n January 1991, I was only five years old. I didn’t quite understand what was going on around me. I didn’t get it when my father and brother were so touched by Whitney Houston’s national anthem. I didn’t get why all the players on the Giants and Bills were wearing yellow armbands. I didn’t understand that in the scope of things, the game I was about to watch meant so little.
However, I was old enough to understand the only two words that mattered to me that night: “Wide Right.”
When Norwood’s kick sailed just outside the uprights into the Tampa Bay night, I knew watch I had just watched. I had watched David slay Goliath. I had watched a team that wasn’t flashy or exciting defeat a team that was supposed to run their opponents into the ground with a high octane offense led by three future Hall of Famers. I had watched 60 minutes of championship football played by the New York Giants.
Fast forward 17 years, and Big Blue is stuck in a time warp that leads them right back to the days when Motown Philly topped the charts and the high top fade was still in style. The Giants are in a Super Bowl that they have no shot of winning against a team that is supposed to make them say uncle faster than you can say “Tom Brady’s ankle looks fine.”
However, if there is anything that I learned back in 1991, it’s that there is a simple formula to beating a much better team, and it happened to be perfected by the same organization that will try to do it again this Sunday night.
The recipe is not as complicated as you would think. It starts with a quarterback who is capable of protecting the ball. A guy who can make just enough plays to keep the chains moving enough to keep the ball out of the clutches of the other teams electrifying offense. In 91, it was Jeff Hostetler, a classic overachiever who took over for Phil Simms late in the season and led the Giants on a Cinderella playoff run. This year, its Eli Manning, who has shook every last doubter off his shoulders to stand up as the “Last Manning Standing.” Are the two similar? Of course, except for one thing: Manning is a hell of a lot better than Hostetler ever was. Manning has the capability to take the game over when need be, like he did in the last minute of the half against the Cowboys. He can torch a defense by spreading the ball around and strike quickly, which was something Hostetler never could even imagine.
Then, you move on to a punishing ground game, starring a pair of runners who would make a defense pay every time they tried to being them to the ground. Guys who could keep that clock running and the keep the first downs piling up on the stat sheet. Back in the early 90’s it was O.J. Anderson and Rookie Rodney Hampton. Now, Brandon Jacobs and rookie Ahmad Bradshaw fill those same shoes.
Next, you have to mix in some tough defense. Defense that will make a potent offense say uncle by hitting all of those high paid skill position players straight in the mouth. The pass rush is the key. Against the almighty Bills, it was LT, Carl Banks and Leonard Marshall. Against the unbeatable Pats, it’s Michael Strahan, Osi Umeniyora, and Justin Tuck. The Giants did a remarkable job of making one of the leagues best offensive lines look silly in beating up on Jim Kelly, just like they seek to do against Brady.
Last but not least, you have to be focused on getting revenge. The Bills had beaten the Giants earlier in the season in a heartbreaker, for more than one reason. After the Giants defense had knocked Jim Kelly out of the game, the Bills returned the favor by breaking Phil Simms’ foot. Kelly would return before the end of the season, but Simms would not. It would be the last of the Giants three losses that season, but it would be the one that would also be the sweetest as they took revenge on the grandest stage of them all.
This year, it seemed that the Giants were just another speed bump in the way of the Patriots quest towards 16-0. In the last week of the season, the Giants had nothing left to play for except pride. Instead of rolling over, they gave the Patriots one of the best fights they saw all season, ultimately coming up just short, as they were on the tail end of 38-35 score. The game bred bad blood between the two teams, as Vince Wilfork tried to poke Jacobs in eye, and Rodney Harrision went as far as the call the Giants dirty.
Much like their 1990 counterparts, these Giants have a chance to go get their revenge on a team that they don’t exactly like. They face great odds, as no one on this earth seems to be giving them much of a chance to even keep up with the Patriots, and Brady, the Football Jesus. However, all they need to do is go into the film room in Giants Stadium for an example of how the heavy favorite can be toppled by the little team that could.