Silver anniversary? This one was solid gold.
Never has a game called the Super Bowl glittered as brightly as it did Sunday night, when the underdog New York Giants cooled down the Buffalo Bills, 20-19, at Tampa Stadium.You want pathos? How about Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood walking off with his head bowed after missing a 47-yard field goal with less than 10 seconds remaining?
You want drama? How about five lead changes in arguably the best beginning-to-end Super Bowl ever played?
You want heroics? How about 34-year-old Ottis Anderson rambling for 102 yards, a touchdown and the MVP award?
You want rising stars? How about quarterback Jeff Hostetler, a quarterback who has collected splinters for most of seven years, but hit 20 of 32 for 222 yards and a TD for the Giants when it mattered most?
You want emotions? How about Giant teammates Steve DeOssie and Everson Walls, both Dallas Cowboys castoffs, weeping tears of happiness together in the locker room for five minutes after the game.
Most of all, do you want distractions? For more than three hours, when this nation needed a break, the Super Bowl provided it.
"America," said Giants linebacker Pepper Johnson, "needed this."
There have been more impressive champions than these Giants. There have been champions with more wallop, with more pizazz. There have been Super Bowl games without the suspense. But has there ever been a better story than these Giants?
"This is a great story," said Leonard Marshall. "We've got guys like L.T. (Lawrence), and O.J. Anderson and myself. We've got a new quarterback. We weren't supposed to even be here. All week, we've been hearing how bad we were going to get beat."
"In 1987, we were supposed to win," Johnson said. "This time, it's a Cinderella story. It's Villanova-Georgetown. It's like the Muhammad Ali tape you get when you buy Sports Illustrated, when he says he's going to shake the world. Well, we shook the world."
At least, they shook New York state, where the city - along with neighboring New Jersey - still trumps the upstate area.
By one point, it turns out.
The Bills tried to change that, driving 71 yards in thefinal 2:16 to reach the New York 29. But Norwood's kick drifted right.
"You don't get a second chance in that situation," Norwood said. "What more can I tell you? I let a lot of people down."
Norwood can't shoulder all of the blame. The Bills' defensive line was dominated by the Giants - star defensive end Bruce Smith had only three tackles - and the Buffalo play-calling was at times mysterious.
Although the Giants opened in an unusual two-man line - with four linebackers and five defensive backs - the Bills tried to pass. They threw on 21 of 34 first-half plays. Thurman Thomas (who would average nine yards a carry and gain 135 yards on 15 tries) carried only nine times. Once, on a third-and-one when the Giants stayed with two defensive linemen, Kelly passed. It was incomplete.
"Basically, we played with L.T. (Lawrence Taylor) and I as defensive ends," Johnson said. "It was a good plan."
The Bills couldn't figure out third down. They converted only one of eight.
"We did everything the opposite of what we did to get here," center Kent Hull said. "We usually execute on offense, and we stop people on defense."
The Giants, on the other hand, looked a lot like they normally do. They controlled the ball and they pounded people on defense.
Still, it was a classic game where the lead constantly changed hands.
New York started with its plodding attack, driving 57 yards to set up Matt Bahr's 28-yard field goal. Buffalo then seemed to take over the game. James Lofton caught a 61-yard pass deflected by defensive back Perry Williams' right hand. That set up Norwood's tying 23-yard field goal.
After that, the Bills drove 80 yards for a touchdown. Kelly was six-of-six. Don Smith scored the touchdown from the 1.
The Bills added a safety, when Smith sacked Hostetler, and had two more possessions to pad the lead. Both drives bogged down. That gave Hostetler a chance to rally his team before the half. Hostetler threw a touchdown pass to Stephan Baker.
The key drive came as the third period began. The Giants kept the ball nine minutes and 29 seconds - the most time-consuming drive in Super Bowl history - before Anderson scored on a one-yard run.
The Giants had a chance to pad their lead but it didn't happen. That left the door open for the Bills. They marched 63 yards on four plays, including Thomas' run for 31 and a score.
Again, the Bills' defense couldn't handle the Giants. They marched 74 yards in 14 plays, seemingly covering one blade of grass at a time, until Bahr kicked a 21-yard field goal.
It almost wasn't enough.
"A classic," said Buffalo's Ray Bentley of the game. "The ebb and flow was incredible."
"There may never be another game like this," Johnson said. "There hasn't been a Super Bowl like it. But when you get the best from the AFC and the best from the NFC, the game should be like this."