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  "Wide Right" Nightmare - by Rick Anderson

There he stood, waiting for the snap. Hundreds of millions were watching across the globe. In the Tampa Stadium, 73,813 fans were holding their breaths in silence. The ball was snapped and Scott Norwood made his approach to what was going to be the most famous field goal attempt in history.

The ball was caught and put down properly by holder Frank Reich and the stage was set. Norwood kicked the ball and followed through, watching the ball sail into the air and towards the goal posts. For eternity, the ball inched closer and closer to the posts, and it appeared to be starting the usual curve that would make it good. When the ball was just about to reach the posts, it straightened out and........

There wasn't the usual two week break before the Super Bowl during the 1990 season. After the Bills won the AFC title by blasting the Los Angeles Raiders 51-3, they had only the one week to prepare for the most glorified championship game of all sports. Being their first trip to the Big Dance, they were in awe of the spectacle of the Super Bowl and may have partied a little too much. The New York Giants were the NFC champs and the Bills were actually favored in this one. Their "No Huddle Attack" was the main weapon that the Giants had to neutralize. Giant Coach Bill Parcells worked overtime during the Super Bowl week to devise some kind of plan to stop the Bills overpowering offense. As it turned out, Parcells game plan worked to perfection.

With the Bills trailing by a single point and the clock running out, the Bills tried in desperation to come back into field goal range. The Bills got the ball with 2:16 remaining on their own 10.

"We knew we had one timeout left," quarterback Jim Kelly said. "We came out and I told the guys, ‘Hey, this is what champions are made of. Let's play like it: let's be one."

"I had to run the ball a couple times and I didn't want to, but our goal was to get to the 30. We got there and it wasn't meant to be."

Thurman Thomas battled for 11 yards and got to the Giant 29 with only 40 seconds remaining. Kelly then failed to hit receiver Andre Reed and the Bills had to line up for a field goal with only four seconds remaining.

....and the kick is up and it is.........WIDE RIGHT! The Giants beat the Bills 20-19 in the closest and most exciting Super Bowl in history.

Holder and reserve quarterback Frank Reich said, "He absolutely crushed the ball. That kick probably would have been good from about 55 to 58 yards. I'm sure he was thinking it was probably going to come in a little bit. But it just stayed straight. Usually, with a soccer-style kicker, you plan on the ball coming in a little bit."

For the Giants to beat the Bills vaulted No Huddle, Parcells devised a plan of ball control and limiting the time the Bills had the ball. Ball control was the name of the game and the Giants offense had the ball for 40 minutes, and 33 seconds in this Super Bowl XXV. This broke a record for time of possession in the SB. For a period of 13 straight minutes, beginning near the end of the first half and continuing into the second half for 9 ˝ minutes, the Giants rammed the ball down the Bills throats. If you include the 25-minutes for halftime, the Bills offense didn't take the field for a stretch of over an hour.

"Our whole plan was to try to shorten the game for Buffalo," Parcells said after the game. "We wanted the ball and we didn't want them to have it. That was our whole plan. I thought if we did that, we'd have a shot to win and we did."

With 3:49 remaining in the first half, the Giants put on a dominating and relenting offensive performance that crushed the Bills. On the Giants four possessions starting at this point, they rushed for 259 yards and scored 17 points. So, with 3:49 remaining in the first half , and the Giants down 12-3, they started a drive that would put Buffalo to a slow death. The Giants had the ball on their own 13 and in just four plays, the Giants moved the ball downfield 62 yards. This included a 18-yard run by Otis Anderson. Jeff Hostler passed to Stephen Baker at the end of the drive for 14 yards and a TD.

"As the game progressed, the Giants' strategy kept looking more and more effective," Kelly said. "Their best offense was also their best defense; they just stuck to the idea of running the ball down our throats all night and they never gave us a chance to score. When we finally did set foot on the field, it was with too much of a sense of urgency and we didn't execute as well as we were capable of. Moving fast in the no-huddle is one thing, but when you become as reckless as we were starting to become, you're not going anywhere. I was so caught up in trying to get us a fast score, I forgot to work the right combination of pass and run plays that kept defenses off balance and had gotten us to Tampa in the first place. I just kept looking for the home-run ball, and that's usually when a quarterback begins hurting his performance."

At the start of the second half, New York received the ball and didn't kick it back to Buffalo until they had run 9 ˝ minutes off the clock and scored a touchdown.

"We told ourselves we had to make plays to keep our defense off the field and to just keep going at them," Baker said. "We did a great job of mixing up the run and the pass. And once we established that running game, it was real hard for them to stop the clock. We ate that up pretty good."

"Counting what they used on the scoring drive just before intermission, I had spent a grand total of 12:58 watching from the sidelines—and a hell of a lot longer doing nothing when you factored in the extra time for Disney's big halftime show," Kelly said in his book Armed and Dangerous.

"It was torture," Kelly continued. "I mean, I had to start throwing passes on the sidelines just to keep my arm from getting stiff."

Giants running back Ottis Anderson got the Pete Rozelle Award as the game's MVP. He ran for 102 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown. Jeff Hostetler also played a major role at quarterback for the Giants. He hit on 20 of his 32 passes for 222 yards.

With the Giants up 17-12 and driving again, Bruce Smith caught Anderson for a loss when the Giants were gambling on a fourth down and two. When the Bills took over, they scored in just four plays as Thomas zipped up the right side, broke a tackle and rambled 31 yards for a touchdown. Thomas ended the game with 135 yards on 15 rushes. He also caught 5 passes for 55 yards.

 The Giants drove down to the Bills three yard line, but couldn't ram it in. So Matt Bahr connected for his second field goal of the game to finish off the scoring of the game at 20-19.

Bahr had opened the scoring in this exciting contest when he drilled a 28-yarder on the Giants opening series to make it 3-0. The Bills came back when James Lofton caught a long bomb from Kelly after Perry Williams deflected the pass. Lofton turned the play into a 61-yard gainer and was brought down at the New York 8 yard line. However, the Giants defense stiffened and Norwood had to kick a 23-yarder to tie it up.

When the Bills got the ball again, they drove 80 yards on 12 plays to take the lead. Andre Reed made 4 grabs fro 44 yards and Don Smith punched it in from the one yard line and the Bills had a 10-3 lead. Bruce Smith tackled Hostetler for a safety in the end zone when he tripped over Anderson, and the Bills had the biggest lead in the game when they led 12-3.

But that's when the Giants ball control game took over. The Bills never saw the ball again for another hour.

When the Bills had the ball on their own 10 yard line with 2:16 left to go, it looked promising. As the Bills were the 2-minute drill champions, this should be a piece of cake. Jim Kelly was a master of running the no-huddle and chipping away at the yardage, moving the club down the field. But this was going to be a different scenario. The Bills didn't run the clock as efficiently as they had all season. Kelly wasted time by running a couple of times when he should have thrown the ball away. Three times Kelly decided to run with the ball when the Giants had receivers covered. After Kelly ran for 8 yards, the Bills had to use their final time out with 48 seconds remaining. Thomas then ran the ball to the Giants 29 and Kelly, with only 8 seconds remaining, had to spike the ball to stop the clock. The Giants called a timeout to make Norwood think a little more about the importance of his next kick.

"During the time out, I was flooding my mind with positive thoughts," Norwood reflected. "I don't back away from that type of kick. It's something I've done all my career."

And now there stood Norwood, awaiting his fate. It was a fate that would haunt him for the rest of his days. When he kicked it, he stood there watching the ball sail towards the goal posts. When it missed by two feet to the right, Norwood's head dropped like a lead balloon.

"I knew it was a long kick. I may have tried to emphasize a little too much getting lot of leg into it," Scott said after the game. "I'm sure it will never got to a point where I'll ever forget it."

"In my thinking, I may have put a little bit too much emphasis on striking the ball good and hard, and may have taken a little bit away from my follow-through and bringing the ball in from that upright. It just stayed out right. I did hit it good and solid. But I didn't get my draw on it. Maybe a bit more of a follow-through would have helped that kick. But unfortunately, you don't get two swings of the leg. You don't get a second chance in that situation."

 


Bills Backers United is a combined effort between the Bills Backers International Chapters located in Willow Grove PA, Laurel MD, Phoenix AZ, and Virginia Beach VA.

Copyright ©2001 Rick Anderson