11 of his 21 first-half passes his way, six of them on crossing routes in which Reed got hammered. Reed caught seven balls early on, but by intermission he was dropping passes. In the second half he was essentially a nonfactor. "No other team ever hit me this hard," said Reed afterward. "They bruised up my whole body."
Though the Giants' varied defense—as orchestrated by coordinator Bill Belichick—prevented Buffalo from converting a third down until late in the fourth quarter, the Bills held a 12--10 advantage at the half. In the third quarter Anderson capped a nearly 10-minute, 75-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 17--12 lead. Buffalo went ahead 19--17 on Thomas's 31-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter, but the Giants answered with a 14-play, 74-yard drive, which ended with Matt Bahr's 21-yard field goal.
The Bills' last gasp began when they took over on their own 10 with 2:16 left. By the time the clock read 0:08, they were on the New York 30, their kicker 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, and the Giants' one-point lead was preserved.