EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The 76,632 fans at Giants Stadium gave the New York Giants their own ticker-tape parade, with the paper, appropriately, borne by the wind into the face of the Washington Redskins.
The Giants, 30 years without a championship, virtually blew into their first Super Bowl Sunday, beating Washington, 17-0, for the NFC title. Linebackers Carl Banks and Gary Reasons, and linemen Jim Burt, George Martin and Leonard Marshall led a punishing defense that never allowed the Redskins inside the New York 23 and held them to 0 for 14 on third-down conversions and 0 for 4 on fourth-down tries.
"It was the windiest I've ever seen it in Giants Stadium," said New York quarterback Phil Simms, who threw only 14 times--just twice in the second half after leading the Giants to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Giants won the opening coin toss and, instead of electing to receive, chose to start the game with the wind behind them.
"We knew we had to get some points on the board," Simms said. "We made a few plays in tough situations, and that was the difference."
Between the wind and the New York defense, the Redskins never had a chance. With the 35 m.p.h. wind at their backs, the Giants raced to their quick lead on Raul Allegre's 47-yard field goal and an 11-yard touchdown pass from Simms to Lionel Manuel.
Joe Morris ran a yard for a score into the wind in the second quarter, then the Giants totally shut down the Redskins the rest of the game. With 3:18 left, the paper began cascading down, the crowd's answer to last week's debate on whether New York or New Jersey would host a Super Bowl victory parade.
"If there are words to express how I feel, I don't know what they are," said Wellington Mara, New York's 70-year-old owner who spent 15 years taking abuse from New York fans as the team suffered through losing season after losing season.
"I have a lot of good players, and they played magnificently," said Coach Bill Parcells, who got his traditional Gatorade bath with 1:18 left, putting up a good fight before defensive captain Harry Carson drenched him.
Asked if the coin toss was the biggest play of the game, Washington Coach Joe Gibbs replied: "It was one of them."
"We took three shots at them and couldn't beat them," Gibbs said. "It's on to the Super Bowl for them, and they deserve it."
The Giants ran their record to 16-2, shutting out Washington for the first time since 1980 and the first time in Gibbs' tenure.
The Giants, who last won an NFL title in 1956 and last played for one in 1963, will play the Denver Broncos in the Jan. 25 Super Bowl in Pasadena. New York beat Denver, 19-16, at Giants Stadium on Nov. 23.
It was the Giants' third victory of the season over the Redskins, and the third straight shutout in an NFC title game--Chicago beat Los Angeles, 24-0, last year and San Francisco beat the Bears, 26-0, two years ago.
Simms' opening touchdown drive was kept alive by a 25-yard pass to Manuel after Washington accepted a holding penalty on an incomplete fourth-down pass that would have left New York looking at a 43-yard field-goal attempt.
The Giants added another touchdown against the wind in the second quarter on Morris' one-yard run following a bungled field-goal attempt by Washington. That was typical of the day for the Redskins, who couldn't convert the chances even when they had them.
Then, the Giants sat back and let the defense work in the second half as Washington quarterback Jay Schroeder kept trying to go deep with no success. They did most of it without Lawrence Taylor, the league's Most Valuable Player, who left in the first minute with a thigh bruise and returned only briefly.
That injury was not believed serious, and neither was another to Morris later in the game. "You'd need an ax to keep them out of the Super Bowl," Parcells said.
Washington finished the season 14-5. New York, meanwhile, finished two playoff games by outscoring its two opponents 66-3--the Giants beat the 49ers, 49-3, a week ago.
The Giants' defense held the Redskins to 40 yards rushing, and Schroeder completed 20 of 50 attempts for 195 yards.
The Giants used the wind to take a quick 3-0 lead.
They shut down Washington on its first series, and Steve Cox punted just 23 yards into the wind, setting the Giants up at the Redskins 47. They picked up 17 yards, all on runs by Morris, setting up Allegre's 47-yard field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead 3:22 into the game.
The Giants made it 10-0 seven minutes later after a 27-yard punt into the wind by Cox set them up on the Redskins 38. They went the 38 yards in eight plays with Simms hitting Manuel, who was activated last week from injured reserve on a third down play from 11 yards on which the New York quarterback stepped up and found his man alone in the back of the end zone.
The key play of that drive was a decision by Washington to accept a holding penalty after a New York pass on third-and-10 from the 26 had fallen incomplete. On the next play, Simms hit Manuel for 25 yards.