SUPER BOWL XXV RUNNER UP 1990 BUFFALO BILLS

As the 90’s dawned we had a few teams that had been playoff staples during the 80’s and a few new teams coming of age. In the Buffalo Bills you had a team come of age as blue chip talent had been stockpiled in recent years. In the pre-free agent era you had to build a team through the draft. Just like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys of the 1970’s, the Bills sought to construct a champion brick by brick.

sb xxv2Defensive End Bruce Smith and WR Andre Reed came aboard in 1985. Jim Kelly agreed to terms after the USFL dissolved in 1986. Linebackers Shane Conlan and Cornelius Bennett were added along with CB Nate Odomes joined ranks in ’87. Aggressive veteran SS  Leonard Smith came in with 2nd round RB Thurman Thomas in ’88 as the Bills made the playoffs for the 1st time in 7 years.

The ’88 season saw a 12-4 Bills team with the NFL’s #4 defense make it to the AFC Championship Game. Although they lost 21-10 to Cincinnati, they were definitely a team on the rise. Yet injuries and infighting nearly brought the team down in ’89 as they became known as the “Bickering Bills”. They only finished with a 9-7 record and lost 34-30 to Cleveland in an amazing divisional playoff game.

sb25gnts2However a light went on for the ultra conservative Bills offensively. In week 3 they fell behind big in Houston. Kelly brought the Bills back with a 5 TD performance, a 47-41 win. In his USFL days, Kelly ran a Run & Shoot with the Houston Gamblers and looked most comfortable playing this style with a No Huddle offense. They unveiled it late in the season and won the AFC East before falling to Cleveland.

Kelly threw for 405 yards and 4 TDs. Thomas had come of age in the playoff loss with a record 13 receptions for 150 yards and 2 TDs. It capped a breakout year that saw Thomas run for 1,244 yards and 6 TDs. In 1990, several vets were let go and Darryl Talley, Kelly, Smith, Reed, Thomas, Lofton, and Bennett would have to take on leadership roles for the departed DE Art Stills, NT Fred Smerlas, OT Joe Devlin, then RBs Robb Riddick and Larry Kinnebrew. Would their new “No Huddle” K-Gun keep scoring at will?? After a 13-3 record secured home field advantage:

Alas Scott Norwood’s field goal sailed wide right and the best team the AFC had in years fell 20-19. The only team to lose the NFL championship by 1 point. However the Bills were a young team in their prime and they would be back. They would go on to be one of the league’s most galvanized teams. The infighting of ’89 was in the distant past.

Head Coach Marv Levy, GM Bill Polian, QB Jim Kelly, RB Thurman Thomas, WR Andre Reed, WR James Lofton, and DE Bruce Smith all made the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Epilogue: When a long sought after quarterback finally joined the Bills in 1986, starved fans chanted for Jim Kelly to take the lowly Bills to the Super Bowl.

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SUPER BOWL XXV CHAMPION 1990 NEW YORK GIANTS

Super Bowl XXV: Giants 20 Bills 19…My Bills that is….sigh  OK here goes…be fair..not a fan…be fair…*gasp*  The Giants made it to Tampa on the heels of one of the greatest NFC Championships ever played in their 15-13 defeat of the two time champion San Francisco 49ers. The team the Giants were built to defeat.

sb25gntsWhat was beautiful was how the Giants and 49ers each steamrolled toward  the ’90 NFC title tilt like two tractor trailers headed for a head on collision. Each had won 2 playoff games against the other in head to head during the 1980’s. Yet the Giants had won the last two in 1985 and 1986.  The latter was a 49-3 destruction which took place in the ’86 divisional round. A game made famous when Joe Montana was knocked from the game with a severe concussion by Giant Jim Burt (from the[[_]]).

The Giants were built by the late GM George Young. Yet it was Bill Parcells and DC Bill Belichick who designed his defense to throw off the timing of the 49ers offense, mainly though disrupting the receivers by knocking them off their routes.

sb25gnts2Enter Mark Collins, who was drafted in 1986 from Cal State Fullerton. He was the best cornerback that covered Jerry Rice on a continual basis.  Bumping him at the line of scrimmage and getting a good re-route that makes the cover 2 defense go…funnel the receivers in to the linebackers and safeties.  This team had some big safeties in Myron Guyton and Greg Jackson….couple these guys with the aging yet effective Everson Walls and this was a solid secondary.

Did I forget the linebackers off this team? Linebacker and New York Giants just go hand in hand don’t they?  Pepper Johnson (5 rings), Gary Reasons, Carl Banks, and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor were stout.  Stopped the run…rushed the passer and for one game against the 49ers in the NFC Championship in 1990 they flip flopped Lawrence and Carl Banks so that Taylor was rushing on Steve Wallace and had Leonard Marshall work against Bubba Paris…uh…we’ll get to that.  Then you had the front line in a 3-4 that was just beefy in Erik Howard (who replaced the departed Burt) Eric Dorsey, and future Hall of Famer Leonard Marshall.  Immovable on the point and still could collapse the pocket.

What’s funny is that the 49ers in the ’89 playoffs, were on their way to repeat as champions and they caught a huge break.  While they were beating Minnesota, the Giants were locked in a dogfight with the L.A. Rams and were tied at 13 in overtime.  First, the Giants were flagged on a very questionable pass interference by Sheldon White that moved the Rams into field goal range.

The next play Mark Collins breaks his ankle and the Rams rushed to the line of scrimmage and sent Flipper Anderson (Collins was covering) on a go route to end the game 19-13. The Giants would have stopped that 89 ‘Niner team.  Of course friends wouldn’t listen and everyone was talking 3 peat. I told everyone the Niners aren’t built to handle the Giants and each team came in on a mission steamrolling to 10-0 start to the season, the both of them.  Met on a Monday night each 10-1 and proceeded to beat the hell out of each other in a defensive struggle so good it was artistic.  The Niners won 7-3 but could they win the rubber match??

Yes Everson Walls got to celebrate a big win in Candlestick Park… this was only the 2nd road team to win the NFC Championship in 11 years dating back to 1980. OJ Anderson, from The [[_]], was a workhorse and won Super Bowl MVP honors.

I didn’t think they could bounce back from such a dogfight within one week yet they did and held down MY BILLS with a power running game and kept the ball for 40 minutes.  It’s still painful to think of the kick Norwood missed..and many folks say that the 86 Giants were better…but look at the two teams they had to beat to get this ring: The almost 3-peat 2 time Super Bowl champion 49ers and a juggernaut Buffalo Bills team that won the AFC Championship 51-3, were up 41-3 at the half and the starters were on the bench before the 4th quarter. San Fran played in the 2 Super Bowls previous and Buffalo would play in the next 3.

The '90 Giants just had their 25 year reunion.

The ’90 Giants just had their 25 year reunion. Great team… Great men

That is much stronger than defeating a wildcard 10-6 Redskin team in the ’86 NFC Title and Denver in XXI. In fact the ’90 run they had to beat 1 Hall of Fame Coach in Marv Levy and 9 Hall of Fame players on the 49ers and Bills. The 2 championships in ’86 had just Joe Gibbs and 3 Hall of Famers on the Redskins and Bronco squads.

I’d have to put this 90 team over the 86 team because of the strength of opponent to achieve both NFC and Super Bowl titles were stronger…that’s my take…what do you think??

Everson Walls Belongs In the Hall of Fame

Walls on an interception return v. St. Louis Cardinals

In the history of football, one of the hardest positions to judge or gauge performance is cornerback. Many times they’re overlooked when we speak of their careers as a whole because they rarely have a lot of tackles or hard hits.  So we tend to think of defenisve linemen or linebackers first. However after the NFL instituted rule changes that favored the passing game in 1978.  A more fluid athlete was needed to turn and run with receivers who could no longer be hit beyond 5 yards of the scrimmage line. The day of the super physical Mel Blount type cornerback was over and a new type of player would emerge.

The Dallas Cowboys of 1980 saw a secondary in flux with many of their great ’70s players aging, and teams piled points on ’em  after years of abuse. They gave up 311 points or nearly 20 a game. Mel Renfro had retired a few years back and Cliff Harris’ left after the 1979 season and the secondary was having epic breakdowns.

Even in Roger Staubach’s famous come from behind victory over the Redskins in the 1979 finale, the defense had given up 34 points at home in that game. So losing an All Decade performer in Cliff Harris and injuries to Randy Hughes magnified Cowboys problems.  By the time the 1980 playoffs began, the Cowboys couldn’t cover a child with a blanket. Cornerback Aaron Mitchell got lit up by Alfred Jenkins ( 4 rec. 155 yds, 1 TD) of the Atlanta Falcons in a playoff game known for being Danny White’s first great comeback. They prevailed 30-27 but a defensive back upgrade was top priority in the 1981 NFL Draft.

Enter Everson Walls, a lanky fast cornerback the Dallas Cowboys drafted out of Grambling in 1981.  He was a clearly brought in to be a cover man first and run supporter second.  He burst onto the scene in his rookie year when he led the NFL in interceptions with 11 while making the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Coming a year after Lester Hayes breakout 1980 campaign when he totaled 13 interceptions, Walls season was somewhat overlooked. While pundits duked it out over which cornerback was the best of the new breed, Walls interception totals didn’t drop over the ensuing years as Hayes did once stickum was outlawed.

After the strike shortened year of 1982 in which the NFL only played 9 regular season games, Walls led the NFL again in interceptions with 7.  Teams were avoiding throwing in his area and he gambled his way to a better season than his first.  Projected over a 16 game season, he would have equaled the 13 that Lester Hayes had in his near record breaking campaign in 1980.  After having 11 the year before?? Now that is an encore.

Everson Walls battling a rookie Jerry Rice in 1985

One of the reasons that Walls gets overlooked is he played for the Dallas Cowboys after their Super Bowl appearances of the late 70s.  This was the era in which the Dallas Cowboys lost three consecutive NFC Championship games, so the stars of this time weren’t lionized by NFL pundits like their 70’s counterparts. Much of this can be attributed to the 1981 NFC Championship Game in which Dwight Clark soared high to make “The Catch” and Walls was falsely treated as a goat for allowing it.

Yet many of those same pundits forget that earlier in the game Walls had made several key plays which included 2 interceptions to halt 49er drives. One of which in the endzone.  He had played an exceptional game even in that defeat.

The Cowboys were a playoff team in 1983 yet teams threw away from Everson Walls at all costs.  However in 1985 he re-emerged to lead the NFL again with 9 interceptions. By doing so he became the only player in league history to lead 3 times in interceptions. It was at this point there had to be a reason for this gambler from Grambling picking off so many passes.

In John Madden’s second book “One Knee Equals Two Feet”, John cited the reason for Walls high totals a byproduct for teams having to throw over 6 foot 9, Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Jones was the defensive end on Walls side but that isn’t true. If you look at the 1977 and 1978 seasons, the Doomsday Defense II and “Too Tall” were at their zenith. In ’77 the Cowboys were the last team to win the Super Bowl with a team that was #1 on offense and defense yet the highest interception total was 5 by Benny Barnes. In the ’78 season in which they returned to the Super Bowl the highest cornerback total was 3. Walls with 11, 7 (projected 13), and 9 interception totals dwarf those with an aging Jones in front of him.

What are we saying?  Its time to give credit where credit is due. When you think of impact at cornerback you think of interceptions and the ability to battle the league’s best. Walls faced Roy Green, Hall of Famer Art Monk, and Mike Quick who were the NFC’s best and came out on top in many battles. Walls would go on to finish with 57 interceptions over his 12 year career.  He was a 4 time Pro Bowler yet was a first team All Pro just once. How does that happen when he led the league in interceptions 3 times??

The Cowboys were penalized after losing the Battle of Champions to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII, and the fallout includes the early 80s Cowboys when it comes to Hall of Fame consideration. While most short sighted columnists would remind you that his Dallas Cowboys never won a Super Bowl as for reason for the snub.

Super Bowl XXV Cover Pic of Everson Walls

Yet one of the most important roles in his career was when he teamed with Mark Collins, and Perry Williams to give the New York Giants 3 excellent corners to shut down the Buffalo Bills 3 receivers in Super Bowl XXV. Early in that game it was Walls who caught James Lofton after a deflected pass gained Buffalo 61 yards and into Giant territory.  On a crucial 3rd down it was Walls who broke up a pass for Thurman Thomas that forced the Bills to settle for a field goal. Had he not caught Lofton or stopped the Bills from gaining a first and goal, how could that have affected a game in which the Giants won just 20-19??   So he was a Super Bowl champion, so scratch that off the list of why he doesn’t belong.

He was forever immortalized on the cover of Sports Illustrated after that game. Two weeks ago, Everson Walls was inducted into the Grambling Hall of Fame.  In recent years this consummate teammate made headlines by donating a kidney to former Cowboy Ron Springs in a gesture that says more about the man than his playing ability. He is an excellent ambassador to the game of football, signing autographs and constantly meets and communicates with fans through social media and Cowboys engagements. However it was his exploits as one of “Thurman’s Thieves” that made it all possible.

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present to you Everson Walls

New York Giants Powerful 1990 Champion Stronger Than 1986

New York Giants Super Bowl XXV Ring

In NFL History, there are some stories of some of football’s champions yet some are overshadowed by more romanticized teams. Yet if it’s true that the measure of a team is in who they beat to obtain a championship, where does that put the 1990 New York Giants??

They stopped the San Francisco 49ers bid for a three-peat. Then stopped the best of the Buffalo Bills 4 straight AFC Championship teams. They weren’t given their due by the sporting press in our estimation and their Super Bowl victory hinged on Scott Norwood missing a 47 yard field goal as time expired.  We say “So what?” Its like this: Super Bowl XXIV had the widest margin of victory in Jan. 1990, when San Francisco defeated the Denver Broncos 55-10. The following year, these New York Giants won by the closest margin defeating the Buffalo Bills in the aforementioned Silver Anniversary 25th edition 20-19. What was the difference?? Nothing.  The Giants received the same amount of money and ring expense as the 49ers the year before.

However when the 80’s Giants are remembered this team is always thought of as the weaker of their 2 championship teams during that era. There is an air of romanticism around the ’86 team becoming Super Bowl Champions, but we at Taylor Blitz Times, believe the teams defeated give a legitimate case for the ’90 version being the stronger team.

In 1986 the Chicago Bears set the record for fewest points in a season with 187. They were the #1 defense in all of pro football and the Giants were #2. In the ’85 playoffs, the Giants were shut out 21-0 by the Bears and by luck (Charles Martin slamming Jim McMahon) didn’t play them in ’86. Then for the first time ever Pete Rozelle came up with the first Monday Night series where the Bears (’85 Champions) took on the Giants (’86 Champions). The Bears blew them out 34-19 and the Giants only scored once on offense in that game. So it’s a legitimate debate that had they played the Bears in the ’86  playoffs they would have lost. Yet the ’90 version had to march through TWO champions to get their ring. Take a look

SUPER BOWL XXV CHAMPION 1990 NEW YORK GIANTS borrowed from upcoming book: Ring of Champions

 

Super Bowl XXI Giants v. Super Bowl XXV Giants

SUPER BOWL XXV CHAMPION 1990 NEW YORK GIANTS <————————————Click Link