EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The key play in Sunday's NFC championship game came before the kickoff when the New York Giants won the toss and team captain Harry Carson advised referee Pat Haggerty, "We'll take the wind."
The decision resulted in 10 first-quarter points for the Giants, en route to a 17-0 victory that put them into the Super Bowl against AFC champion Denver.
"The opening coin toss was big," Reskin Coach Joe Gibbs said. "We would have also gone with the wind if we had won the toss."
The 17 m.p.h. wind from the west-northwest swirled around Giants Stadium, gusting to as much as 35 m.p.h. After kicking off, the Giants held Washington to four yards and Steve Cox punted from the 24.
"I tried to hit a low line drive and get the roll," Cox said. "But it rolled straight and to the side or backward."
The ball traveled just 23 yards, and five plays later, Raul Allegre kicked a 47-yard field goal to put the Giants in front.
"It was an extremely tough wind," Allegre said. "I was lucky I didn't have to kick into it. It helps the kicking game when it's at your back. It has more of an effect on the punter. The ball doesn't get as high."
On Washington's next possession, the Giants held again, forcing Cox into another punting situation from the Washington 11. This time, he managed just 27 yards, giving the Giants the ball at the Redskin 38.
Eight plays later, Phil Simms hit Lionel Manuel with an 11-yard touchdown pass for a 10-0 Giants lead.
"It was the windiest I've ever seen at Giants Stadium," Simms said. "I'm glad we didn't get into a throwing contest with them."
Jay Schroeder, at quarterback for the Redskins, kept the ball in the air, attempting 50 passes and completing 20 for 195 yards.
Giant free safety Herb Welch said that Schreoder's efficiency was definitely affected by the gusty wind.
"With the wind, he was winging the ball," Welch said. "One of them went 80 yards, I'm sure. I was 20 yards ahead of (Art) Monk and the ball was 20 yards ahead of me. He threw it right through the end zone.
"It was hard to catch the ball against the wind. He couldn't throw it as far, but just as well. Sometimes it was like a knuckleball. I guess it hit pockets of dead air and then strong air.
Giant punter Sean Landeta was the goat of New York's first-round playoff loss to the Chicago Bears last year when a gust of wind blew the ball away from his foot on an attempted punt and set up Chicago's first touchdown. In Sunday's game, Landeta kicked six times, averaging 42.3 yards.
"It was very tough," Landeta said. "It was blowing harder than it did in Chicago last year. I had the same kind of game that I had then, except for one punt. The Chicago game was one of the best I played except for one kick."
Landeta said he did nothing to adjust to the wind.
"I practice into it all the time," he said. "It was extra tough today and I'm glad I did well."
Armed with a 10-0 lead, the Giants went into the wind in the second quarter. After Landeta had kicked a 46-yard punt -- his longest of the day -- New York scored on its next possession for a 17-0 lead.