The 1990 Giants: The Story Of Guts, Hard Work, and a Little Bit of Luck

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The 1990 Giants: The Story Of Guts, Hard Work, and a Little Bit of Luck
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Call me crazy, but the 2007 New York Giants are not going down as my favorite Giants team of all time. As much I loved what they accomplished against almost impossible odds, there is another Giants team in history that hasn't gotten the love the 2007 one will.Before there was Eli Manning, there was the miracle that was Jeff Hostetler. I am talking about the 1990 New York Giants

That 1990 Giants team has to go down as one of all-time favorite teams in sports history, never mind just NFL. Led by all-time great Lawrence Taylor and having to go with both quarterbacks Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler, the Giants posted a 13–3 record and went on one of the most underrated and inspired runs in playoff history.

The Giants had strong aspirations for a Super Bowl title prior to the season, as their 1989 season ended in devastating fashion. It was a year that saw the Giants go 12-4 and earn a first-round bye.

They had allowed the least amount of points in the NFL that year and seemed to have the team that could win another Super Bowl. But Flipper Anderson and the L.A. Rams broke their hearts that year with a 19-13 OT win that saw Anderson catch the game winning 30-yard touchdown in the NFC Divisional playoff. It was a punch-to-the-gut loss that only seem to motivate the Giants to get back again next year and go farther.

The start of the 1990 season showed how hungry they were as they started 10-0. In half those games, the Giants defense allowed single-digit points and had a +16 turnover differential.

They weten't the flashiest team on offense, but they got the job done in workman-like fashion. The game that put them at 10-0 was an impressive 20-0 win over the Detroit Lions. They had shut down the run-and-shoot offense of the Lions with an unusual 2-4-5 defense designed by the great Bill Belicheck. After that game, it seemed like the Giants could go the perfect route.

But after the game, the Giants season took a serious turn. They had their undefeated season crushed when they took a serious 31-13 beatdown from their division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles at Philly.

The Eagles broke open a close game by scoring two touchdowns in 22 seconds in the fourth quarter. The game was marked by several scuffles and one of the rare times that the Giants lost their poise.

The Giants would play their second straight tough road game when they were matched up with the defending Superbowl champions, the San Francisco 49ers. Although both teams lost in week 12 to stand at 10–1, their Week 13 matchup was one of the most highly anticipated games in Monday Night Football history.

The 49ers scored the only touchdown of the game in the second quarter on a 23-yard pass from Joe Montana to John Taylor. With four minutes left, they stopped the Giants on four passes from the 49ers' nine-yard line and went on to win, 7-3, after which 49ers safety Ronnie Lott and Giants QB Phil Simms had a heated verbal exchange.

It was one of the best defensive efforts by the Giants all season, as they held Jerry Rice to one catch for 13 yards. This would not be the final time these two teams would meet.

After a win the next week put New York at 11-2, the Giants season seemed to have taken a turn for the worse. In a game played in miserable weather conditions, Simms broke his foot—causing him to miss the remainder of the season—and was replaced by inexperienced backup Jeff Hostetler.

To add insult to injury, the Giants lost the game 17-13 to drop to 11-3. The season that started so perfectly for the Giants now has seemed to spiral downwards. Now if they wanted to avenge the previous year's heartbreak, they would have to do it with the backup Hostetler.

The Giants finished as champions of the NFC East with a 13-3 record. They clinched the No. 2 seed and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs, just like in 1989. They finished the regular season having committed an NFL record-low 14 turnovers, and their defense led the league in points allowed (211).

Their first playoff opponent was the Chicago Bears, and Hostetler was determined to show the NFL and the Giants fans that he had what it takes to win it all. An early goal-line stand by the Big Blue 'D' set the tone, as the Giants defeated the Bears 31–3.

The Giants rushed for 194 yards and dominated the Bears in time of possession; 38 minutes and 22 seconds to 21 minutes and 38 seconds. The Giants were four-for-four on fourth-down plays and converted six of 14 third downs. That is what wins titles.  

The next two games the Giants would play would be among two of the greatest playoff games in NFL history and showed the toughness this Giants team had that made me in awe of them.

First up was a trip to San Francisco to face the defending champion 49ers. I remember the whole week leading up to the game, I felt like the only Giants fan in school. Everyone was in love with the 49ers. It's like they had become "America's New Team."

There were so many homers at my school that it made me so angry how they could be so against a team that's from our own city. I honestly remember being the only Giants fan and had the only hope they could win. Everyone from teachers to students gave me grief,a saying the 49ers were going to kill my Giants. I had never been so pumped for a game in my life. I was only 10 years old, but this was the first time I wanted a team of mine to win so badly.

In a rematch of the MNF 7-3 49ers victory, the teams traded field goals in the first and second quarters to make the score 6–6 at halftime. Less than five minutes into the third quarter, Montana threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor to give the 49ers a 13–6 lead.

A Giants field goal made the score 13–9 at the end of the third quarter. Then came one of the most memorable hits in NFL history.)In the fourth quarter, Leonard Marshall sacked a flushed-out Montana with a square blow between his shoulders and knocked him out of the game (Montana would miss the next season and a half due to injuries sustained from the hit). He would never be the same after that hit.

A fake-punt direct snap to Gary Reasons for a first down lead to another Giants field goal that brought the Giants to within one point at 13–12. But time was running out on the Giants, and Steve Young looked to put them away, as they were trying to run out the clock following a big third-down conversion.

But with just under three minutes left in the game, Erik Howard forced Roger Craig to fumble the ball, and a recovery by Taylor returned possession to the Giants. Sparked by a nifty rollout pass from Hostetler to Mark Bavaro, the Giants drove to the 49ers 25-yard line. With the Giants kicker, Matt Bahr, lining up to kick the winning field goal, I thought to myself, could this Giants team actually do this? Or was this going to be my first real broken heart as a fan and the second straight heartbreak for the G Men?

Bahr would make his fifth field goal at the gun to give the Giants a dramatic, 15-13 victory, and the Giants were going to Super Bowl XXV. I jumped so high that I hit my head on the ceiling. But I did not care because I was the happiest I had ever been. The Giants did the impossible and knocked off the mighty Niners. I really felt like they had won the championship.

But the journey was not over.

What came next was one of the greatest and emotional Super Bowls of all time. The game took place amidst a background of war and patriotism at Tampa Stadium. The Gulf War had just gotten underway, and the nation rallied around the Super Bowl as a symbol of America.

Adding to the patriotism was Whitney Houston's incredible rendition of the national anthem. It was one of the greatest in sports history. There was nothing that can compare. The game lived up to the stirring Anthem, as it went down as the most competitive Super Bowl ever.

The Giants got off to a quick 3–0 lead. But the Bills scored the next 12 points on a field goal, a touchdown, and a safety after Hostetler was sacked in the end zone by Bruce Smith. The Giants then ran a drive that took nearly eight minutes and culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Hostetler to Stephen Baker, making the score 12–10 at halftime.

The Giants received the second-half kickoff and mounted a record-setting drive that changed the tone of the game. The opening drive ran for more than nine minutes (a Super Bowl record) and culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by Ottis Anderson, giving the Giants a 17–12 lead.

The signature play of the drive came on a 3rd-and-12, when Giants receiver Mark Ingram appeared about to be tackled well short of a first down. But Ingram evaded several tacklers and dragged one defender just far enough to get the Giants the first down and keep the drive alive.

The play emphasized the Giants' season, as their hard work had appeared to have paid off. By this time, the Giants strategy to handle the Bills offense had become clear: Keep them off the field.

The Bills struck back quickly. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Thurman Thomas ran for a 31-yard touchdown that put the Bills back in front, 19–17.

The Giants got the ball back and drove down to the Bills four-yard line. But they were unable to score a touchdown and had to settle for a 21-yard field goal and a 20–19 lead. Both teams exchanged possessions before the Bills began one final drive. The Bills drove down to the Giants 30-yard line to set up what would be a potentially game-winning 47-yard field-goal attempt by Scott Norwood.

A few moments later, in what became the game's signature moment, Norwood's attempt missed wide right. Giants win, 20-19! And I just witnessed the most improbable championship I had ever seen.

After all these years, it seems like that Giants season is more remembered for that one play then their body of work. Rightfully so, but this Giants team deserves a little bit more love than they get. It truly was an incredible championship and one that flies under the radar. My first team that I truly loved.

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