EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It was all the New York Giants could do but to win the NFC title game that had already been played and won here a hundred times.
New York City and New Jersey, too, perched at the edge of their collective seats, had been dressed for this party a good week before the first freezing gust of whirling wind nipped at the back ends of the Washington Redskins.
The Giants had only to live down the ghosts of the past two dozen hapless seasons and give their fans the Super Bowl they craved and the team deserved.
It was knowing all this that the Giants went out and beat the Redskins, 17-0, before a crowd of 76,633 at Giants Stadium Sunday.
The win sent the Giants to Pasadena and the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos, and sent their fans happily into the streets.
It reaffirmed that the Giants are perhaps the rightful heirs to the Chicago Bears of last season, a team that plays and speaks with a confidence that is not easily broken.
"We did what we were supposed to do, so what's the big deal?" Giant center Bart Oates said.
And didn't it seem that way as the Giants and their weather literally blew the Redskins back to Washington.
The Giants roll into the Super Bowl having won 11 straight games and two playoff games by the cumulative score of 66-3.
They did it by forcing the Redskins to throw into the wind, with results as pleasant as spitting into it.
Fourteen times the Redskin offense lined up on third down and 14 times they failed to get a first. Four times the Giant defense stuffed Washington on fourth-down tries.
All because of a savage Giant defense and 30 m.p.h. gusts that doomed the Redskins from the beginning when, after a committee meeting, they called tails on the coin toss only to watch it blow to heads.
So the Giants spent the first quarter with the wind at their backs, and it was such a factor that Washington watched helplessly as passes and punts changed direction in mid-air.
The Giants used the first-quarter wind to get a 47-yard Raul Allegre field goal and an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Phil Simms to Lionel Manuel.
Giant running back Joe Morris made it 17-0 after a one-yard run, into the wind, with 6:56 left in the half.
"The way our defense was playing, I thought it would be tough for a team to score four times," Simms said.
And how right Simms was. It was something linebacker Lawrence Taylor and company were hardly about to allow.
The Redskins were left with the options of throwing into an unforgiving wind or testing the NFL's best defense against the run.
Fat chance, as Taylor explained.
"It was evident early that they were going to have trouble throwing into the wind and were going to have to run," Taylor said. "And no one is going to run against our defense."
He'll get no arguments from Redskin back George Rogers, who gained 15 yards in 9 carries. Nor from Kelvin Bryant, who managed 25 yards in 6 carries.
It wasn't much better for Washington quarterback Jay Schroeder, who sent pass after pass into orbit.
He finished with only 20 completions in 50 pass attempts for 195 yards and 1 interception.
"The ball got up in the air and took off," Schroeder said. "It got blown away. We lost the game in the first quarter. We got behind and couldn't make the plays."
The Giants don't allow a team many chances, and the Redskins managed to botch up every one they got.
There was wide receiver Gary Clark's drop of a Schroeder deep pass in the first quarter. This pass into the wind was perfectly thrown yet slipped right threw the hands of Clark, who had beaten Giant cornerback Elvis Patterson on the play.
"I feel the big pass we dropped could have been the turning point of the ball game," Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs said.
Doesn't Clark know it. The Redskins, already trailing 10-0, settled for a 24-yard punt by Steve Cox.
But there would be more Redskins' bleeps and blunders, like the second-quarter 52-yard field goal attempt by Jess Atkinson that was never to be.
Center Jeff Bostic instead one-hopped the ball through Schroeder's hands and the ball was recovered by linebacker Carl Banks at the Redskin 49.
Six plays later, Morris scored from a yard out to put Washington up by 17 points.
Just before the half, Redskin safety Alvin Walton stripped the ball from Morris with Curtis Jordan recovering for Washington at New York's 37-yard line.
The Redskins had 1:44 to get something done, but, on fourth down and short yardage at the 27, Rogers was stopped by linebacker Pepper Johnson.
The Redskins were left with nothing but a second half of futility and frustration.
And it seemed funny that Schroeder would pick this day to struggle so. For it was Schroeder who was picked ahead of Simms for the Pro Bowl.
Simms did not have the greatest day himself, completing 7 of 14 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
With a lead, though, he left most of the offense to Morris, who gained 87 yards in 29 carries.
But you could sense the satisfaction as Simms stood by his locker afterward.