Best Super Bowls of all-time – #1 – Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants vrs. Buffalo Bills

21 years later this game is still the standard in which all Super Bowls should be measured against.  Both teams were evenly match, they both had identical 13-3 regular season records.  The Giants were known for a ball control offense and a smash mouth defense.  The Bills were known for their vaunted K-Gun offense and a bend but don’t break defense.  In other words, they were the exact opposites on both sides of the ball which would make for an interesting match-up.

Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants vrs. Buffalo Bills – January 27, 1991, broadcast on ABC, announced by Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf

Lofton made a circus one handed grab off of a tipped pass to set up the Bills first FG

The Giants defense stood tall early and they forced a punt on Jim Kelly and the Bills’ first offensive possession.  The Giants, led by backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler who was filling in for an injured Phil Simms, set their game plan into motion.  They held onto the ball for 6:15 of game time on their first drive.  They went 58 yards on 10 plays, paced by running back Ottis “O.J.” Anderson, and scored on a 28 yard field goal from kicker Matt Bahr.  They ran a balanced offense, running both 5 passing and rushing plays each on the drive.  After the Giants’ scoring drive the Bills decided to put their own gameplan in motion.  Kelly and the Bills responded with a 5 play, 66 yard drive to tie the game.  The biggest play of the drive was a 61 yard pass to receiver James Lofton, which he caught after a defender tipped the ball in the air.  Kicker Scott Norwood made a 23 yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3.  After forcing a punt the Bills went back to work on offense.  Kelly led a 12 play drive in which the team didn’t face one 3rd down play.  It was vintage K-Gun offense that saw Kelly hit 6 passes in a row at one point, including 4 to receiver Andre Reed.  Running back Don Smith capped off the drive by scoring from a yard out to give the Bills a 10-3 lead.

The two teams traded punts and the Giants were pinned back at their own 7 yard line.  Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith sacked Hostetler in the end zone on 2nd down for a safety and gave the Bills a 12-3 lead.  The defenses held for the remainder of the 1st half until the Giants got the ball back at their own 13 yard line with 3:43 left.  The Giants went away from their plodding offensive game plan to quickly move the ball down-field before the half.  Hostetler brought the Giants down the field in the two minute offense and connected with receiver Stephen Baker on a 14 yard TD throw with :25 left in the half to make the score 12-10.

O.J. Anderson paced the Giants' ball control offense

The Giants got the ball back at the beginning of the 3rd quarter and re-employed their ball control offense.  They used 9:29 of clock time on 14 plays to start off the half.  The Giants converted 4 3rd downs on the drive, including a 14 yard pass from Hostetler to receiver Mark Ingram on 3rd and 13.  Ottis Anderson scored from a yard out on the 14th play of the drive to give the Giants the lead at 17-12.  The Bills had to punt on their first possession of the second half and the Giants were in position to distance themselves on the scoreboard.  They drove down to the Bills’ 35 yard line but Bruce Smith tackled Anderson for a 2 yard loss on 4th down and 2 to turn the ball back over to the Bills.  The Bills offense got a second wind after that play and they stormed back down the field on 4 plays, taking the ball 63 yards down the field.  Running back Thurman Thomas went in from 31 yards out on the first play of the 4th quarter to give the Bills a 19-17 lead.

Norwood walks off the field after his possible game winner sailed right of the post

There was one quarter to play and only 2 points separated the two teams.  The game was going as advertised, two teams that were evenly matched going at it, neither team giving an inch.  The Giants went back to work with their ball control offense on the very next drive.  The Bills defenders were barely off the field, after the offense only ran 4 plays before scoring.  The Giants took 7:32 off of the clock on the 14 plays they ran on the next drive.  Tight end Mark Bavaro caught 7 balls on the drive and the Giants drove the ball down all the way to the Bills 3 yard line.  Hostetler’s 3rd and goal pass was broken up by Bills linebacker Cornelius Bennett and the Bills held the Giants to a field goal.  Bahr kicked the 20 yard field goal to give the Giants a 20-19 lead.  The Bills were forced to punt on their next drive but they pinned the Giants deep in their own territory.  When the Giants couldn’t convert a 1st down they punted the ball back to the Bills with 2:16 left on the clock.  The Bills led an unorthodox two-minute drive filled with scrambles by Kelly (he was not known for his legs) and draw plays to Thomas.  The Bills ran a draw to Thomas with 29 seconds left on the clock at the Giants 40 yard line.  Thomas gained 11 yards but Giants cornerback Mark Collins tackled Thomas before he could get out of bounds.  This forced the Bills to get up and spike the ball at the line as they had no timeouts.  Kelly spiked the ball with about :08 left but the tackle by Collins cost the Bills about :10 of clock time which would have been enough time to run one more play.  Instead they called on kicker Scott Norwood to kick a game winning 47 yard field goal with :08 left.  Norwood was not a great long range kicker and there was a breeze in the outdoor stadium in Tampa.  Norwood’s kick had the distance but it sailed wide right and the Giants celebrate as Super Bowl Champions as Norwood and the Bills walked off the field in disappointment.

Final Score:  New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

With the exception of Norwood you could argue that everyone had a good game.  It was the most efficient Super Bowl ever played.  Kelly finished 18 of 30 for 212 yards and no interceptions.  Hostetler finished 20 of 32 for 222 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.  Thomas had 135 yards rushing, 190 yards of total offense and a touchdown.  Anderson finished with 102 yards and a touchdown.  Neither team turned the ball over, the first time that has ever happened in the Super Bowl (Rams vrs. Titans was the 2nd and only other time).  The thing I love the most about this game was that it ended on a mistake.  Too often we hear about guys like Brady, Montana, Rice, Bradshaw and an almost un-humanlike element to them.  The truth is athletes are humans just like the rest of us.  They are the best the same way the world’s best heart surgeon is the best in the world at what he does – natural talent and the drive to be the best.  Some people don’t have that combination, some do.  Scott Norwood missed the field goal, not because he was a bad kicker but because he’s human.  That’s the way the ball falls sometimes.  It doesn’t make a guy like Norwood any better or worse of a person but things like this is what makes sports so great – the unpredictability.  The possibility that you could succeed or you could fail at any given moment.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

One Response to Best Super Bowls of all-time – #1 – Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants vrs. Buffalo Bills

  1. Pingback: Random Sunday Sports Thoughts « evonsports

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