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PRO FOOTBALL : Giants Start With Power, End With Championship

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A day after his Giants had won Super Bowl XXV, Bill Parcells spoke of the value of power football.

“I would like to develop an offense that can (run and pass) both,” Parcells said. “But power wins football games. You start with a power base.”

If you are Bill Parcells, you do. His idea of football is to hit the line for four or five yards, then stand around for 45 seconds and hit it again.

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He calls his strategy moving the clock. But what he’s doing is using up as much time as the rules allow without playing.

Parcells puts more emphasis on not playing football than any other coach of the last half century.

And in the end, he was a winner again Sunday, 20-19, when his kicker, Matt Bahr, connected in the fourth quarter and the Buffalo Bills’ kicker, Scott Norwood, missed.

But in the end--after Buffalo had taken a 19-17 lead in the fourth quarter--power didn’t win for the Giants. Jeff Hostetler’s passes did.

Playing catch-up, Hostetler, on third and seven, completed a 17-yard pass to Mark Bavaro to start the winning drive. Then Hostetler moved the Giants into field-goal position with first-down completions of 19 and 13 yards.

Parcells’ personnel can play that kind of football. He already has “an offense that can run and pass both.” But quite obviously, he’d rather run.

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And obviously, he can.

He has a young enough team, moreover, to think of dominating the NFL, or at least the NFC, for the next few years--meaning that we are probably in for a distressingly new kind of role model at the top.

When the San Francisco 49ers dominated football in the 1980s, at least they did it with sparkling pass plays.

An era is over.

The NFC now has its seventh NFL champion in seven years. The Giants have won two of the seven, the 49ers three, Chicago and Washington one apiece.

Except for the Raiders in 1980 and 1983, no AFC team has won the Super Bowl since the Pittsburgh Steelers were the scourge of the ‘70s.

In the best of the 25 Super Bowl games, the AFC’s Bills came close enough, however, to suggest that they can win it all next season.

The Bills, as they proved to the Giants, have it all--the passer in Jim Kelly, the runner in Thurman Thomas and the defense.

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Nor did the Bills tie up in the pressure of their first Super Bowl.

In Parcells’ view, the game was brightly--rather than nervously--performed because both sides were still in the rhythm of playing every Sunday. “When there are two weeks off between games, you’re all ready to play by Wednesday of the second week,” he said. “And that’s four days early.”

Clearly, it wasn’t pressure that broke the AFC champion this time. More than anything else, strangely, it was the wide-open Bills’ predictability.

Instead of throwing the long passes they’re capable of, the Bills stuck with the football that had devastated the Raiders seven days earlier--short passes, for the most part, to crossing receivers.

The Giants were ready for that. Kelly continually was trying to complete six-yard passes into a zone defense that kept five or six defensive players in the six-yard zones. And when Andre Reed dropped some of those passes, the Bills’ usually spectacular fast-break offense stalled.

Kelly was calling his own plays. And in this era, maybe you can’t win Super Bowls that way. Maybe you need a coach signaling in more variety from the sideline--specifically, more long-range passes.

“We played the game we wanted to,” Parcells said.

In football, no team can afford to let an opponent say that.

The Giants’ defense has been something special this season. Parcells, a veteran defensive coach, has created a monster.

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His chief assistant on that side, Bill Belichick, was as ready for fast-striking Buffalo as he was for the Joe Montana 49ers earlier this season. The Giants’ defense was powerful enough to beat the 49ers and Bills twice each, though the Giants lost the regular-season games against San Francisco and Buffalo.

The versatility of the New York defense kept the predictable Bills from running away with Sunday’s game in the first half, when, with leads of 10-3 and 12-3, Buffalo punted three times.

The Giants, confusing Kelly, alternated two- and three-man lines. They varied between five and six defensive backs. They continually patrolled the shallow area behind the scrimmage line where Kelly hoped to find open receivers.

The Giants covered Buffalo’s receivers so closely in the six-yard zones that a New York linebacker, Carl Banks, once clobbered Buffalo’s fastest receiver, Reed, before he could turn up field after a catch.

On a brilliant night of football, the Buffalo defense also attacked Hostetler successfully--for a while. It roughed him up twice in the second quarter, first on a blitz, then on a devastating rush by defensive end Leon Seals after the other defensive end, Bruce Smith, had opened things by taking two Giants out of the play.

At that instant, Hostetler was a groggy quarterback, plainly on the ropes. The Bills needed only one more good hit to get him out.

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The hit never came.

Buffalo’s fans kept waiting for it--but instead, as New York’s blockers protected Hostetler furiously, his head cleared.

Then he got up to win it.

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