Twenty-three years ago Monday, the Giants pulled off one of the bigger upsets in Super Bowl history, defeating the Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV in Tampa.
Underdogs of around a touchdown, the Giants overcame a 12-3 second-quarter deficit and escaped with their second Super Bowl win in franchise history when the Bills’ Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired.
Twenty-three years is a football eternity, but there’s a timeless quality to the Giants’ victory. Here are five teaching points all Super Bowl teams, including the Seahawks and Broncos, can take from Big Blue’s masterful victory:
1. Winning on third down can make the difference in the world. In victory, the Giants converted 9 of 16 third downs, and they were six of six on third downs on both of their touchdown drives. Their all-important first touchdown of the game — Jeff Hostetler’s 14-yard strike to Stephen Baker near the end of the first half — came on a 3rd-and-10 play. By contrast, the Bills were just 1-of-8 on third downs.
2. Special teams can play a major role in victory. The Giants made both field-goal attempts against Buffalo. What’s more, the Bills started their final drive of the game from their 10-yard line after Sean Landeta’s 38-yard punt was fair-caught. If the Bills were to start at the 20 after a touchback and Norwood's game-winning attempt is from 37 yards . . . well, maybe we're not having this conversation. Every yard counts in the Super Bowl.
3. Limiting big plays — and the impact of those big plays — is key. The Bills’ longest gain of Super Bowl XXV— a 61-yard pass play from Jim Kelly to James Lofton — hit off of the hands of cornerback Perry Williams and deflected into the receiver’s arms. However, the Giants would rally and hold Buffalo to just a field goal. Take out Lofton’s big gain and Kelly was held to 17-of-29 passing for 151 yards.
4. Limiting mistakes — and the impact of those mistakes — is essential. The Giants didn’t commit a turnover, and they were penalized five times for a mere 31 yards. This is not to say the Giants played a perfect game. For instance, a second-quarter holding penalty on center Bart Oates knocked the Giants back to their own seven-yard line. Then, on the next play, quarterback Jeff Hostetler tripped on a passing play and was sacked for a safety, giving Buffalo a 12-3 lead. All things considered, it was a horrible two-play sequence. However, the Giants would bounce back to force a three-and-out on the Bills’ next series, which helped stem the tide.
5. The Super Bowl is just a moment in time, and a quick return to the game is far from assured. Less than four months after helping lead the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XXV, coach Bill Parcells resigned. The Giants wouldn’t return to the Super Bowl for 17 years.