The New York Giants defense made a bold move to open Super Bowl XXV. New York played most of the first half with a two-man defensive line, three linebackers and six defensive backs. The intention was to tempt the Bills to run as a way of shortening the game and to maintain an umbrella of coverage against the Bills' potent pass offense.
The game plan worked to perfection, thanks also to the Giants' ability to hold the ball on offense. New York held a time of possession advantage of 10:09 to 4:51 in the first quarter.
Key plays: Matt Bahr kicked a 28-yard field goal to give New York a 3-0 lead. Buffalo answered with a 23-yard Scott Norwood kick, set up by a 61-yard pass to James Lofton. Lofton beat Perry Williams down the sideline and might have scored if the pass hadn't been slightly underthrown.
Deja vu: The Giants were executing the same kind of ball-control plan as the week before against two-time defending champion San Francisco. New York held a possession edge of 38:59 to 21:01 against the Niners, who ranked No. 2 on offense. (Buffalo ranked sixth.)
The safety that could have been a touchdown highlighted the second quarter for the Bills.
Buffalo had the Giants backed up in their own end after a good Rick Tuten punt. On second and 10 from their own 7, Jeff Hostetler dropped back to pass and tripped on the heel of Ottis Anderson, who was stepping up to block a Bills blitzer. Just as Hostetler regained his balance in the end zone, Bruce Smith swooped around left tackle and grabbed the QB's right wrist. Somehow, Hostetler cradled the ball and was tackled for a safety. The Bills were up 12-3, but it could have been 17-3.
Key plays: Don Smith's 1-yard run capped an 80-yard drive and put the Bills up, 7-3. ... Hostetler was knocked woozy on a wicked hit by Bills defensive end Leon Seals, which forced a third-down incompletion with 6:25 left. But he responded with a 10-play, 87-yard drive. Hostetler beat a blitz and hit Stephen Baker on a post-corner route for a 14-yard TD with 25 seconds left.
Second guess: The Bills were too pass-heavy early, calling 21 passes and 12 runs in the first half (not counting a kneel-down).
Given the slip
One of the big plays of the game came midway through the third quarter. The Giants faced third and 13 from the Buffalo 32. Jeff Hostetler passed over the middle to Mark Ingram at the Bills 25. He eluded Kirby Jackson. Darryl Talley had him lined up but Ingram spun out of the tackle. Mark Kelso missed him. J.D. Williams only managed to get a piece of his foot. Ingram lunged to the Bills' 18. First down.
The Giants went 75 yards in 14 plays and ate up 9:29 to open the second half. Ottis Anderson capped the march with a 1-yard run to put New York ahead, 17-12.
Key plays: Bruce Smith stuffed Anderson for a 2-yard loss on fourth and 2 from the Bills' 35 with 1:19 left.
Third-down woes: New York converted four third downs on the drive and went 9 of 16 on third downs for the game. Buffalo's defense ranked eighth in yards allowed but was only tied for 19th on third downs during the year, allowing foes to convert 42.8 percent.
Scott Norwood did not play many games on grass in his career. Nevertheless, he never made a kick of 47 yards or more on natural turf. He was 1 of 5 in his career from 40-plus yards on grass before Super Bowl XXV. He was 37 of 60 (60.6 percent) from 40 to 49 yards for his career. So it was asking a lot for him to make the 47-yarder on grass in Tampa with eight seconds to play.
The Bills might not have needed Norwood if Giants cornerback Everson Walls hadn't made a fine tackle on Thurman Thomas at the Buffalo 41. Thomas ripped off 22 yards on the shotgun draw, and Walls was the last man to beat.
Key plays: Thomas made a great 31-yard run for a touchdown to give the Bills a 19-17 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Giants ate up 7:32 of the fourth quarter on a 74-yard drive to a 21-yard Matt Bahr field goal to go ahead, 20-19. Cornelius Bennett had a bat-down at the line to force the kick.
Unsung hero: Giants offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt had a great game plan two weeks in a row to help New York control the game.