TAMPA, Fla. -- The Silver Anniversary Super Bowl turned out to be a gem of a game.
As 73,813 fans at Tampa Stadium and millions more watching on television around the world held their breath, Scott Norwood of the Buffalo Bills lined up to try a 47-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining and the New York Giants holding a 20-19 lead.
Norwood's kick was wide right with four seconds left, as photographers and players rushed onto the field.
All that was left was to clear the field for the final snap before the Giants danced off with their second Super Bowl victory in the past five seasons.
"I realized a long time ago that God's playing in some of these games. He was on our side today," an emotionally drained coach Bill Parcells of the Giants said after the game.
With a backup quarterback in Jeff Hostetler, who was dazed twice, but not knocked out, and a veteran running back in Ottis Anderson, who won the Most Valuable Player award, the Giants controlled the clock for 40 minutes, 33 seconds to set the tempo throughout the game.
It was the seventh straight Super Bowl won by the National Football Conference and the second in the past three seasons to go down to the final minute of play.
Although six of the previous seven Super Bowls had been blowouts, it wasn't surprising it was a close game. Close games are the Giants' style. They're rarely blown out because of their tough defense and they rarely blow out other teams with their plodding, conservative offense. They play the clock more than the opposition.
The game was played against a backdrop of concern about security. Because of the Persian Gulf war, there were fears that it might have to be postponed a week if there were new developments in the war.
Instead, the game was played without incident, although there were long lines getting the stadium under tight security, and ABC-TV was able to show the entire game, limiting its war updates to after the first three quarters.
The Giants were seven-point underdogs because the oddsmakers were mesmerized when the Bills rang up 95 points with their no-huddle offense in the first two playoff games.
But the Giants countered the no-huddle with a two-man defensive line that allowed the Bills to make just one third-down conversion in eight attempts.
It was the second straight week that the Giants' season hung in the balance on a late field-goal try. Last week, Matt Bahr made a 42-yarder on the final play of the game to give the Giants a 15-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
This time, Norwood missed what would have been a 47-yard game-winner and a chance to duplicate Jim O'Brien's 32-yard kick with five seconds left that won Super Bowl V, 16-13, for the Baltimore Colts over the Dallas Cowboys.
That was dubbed the Blooper Bowl because there were 11 turnovers. In this game, there wasn't one turnover. It was well-played by both sides.
Quarterback Jim Kelly of the Bills, who was out-passed by Hostetler, 222 yards to 212, said, "It just wasn't meant to be. What else can I say?"
The game can down to the Bills' inability to stop the Giants from running the ball. They got 172 yards in 39 carries, including 102 yards in 21 carries by Anderson.
"We expected to stop them. We didn't," linebacker Shane Conlan said. The Bills didn't point any fingers at Norwood. He's an accurate kicker, but not a long-range kicker. The longest of his career was a 49-yarder and he'd never made one from 47 yards on grass.
"Everybody's entitled to a bad snap," linebacker Darryl Talley said. "He had one today."
Norwood said he tried to put too much into the kick because it was a long one.
"I wanted to hit a strong one," he said. "I'd do something different if I'd gotten a chance to do it again. You don't get a second chance. There are no guarantees out there.
"I'll never get to the point where I'll totally forget it."
There's such a glare of spotlight in the Super Bowl that Norwood is destined to become another Jackie Smith, the tight end who is remembered for his drop in Super Bowl XIII for the Dallas Cowboys even though he had a distinguished career with the St. Louis Cardinals.
It wasn't the missed kick, but that the Giants proved that old- fashioned football -- running and playing tough defense -- still wins that decided the game.
"They call us predictable and conservative, but I know one thing and I've coached this game a long time: Power wins football games," Parcells said. "It's not always the fanciest way, but it can win games."
Cornerback Everson Walls said: "All the critics had us as underdogs. It just feels great to shove it down everyone's throat."
Linebacker Lawrence Taylor said the Giants set the tone when they stopped the Bills without a first down with their no-huddle on the first possession.
The Giants then took the lead, 3-0, on Matt Bahr's 28-yard field goal. But the Bills charged back to get a 12-3 lead on a 23-yard Norwood field goal, an 80-yard touchdown drive and a safety when Hostetler tripped over Anderson in the end zone and Bruce Smith got credit for the safety.
At this point in the second quarter, when the Giants failed to get a first down on three straight possessions and Hostetler was taking a pounding, the Bills could have landed a knockout punch.
But the Giants defense held, and they put together an 87-yard touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter to cut the deficit to 12-10.
Since the Giants had trailed the Broncos, 10-9, in Super Bowl XXI and won in a blowout, Parcells had a simple message for the team at halftime.
"I told them basically I was at a Super Bowl five [four] years ago and some of you guys were with me and we were in the exact same situation as we are know," Parcells said. "I told them the first drive of the third quarter was the most important of the game. We had to do something with it. And we held the ball for 10 minutes and stuck it in the end zone."
Their 9:29 drive was the longest in Super Bowl history and gave them a 17-12 lead. The Bills came back to take the lead, 19-17, on Thurman Thomas' 31-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth period.
The Giants, though, went ahead, 20-19, with 7:40 left on Bahr's 21-yard field goal.
On the Bills' next drive, they got only one first down and had to punt. By the time they got the ball back, there was only 2:16 left and the Bills were on their 10.
This is the way it should have ended: the Bills' no-huddle against the Giants' defense.
Strength against strength.
Leonard Marshall said: "Nobody scores a lot of points against our defense. We try to play consistent defense. We may miss a few, but we try to play solid defense."
The Bills came close, getting to the Giants' 29 with eight seconds left when Kelly downed the ball to kill the clock.
That meant Norwood had to try a 47-yarder. He said it might have been different if it had been a 40 or 42-yarder.
"I feel for Scott," Bahr said. "I really do. A 47-yard field goal is a tough kick under any situation."
Norwood didn't make it, and the Giants had their second Super (( Bowl win.
Parcells was savoring it after the game.
He said: "I'll tell you, it doesn't get any better than this. Winning is better than anything. I mean it is better than anything I know. I guess you have to be one of those narrow-minded guys like me to feel that way, but I genuinely do. I just thank God. I don't know why he chose to bless Bill Parcells like He did, but He did it."
The Super Bowl games that were undecided until the finaminute:
* Super Bowl V -- Jim O'Brien kicked a 32-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to give the Baltimore Colts a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
* Super Bowl X -- Glen Edwards intercepted a pass from Roger Staubach on third-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 38 on the final play of the game to preserve a 21-17 victory over the Cowboys.
* Super Bowl XIII -- Rocky Bleier recovered an onside kick with 22 seconds left to preserve Pittsburgh's 35-31 victory over the Cowboys.
* Super Bowl XXIII -- Joe Montana threw a 10-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left to give the San Francisco 49ers a 20-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
* Super Bowl XXV -- Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field-goal try with four seconds left, preserving the New York Giants' 20-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills.