EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Joe Morris knew it as soon as he arrived at Giants Stadium Sunday. So did Giants' kicker Raul Allegre when his first practice field goal from 27 yards out ended up about 10 yards short. And so did the flag girl from a local high school who looked like she was reeling in a world-record marlin while trying to hold her flag upright during the pregame show.
The wind, gusting up to 35 miles per hour, was going to be a big factor in this NFC championship game.
The swirling gusts, combined with tons of confetti produced by the fans, made the stadium look like one of those glass Christmas knick-knacks you turn upside down to make it appear to be snowing.
It also put a huge burden on the broad shoulders of Morris, the Giants' little (5 feet 7 inches), big (195 pounds) running back.
New York Coach Bill Parcells said he realized the wind would be a problem during warmups "and warmups for me was about 7:15 a.m."
"That's the toughest wind we've played in since I've been here," Parcells said. "I think it had a dramatic effect on the game."
Just ask Morris. He didn't show up quite that early, but when he did arrive, he knew his role was going to be magnified.
"As soon as I got here today, I knew the game plan would change," Morris said. "It was obvious neither team would be able to pass much going into the wind."
New York won the coin toss and chose to defend the East goal, meaning it would have the wind at its back in the first quarter.
The Giants made the most of their first two trips downwind, building a 10-0 lead. But they also managed to put together a 49-yard drive in the second quarter--culminated by a one-yard touchdown run by Morris--that put them ahead, 17-0.
It was an advantage they never relinquished, ending the Washington Redskins' season and earning the Giants a trip to Super Bowl XXI.
"That drive was the most important drive of the game," said Morris, who finished with 87 yards in 29 carries. "When we scored into that wind, that took the pressure off. We felt then that we could do whatever it took to win.
"It wasn't a real fun game for a running back, though. Tomorrow, it'll hurt so good. Today, it just hurts. The wind and the fact that we were ahead meant they were loaded up to stop the run on every down.
"That second half was the longest 30 minutes of my life."
He may have taken a beating, but Morris was all smiles Sunday evening. He pushed his way through a crowd of reporters to get to his locker after a long, hot shower and quietly asked, "Can you guys wait until I get my pants on before we start?"
Then he plopped down on a stool and tried to put the game into perspective.
"We got it done today," he said. "But we can't bask in the glory for long. We've got one more game to go."
Satisfied that he'd said the right thing, Morris let a bit of his real emotions sneak out.
"This was the most important game of my career," he said. "It was a chance for this team to move out of the Dark Ages. People around here are always talking about the 'good ole days.' Now, when they talk about the good ole days, they'll be talking about this team right here."
The Giants hadn't been in a championship game since 1963 and had finished last in their division 10 times since then. Morris, who carried the ball just 50 times in his first two seasons (1982-83), watched his team compile a 7-17-1 record in those years. He said it was the most frustrating time of his life.
It's been a whole new ballgame recently and New York was a strong favorite to win Sunday. But that didn't help ease the anxiety Morris and his teammates have been feeling all week.
"Let's just say I've had some insomnia," Morris said. "I've watched a whole lot of late-night TV. I watched 'Star Trek' every night and that ends at 1 a.m. . . . and I watched 'Twilight Zone', which comes on next, a lot, too."
When he did get to sleep, it wasn't always all that deep. But none of Morris' nightmares became reality Sunday. He had 51 yards on 13 first-half carries and then slugged out 36 more on 16 second-half attempts with everybody in maroon and gold trying to break him in half.
But, as it turned out, there were no ill winds blowing in Giants Stadium on this day. At least not for long-suffering owners Wellington and Tim Mara.
But wind-swept win or no, Morris is hoping for a calm day in Pasadena.
"Hopefully, there won't be no 50 mile-per-hour winds at the Rose Bowl," he said, smiling.