TOFN "5 Games'' podcast: Bavaro limps to Super Bowl victory

By 1990, Mark Bavaro's body was broken and the New York Giants were falling apart. But together they found a way to beat the highest scoring team in football and win a Super Bowl championship.

When Mark Bavaro returned to the Super Bowl on January 27, 1991 it was with a far different outlook than the one he carried into Super Bowl XXI five years earlier. That first Super Bowl was the beginning but Super Bowl XXV felt like the end.

It was the end of an era and, Bavaro knew, very likely the end of his playing days with the New York Giants. Despite two All-Pro seasons Bavaro could not sustain himself on a degenerative knee that he was told earlier in the 1990 season could collapse at any time.

Undaunted, he never considered cutting the season short to have it repaired and rehabilitated. Instead he played on with a team of fading stars that, it turned out, had one last great run in them. In today’s third installment of this week’s “5 Games’’ podcast, Bavaro recalls the last days of Bill Parcells and a Giants’ team that had lost Phil Simms, Rodney Hampton and was trying to win a second Super Bowl against the highest scoring team in the league, the Buffalo Bills, with backups Jeff Hostetler at quarterback and aging Ottis Anderson at running back.

“Just before we went out to play (the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game) we were watching Buffalo beat the Raiders in the locker room like 55-0,’’ Bavaro recalled of his feelings watching the Bills’ K-gun offense actually put up 51 on the then Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC title game. “Our biggest worry wasn’t what we’d do (on offense). We didn’t even score a touchdown against the 49ers (in a 15-13 NFC title game victory). We knew we’d score 15 to 25 points max. So how was the defense going to keep the score down?’’

How it was done was by not playing defense. Although Bill Belichick has been given tremendous credit for the defensive game plan he came up with as the Giants’ offensive coordinator, Bavaro points out it was the OFFENSE that held the ball for 40 minutes and 33 seconds to create what became a razor-thin 20-19 victory which came only a whisker from becoming a defeat when kicker Scott Norwood’s 47-yard, last-second field goal went famously “wide right.’’

“The 1990 Super Bowl was definitely more satisfying for me and for our team,’’ Bavaro said. “It wasn’t just me who wasn’t the same player. Our marquee players weren’t the same. We weren’t expected to win. In 1986 we were a runaway train. In 1990 we were an example of do your job.’’

Bavaro did his so well on a battered knee that he made two crucial third down catches late in the game. Yet he understood nothing could save him from what was coming later. To learn one man’s story about the NFL’s harsh realities even in the midst of a Super Bowl victory and how he dealt with them listen to today’s podcast at or subscribe to hear this and all our “5 Games’’ podcasts at iTunes go to: