For the silver anniversary Super Bowl, the NFL offers a matchup of opposites, a razzle-dazzle offense against a defense that surrenders points grudgingly.
AFC champion Buffalo is like one of those old AFL teams that scored touchdowns in bunches. The Bills produced 95 points in two playoff games.The NFC champion New York Giants are a reminder of the old NFL teams, where points were often at a premium, allowed infrequently by determined defenses. They
permitted just 16 points in two playoff games.
This, then, is the immovable object against the irresistible force. This is Ray Nitschke, his uniform covered with grass stains and mud, against Darryle Lamonica, firing long pass after long pass downfield. This is the stout defense against the free-wheeling offense. This ought to be fun.
The Giants were almost perfect against Chicago in a 31-3 victory that moved them to the championship game. Then they allowed just one TD against San Francisco and rode five field goals by Matt Bahr to a 15-13 victory.
"We tried to shorten the game a little," Giants coach Bill Parcells said. "Defensively, we had just a one-play lapse. Offensively, we did a good job running."
The Bills glided up and down a snowy field, shellacking Miami 44-34 in the playoff opener, and then embarrassed the Los Angeles Raiders 51-3 in the championship game, scoring almost at will.
Buffalo's offense rides on the rifle passes of golden-armed Jim Kelly, who threw for five TDs in the two playoff games, and running back Thurman Thomas, a 1,000-yard rusher.
New York uses backup Jeff Hostetler at quarterback, getting his first real game action in a seven-year pro career as a replacement for injured Phil Simms, and elderly running back Ottis Anderson, available and ignored by the rest of the league as a Plan B free agent in each of the last two years.
"They keep telling me I can't do it," Hostetler said. "Well, I'm going to the Super Bowl. The defense did a super job to hold San Francisco to that number of points and give us a chance to kick a field goal and win it."
New York's defense revolves around all-pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor, whose recovery of a fumble forced by Erik Howard led to the winning field goal against the 49ers. It was typical for the Giants, who led the NFC in turnovers.
Buffalo answers with Bruce Smith, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. The Bills' defense made its own statement with five interceptions against the Raiders in the AFC title game.
The teams met in the regular season with Buffalo winning 17-13. It was in that game that both quarterbacks were injured, Kelly twisting his knee and Simms spraining his arch.
Kelly returned for the playoffs and has been nothing short of brilliant. The Giants, however, have prospered behind Hostetler, who has won four straight games since Simms went down.